revenge of the youth team

Spurs Youth v Blackburn Rovers Youth
(FA Youth Cup Quarter Final 12.03.2002)

Coming in this game, Blackburn had put out Chelsea and Arsenal in previous rounds.  A good record against London sides and I got a bit of background from a couple of Rovers fans sitting next to me who had come down for the match.  Their star striker Walters was missing, presumed injured and there was concern over the size of the Tottenham team - a major plus after so many lightweights in the side over the last few years !!  The Blackburn blokes told me their side had thrashed Chelsea, giving them a real football lesson, while in the previous round they had beaten Arsenal, who were winners last season, beating Rovers in the Final.  Blackburn had pinched that game a bit according to my informants, as Arsenal had the bulk of the game, but Rovers had snaffled two goals, while the home side had not taken their chances.  Sound familiar ??

When the two teams lined up, I saw what they meant about Tottenham being bigger than their Northern opponents.  At least five of the Spurs team towered over their counterparts.  However, the first period did not see the big boys dominate, as Blackburn were nippy and skillful, creating the better chances of the half and being unlucky not to go in at the break ahead.  While the majority of the half featured scrappy football, with neither side stringing together a run of passes, in the fifteenth minute Watt burst into the box and as Burch bore down on him, he shot into the side netting to the relief of the majority of the large crowd in the West Stand.  Marney was harshly booked for his first foul of the game, while Morgan, the Blackburn winger was petulantly fouling on a  regular basis and also had time to give the ref some verbals.

Watt caused a worry with a dipping free-kick that just cleared the bar and Jemal Johnson broke through to be denied by the on-rushing Burch, but could  not keep the follow-up down and it flew into the empty seating behind the Paxton Road goal.  Tottenham's best chance came just before the break, with Lee Barnard neatly lobbing the ball over his marker's head to get clear on the right wing.  His low cross was pulled back to Jamie Slabber, but his was unable to get any contact on the ball.

Goal-less at the break and with neither side finding their best form, they came out for the second period in determined mood.  Spurs seemed to want to get the ball down and play a bit more, instead of the hurried kick and rush style they had adopted in the first half.  Blackburn were playing through Watt, who looked a useful little player, but the side were lacking a decent final ball and perhaps the absent Walters was the missing link.

Tottenham got a free-kick on the right wing and Dean Marney stepped up to take it.  With Tottenham's players taller than the defenders, they should have been favourites to win the ball, but it got to Ronnie Henry on the bounce and popped up off his head.  Lee Barnard was quickest to react and struck a powerful volley into the net.  It was good skill to keep the volley down and amongst a packed penalty area, he did well to get his shot off in the first place.

This goal seemed to settle Spurs, who extended their lead three minutes later.  Another free-kick from a similar position by Marney and John Sutton ,who had been having a disappointing game until then, got ahead of his marker and angled a powerful header past Renton in the Blackburn goal.

The rest of the game saw a number of substitutions, including the introduction of Steve Bruce's son, but to no effect for Rovers.  The closest they came was with a cheeky effort, when sub Gallagher nodded the ball out of Rob Burch's hand as he was shaping to kick the ball clear and his lob over the tall keeper just went over and landed on the roof of the net.  Had it gone in, it would have counted.

Towards the end, Spurs pushed up and made the space that Rovers left tell.  Wettner broke towards the left corner of the box and hit a low shot that the keeper did well to turn around, although it might not have been going in.  They did pick up a couple of yellow cards towards the end, with Barnard getting booked for a foul and Wettner for deliberate handball.  At the other end, McEveley broke free from his defensive position and from the left angle of the area hit a low shot across the face of the goal and it slipped wide.  He also picked up a booking for a crude challenge from behind.

In the end, Tottenham just about deserved the result although Blackburn showed how they had beaten some good sides in the competition.  The visiting fans said that this was a stringer side than last season when they reached the final, so it must be regarded as a real result for Tottenham.  They also told me that Everton have a striker who is a bit special, so we will need to look out for him in the two legged semi at Goodison on March 27th and April 3rd at the Lane.

Tottenham: Rob Burch; Stephen Kelly, Marcel McKie, Ronnie Henry, Paul O'Donoghue; Mark Hughes (Ben Bowditch 75),Lee Barnard, Dean Marney, Nicky Wettner; John Sutton, Jamie Slabber (David Galbraith 89)
Subs not used: Paul Rutherford, Chris Herron, Walter Thomas.

Blackburn: Renton; Cole (Bruce 75), McEveley, Donnelly, Davey (Black 75); Martin, Watt, Nelson, Morgan; Bell, Johnson (Gallagher 65)
Subs not used: Drench, Harkins.


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