stormy weather

spurs reserves v coventry city reserves  15.5.2001

Tottenham Hotspur reserves finished their season on a losing note and finished their season with only nine men in Spurs shirts on the pitch at the end.

The referee appeared to have it in from Tottenham right from the start.  His awarding of free-kicks for "nothing" challenges were just a  pre-cursor to what was to come.  He particularly seemed to have a downer on John Piercy, who picked up a first half booking and was my favourite to be dismissed, but more of that later too.  Following good saves by Walker from a close-in shot that he did well to push over the bar and a fingertip over from the in-swinging corner, Spurs were under pressure from a series of corners and attacks.  However, it was an innocuous ball across the box from the right, from which the ref saw Consorti, playing at right back, control the ball with his hand and a penalty was awarded.  It looked a harsh award and one spectator shouted his disapproval to the official from his seat at the front of the West Stand.  There were few protests from the Spurs players though and former Gooner Jay Bothroyd stepped up to slot the spot-kick past Walks.  So ten minutes gone and Spurs were behind.

The home team were struggling to put any decent moves together, while Coventry were stroking the ball about nicely.  It wasn't hard to see why they were challenging Watford for the top spot in the reserves league as they knocked the ball about nicely and worked well off the ball too.  Piercy was the main passer in the side, while John Jackson worked tirelessly alongside him.  Steven Ferguson almost capitalised on a couple of long through balls, but was just beaten to them by the Coventry keeper.  At half-time the teams trotted off for their well earned cup of tea or half an orange.

It was quarter of an hour into the second half when the bloke behind us mentioned it that we first realised Matthew Etherington was missing and Spurs only had ten men on the pitch.  This was odd for two reasons.  Firstly, Matty was not having the best of games and when the ball did get out to him, he was quickly closed down and unable to produce any threat to the Cov defence.  Secondly, Spurs were seemingly doing OK and that was why we hadn't noticed his absence.  The whisper around the ground was that he had a full and frank discussion of the match official's role in the game to date and he had been awarded a red card for his views.  How true this is, we will have to wait and see.  We thought it was Theo Foley's latest tactic to disturb the opponents !!

Without Etherington, things were very difficult.  Coventry went close a couple of times with shots from distance, but then Bothroyd headed in the second from a left wing cross to leave Spurs a mountain to climb.  Without their winger as an outlet, the ball kept on coming back and another header was disallowed for offside.  Spurs finally got into attack and McEwen, who had caused a bit of consternation in the first half with a low driven cross that eluded everyone, finally got a shot in, but it slid just past the keepers hand and just past the goalpost too.  Yannick Kamanan was the subject of some harsh treatment form the Sky Blue boys, twice receiving lengthy treatment before being substituted with 15 minutes left.

But Spurs did get a goal.  Well, they were handed a goal, when Montgomery went down slower than his first team for a weak, low shot from Toner, but managed to dive over the ball and it ran into the back of the net.  It was hard to know who was more embarrassed by what had happened, the goalkeeper or Ciaran Toner !!  Spurs were being hit on the break, but when Walker was sent off for slagging the ref about a throw-in that went off the pitch about 20 yards from where the Spurs goalie was standing, he joined Matt in the bath before the others got a chance to grab the soap.  If, indeed, Walker moves on during the summer to get the first team action he craves, this will be a sad end to his Spurs career.  Red carded in the middle of a storm in front of a couple of hundred Spurs fans while losing to Coventry reserves.  Where did it all go wrong - discuss.  McEwen was sacrificed to bring on Kelly although it took an age to make that change.  Spurs were even more strung out, but with Jackson and Piercy (who managed to complete the 90 minutes - a surprising feat with this ref) sticking to their guns, Spurs made a game of it.  They then had some time camped in the Coventry half and there were faint hopes of an equaliser when make-shift forward Ian Hillier was whacked in the back of the head only for the referee to wave away claims for a penalty.  In the end the ball kept being held in the Spurs end as Coventry ran out winners to jump ahead of the Lilywhites in the Premier League reserve table.

Finishing the season on a downer with their second defeat on the spin was not how they would have wanted it, but perhaps they were a couple of matches to far.  Having to throw in Under-19's, who, up until last week, were still involved in their own competition, made things more difficult against more experienced sides, but it is a good learning arena for the up and coming youngsters.  Spurs will probably finish around 5th in the league as other teams have games in hand and throughout the season they have given a good account of themselves, with many going on to have first team opportunities and proving that their grounding at Spurs had been a good one.

Next season, I hope Spurs persist with the free games at White Hart Lane and advertise more widely to encourage more fans to come and see the reserves play.  It will provide fans with a good way of getting to see the stars of the future and also give the players a better crowd and atmosphere to play in front of.  As for the tenure of the reserves at St. Albans, this sounded more tenuous, with rumours of Stevenage Borough playing home to the second team, perhaps something borne out by our pre-season friendly there in the coming summer as part of a prospective deal.  It's a long way from Tottenham, but then a fair number of Spurs fans are living in that area and could attend matches there more easily.  Whatever happens, wherever they play and whoever is the manager next season, I hope the reserves continues to be a fertile breeding ground for new talent for the club.

Marco van Hip

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