FA BARCLAYS PREMIERSHIP RESERVE LEAGUE SOUTH
MONDAY 11TH SEPTEMBER, 2006
SPURS RESERVES 2 (2) ARSENAL RESERVES 2 (0)
O’Hara (pen), 14
Merida Perez, 65
Referee: - Mr. G. Scott
Attendance: - Est. 2,000
Spurs (4-4-2); - Fulop; Ifil, Mills, Lee (Capt.), Daniels; Davies (sub Lewis, 60), McKenna, O’Hara, Maghoma; Barcham, Dawkins (sub Pekhart, 60)
Subs not used: - Stroud; Hughton, Dervite
Booked: - Maghoma, Lee
Arsenal (4-1-4-1/4-4-2):- Butcher; Connolly (Capt.), Garry, O’Cearuill, A. Traore (sub Rodgers, 76); Merida Perez; Van Den Berg (sub Dunne, 82), Efrem, Randall, Simpson; Barazite (sub Ogogo, 82)
Booked: - Traore, Merida Perez, Connolly, Randall, Efrem, Simpson
It was a fast, furious and entertaining game at Broadhall Way, Stevenage tonight as the youngsters from these two big rivals fought it out tooth and nail to the bitter end. It wasn’t quite the “game of two halves”, but it is hard to argue against the justification for the honours being shared.
A crowd of about 2,000 included an Arsenal group in the Buildbase Stand, who actually started some chanting when their side was two down, perhaps anticipating the need for some gallows humour. They had, after all seen some uncharacteristic mistakes in the middle and at the back which had allowed Spurs their two goal lead.
Whilst the Spurs side had been billed by the Official site as a group of youngsters, it did include the base of last year’s Reserve League Champions (South), with skipper Charlie Lee, Daniels, McKenna, O’Hara and Barcham to the fore. The Arsenal side was less familiar. Their strike force of last season (Lupoli and Bendtner) have left (Bendtner is on loan at Birmingham), but their Captain Matthew Connolly made some great saving tackles for his team today.
Security was obviously Arsenal’s priority, as they fielded Nacer Barazite alone up front in the first half, although he was supported well by the pace of Simpson who played left side. In the second half, they switched, and at times played as a strike partnership – a move which bore fruit in the shape of two goals to level the scores.
There was a great deal to admire in this game, and although there were six bookings for the visitors, I would not describe the game as dirty at all. Simpson got a late booking for an alleged dive at the feet of Charlie Lee, who had himself been booked a few minutes before. Dare I say the referee might have been a bit harsh with that decision?
It was an end to end game, with little time for taking breath, but many attacks were thwarted by some excellent defending by both sides. Connolly had to make his first tackle of note to deprive Maghoma of the ball as he entered the Arsenal area. At the other end, Charlie Lee was reading the game superbly, and sending consistently accurate long balls to his attackers, usually down the flanks. Right winger Jamie Davies was involved fully in the build up to the award of a penalty to Spurs, as he won a throw down the right, following which McKenna was brought down as he, Barcham and Dawkins put the Arsenal defence under immense pressure at close quarters. Jamie O’Hara hit a powerful and assured left foot shot low to the far left of keeper Lee Butcher.
After 20 minutes, Arsenal’s Mark Randall collared a shot at full pelt from a corner, which Marton Fulop held impressively. Spurs then went two up, following a howler of a clearance by Butcher, gratefully received by Simon Dawkins who rounded the keeper and finished easily in front of the “away” support. One of Lee’s special passes found Charlie Daniels advancing down the left. Daniels cut in, and has in the past fired home from such positions, but he chose to cross to the back post, missing everyone. After another good Connolly tackle, Arsenal broke, and Fulop beat Simpson to the ball at the edge of his area.
Spurs started well after the break, and Andy Barcham got two bites at the cherry after Davies crossed, but the keeper held his shot. O’Hara sent a lovely ball across the front of the area to Dawkins, who might have hit a spectacular goal, but fired wide. The referee had allowed Spurs to play on, despite a linesman’s flag for offside against Barcham near the half-way line. Barcham made a run and fed Davies, whose shot was held. From this move, Arsenal broke into the Spurs half, and Barazite hit the net with a shot across Fulop’s bows in the 50th minute. Now Arsenal’s tails were up, and they had switched to a 4-4-2 with Simpson taking the lead role. All of the Spurs defence made some well-timed tackles to hold the threat at bay. The trouble was that Spurs energy levels were sapping and they weren’t creating as many threats as they had earlier, whereas the Arsenal strategy of sending long balls to turn our back four was paying dividends.
Barcham crossed to Dawkins who shot wide, but Spurs then had a great move on the break. Charlie Daniels made a run from defence down the right channel and was picked out by a typical O’Hara pass. The ball was crossed and Barcham sadly headed over in a style similar to that of Defoe at Old Trafford on Saturday. Ifil threaded a lovely ball for Dawkins from the half way line, but Butcher was first there on the edge of his box.
Spurs replaced Dawkins and the injured Davies with Pekhart and Lewis, but within 5 minutes the visitors were on level terms thanks to a free kick conceded by Lee. The gooners used two dummy runners before Merida Perez stepped up and swung a powerful left-footer past Fulop’s left arm to equalise. Three minutes later Simpson was onto a long ball, and his shot beat Fulop, before Leigh Mills made a great goal-line clearance.
Spurs readers will want to know what impression was made by Pekhart, who scored for the under 18s on Saturday, and who played the last half hour here. He is a very big lad – about 6ft 3ins I would say – and has a strong build to go with his height. I thought that tonight he struggled to pick up the rapid pace of the game, and whilst he did nothing wrong he just didn’t look as fast as anyone else on the field. Pekhart got up for a Maghoma cross, but failed to hit his header with any power. Jacques Maghoma led a great move out of defence down the left wing, sending Barcham away on a run. Barcham had Pekhart and another player available too him, but made his decision to shoot or pass too late, and was blocked. In the latter stages, Fulop made a poor clearance of his own, but he was lucky and got away with it, as Arsenal missed the target.
Spurs next match is also at Stevenage – next Wednesday 20th September – against West Ham.
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