On a bright, but chilly
day thanks to a brisk breeze that blew across the Spurs Lodge pitch,
Spurs lined up against a tall Coventry City side in the Premier League
Under-17 play-off. With a few members of the team having turned
out for the Youth side in the FA Youth Cup on Wednesday, this was a
chance to get back on track with a win, which was what was needed to
progress from the play-off group.
A minute's silence was
observed for the death of the Queen Mother before the action got
underway and with the toss being won by the visitors, they chose to play
with the wind at their backs in the first half. This made getting the ball down to play on the ground quite
difficult, but it suited the Sky Blues’ more direct style of football.
Indeed, a long ball towards the Spurs goal in the first minute
fell to a Coventry midfielder, who volleyed it over the crossbar.
On five minutes, Barry Thornton, the City centre forward, took
the ball past Marcel McKie and lobbed over Rutherford, but it went too
high and cleared the bar. Tottenham
thrust straight back and Mark Yeates burst into the box and his shot was
saved by the keeper and when he picked up the rebound, his effort was
deflected just wide and it hit the top of the net.
Yeates was next to test
the goalkeeper, when Brush beat his shot away, but the play switched
straight to the other end, where a header dropped for Thornton, who shot
on the turn into Rutherford’s chest.
Again, the game moved to and fro and in the 22nd
minute Tim Ford crossed from the left wing long to Jonathan Black, who
shot narrowly over the bar. The
next minute, a left wing cross from Coventry found the head of
O’Donovan at the end of it and his header was touched over the bar by
Rutherford, but the forward was given offside.
The play had been
pretty hectic, but the ref was handling the game sensibly and explaining
his decisions well to the players, which allowed some more physical
challenges to be made without free kicks given as there was no intention
involved. A Covee break
ended with a ball laid back to the edge of the box to Ruaidhri Higgins,
who had run from midfield and opted for power, rather than direction,
which resulted in a shot being blazed wide.
On 30 minutes, Coventry started another break and the ball was
moved from left to right, where the ball was played inside McKie, who
could not cut it out, allowing O’Donovan in to slip the ball past the
keeper as he closed the Coventry forward down.
Dropping behind was not
what Tottenham wanted, as they needed to win to go through to the next
stage of the competition. From
the restart, Spurs broke away with Yeates and Malcolm, who set up Mario
Noto, but his early shot was over the bar.
Then on 36 minutes, the ball was crossed into the box and fell to
Michael Malcolm just outside the six-yard box.
He spun on a sixpence and his firm shot was pushed aside by
Brush. As the game
approached half-time, Coventry slung a procession of crosses into the
Spurs box, which were dealt with well, including one headed out from in
front of the goal by Marcel McKie.
But again Spurs hit back, when Noto cut in from the right and
produced a left footed shot that was pushed wide for a corner as the
keeper smartly dived low to his right.
Tottenham looked as
though they had conceded again a minute before the break, when Thornton
shot in, but he had already been flagged for offside.
The home side finished the half with a threat, when Ford crossed
to Yeates and his strong header was well saved by the City keeper again.
It had been an even
half, but playing against the wind, Tottenham found the ball holding up
and not reaching their targets. After
the break, the wind became a useful ally to Spurs.
Owen Price came on as a
substitute for Jonathan Barnett, who was disappointing in prompting the
ball forward, and this helped give some width on the right.
The tough FA Youth Cup game could have taken more out of him than first
thought, as Tottenham were chasing the game for most of the time while
he was on. David Tyrie had the first chance of the half on
52 minutes, when his effort went past the keeper, but was hacked away
from the goal-line by Coventry defender Whing.
This was followed quickly by another Noto shot that flew too
With some crosses
flying into the box from both teams, there was no-one on the end of
them. Spurs needed to get
back into the match and when Whing shoved Yeates as he went towards the
line, the referee gave a free-kick. With Coventry expecting a cross, the dead ball was
played short to the edge of the box, where Black was waiting and he hit
a low shot through a crowd of players and it went between the legs of
Mark Yeates to bamboozle the keeper and give Spurs an equalizer.
