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Arsenal Reserves v Spurs Reserves, 06.12.04

FA BARCLAYCARD PREMIERSHIP RESERVE LEAGUE (SOUTH)
at Underhill, Barnet
MONDAY 6TH DECEMBER, 2004
ARSENAL RESERVES 2 (0) SPURS RESERVES 1 (0)

Arsenal scorers:-
Cregg, 60
Stokes, 70

Spurs scorer:-
Slabber, 90

Referee:- Mr. B. Desmond

Attendance:- Est. 2,500

Teams:-
Arsenal (4-4-2):- Wright; Gilbert, Simek (Capt.), Connolly, Karbassiyoon; Birchall, Djourou (sub Muamba, 90), Cregg (sub Fowler, 64), O'Donnell; Lupoli, Stokes

Subs not used:- Howard; Gill, Shimmin

Booked:- Gilbert, Simek

Spurs (4-4-2):- Fulop; McKenna, Richards (Capt.), Davenport, McKie; Dilevski (sub Price, 73), Marney, Jackson, Yeates; Slabber, Silva (sub Malcolm, 64)

Subs not used:- Burch; Riley; Thyer

Booked:- Marney, Jackson

Spurs Reserves suffered their first defeat in 8 games, and it was against the worst possible opponents - Arsenal - playing at Barnet's Underhill ground. At least 2,500 fans packed the ground (free admission) for this Derby game, which ultimately was a game of two halves, with the team playing down the hill very much on top in the respective halves. Whilst Marton Fulop was very much untested in the first period, Spurs created many good chances, but failed to test the home keeper to the full, although he did have to stretch to his right to save a fine Jackson effort. Then in the second half, Arsenal secured the game with two goals scored on speedy breakaways, one from an incredibly tight angle, and Jamie Slabber's injury time goal (a la Kanoute against Middlesbrough) was every bit a consolation only.

Arsenal fielded just a handful of the players that featured in their League Cup tie at Old Trafford last week, and not even all of those started. Their strikers were quite a handful, with Lupoli (signed in the summer from Parma) more of a threat than Stokes. O'Donnell on the left was quite a threat, and Adam Birchall has been a thorn in Spurs side before. I believe he recently returned to Arsenal from a loan. Arsenal's number 4 Johan Djourou is Vieira like in build, but I think that is where the comparison ends.

Spurs also welcomed back a loan player, with Dean Marney returning from Gillingham and playing alongside Johnnie Jackson in the middle. Dilevski and Yeates were effective wingmen, but Silva and Slabber were less effective. Dean Richards skippered the side, and Calum Davenport played his first full game in Spurs' colours. Both were tested to the full by Arsenal's pace, and ultimately, it has to be said that the home side got the better of them with those goals, but Davenport showed plenty of style beforehand.

At times, Spurs played some very slick one-touch football, combined with plenty of great long balls from Marney. Jackson battled away in the middle, and whilst Spurs often failed to make best use of their possession, they never really looked troubled in the first half. Lupoli had just failed to make contact with his head when an early free kick was swept in from the right, but that was the closest Arsenal got to goal in the first half, with any other shots being off target. There was plenty of edge to the game, and Gilbert got an early booking for a high challenge on Yeates in the Spurs half.

Marney had a shot straight at Wright in goal, after a good move started as a result of a good win by Jackson, and featuring Dilevski too. Wright's handling in the early stages had looked less than convincing, and it is a shame that Spurs failed to test him more. Marney had a great run down the middle, before sending the ball to Dilevski, when the attack fizzled out a bit, as he crossed into the keeper's arms. After 37 minutes, another Marney run gave Wright a test for a rising shot, which he held, but then he had to dive acrobatically to his right to save Jackson's powerful drive. Marney started and finished a good move, with a long ball to Dilevski, whose cross was touched back by Silva for a Marney shot over the bar. This was the only significant contribution I can recall from Silva, and it was no surprise to see him switched for Malcolm at a fairly early stage in the second half.

The first Arsenal goal came on the hour, when they broke from half way, and Lupoli slipped the ball to Cregg in space, for a shot that beat Fulop diving to his right. Cregg seemed to injure himself either in the scoring or in the celebration of the goal, and took no further part in the game.Ten minutes later, they were two up, as Stokes chased a seemingly lost cause down the right flank, made it, and carried the ball inside along the goal-line, with McKie and Davenport in his wake. Somehow, he managed to squeeze the ball past Fulop and into the net from an angle as tight as the one from which I believe Kanu scored a goal in a 3-2 win against Chelsea.

Dilevski then had a right foot effort saved, but Spurs seemed to lose a bit of heart after that second goal. Owen Price replaced Dilevski, but failed to make an impact, with some poor initial touches on the ball. This is a shame for Owen, who spent considerable time out with a broken leg earlier in the year, and having reached the age of 19 needs to find a niche at Reserve level. He and Michael Malcolm were once seen as great protégés, but things do not seem to be quite happening for them at this time.

Davenport had to make a clearance in front of an otherwise empty goalmouth as Stokes rounded Fulop and tried a curling shot. With 10 minutes of normal time to go, Marcel McKie managed a superb ball from a tight situation on the left to Price on the far right. Owen passed inside to Mark Yeates, whose shot was tipped up onto the bar by Wright, and was then cleared. In the 88th minute, Marney teed up Jackson for a powerful long range shot that was just wide. Three minutes injury time were announced and these were extended as Djourou had to be stretchered off. Jamie Slabber's consolation came five minutes into the added time, when he charged down a Wright attempted clearance, and saw the ball rebound low into the net. There was not enough time left for any equaliser.

Amongst those watching I spotted Joe Kinnear, who seemed to cast a close eye on the Arsenal team warming up. No doubt he will be at The Lane tomorrow night for the Youth Cup fixture against his Nottingham Forest. The Reserves face West ham away next Wednesday 15th December, and their next scheduled game at Stevenage will be on 10th January, against Southampton.

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