FA BARCLAYCARD PREMIERSHIP RESERVE LEAGUE
WEDNESDAY 19TH FEBRUARY, 2003
SPURS RESERVES 0 (0) COVENTRY RESERVES 1 (1)
Referee:- M. Yerby
Attendance:- Est 500
Spurs (3-4-1-2):- Sullivan; Henry, Thelwell, Thatcher; Hughes, Toda, Jackson (Capt), Galbraith; Acimovic (sub McKenna, 80); Ricketts, Etherington
Subs not used:- G. Kelly (GK); Hodges; Jenkins, Hicks
Booked:- Toda (shirt-tugging)
Coventry (4-4-2):- Debec; Whing, Cooney, Davenport, Stanford; Hall, Strachan, Eustace (Capt), Noon (sub Fowler, 64); Joachim (sub May, 46), Yulu
Subs not used:- Brush; Jephcott, Osbourne
On a freezing cold night at Broadhall Way, Stevenage, there were plenty of Japanese faces to be seen on the perimeter of the pitch. A couple of TV cameras, several journalists, local stills photographers, and a few Oriental faces in the crowd too. No prizes for guessing who was the attraction to them then!
It was a somewhat makeshift Spurs side that faced the Sky Blues, with no recognised striker to be found, as the only fit and likely contenders, Jamie Slabber and Michael Malcolm, are required for Youth Cup action at Selhurst Park tomorrow night (kick-off 7pm). Hence it was left to Etherington and Ricketts to take on striker duties, with Acimovic playing just behind them, and in front of a midfield 4 with Hughes and Galbraith on the flanks, and Toda and Johnnie Jackson inside them. The back three of Henry, Thelwell, and Thatcher were therefore left over-exposed at times, as Coventry attacked strongly down their left flank in the available space.
This was the first time I had seen Toda, and I have to say that overall, I was disappointed. He made some decent passes early on, along with some interceptions, and he had a decent shot deflected for a corner in the first half, but as the game wore on, he became more absent, and too many passes were skied or mis-cued. I do not see him making the first team before next season, but no doubt the Toda shirt sales are going well!
There was a general lack of understanding in the side, with Acimovic failing to read the game, and then when he did get near the ball, preferring a fancy flick to a simple touch. It was no surprise when he was removed at the expense of under-17 midfielder Kieran McKenna, who I believe made his first appearance at this level. Indeed, with the exception of Gavin Kelly, all the Spurs subs were under 17 players.
There were few notable incidents in the first half, but the first fell to Coventry after just 4 minutes, following a clever run down the left by Christian Yulu, passing inside to Noon, whose shot brought a sharp parried save from Neil Sullivan. The Spurs defence cleared the loose ball. Thatcher was seeing relatively little of the ball in the first half, and Alton Thelwell was having a decent game, with some good distribution coupled with several good and skilful interventions. Sadly, his efficiency deteriorated towards the end of the game, whilst Thatcher got more involved.
Spurs first real effort came after 13 minutes, following some good work by Acimovic and Jackson near the corner flag. Jackson's ball from the right reached Toda, whose low driven shot was deflected for a corner. Near the half hour mark, a bad mistake by Ronnie Henry near the half way line allowed Noon to race down the left wing. He crossed to Hall, whose powerful shot was strongly saved by Sullivan diving to his right. With the half-time whistle beckoning, Thelwell's headed clearance only made it as far as Coventry skipper Eustace, whose shot was deflected by Thatcher for a corner. From the dead ball, the giant centre-half Davenport headed back across the box for Eustace to power home the goal.
Julian Joachim (once a star at Aston Villa, and perhaps recovering from an injury) was replaced at half time by another towering player - youngster Rory May - who gave the defence more to think about. Spurs had an early shot from Ricketts that went about a yard over the bar, but neither side threatened the goal again for about fifteen minutes. Those camera-men must have been getting very cold!
Around the hour mark there was a bit of excitement as Matty Etherington raced through onto a Ricketts flick on a Toda pass. Unfortunately, Etherington let the ball run too far ahead of him, and Debec cleared. The languid Acimovic then had two chances. The first was a right foot shot sent two yards wide, and the next was dismal attempt to flick the ball over the keeper after Etherington had raced onto a long ball down the left from Jackson.
After 67 minutes, Rory May passed inside from the right, and that man Eustace hit a great shot to Sullivan's left, which the keeper cleanly held as he dived. Coventry's second substitute Fowler then floated a free kick in from the right, and it was Eustace again who ghosted in to head just past Sullivan's right post. This time the keeper did not look so confident.
By this time, Spurs had switched their tactics, so that Ricketts played behind the front two, although he returned to a forward role once McKenna appeared. Mark Hughes had a good run into the box and a decent right foot shot that was deflected wide, and McKenna so nearly had a heroic start to his reserve career, when Etherington crossed inside and McKenna fell to the ground in front of the keeper. He did get a shot past the keeper, but it was soft and cleared by the defence. Ricketts follow-up shot was also blocked in front of the goal, possibly by his colleagues.
Toda was the only man booked for a shirt-tugging offence, which was an unnecessary foul in the middle of the park, and at the final whistle he looked somewhat disconsolate and disappointed.
Results are not everything of course at this level, but the fact is the Spurs reserves have lost 7 out of their last 9 competitive games, and they have won just 4 out of 10 home games. Next Tuesday they face West Ham Reserves at Broadhall Way, and then on Wednesday 5th March they play Watford at Vicarage Road, where the admission will be free of charge, as it is described as a "Family Night". You never know, Spurs might find a reserve striker by then!
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