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Spurs Reserves v Fulham Reserves, 23.04.07

At Broadhall Way, Stevenage

James, 39

Referee: - Mr. S. Cook
Assistants: - Mr C. Williams, Mr M. McLaughlin
Fourth Official: - Mr. D. Cross

Attendance: - Est. 400

Spurs (4-4-1-1):- Forecast; Archibald-Henville, Mills, Lee (Capt.), Ifil; Barcham, Livermore, O’Hara, Hallfredsson (sub Hutton, 46); Taarabt; Barnard

Subs not used: - Stroud; Hughton, Martin; Hutchins

No bookings

Fulham (4-4-2):- Brooks-Meade; Moncur, Omozusi, (Capt.), Briggs, Anderson (sub Cumber, 68); Hudson-Odoi (sub Noble, 87), Saunders, Brown, James; Ehui, Runstrom

Subs not used: - Hawthorne, Uwezu

Booked: - Brown, Runstrom

In their penultimate game of the season, Spurs Reserves succumbed to lowly Fulham, thanks to an excellent 39th minute strike by Chris James. Thus Spurs are condemned to finish mid-table in the 10-team southern section, having won just 7 of their 17 games. Fulham gained their fourth win of the season, and with only Chelsea reserves to play, could finish third from bottom. Not that the position in the league is all-important, but it has to be said that Spurs have not defended their southern section title too well, having drawn too many games.

The ultimate objective of course is development of the young players, and hopefully preparation for progress to the Premiership squad, and such development was there to see in defenders Leigh Mills and Troy Archibald-Henville, who tonight played at right back. Troy has now been deployed as centre-back, midfielder, and full back over the course of this season, and he certainly did not let the side down tonight with some tenacious tackles, and decent clearances down the line.

Phil Ifil played at left back, partly because he is the most experienced full back available, but also to keep him prepared the possibility if cover in any of the first team’s last four games. Ifil looked great going forward, but was not always comfortable defensively as Fulham’s right winger Hudson-Odoi, and also the right back T.J Moncur made a number of good crosses from that side.

Lee Barnard looked pretty much back to his old self at the front, but was perhaps frustrated by the lack of a true partner, with Adel Taarabt playing “in the hole”, and not reading Barnard’s plays at times. As skilful a player as he is, Taarabt does tend to slow down the play, as when he does get the ball, he spends time on it rather than giving a quick pass, never forsaking the chance of beating an opponent twice rather than once! Taarabt likes to invite the occasional foul too, and rarely got a decision tonight. With Fulham working very hard and packing the midfield, coached by two people and not one from the technical area, Taarabt did not see the ball as much as he would have liked in the first half. Jamie O’Hara and Jake Livermore also struggled at times with their accuracy, as they had to move under pressure.

There wasn’t too much goalmouth activity in the first half, and the first event of note came after 6 minutes, thanks to a good clearance down the right by Archibald-Henville, won by Barnard, who with a turn fired in a low shot which was saved by Brooks-Meade and cleared. Five minutes later, Livermore and Hallfredsson were involved in a sharp passing move, which ended with a decent effort by O’Hara, saved again. Fulham countered immediately, and Tommy Forecast made a good diving save from Runstrom, after good work by James.

Fulham did look dangerous, without forcing any more saves from Forecast, and the game was largely fought out in the middle. Hallfredsson was delivering his corners deep, and from one after 36 minutes, Livermore’s header from beyond the back post was cleared off the line. Fulham took their lead thanks to a pass outside the area, collected by James, who hit a superb right-foot curler beyond Forecast to the top left corner. It was unstoppable.

Spurs did up the tempo after the break, and Hallfredsson was replaced by David Hutton, who played on the right, as Barcham switched flanks, but also gave more support to Barnard. Within three minutes, Taarabt hit a defence-splitting pass, but sadly it was not within reach of either Hutton or Barnard. Taarabt then nearly took advantage of a defensive lapse, winning the ball, and hitting a 20 yard shot that the keeper turned aside. Taarabt was soon in possession again, but surrounded by three, and deprived of a chance to shoot or pass. The ball did however run to Jamie O’Hara, who tried a shot from 25 yards, that went wide.

Skipper Charlie Lee gave his all, typified by a surging run from his own half down the left flank, beating all who dared to challenge and taking the ball all the way to the bye-line, winning a corner, from which a Taarabt shot was blocked. As Runstrom countered, and moved from centre towards the right, Archibald-Henville saved the day with a great tackle, controlling the ball and sending it down the line too.

Fulham were still dangerous on the break, and Moncur’s ball from deep reached Runstrom, whose shot was saved by Tommy Forecast, but had to be cleared by Mills for a corner. Hudson-Odoi sent the ball the wrong way from a goal-kick, and Barnard gratefully accepted the chance to tee up Taarabt, who hit a good long shot, held by Brooks-Meade. Ifil won the ball in the Fulham half with a strong challenge, and this led to a chance for O’Hara, whose shot went over the bar by a yard or more. Lee Barnard had Spurs best chance with 10 minutes to go, after a throw on the right, battling hard with the defence, and getting goal-side, but hitting his shot wide, when it was surely easier to score.

It was a decent competitive game of football, and as I have indicated, results are not everything at this level. It would be nice though to end the Reserve season on a high with a win next Monday at home to Portsmouth.

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