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Spurs Reserves v Portsmouth Reserves, 30.04.07

At Broadhall Way, Stevenage

Barnard, 30

Attendance: - Est. 400

Referee: - Ms. A. Rayner

Spurs (4-4-1-1):- Alnwick; Archibald-Henville, Mills, Lee (Capt.), Ifil (sub Hughton, 52); Hutton, McKenna (sub Livermore, 63), O’Hara, Barcham (sub Pekhart, 90); Taarabt; Barnard

Subs not used: - Forecast; Hutchins

Booked: - McKenna, Mills

Portsmouth (4-4-2):- Begovic; McCoy, Ward, Pearce (Capt.), Oastler; Docker, Harris, Beanee, Richie; Fordyce, Walker (sub Castle, 52)

Subs not used: - Smith; Bell, Pack

Booked: - Fordyce

Spurs cemented their place at fifth in the Reserve League table, but despite their domination of the game, could only beat bottom-placed Portsmouth by Lee Barnard’s 30th minute goal in their last game of the season.

It was a bright but cool evening, and it was pleasing to see that Clive Allen could field one of his strongest teams of the campaign, with McKenna and O’Hara in tandem in the middle, Lee Barnard up front, and Captain Courageous, Charlie Lee beside Leigh Mills at the back. Phil Ifil played the first 52 minutes, but was then replaced by Cian Hughton, no doubt to be preserved for the remainder of Spurs’ Premiership campaign, due to the shortage of fit full-backs in the first team squad.

Ifil had provided plenty of the drive that gave Spurs so much control in the first half, when they should have scored more than the one goal in the game. Ben Alnwick was rarely tested, but of course it would have been so like a Spurs side to concede a goal to opposition that did not merit such a reward.

The first half was played at the fast tempo that has been so typical of Clive Allen’s sides for most of his tenure as the Reserve Team coach. Even Adel Taarabt kept the momentum going on a number of occasions, although there were several times when he caused exasperation in the crowd and amongst team-mates, when losing out because of his desire to hold the ball too long and try a few tricks. There was one occasion when Taarabt was on the left side of the box, and he had Barnard, Hutton and Barcham ready and waiting for delivery, which never came. Hutton was the one who expressed most irritation.

On other occasions, Taarabt did impress with good long passes, which we also saw from McKenna, O’Hara and Charlie Lee in particular. David Hutton did very well on the right flank, often stretching to collect and control these balls, then more often than not, continuing the move. Andy Barcham did not have quite the same degree of success on the left, but he did make the final pass for Barnard’s goal. Troy Archibald-Henville (“Archie” to his coach and team mates) gave another impressive performance at right back, and should progress well at this level next season.

Spurs first chance came after 9 minutes, when Jamie O’Hara swung in a free kick from the right hand side, and Lee Barnard got goal-side of the defence, stuck out a boot and hit the ball just over the bar. Lee had another chance four minutes later at the end of a move which started with skill from Taarabt, a pass from McKenna, and a low cross from Archibald-Henville, which Barnard met before the near post, but prodded wide.

McKenna got booked by the lady referee early on, and Ms Rayner also booked Leigh Mills just before the break for an over-exuberant tackle. The referee handled the game well, better than plenty of male referees I have seen at Broadhall Way, although Charlie Lee was not too impressed with being punished for ball-wining tackles on a couple of occasions!

After 16 minutes, Hutton put a great low ball through the middle of the pack, which Barcham reached; hitting a shot that rebounded off the post, and then caused a little chaos as a defender involuntarily headed the ball back towards goal, where it was cleared over the bar for a corner. Taarabt then crossed from the right for Barnard, who hit a right foot shot wide of the right post. The goal had to come soon, but not just yet, as Taarabt walked back from an offside position, and Barcham battled away for the ball down the line on the left. Barcham was surrounded by three defenders, but still managed to lay off the ball for a shot that was hit wide. At last, Spurs took the lead, when Lee hit a good pass low down the left channel. Barcham took it into the 6 yard box, and crossed to his right leaving Barnard an easy finish for a deserved lead.

Portsmouth nearly hit back with their first chance, as Ben Alnwick did not look over-confident in collecting Docker’s shot. Alnwick got a similar test in the second half, but otherwise had nothing difficult to handle. Alnwick’s distribution was influential though with a couple of decent kicks that turned to passes, and also good throws to advanced players. In added time at the end of the first half, Barcham passed inside to Taarabt, who gave the ball quickly to McKenna, whose long shot was well saved by Begovic.

Four minutes after the break, Taarabt was subjected to a strong challenge outside the box, and the ball ran to Barcham, who found O’Hara, who hit a well-timed and powerful shot that was held by Begovic at the second attempt. After 61 minutes, Alnwick sent Barnard away with a good clearance, and Hutton was there to receive the ball on the right flank. Hutton picked out O’Hara with a deep cross, and Jamie’s first time shot again tested the Pompey keeper.

Following the substitutions of McKenna and Ifil, the game lost some of its tempo, and Alnwick had a second test from a Docker shot. With 6 minutes to go, Pompey were awarded a free kick just outside the area, and the ball ran to Harris, whose shot was wide of the mark.

All that is left for us die-hard Spurs fans to watch now is the crucial three Premiership matches in the last week of the season, starting next Monday at Charlton. See you there!

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