BARCLAYCARD PREMIERSHIP RESERVE LEAGUE
THURSDAY 3RD APRIL, 2003
WATFORD RESERVES 0 (0) SPURS RESERVES 1 (1)
Referee:- Bob Desmond
Watford (4-4-2):- Lee; Herd (sub Boothe, 46), Doyley, Ifil, Smith; Saunders(sub Young, 76), Hand (sub Swonnell, 73), Johnson (Capt.), Cook; Noel-Williams, Fitzgerald
Subs not used:- Watson; Godfrey
Booked:- Johnson, Hand, Fitzgerald
Spurs (3-5-2/4-4-2):- Burch; Foster, Thelwell, Gardner (sub Dobson, 46); Hughes (Capt), Bowditch, Blondel, Ricketts, Butterfield (sub Malcolm, 62); Yeates (sub Barnett, 83), Barnard
Subs not used:- Eyre; Black
Booked:- Hughes (foul), Blondel (diving)
Sent off:- Blondel (second yellow)
Exactly one year ago today, at White Hart Lane, I saw a certain Wayne Rooney in action for the first time in a Youth Cup semi-final . Many of tonight's predominantly under 19 reserve side played that night, and perhaps inspired by Rooney's England performance last night, this young Spurs side played with a maturity beyond their years to hold out against a powerful and more experienced side that held aspirations of the Reserve League Championship before this set-back.
There was one incident where there was a total lack of discipline on the part of Blondel, who got sent off for a second bookable offence within the space of a minute in the second half. Spurs had also suffered a set-back at half time, when Anthony Gardner was withdrawn after turning his ankle. Gardner's replacement - under-17 star, Ricky Dobson - took up position at left back in a reformed Spurs defence that held onto to their 32nd minute goal, against all odds. All this in front of a partisan crowd of nearly 3,000 screaming fans in the lower Rous stand, willing on the yellow-clad Hornets team.
Let there be no doubt as to who was man of the match as Rob Burch produced some dazzling saves to keep the marauding attackers at bay, although Watford did not help their own cause as the game went on, often allowing the ball to run out of play, or firing their shots way off the target. Spurs started with a back three, which included another under-17 player - Danny Foster. Captain Hughes played at right wing-back, and triallist John Butterfield took the left wing-back slot. Ben Bowditch once again played a fine role in front of the defence, whilst Blondel often struggled for service in the middle. Mark Yeates was up front with Lee Barnard, returning from his broken arm, and Rohan Ricketts completed the line-up, supporting the attack.
Watford took the initiative from the outset, driven on by the midfield led by skipper Johnson, ably assisted by Saunders on the right wing, Cook on the left and Hand beside the Captain. Gifton Noel-Williams enjoyed his battle with Alton Thelwell throughout the game, even sharing a bit of banter, despite Williams getting upset by Dobson's strength beyond his years mid-way through the second half.
Rob Burch tipped over a Cook shot following a free kick from the right, before having to race to the edge of his box and assist Foster in deflecting Fitzgerald's effort following a chase between the striker and the defender. Mark Hughes was unfortunately penalised for a foot-up offence near the touchline. The free kick was headed down by Williams and Fitzgerald fired over the bar. Fitzgerald then rounded Thelwell outside the box before bringing more heroics from Burch with a fine tip of the shot over the bar. Burch then had to repeat his act from a header from the ensuing corner. His loan period at Woking has obviously been put to good use!
Blondel gifted a ball in the middle that was swiftly sent towards the box. Williams headed down for the advancing Johnson, whose shot was above the target. Then came the Spurs goal out of the blue. To say we scored against the run of play is an understatement! However, it was a well-worked goal, with Ricketts feeding the ball inside from the left to Bowditch who threaded a great ball through the defence for Mark Yeates to run onto and confidently beat Lee with a super right foot finish. Yeates scored a hat-trick for the under 19s last Saturday; played the 90 minutes on Monday night against Ipswich reserves, and will probably have to play on Saturday for the under-19s. Phew!
Spurs came under pressure again, as the ball whizzed across the area from right and left, before Cook's cross was headed down and wide by Saunders. After the break, Spurs looked more solid in defence, and in fact had some good possession, without threatening to score, largely thanks to the fine running and skill of the energetic Yeates. Watford seemed to lose their composure and got more and more frustrated, as they gave Burch less to worry about. On the hour, a free kick from the left drifted over the defence, and the unsighted Burch was grateful to put the ball round his post for a corner, from which he made another superb close range save from a header.
Triallist Butterfield was replaced by Malcolm, and Yeates fell back to a midfield role. Before long some more re-shuffling had to be done, as Blondel got his two bookings in quick time. First he looked unlucky to me, as he flew to avoid Hand's tackle, but was ad-judged over-theatrical, and shown yellow. Then he sought revenge in the wrong way with a late challenge on Hand, which brought a reaction from the Watford player. Blondel had to go, and Hand went into the ref's book, being substituted soon after.
Malcolm was left on his own, and Barnard fell back on the left side to assist Dobson. In the latter stages, Yeates was replaced by Lee Barnett, and Spurs maintained a backs to the wall defensive style, to great effect, I might say. The only real threat to Burch's goal came from a low shot by Fitzgerald, that was safely held by the keeper.
This young Spurs side has won three out of its last four away games. It is ironic that we are getting better results from the youngsters, whereas earlier in the season, with some of the big names on parade, the results were poor. By their absence tonight, one can assume that Perry, Toda and Marney will be in the first team squad for the Birmingham game. Jamie Slabber went off on Monday night with a knock, so he may not be fit to challenge for a place.
It was nice to see Owen Price and Nicky Wettner amongst the crowd. They didn't know much about Butterfield either, but I think he comes from Chesham & Barnet, having previously played for Barnet.
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