To try and make some
impact on the Spurs team, Coventry brought on a man mountain of a
forward. Rory May
(according to the team sheet) must have been about 6’5” and about 15
stone, which to an Under-17 team is like bringing on a first teamer !!
However, it didn’t make much difference, as he was well
marshalled and left the play after about 10 minutes to be replaced by
Half an hour into the
second period, Spurs worked a position down the right wing to the
by-line and it was pulled back deep into the box, where right back
Daniel Perry arrived to roll the ball across the keeper and into the net
to give Tottenham the lead. It
was obviously a rare event, as the players swamped him as they
celebrated. It was a bright
move and had resulted from moving the ball around and pulling the
defenders out of position.
It was a goal that
really gave Spurs a lift, as Black almost immediately struck a shot that
rocketed against the bar and bounced down in the empty six-yard box.
The same player ran into the box, but could only drag his shot
wide of the goal.
City produced little
worry for the Spurs defence during the second half, but towards the end,
McKie had to clear as a forward closed in on the edge of the box and
there was a mix-up between Rutherford and his defenders, but no chances
were taken and the ball was hacked clear.
At the other end, Price had a chance when a long cross from the
left found him, but it skimmed off his shin.
Apart from that, the side managed to engineer some good
positions, but lacked the final finish to extend their lead.
At the final whistle,
the white shirted Spurs players greeted their win, while the Coventry
players slumped to the turf in despair.
Despite their physical advantages, Tottenham had used the
conditions better in the second half and played well to deserve their
victory. While the side had
not played as fluently as I had seen them previously this season, there
were enough examples of them trying to pass the ball around that
convinced me that there was a degree of understanding amongst them that
perhaps the side in the FA Youth Cup did not have because of the team
being drawn from the two groups of youngsters.
Rutherford looked sound
in goal and with not being blessed with great height, he did well in the
air, especially when he chose to punch.
McKie had a decent game, showing his attacking nature better than
his positional defence sometimes. Foster
and Tyrie are a string central defensive pairing, who shirk no
challenge. They also
provide a threat in the other area from dead ball situations.
On the right flank, Perry did well in the tackle and used the
ball well, linking up with Price along the right wing in the second half.
Barnett had played for
the Youth Cup side on Wednesday, but looked tired today.
He was not as all-action as he has been previously.
Black was the opposite. He
was everywhere and he deserved his goal for the energy he put into the
match. Not only did he get
in tackles and close opponents down, but also he moved the ball through
the midfield to the forwards quickly.
Alongside him, Mario Noto managed to get wide, but moved inside
when Price was introduced. He took the ball on and tried to get his name on the
score-sheet, but did force a good save from the City keeper. Tim Ford was a constant nuisance to the Coventry defence,
jinking past them to provide crosses into the box.
His quick thinking at the free-kick gave Black the chance to hit
Malcolm ran all match. He
did not manage to get a goal, but his menace meant that space was
created for others. He was frustrated that he was not getting the ball when in a
good position, but stuck to his task and closed down the men on the ball
at the back right to the end. His
colleague in attack Mark Yeates was constantly moving along the line.
He’d be the one who hassled and ran into space to give the
Spurs player with the ball an option.
Despite his rough treatment by the opposition, he kept coming
back for more and deserved to end up on the wining side.
Owen Price didn’t have much chance to shine, being stuck out
tight to the line, he was closed down quickly when he did get the ball,
but when he had the opportunity, he did show some skill on the ball.
He did play a part on both goals too.
I was told that there
are nine play off groups, so I don’t know who Spurs might meet in the
next stage of this process, but they will need to impose themselves on
the game more if they want to get further.
Spurs : - Paul
Rutherford; Marcel McKie, Danny Foster, David Tyrie, Daniel Perry; Tim
Ford, Lee Barnett (Owen Price 46), Jonathan Black, Mario Noto; Michael
Malcolm, Mark Yeates
Unused Subs : -
Nicky Eyre, David Hicks, Gareth Jenkins, Joe Watson
Coventry City : -
Brush; Stanford, Regan, Kenna, Whing; Giddings, Higgins, Osbourne,
Rice; O’Donovan (May), Thornton
For some photos of
the game, click here.