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Arsenal Reserves v Spurs Reserves, 22.01.07

FA BARCLAYS PREMIERSHIP RESERVE LEAGUE (South)
MONDAY 22ND JANUARY, 2007
ARSENAL RESERVES 0 (0) SPURS RESERVES 3 (1)

Scorers:-
Yeates, 23
O’Hara, 55
McKenna, 90

Referee: - Mr. G. Horwood

Attendance: - Est. 1,500

Teams:-
Arsenal (4-4-2):- Mannone (Capt.); Ogogo, Rodgers, Gavin Hoyte, Steer; Lansbury, Randall (sub Van Den Berg, 59), Dunne (sub Murphy, 81), Efrem; Simpson, Barazite

Subs not used: - Szczesny; Lokando, Parisio

Booked: - Lansbury

Sent off: - Lansbury (Second Yellow)

Spurs (4-4-2); - Alnwick; Ifil, Mills, Lee, Ziegler; Yeates, McKenna (Capt.), O’Hara, Daniels (sub Pekhart, 84); Barcham, Taraabt

Subs not used: - Forecast; Martin, Hughton; Frazer-Allen

Booked: - McKenna

Spurs Reserves returned to the top of the Southern table, and to winning ways in the best possible fashion, with a convincing victory at Underhill, Barnet, the home of Arsenal’s Reserve side. This was Spurs second consecutive away win over their bitter rivals, in front of the usual good crowd, where admission and even the team sheets are free of charge.

It was a bitterly cold and windswept night, and when Spurs only managed a one goal lead at the end of a first half where they had been running down the slope and with the wind behind them, it looked as if they might succumb to an inevitable second half battle from a very young and inexperienced gooner side. Despite some early pressure from the home team, Spurs soon expressed their superiority despite the uphill burden, and in fact scored two second half goals.

Apart from the usual high energy competitive football between these two teams, there were a couple of incidents to keep the home crowd enraged, and to give those Spurs fans in the ground a knowing smirk or two. Chiefly, with Spurs two up, a Leigh Mills error on the Spurs left side led to a ball into the box and the award of a penalty by referee Mr Horwood. Jay Simpson, who was the biggest threat to Spurs all night, stepped up and confidently beat Alnwick, only to be forced to retake his kick, due to encroachment by some of his colleagues. Second time round, Alnwick won celebratory hugs from his team-mates, when he dived to the left to make a great save from the re-take. Alnwick was kept fairly busy throughout, on what must have been a hellish night for a keeper to try and keep warm in the face of the elements.

Whilst one or two of the usual Arsenal Reserve side may feature in Wednesday’s Carling Cup semi-final, the hosts fielded most of their Youth side, whereas Spurs were able to field one of their strongest sides, featuring 4 players with Premiership experience, including of course Ben Alnwick, who had played against us for Sunderland last season. It was great to see Charlie Daniels back in action, and he played in front of Ziegler, but was able to cover at the back, whenever Reto went forward.

Kieran McKenna wore the Captain’s armband tonight, and he and Jamie O’Hara were dominant in the midfield, with trademark tigerish tackling, and penetrating runs and passes. Spurs were fluid in attack, with Andy Barcham the main front runner, supported alternately by Taraabt, Daniels and Mark Yeates. Simpson was supported well by Barazite (who scored in the home match at Broadhall Way in September), and Efrem on the left flank. Too many of the Arsenal passes from midfield went astray, and the Arsenal right flank looked vulnerable against any Spurs player who cared to attack that side.

It was by no means a one way game, as both Lee and Mills had to make skilful interceptions and tackles to keep the gooners at bay. After 4 minutes, following a corner on the left, the ball reached O’Hara outside the area on the opposite side of the pitch. Jamie, being an ex-gooner Youth player, was highly motivated all night, and was ultimately to reap a just reward. This time he returned the ball into the middle, and Charlie Daniels might have done better with a shot that went a couple of yards over the top. After 20 minutes, Rodgers lost the ball on the Arsenal right, and Barcham and Taraabt combined before Taraabt hit a powerful shot just wide. Taraabt made the 90 minutes today, and whilst he must still be coming to terms with the pace of the English game, his skill on the ball was clear to see, although he might have released the ball earlier on a couple of occasions.

Spurs took a deserved lead in the 23rd minute, when Taraabt sent over a lovely ball from the right, and Mark Yeates met it with a great header to beat Mannone easily. The competitive Spurs players enjoyed every one of their goals tonight. Yeates nearly turned provider for Barcham with a cross from the right, and whilst Barcham got goalside of the defence, his touch let him down, and there was no shot on target.

Arsenal had been stung and reacted appropriately. Efrem cut in from the left, passing to Simpson, who fed the ball back to Lansbury whose shot was held by Alnwick. Spurs struggled to clear their lines following an Arsenal free kick taken by Efrem, and Alnwick was stretched to save from Randall. As the half time whistle approached, Simpson rushed through the defence and rounded the advancing Alnwick. Leigh Mills was on hand to chest away the shot for a corner.

After the break, Alnwick was under early pressure from an Arsenal corner. First he punched the ball away, then he had to dive low to save the shot from Randall. However, Spurs won a succession of corners, then scored in the 55th minute from an excellent move. Yeates crossed from the right, and Barcham headed the ball back to skipper McKenna. He passed the ball across the area to O’Hara making a run, who crashed the ball high into the net past Mannone.

Then came the penalty incident, after Mills should have cleared convincingly, but allowed a cross to go in, where Ifil fouled Efrem in the box. Having made that dramatic penalty save, Alnwick was down sharply to Barazite’s well struck 20 yard strike. O’Hara led an excellent move with a great long ball from right to left, landing perfectly (in difficult windy conditions, remember) for Charlie Daniels, who beat a player and passed inside for Taraabt, whose shot was well held by Mannone.

Lansbury had already been booked either for a foul or perhaps for arguing his case too vehemently with the referee. Stupidly, he saw a second yellow and red, after McKenna’s momentum carried him into a collision, where the two shaped up to each other a little too aggressively. McKenna also got booked, but then had the last laugh as time approached, when Ziegler broke through the middle and gave McKenna a pass which enabled the skipper to measure his shot past Mannone’s left hand into the net. Cue a Klinsmann type diving celebration, and smiles all round for the Spurs contingent.

By this time many Arsenal fans had departed. We can only hope that the scoreline at least serves as a dress rehearsal for Wednesday night’s Carling Cup semi-final!

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