25/08/12 Tottenham Hotspur U18s 3-4 Manchester United U18s, Tottenham Hotspur Training Centre

This was my first visit to the club’s new training ground in Enfield, and it is certainly impressive. It is, as yet, not totally finished – there are still dugouts to be built and certain areas are taped off – but the eleven pitches look immaculate. It is a pretty different environment to watching at Spurs Lodge in Chigwell, which always had a “village” feel; there’s a burger van where tea and coffee are also available, the pitch has a fence around the perimeter, and you can overlook the U16 game with ease at the same time as taking in the U18s.

Spurs made a couple of changes, bringing in U16 Josh Onomah to play in the middle of midfield alongside Bentaleb, who has always impressed me. Mason Bush was a surprise selection at right back (I’ve normally seen him play off a front man or wide) and I can only assume that he was filling in, rather than this being some kind of experiment.

Luke McGee (16)
Mason Bush (17) Dominic Ball (17) Tom Gardiner (17) Sam Smith (17)
Nabil Bentaleb (17) Josh Onomah (15?)
Darren McQueen (17) Ruben Lameiras (17) Roman Michael-Percil (17)
Shaquille Coulthirst (17)


Victor Zapata (17) for Roman Michael-Percil.
Laste Dombaxe (17) for Ruben Lameiras.
Connor Ogilvie (16) for Darren McQueen.

Not used:

Harry Winks (16)
Harry Voss (15?)

Manchester United: Gollini; Love, Grimshaw, McNair, Rowley; Weir, Pearson, Rothwell, Daehli; Byrne (Dalley), Wilson. Subs not used: Sutherland, McConnell.

It was immediately evident from kick off that these were two footballing sides – that we weren’t going to see many long balls, and that both teams would take risks playing out from the back. United’s Norwegian number 10, Mats Daehli, was immediately at the centre of their approach play.

An early Onomah through ball found Coulthirst in space, but his touch took him slightly wide, and he eventually had to play back to Bush. Bentaleb then showed some quality in the middle of the park – beating his man and lifting a pass just too far in advance of the advancing attackers.

United’s James Weir had a great chance, but didn’t make a proper contact after James Wilson beat Mason Bush down the outside and put in a low cross. It was a sign of things to come for Bush, though, who was finding that winger Wilson, and left back Rowley were making probing runs with regularity.

It was Rowley who opened the scoring on 6 minutes, getting on the end of a corner at the back post, and directing his header into the net. 0-1.

At the other end Bush was trying to justify his selection with bursts forward, but in losing the ball left us a little exposed. Fortunately, Dominic Ball showed the intelligence to push up and squeeze the play, and managed to block the ball out for a throw.

Weir had another opportunity, but Luke McGee read the situation and came out well to close the angle and block the shot.

Sam Byrne was then gifted a chance after a defensive mix-up, but didn’t take the opportunity, before Ruben Lameiras picked a fantastic reverse pass to find Coulthirst – his cross from the right was over hit slightly, and the headed clearance dropped to Onomah, who volleyed over.

Bush was finally able to gain some confidence after he got tight to Rowley and made a good challenge near to the touchline, but minutes later couldn’t quite find the right cross at the other end. McQueen robbed Grimshaw and played in Coulthirst, who in turn set Bush free wide on the right. He attempted to flash a ball across the face of goal, but the goalkeeper was alert and was able to gather it in.

Ball missed his header which lead to a cross coming in,only to be missed at the near post, as Gardiner converged with the attacker and managed to scramble it away. Spurs then lost the ball with a lot of bodies committed, but with a two against one situation developing, Ball kept his nerve and managed to get a nick on the attempted pass, allowing him to clear it. Onomah then made a sloppy pass which was nearly punished, but Gardiner made a decent recovery challenge.

Roman Michael-Percil was switched to the right temporarily, and seemed to immediately get some joy, and it was from this side that the equalising goal came. Coulthirst found space, turned well, and hit a cross shot which clipped Rowley and found the far corner. 1-1.

Masn Bush then read the game well, burst forward, and found Coulthirst, but this time his effort was straight at the goalkeeper.

Lameiras was left very angry after Rowley caught him with a high tackle – the referee gave Rowley a long talking to, but didn’t show a card.

Sam Smith had to resort to a professional foul after an Onomah error allowed United to break forward – he was left one on one, and took the attacker’s legs, conceding a free kick just outside the box, which Rothwell struck narrowly over.

Minutes later, Michael-Percil left the goal-posts shaking after smashing a fantastic drive against the post from the inside left channel.

The impressive Daehli made it 1-2 with a clever finish with the outside of his foot, and United instantly created another couple of chances – Wilson beat Ball, rounded the goalkeeper, but managed to hit the post; as the rebound came back out, it looked like Daehli would grab another, but he somehow managed to sky his effort.

After Coulthirst was played in, but dallied, things went from bad to worse for Spurs in a short space of time. Nabil Bentaleb was booked for something which looked innocuous (it could have been dissent), and then got a stern talking to after a firm challenge in the centre (albeit having got a lot of the ball). Just minutes later, he went to ground again and didn’t take the ball, earning himself a second booking. He jumped the fence and trudged off.

