24/01/15 Tottenham Hotspur U18s 1-2 Aston Villa U18s, Hotspur Way
Tom Glover (16)
Chris Paul (17) Luke Amos (17) Anton Walkes (17) Lloyd Ross (18)
Zenon Stylianides (17) Charlie Owens (17) (c)
Armani Daly (17) Marcus Edwards (16) Kazaiah Sterling (16)
Ryan Loft (17)
Anthony Georgiou (17) for Lloyd Ross, 62.
Shayon Harrison (17) for Ryan Loft, 62.
Cy Goddard (17) for Armani Daly, 70.
Tom McDermott (16)
Firstly, apologies for a slightly more brief report this time around. It was a very cold afternoon and I forgot my gloves – as a result, I can barely read my notes, and there are far less of them too! Secondly, to put this match into a bit of context: we were playing the second-placed team (before this match they were two points ahead of us having played two more games) and we were playing our second match in less than 48 hours. We made nine changes from the side that beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-0 in the FA Youth Cup, with just Anton Walkes and Luke Amos keeping their places.
Walkes and Amos – both of whom turn 18 in February – made up the most experienced element of the team, whilst Marcus Edwards (making his first start) and Kazaiah Sterling (making his second start) were promoted from the Under-16s.
We set up with a back four made up of four central midfielders, although Anton Walkes seems to now play at centre-back more than anywhere else, so perhaps it’s sensible to start thinking of that as his main position. Amos, Lloyd Ross and Chris Paul had all filled in in these positions before, but the full-backs did struggle pretty much throughout this match.
Former Spur Kodi Lyons-Foster was playing at centre-back for Villa, who had a front pairing of Rushian Hepburn-Murphy and Harry McKirdy – both of whom have consistently scored goals throughout the season so far. England Under-16 winger Andre Green lined up on the left with Swedish 16-year old Moustafa Zeidan on the right.
Spurs started off kicking into the strong wind and it was immediately clear that Villa’s game plan was to press high and trap us inside our ownhalf. The away side won two early corners – Tom Glover came to claim the second, but didn’t get near to the ball as the wind the conditions difficult.
Andre Green signalled his intentions after five minutes, beating Chris Paul and putting in a cross which Amos anticipated well and blocked. Spurs went up the other end and got some respite as Loft made the ball stick and went on a dribble which won a corner, but Owens’ kick was cleared. Edwards then showed his ability with some early touches, linking with Loft and feeding Sterling before Villa got on the attack again.
Green beat Paul for a second time, and this time the full-back absolutely scythed him down from behind, drawing a strong response from the Aston Villa bench. The referee did Paul a big favour and resisted the temptation to show a yellow card.
Villa took the lead minutes later – Owens (I think) made a loose pass, McKirdy picked up possession and came forward before getting a shot away. It hit the inside of the post, went back along the line, and seemed to go in off the unfortunate Luke Amos, who had got back onto the line to try to clear. The linesman flagged frantically to confirm that the ball had crossed the line.
Paul did well to chase down a high ball over his shoulder and come away with the ball, but Green came back at him and won it back – fortunately for Paul, Glover came out to smother as Green advanced into the box. A minute later and Green was beating Paul again but Glover got the ball out for a corner. Spurs didn’t organise quickly enough and a short corner created a shooting opportunity far too easily. Glover got down very smartly to save the low, deflected effort, before bellowing out to his team that he had told them about the space that the shot came in from.
Spurs made a rare foray into the Villa half – Stylianides broke forward and picked out Sterling, who used the ball intelligently to find Ross on the left. He fed a cross into Loft at the near post, but it was under-hit and Loft couldn’t come off the near post quickly enough to get to the flight of the ball.
On the other side, Armani Daly beat two men and won a throw, but it was feeling like a real struggle – having to use tricks to wriggle past two just to win a throw pretty much summed up how the first half had gone for Spurs.
25 minutes in Glover saved a stinging shot as Spurs started to get a little foothold and began to restrict Villa better.
Luke Amos went down after a poor challenge from McKirdy; the physio rushed on and there was a brief stoppage. Pretty much as soon as Amos was on, it was 2-0. Walkes’ clearance held up a little in the wind, Lyons-Foster helped it forward, and Hepburn-Murphy broke through between Walkes and Ross with a clear run on goal. Glover came out but perhaps would have been better off staying on his line, as the forward lifted it over his legs and into the unguarded next – an excellent finish.
