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Arsenal Reserves v Spurs Reserves, 27.02.06

FA BARCLAYS PREMIERSHIP RESERVE LEAGUE (South)
(at Underhill, Barnet)
MONDAY 27TH FEBRUARY, 2006
ARSENAL RESERVES 1 (0) SPURS RESERVES 2 (2)

Arsenal scorer:-
Lupoli, 68

Spurs scorers:-
Barcham, 13
Dawkins, 22

Attendance: - Est. 4,000

Referee: - Mr D. McDermid

Teams:-
Arsenal (4-4-2):- Almunia; Rodgers, Kelly, Connolly (Capt.), Cole (sub Efrem, 7); Simpson (sub Randall, 57), Muamba, Song, Stokes; Lupoli, Bendtner

Subs not used: - Mannone; Elston, Tracy

Booked: - Lupoli (not confirmed – “simulation”)

Spurs (4-4-2):- Burch; Lee (sub Martin, 71), Davenport (Capt.), Gardner, Bunjevcevic; Davis (sub Hamed, 78), Lewis, Jackson, Daniels; Dawkins (sub Maghoma, 46), Barcham

Subs not used: - Forecast; Smith

Booked: - Davenport, Jackson

Clive Allen’s super young Spurs side opened up a 7 point gap at the top of the Southern section of the Reserve League tonight with a great win over Arsenal, at Barnet’s Underhill stadium. Such has been the dominance by Arsenal over Spurs on their own turf in recent years at Reserve level, that this was the first away win for Spurs this century over their bitter rivals!

Clearly, the importance of this game was recognised at the highest level, as Spurs chairman Daniel Levy attended. He was not to be disappointed, as Spurs clearly dominated the first half, playing down the Barnet slope, and should have had one or two more than their half-time two goal advantage.

Arsenal included Ashley Cole, attempting to continue his come-back, but he lasted just seven minutes, and clearly suffered a severe setback to his hopes of recovery. Mr Wenger will have to continue improvising at left back in the Premiership for the foreseeable future. Once Cole went off, midfielder Muamba fell back to centre-back and Sean Kelly moved across to left back. That left Alexandre Song as the lone playmaker in the Gunners’ midfield. Signed from French side Bastia last summer, and already having several first team games under his belt, Song showed a lot of potential, but he was often effectively closed down and dispossessed by the Spurs midfield duo of John Jackson and Stuart Lewis. At other times, Song looked a little rattled by this attention, and passed out of play.

Clive Allen’s master-stroke today was to include both Calum Davenport and Anthony Gardner at the back, with the experienced Bunjevcevic at left back, and the emerging talent of Charlie Lee at right back. Whilst there were some scary moments for the Spurs defence throughout the game, the height and experience of the Spurs centre-backs kept Lupoli and Bendtner at bay for most of the game.

Spurs were missing reserve stalwarts such as top scorer, Lee Barnard, and Kieran McKenna – both through injury, and you can add to those absences the loss of Tom Huddlestone for his under-21 call-up, and loanees Jamie O’Hara, Mark Yeates and Mounir El Hamdaoui. Two of the Spurs midfield (Lewis and Davis) had played 90 minutes in gruelling conditions on Saturday at Spurs Lodge. Davis has burst onto the Spurs reserve scene, has plenty of pace, and showed the ball skills and determination to get himself into several excellent positions. Lewis and Jackson were battling dynamos in the middle, giving their all to the cause.

The first scary moment came for Spurs, when Song’s ball caused confusion between Davenport and Burch, as Lupoli advanced. After a little hesitation, Davenport cleared safely. Very quickly, Burch was caught outside his area, with Davenport behind him, and Lupoli went down, and may have been booked for “simulation”. A free kick was awarded to Spurs. Cole was already having problems after 4 minutes, when Barcham made a good lay-off to Davis, who went round the outside of the Arsenal defence, then with only the keeper to beat, hit a shot across the goal-mouth and wide. Cole saw no more action and had to be assisted off.

Spurs enjoyed a period of good pressure with a number of corners and attacking throws, when in the thirteenth minute they took a deserved lead from a corner taken by John Jackson. Davenport headed down into the centre of the six-yard box, and it was Barcham who swivelled and pounced to score a Greaves-type poacher’s goal.

Davenport got caught out trying to match Bendtner’s pace going up the hill towards the Spurs goal, and was deservedly booked for a cynical challenge. It was however, mostly one-way traffic, and Simon Dawkins was getting away from Muamba, as he was brought down just inside the box, but got no penalty. It was a tackle from behind, mysteriously un-punished. Two minutes later, rookie Dawkins got his just deserts, as he received a good low cross from Charlie Daniels, and finished coolly past Almunia with a low shot from 15 yards. It was two-nil to Spurs, and could have been more, as Jamie Davis got to the bye-line, crossed for Barcham, who could have had a shot, but passed to Daniels, who should have scored, but saw his effort saved by the keeper for a corner. After good work by Jackson, Dawkins held the ball well, turned and found Daniels, who saw another good shot well saved by the Arsenal second-choice keeper.

Simon Dawkins took a knock and had to be replaced by Jacques Maghoma after the break. Clive Allen reverted to a five-man midfield, with Barcham on his own up front. Barcham created a great chance within three minutes of the re-start. Having been surrounded by four opponents near the touchline, Barcham and Daniels won a throw, from which Barcham was sent down the line, and got round Kelly into the box. Barcham teed up Maghoma, whose close range shot was saved by Almunia again. Jamie Davis got a similar offer from Barcham later in the half, but fired wide.

Lupoli was becoming more and more of a threat, and when Stuart Lewis was dispossessed outside the area, the Italian’s shot was well held by the till now little exercised Rob Burch. Barcham was having trouble avoiding the offside flag at the other end, but did well on one occasion making a run from 35 yards out, getting round the central defenders, but firing just wide. Lupoli got a precious goal for the home side in the 68th minute, getting into the box past Charlie Lee, and chipping Burch to hit the net. Whilst Spurs occasionally managed a few passing moves, it was predominantly a backs to the wall job to the finish line, but on the whole the Spurs defence was magnificent, with the occasional slip.

The Davenport head down from a corner nearly paid off again fifteen minutes from the end, as this time Charlie Daniels latched onto the knock down, but saw Almunia make a close-range save. Lupoli threatened Burch again with a cross-shot, but it was Stokes who had the best chance to equalise five minutes from the end, after a 1-2 with Muamba, then a shot outside the post from little more than 12 yards. Spurs were camped in the Arsenal half when the final whistle went, and such was Lupoli’s frustration that he sough some “afters” with Calum Davenport as the players headed for the tunnel. Lupoli’s nose had been bloodied in a midfield challenge, and perhaps he felt aggrieved by that.

There must have been a good 4,000 fans in the ground tonight. They were still flooding in half an hour after the 7 o’clock kick-off. There was a good Spurs representation, and friendly chanting by both sets of supporters. Speaking personally, it was great fun where I was sitting (with Ray) enjoying the whining and whingeing of gooner fans that must be growing ever-more depressed at the decline of their side in both the first and second tiers of Premiership football. Long may such depression reign!

Spurs have seven games remaining (all of them winnable). The next of these is at Broadhall Way next Monday, when the visitors will be West Ham. Should Clive Allen’s protégés win the southern section of the reserve league, there would be a play-off with the northern champions to determine the 2005-6 reserve league winners. It’s a little early to count chickens, but tonight’s win was not only crucial – it was a great morale booster. Well done to all concerned!

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