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Stoke Reserves v Spurs Reserves,

At Weaver Stadium, Nantwich

Mason, 66

Referee: - Mr. M. Hester

Attendance: - est. 300

Stoke (4-1-4-1):- Harrison; Salif Diao-Jimenez, Wedderburn (Capt.), Cohen, Connor; Nicholls; Brunt, Moult, Stockhall, Urwin; Page (sub Alexander, 64)

Subs not used: - Parton; Wint, Mitchell

Booked: - Alexander

Spurs (4-4-2):- Alnwick; Smith, Caulker, Rocha, Gilberto; Mtandari (sub Kasim, 64), Livermore (Capt.), Parrett, Bostock; Mason, Dawkins (sub Byrne, 46)

Subs not used: - Jansson; Cox, C. Butcher

Booked: - Rocha

Sent off: - Livermore (9 mins) – armband to Rocha

10-man Spurs keep the pressure on Villa

Despite the early loss of their skipper, Jake Livermore, for a high tackle near the centre circle, Spurs literally over-ran Stoke’s young side, despite the handicap. The only problem was the length of time it took for them to score, and Saturday’s Academy game came to mind, when Spurs had dominated proceedings but failed to finish off their excellent approach play and take their chances. Tom Harrison in the Stoke goal was without doubt the man of the match for the home side with a number of solid saves, whilst John Bostock impressed for Spurs with excellent skills and touch.

Three of Spurs defenders have some first team experience, but this was a slightly weaker side than has been fielded in recent games with no sign of Bentley or O’Hara, presumably concentrating on first team affairs this week. Five of the Spurs starting line-up had played in Saturday’s Academy game, along with the two used substitutes. All of them played a significant part in a game which Spurs almost ran at will. There was a fair smattering of Spurs supporters around, but even the home fans around me were highly appreciative of the skills seen displayed by our lads.

Stoke clearly respected the recent form of the visitors by fielding a defensive formation, with Ashley Page left on his own up front, and Andy Nicholls and Louis Moult taking it in turns to support the defence behind a midfield four, who tried to get forward when they could, although Spurs offered very few such opportunities. Spurs of course had come to win and keep the pressure upon Aston Villa, who need a point from their game on Monday night to secure the Southern Reserve league title, with Spurs the only team who can mathematically overhaul them, should they managed maximum points in their remaining two away games.

Therefore, Ryan Mason and Simon Dawkins were the front men, with Mtandari starting on the right and John Bostock working down the left wing. Parrett and Livermore provided the solid option in the centre of midfield. Spurs started brightly and never faded really, with Bostock getting a good cross over, offering a chance for Dawkins which was headed over for a corner by a defender. From that corner Parrett powered a shot over the bar. Mason sent Adam Smith away down the right with a good ball from the middle. Smith’s cross reached the danger zone but passed clear. Gilberto then cut inside and unleashed a shot that rebounded off the bar.

It came as a surprise when after 9 minutes, the referee showed Jake Livermore a straight red for a high tackle on Tom Urwin, but in fairness there was no hesitation by the referee and no complaint of note from the Spurs section. Spurs adjusted initially by withdrawing Mason to the midfield and leaving Dawkins alone up front, but as the half progressed, Mtandari was given the defensive midfield role, whilst Spurs played with a tempo and style that belied their one-man shortage.

Moult did get a shot on target for Stoke after 12 minutes, but Alnwick held the ball cleanly. After a foul on Bostock (wearing snazzy green boots), Mason swung in a deep free kick that was touched out for a corner, from which Bostock hit a shot just the wrong side of the post. Bostock forced another save from Harrison with a shot after 19 minutes. After 23 minutes, Bostock was the star again as he carried the ball down a central line then cleverly flicked a pass to Mtandari, who passed the ball on to Mason, who tried a chip that went just over the bar. Another lovely pass by Bostock gave Dawkins a chance which Harrison saved again. Bostock’s next pass was to Ryan mason who tried to shoot across the keeper, who got just enough on the ball to concede a corner. A Parrett cross from the right was headed on target by Dawkins, and held by Harrison.

At half-time, Clive Allen replaced Dawkins with Nathan Byrne. Spurs’ need and determination to win was evident by the fact that they put both Mason and Bostock up front, with Byrne, Parrett and Smith behind them and Mtandari patrolling in front of the back three of Gilberto, Rocha and Caulker. Spurs simply kept the pressure on and Adam Smith’s deep cross was fumbled by the keeper, falling to Parrett whose shot was somehow blocked by the defence.

Spurs’ commitment to attack offered a little danger and Urwin got goal-side, causing Ben Alnwick to make his best save of the night from the shot.

After 58 minutes, Gilberto fed the ball to Mason who passed outside to Byrne. Byrne crossed from the left and the ball was met first time at the near post by mason but fired wide. It really was a mystery why Spurs had not scored. After a lovely piece of build-up play the ball reached Bostock from the right, and his powerful shot was well saved by Harrison getting his body fully behind the shot as he saved. Mtandari was replaced by Yaser Kasim, and Spurs seemed to lift up the attacking gear a notch further. They were at last rewarded with a goal in the 66th minute, and it had to be Bostock who laid on the cross, high into the area where Mason rose to head past the keeper.

Mason nearly doubled the lead five minutes later when he collected a deep cross in front of goal, and shot past Harrison only to see the rebound off the bar and the post! There were further chances for Mason and Parrett which led to Spurs corners. After more good build-up play, Bostock sent a cross to the back post, where Nathan Byrne headed it back across the goal but wide. Only now as the game approached its close, were Spurs becoming content to contain Stoke, successfully seeing out the 90 minutes plus three minutes added time.

Once again it was 1-0 to the Tottenham. The Reserves have now won six consecutive games. Both Spurs and Villa play on Monday night (Spurs play Chelsea at Brentford), before Spurs play their final game of the season on Bank Holiday Monday afternoon at Havant & Waterlooville’s ground against Portsmouth. At the moment we don’t know on which of those Mondays the title race will be decided, but after a poor start to their season, Spurs have done really well to be stretching Villa to the very end.

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