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Leicester U-18s v Spurs U-18s, 11.10.08
FA PREMIER LEAGUE ACADEMY UNDER 18S
SATURDAY 11TH OCTOBER, 2008 (11.30 a.m.)
Middlesex Road, Aylestone, Leicester
LEICESTER U-18S 3 (0) SPURS U-18S 4 (1)

Leicester scorers:-
Burns, 69
Vasey, 70
Sappleton (pen), 81

Spurs scorers:-
Kasim, 16
Obika, 55, 65
Smith, 82

Teams:-
Leicester (4-4-2):- Ambusics; O’Neil, Bolger, Garner (sub Parks, 51), Cobb; Vasey, Hicks, Cox (Capt.), Burns; Sappleton, King (sub Yusef, 82)

No Bookings

NB: - Note there were no team sheets, so the team has been sourced from a spectator and the Leicester Official site.

Spurs (4-4-2):- Butler; Smith, Butcher, Caulker (Capt.), Byrne; Bostock (sub Cox, 82), Parrett, Kasim, Townsend (sub Ekim, 90+); Mason, Obika

Subs not used: - Believed to include Clare & Jack

Booked:- Parrett, Kasim

On the same week-end last year, Leicester and Spurs under 18s served up a humdinger of a game, which Spurs won 5-3. This time the match was played in glorious October sunshine, and the quality of football from both sides was excellent befitting Spurs top place and Leicester’s fourth place in the section. In as entertaining a game as you could wish to see, Spurs went 3-0 up, only to see the home side drag it back to 3-3, before right back Adam Smith unleashed a Stephen Carr type 35 yard shot that proved to be a fitting winning goal.

One of the reasons for Spurs success so far this season has been the fact they have a settled side, with a few subtle adjustments to positional play. Nathan Byrne has come into the side and settled really well at left back, teaming well with England International Andros Townsend down the left flank. Dean Parrett was given the role he loves so much this time, as a midfield battler, and he revelled in it right from the start, winning an early ball and earning an early free kick and a corner with an advance down the left channel. This time John Bostock was given a role on the right flank, but as Spurs played predominantly down the left in the first half, we didn’t see too much of the summer signing from Crystal Palace,

Ryan Mason supported Jon Obika up front, and mason looks stronger and stronger making some telling runs down the middle himself. The Spurs side played with confidence, at high tempo and with good skill from the outset.

The Leicester side included two big strikers (Sappleton and King) who gave the central defenders plenty to think about. The Spurs defence coped well on the whole, although Calum Butcher made a couple of passing errors at the back that might have proved more costly.

After Parrett’s early exploits, Ryan Mason made a good run down the right side. His cross was laid up by Obika for Bostock, whose shot was well over the bar. After one of those Butcher mistakes, the ball was well cleared by his partner Stephen Caulker, and in fact this was a good ball to Obika who held the ball off well, before feeding Townsend on the left. Townsend passed inside to Mason, whose first shot was parried by the Leicester keeper, who then saw Mason’s follow up go high over the goal.

King managed to hold off Caulker, and his pass to Sappleton resulted in a decent effort going just wide of the target. With Oscar Jansson away on International duty, Jamie Butler was given a chance in goal, and although not a tall lad, his positioning and handling were good, and he was a very vocal keeper too, constantly harrying and encouraging his team-mates. Spurs were awarded a penalty after 13 minutes, when Parrett passed ahead to mason, who gave the ball to Townsend. Andros was brought down just inside the box, and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Mason stepped up, but put the ball at a good height to the left of the keeper who made the save. Spurs took a deserved lead three minutes later, thanks to a terrific solo run down the left channel by Yasser Kasim, who hit a lovely shot across the defender and the keeper into the far corner of the net.

Leicester tried to come back straight away, and Sappleton was just about held at bay thanks to good blocking and defending by Jamie Butler and Calum Butcher. The Leicester skipper Cox saw a good shot rebound off the Spurs post. This attack came about after Caulker stopped in his tracks because he thought he heard the referee’s whistle. However, the whistle was blown in the under-16 game being played on the adjacent pitch. The moral would seem to be do not play to the whistle at Leicester!

Both Spurs centre backs went close with chances from corners taken by Ryan Mason. Butcher Headed over; Caulker hit a shot high into the side netting. Dean Parrett got a booking after half an hour for a late tackle, which put him at risk for the remainder of the game, but to his credit his performance was not diminished. Byrne cut inside and fed Townsend, whose shot went wide, before Butler held a decent effort form King at the other end. On the stroke of half time, Andros Townsend hit the post with a powerful effort.

It appeared that Spurs switched their tack for the second half, trying to get Bostock more into the game. They won a corner after good work by Bostock and Obika, before Obika met Townsend’s corner and hit the side netting from the near post. Adam Smith made two great saving tackles on King inside the Spurs box, before Hicks hit a powerful shot from 30 yards that whistled just over the bar.

Spurs increased their lead with a great goal from Obika. Mason had split the defence with a good ball and Obika carried the ball a little down the right into the box, before unleashing a super rising right footed shot that beat the keeper and hit the net with power. This was surely as good a goal as Obika has scored, and it seemed to have secured the points. After butler held another King effort, Obika did everything but score as he rose to head a Mason chip. Somehow (and I assume the keeper got a touch) the ball rolled across the goal mouth before rebounding off the post. Obika turned provider for Mason with a cross from the left. Mason’s shot was parried. In the 65th minute, Obika got a second goal after battling with the central defenders and the keeper to win a long ball, and earn for himself the chance to roll the ball into the net, which was not turned down.

The Leicester youngster were sorely stung, and were not about to give up. They scored two goals in quick succession. Firstly Butler got a touch to Burns’ shot, but could not prevent the goal; then Vasey made it 3-2 with a right footed shot after a ball from the left. Obika thought he had got a hat-trick, but was adjudged offside, much to the chagrin of the Spurs players, who perhaps got a bit too rattled and lost some composure. Sappleton tested Butler with a great shot, and then earnt a penalty after Butler was adjudged to have pulled him down in the area. Butler might have been labelled the last man, but the referee obviously decided a penalty was enough punishment, although Kasim got booked for his vehement dissent. Sappleton put the ball away for a 3-3 scoreline and a rip-roaring finish.

Thankfully, Adam Smith restored the lead in the most sensational fashion as he advanced into the Leicester half, and hit a marvellous dipping 35 yarder which fell into the net beautifully behind Ambusics. Leicester tried and tried as hard as they could, but Spurs held out for a memorable victory that keeps them at the top of Group B in the Academy League. Next week, they travel to Cardiff, and on November 1st are at home to MK Dons. If you get the chance, go and watch this Spurs under-18 side. They are as good as I can remember for a long time.

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