BARCLAYCARD PREMIERSHIP RESERVE LEAGUE
MONDAY 7TH OCTOBER, 2002
SPURS RESERVES 0 (0) WATFORD RESERVES 0 (0)
Referee:- Mr M.A. HARRIS
Attendance:- Est 500
Spurs (4-4-2):- Hirschfeld; Carr, Perry (sub Slabber, 65), Henry (Capt), Galbraith (sub Kelly, 26); Bortolozzo, Hughes, Poyet, Marney; Ricketts, Barnard
Subs not used:- Burch; Snee, Wettner
Watford (4-4-2):- Baardsen; Herd, Ifil, Mahon, Smith; Swonnel (Capt), Johnson (sub Blizzard, 62), Hughes (sub Vernazza, 46), Matthews; Foley (sub Patterson, 46), Godfrey
Subs not used:- Lee; Williams
The main talking point of this game was the return to action of Gus Poyet and Stephen Carr, both of whom played the full 90 minutes. Poyet looks nearer to match fitness, and showed his verve and love of the game, especially in the second half, when Espen Baardsen deprived Gus of a goal midway through the half, and when he tried a number of shots, some of which were quite audacious in style. Lars Hirschfeld had to make a late spectacular save of his own from a Vernazza header, to keep the scores level.
Spurs started with a diamond midfield formation, where Gus was at the head behind Ricketts and Lee Barnard. This soon changed though, as Ricketts pulled back and Gus played a more attacking role. The Spurs formation remained somewhat fluid throughout the game, with an early forced change due to the injury to David Galbraith, who does not usually play the defensive role at left back. Stephen Kelly (who was in the first team squad this week-end) replaced Galbraith, and later took up a central role, when Chris Perry went off after 65 minutes, having had enough of a run-out.
Such are the problems in reserve games. There is a commitment to enable players to return from injury, and for first team players short of action to get a run. Understandably therefore, in the midst of all this upheaval, the younger members of the squad had a little trouble settling on the ball, hampered also by very effective closing down throughout the field by the visitors, who had their own first team members to nurse through the game. Ex-Arsenal and Everton midfielder Stephen Hughes played the first half, and together with Matthews and Johnson formed a troublesome threat to Spurs down the left side, where Carr was not playing at full pace. Rohan Ricketts was the star of the game, with another performance full of energy, skilful tricks and plenty of momentum. Bortolozzo too is settling in well, being more willing to get stuck into the physical side of the game, whilst showing good passing skills too. Lee Barnard was full of running, and for some of the second half, had to hold the line alone, until re-inforced by Jamie Slabber, who was to come closest to scoring for Spurs.
Neither goal was seriously threatened until Poyet was behind a fine move for Spurs after 10 minutes. Gus had a passing exchange with Carr, before releasing Barnard whose first time shot was chipped just over the bar. Watford's skipper Swonnell responded positively with a run from the right and a low drive just wide of Hirschfeld's left post. Midway through the first half, Hirschfeld cleanly held a firm Foley header from a corner on the right.
Immediately after replacing Galbraith, Stephen Kelly led a Spurs counter with a headed clearance that Ricketts did well to claim. Ricketts sent Marney away on a run, but he stumbled at the crucial moment about 35 yards out from goal, being pressurised by the defence. The Hornets made a double substitution at half time, one of which was their tall striker, Simon Patterson, who did once play for Spurs at under-17 level. Patterson's distribution was good from deep positions, and he had one weak shot saved. I also felt that he was too easily dispossessed of the ball, by good tackles from the likes of Bortolozzo and gutsy Mark Hughes (playing the latter stages of the game with his nose plugged).
It took a while before the goalkeepers were active, but after 62 minutes, Kelly headed down the left for Marney to cross. Diego Bortolozzo hit a first time shot past the post. With 20 minutes left on the clock, Poyet led a Spurs break, as he fed Marney on the right. Marney found Barnard, racing down the right, and his cross reached Slabber who tried a neat flick back in the direction of a team-mate, only for the ball to be cleared. A few minutes later, Gus was in the box making a spectacular shot that Baardsen parried and Slabber hit against the bar.
At the other end Blizzard got up well to a free kick on the left, but his header was just wide of Hirschfeld's left post. Ricketts found Poyet with a short pass from the left, and Gus hit a first time shot just over the bar, unlike a couple that he had hit way over the stand - Wigan style! In injury time, Vernazza (another ex-gooner) headed a cross from the left goalward, and Lars Hirschfeld made a fantastic flying save, pushing the ball above the bar with his right arm outstretched above his body.
So, it was honours even, and at the end Gus made a point of shaking Baardsen's hand, as did ex-team-mate Stephen Carr. The next reserve game is away to West Ham, next Tuesday. The venue has yet to be confirmed.
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