A hard-working Ipswich side overcame
Spurs in this FA Youth Cup semi-final first leg with a display of good
passing and movement, but the match was won off the pitch with a
tactical choice in flooding the midfield to bog Tottenham down and stop
them playing their normal game.
Firstly, let me get my moans out of the
way. The kick off was delayed to let in a large crowd braved the chilly
conditions to pack the one stand that was opened for the match.
There were fans in the main stand, but I guess they were club officials,
friends, family and dignitaries. Once most people were in (and
they were still entering ten minutes into the game), I found that my
short legs were pressed hard into the back of the seat in front.
Not too bad for me, but for a tall man (like Paul Smith of Spurs Odyssey
fame), it must have been agony. My other main gripe is the idiot
faction of the home support, who we happened to be sat near.
Obscene songs rang out, despite a large number of (very) young fans
sitting around them. This coupled with the bloke behind me
referring to a black player as a "darkie" made me feel as
though I had stepped back in time as well as the footballing hierarchy.
There were a fair share of Tottenham
supporters in the 4,000 plus crowd. Unfortunately, they didn't
have much to shout about after the first 20 minutes.
Ipswich lined up with four at the back,
five in midfield and one player up front - Clarke - who was supported by
runners from midfield. Spurs had a traditional 4-4-2 formation,
which, it soon became evident as the game went on, was not going to
match the home side's set-up.
Spurs made a bright start and could have
been ahead had they taken their chances, the first of which arrived
after just one minute and forty-three seconds. The lively Andy
Barcham slid a pass through to winger Charlie Daniels and his shot was
on target, but he picked out the keeper, who spilled his shot, but the
ball was hacked away.
Tottenham's tactic from goal-kicks became
clear when the players moved to the left side of the pitch every time
Forecast shaped to take the dead-ball kick. His kicking was
accurate and in the fifth minute he picked out a Spurs player ...
unfortunately, he was sat in our dug-out !! Tottenham pressed
forward and Leigh Mills, the talented young defender, hit an early ball
through to Barcham, but he was just beaten to the ball by Supple, the
Ipswich goalie. Daniels made a bit of space for himself on the
left wing and his cross was headed over by Barcham in the eleventh
minute before Ipswich started to move forward. Spurs appeared to
be giving the home players plenty of space and time to play, so when the
ball reached Clarke, just left of centre, he fired a shot that he
shanked a bit and it went across the goal and wide. The Tottenham
defence failed to learn from this and in the very next minute, the same
player in the same position, he hit another fierce drive, but this time
it went just over.
When Ipswich centre-half Collins slipped
when trying to control a long O'Hara pass, Barcham was in on goal and he
hit his shot low and true, but the keeper stuck out a leg to block the
ball that rebounded back past the Spurs striker as his run took him
on. In the 17th minute, the best chance of the game fell to
Charlie Daniels. A long cross from the right was met by a weak
punch from Supple, taking the ball to the back of the penalty
area. Barcham got the loose ball, tricked his way past a couple of
defenders and played it square to Daniels, six yards out, but once more,
his shot hit the place where the keeper was stood.
The misses wouldn't have been so bad, had
Ipswich not taken the lead ten minutes later. They won a left wing
corner, which was half-cleared and when a cross was played back in,
Knights won a header that hit a defender and dropped invitingly for
Trotter to sweep home from close range with only Forecast to beat.
Spurs needed to hit back quickly and when
Dawkins played the ball into Maghoma, he hit a shot on goal from a tight
angle on the right and although it beat the keeper, it also went wide of
the post just on the half hour. Three minutes later, midfielder
Stuart Lewis seized on a slip by Trotter and fired a fine shot in on
goal, but it flew just outside the goal. Ipswich had a strong
finish to the half and could have gone in more than one up. With
five minutes to the interval, a long free-kick saw Trotter (who looks
like the new Jason Dozzell) have a free header, but he put the chance
wide and in the next attack Clarke tricked his way to the dead ball
line, then pulled it back to Trotter. His shot was waist high and
Forecast was able to parry it and the same player was unable to hit the
target with the rebound. Right on the stroke of half-time, Lewis
picked up a yellow card for a foul, which looked a little bit harsh, as
it had not been a dirty game.
The half-time break gave Pat Holland the
opportunity to move things about and Spurs re-emerged from the tunnel
with a five man midfield and Barcham playing a lone role up front.
This was intended to counter the massed ranks of blue shirts in
midfield, but left Barcham jumping for high balls against the gargantuan
Spurs settled into a pattern and the game
was fought out in midfield for the first five minutes, with the ball
being moved about, but not moving very far toward either goal. A
long free-kick from the left found Charlie Lee sneaking around the back
of the area, but he was unable to pull the ball back and his volley went
high over the top. It took another ten minutes for Tottenham to
hit the target in the second half and following good work on the right
by Dawkins and Ifil, the captain's cross was met by Barcham's volley,
but once more, Supple was in the right place. From a corner, Mills
rose above the keeper to win a header and Casement was on hand to kick
the ball off the line.
The response was chances made by the home
attack, with shots flying across the goal, the best of which saw Clarke
once more hold the ball up and lay it off to Trotter, who picked his
spot studiously, but put the ball a foot wide of Forecast's goal.
It was in the 72nd minute that Spurs suffered some bad luck, which might
decide this tie. The ball was worked wide and as it came into the
box, Clarke shot. The ball took a wicked deflection off Mills, who
was trying to block it, leaving Forecast going the wrong way, as the
ball slipped just inside his left hand post.
Spurs tried to get back in the match,
with players making runs off the ball to make space, but the final ball
in was nearly always disappointing and Supple had little trouble to deal
with the action that came his way. In contrast, Ipswich wasted a
golden opportunity to make it 3-0 in the final minute as Clarke carved
out a chance for his strike partner Knights, who was in a central
position, but with only the goalkeeper to beat, he put the shot wide
Will it be a miss that the Blues will
regret ? On this evidence, Spurs will have to play an awful lot
better and one has to wonder if home advantage will make a lot of
difference. Only if Ipswich freeze on the night will Spurs have a
chance and an early goal will be imperative in over-turning the two goal
deficit. Clarke and Knights have a good understanding up front and
their movement makes it difficult for defenders to keep track of where
they are, but Spurs need to stop the ball getting tot hem in the first
place. The team looked second best to almost every ball and will
need to match the effort the Horses put in. Some members of the
team played well below the level of performances they have produced at
this and reserve levels, so need to step it up for the home leg.
The one player who shone was central defender Leigh Mills, who was
imperious in the timing of his tackling and his pace made sure that he
was able to marshal his opponents away from goal.
MEHSTG TOP MAN : - LEIGH MILLS