In between Bentaleb’s bookings, McQueen nearly equalised after our best move of the half (involving Lameiras and Michael-Percil), ended with him taking a first time shot from close-range, which Gollini saved magnificently, one-handed low to his left.

Somehow, 10-man Spurs pushed on at the end of the half. A fantastically weighted cut-back from Michael-Percil found McQueen, and he wasn’t going to miss this time – he made a good contact and rifled the ball into the roof of the net from close range. 2-2.

Victor Zapata-Caceido replaced Roman Michael-Percil (later seen limping heavily) at half time, and played on the left. Lameiras played a lot deeper, and a lot was asked of Coulthirst as the lone front man.

Onomah, impressive throughout for one so young, broke through the centre, but his shot was saved. At the other end, Gardiner made another saving challenge. The ball ran to Ball, who needed to clear first time. Instead, he tried to play out, and was fortunate when McGee managed to pounce on the ball.

Rothwell, United’s captain, then played a nice pass through our defence, but McGee read the situation well, and rushed out to make a fantastic save with his legs – the ball seemed to have gone through him, but clipped off his ankles and went wide.

McNair made it 3-2 to United when Spurs failed to play offside, and he was left with a simple finish one-on-one in plenty of space.

Dombaxe replaced Lameiras in midfield, as Spurs replaced subtlety with more muscle in an effort to regain some momentum. Within minutes, he drove a powerful effort just over.

United replaced Byrne with Dalley – this led to a re-shuffle ending with Wilson playing up top.

Josh Onomah received a pass in a tight area, turned well, but had few options and eventually ran into trouble. In trying to retrieve the ball, Coulthirst went to ground and picked up a booking for his troubles.

Shaq Coulthirst grabbed his second to make it 3-3 on 75 minutes. Laste Dombaxe charged through on the inside left channel, rounded the goalkeeper with a clever piece of skill, and as the defender blocked on the line, Coulthirst followed up to force the ball over the line.

Connor Ogilvie came on for Darren McQueen, who had been struggling with cramp, with Gardiner moving to right back, and Bush to a more familiar midfield position.

McGee made a good save when it looked like it would be easier for the attacking player to score. Rothwell then drilled a first time shot straight at McGee – anywhere else in the goal, and it would have been in.

United then put together the move of the match, and took the lead late on – Pearson finished well, and was mobbed by his teammates. 3-4, cruel for Spurs.

Spurs, having played with one less player for a long part of the game, pushed on again – Dombaxe fired a raking pass out to Coulthirst, who shuffled into the box, and hit a fierce left footed effort, which was parried by the goalkeeper. With seconds to go, Coulthirst then hit the woodwork – it just wasn’t to be.

It was an error-prone performance from Spurs, presenting United with lots of chances, but considering that they were down to 10-men for nearly 60 minutes, the effort, commitment and never-say-die attitude was impressive.

Luke McGee 6 – mishit a couple of clearances but made some good saves and, despite conceding 4, will have been relatively pleased with his performance overall.
Mason Bush 4 – at one point in the second half, Onomah spread the ball intelligently to him, but his first touch got away from him and gifted the ball back to United – this pretty much summed up his day. I really felt for him playing in the unfamiliar right back role, as he’s a good player. He’ll have learnt a lot from the experience.
Dominic Ball 6 – kept talking, played out well from the back, and got his head up early. He did make a number of errors, but it will take time for him to form a reliable partnership with Gardiner.
Tom Gardiner 6 – showed signs of some impressive one-on-one defending but, like Ball, did have a few lapses.
Sam Smith 6 – a solid if unspectacular performance – I thought he did particularly well in the second half, when he was constantly under-pressure but made good decisions.
Nabil Bentaleb 5 – was having such a tidy game until a rush of blood led to him receiving his second yellow card, seconds after receiving a lengthy warning.
Josh Onomah 6 – a real mixed bag, with plenty of errors, but also plenty of plus points – shows good ability on the ball, goes past players for fun at times, and looks to unlock defences. One to watch.
Darren McQueen 6 – finished really well for the first goal and also showed good defensive responsibility. I like him, and it he can stay fit, he could be a very important player for the U18s this year.
Ruben Lameiras 5 – he’s a very elegant and tidy player, and he played some nice reverse passes, but when United’s midfield started to dominate, he was getting bypassed and was rightly replaced.
Roman Michael-Percil 6 – he didn’t get on the ball as much as he would have liked, but when he did he looked dangerous. Surprised he didn’t play at right-back, which is certainly more familiar to him than Bush.
Shaquille Coulthirst 7 – a bit of an up and down game, but he scored two goals and showed a terrific work ethic throughout. Did play one pass straight out of play under no pressure, and also frustrated when he was put through twice but didn’t want to take a shot early, and was forced to turn out.

Victor Zapata 5 – didn’t really manage to get into the game in the second half, but it was always difficult with 10 men.
Laste Dombaxe 7 – made a difference when he came on – driving forward and playing some useful passes.
Connor Ogilvie – had a steady few minutes.


Join the conversation

  1. Great write up windy!!
    Which of these players do you think have first team potential? Also, how old is Grant Hall? Wikipedia and the site list him as being 20 and 17, respectively. Thanks again for all the great writing on Spurs' youth, as an American, I wouldn't be able to find out any of these things if it wasn't for you!!!

    Thankful in Texas
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