Spurs had a little injustice 34 minutes in – Edwards got away from his man with some skill and was brought down from behind, but the referee did not even award him a free-kick. A few minutes later and Rory Hale was booked for dragging Daly back by his shirt as he looked to get in down the right.
Hepburn-Murphy made inroads down the right for another effort which won Villa a corner, before Edwards went on a run which opened Villa up. He fed Daly who had a shooting opportunity if he hit it first time, but he cut back – a tee-up for Edwards was on, but he dallied and the defender got a vital foot in.
The second half started with an early booking for Lloyd Ross as he tackled Zeidan but Spurs were far, far better from the off. Sterling beat his man on the outside and put in a left foot cross that was slightly too high for Loft. Loft returned the favour, crossing for Sterling, but this one was just over-hit too.
Stylianides volleyed inches wide from a Ross cross, before another cross towards Loft evaded him slightly on the stretch
Glover was called into action again, making a very good low stop to his right after Hepburn-Murphy had advanced on the left and had a crack.
Captain Charlie Owens made a bit of a mess of a free-kick after Edwards had been fouled, hitting it well over the bar from a decent position.
Spurs replaced Ross and Loft with Harrison and Georgiou – two of the best performers in Thursday night’s cup match – and they had an instant impact. Sterling did well out on the left, Georgiou overlapped from full-back and his cross fell to Stylianides. He found Harrison who turned neatly and finished well with his left foot.
Cy Goddard was introduced for Daly, and he and Edwards schemed away trying to create, but Villa were holding firm.
Edwards somehow kept the ball with the most audacious turn, which saw him on the ground swivelling and leaving defenders in his wake, before teeing up Sterling who himself turned well and got a shot away which right-back Ryan Strain blocked.
Villa had a rare breakaway from which Green fired across goal, but Georgiou was in command and helped it out for a corner.
I had to leave a bit early to get to White Hart Lane, but I’m told that Goddard and Sterling had half-chances but we were unable to get an equaliser.
It was a tough, tough match for what was effectively (at least at this stage in their careers) a second choice eleven, but I felt quite proud of the way that the players battled back in the second half. We beat Villa 1-0 earlier in the season with our first choice team, and I think we would have made it a double had we not had the Youth Cup match this week.
Tom Glover 6 – made some solid saves and was vocal throughout – not an easy day for a keeper with the wind being so strong. I felt he perhaps made the wrong decision for the second goal, but it’s easy to say that in hindsight.
Chris Paul 4 – Andre Green gave Paul an absolutely torrid time in the first half, and had it been a first team match he’d have been walking a tightrope as we would undoubtedly have been booked for an early challenge. Credit to him for coming out and improving as the match went on – he showed a lot of determination and perseverance, and won a few more of his battles.
Luke Amos 7 – despite not being the biggest (he’s tall but slim), Amos filled in admirably, exhibiting his ability to read the game, and putting himself on the line when necessary. His passing out from the back was vital for controlling possession in the second half.
Anton Walkes 7 – a calming presence at the back, but occasionally vulnerable to a ball over the top. Carried the ball out of defence with confidence and won plenty in the air.
Lloyd Ross 5 – he’s not a full-back and never will be, but he stuck to his task relatively well.
Zenon Stylianides 6 – struggled in the first half when we didn’t have the ball, but was good in the second, helping to control possession and break forward when necessary.
Charlie Owens 5 – as with Stylianides he was poor in the first half, but got a lot better as the game went on and as we had more of the ball.
Armani Daly 6 – was often left isolated and so struggled – not through a lack of trying, though. I think had he had a more natural right-back behind him, he’d have had far more success.
Marcus Edwards 7 – my first proper look at the much-hyped midfielder. The ball sticks to him, and he showed some glorious touches too – one in particular where he cushioned a pass first time to a teammate from a firm square ball from Sterling stood out. As he adapts to playing against more physical players he’s going to be a hugely important player in this team.
Kazaiah Sterling 6 – tried hard throughout but didn’t get much change from a good full-back (Liam Hailey). Looking forward to seeing more of him as there’s lots to admire in his game.
Ryan Loft 6 – the first half was very difficult for Loft, but he tried to make the ball stick and had some joy. He looked far better as we started to see more of the ball.
Anthony Georgiou 7 – came on in an unfamiliar left-back role and showed plenty of tenacity and attacking intent.
Shayon Harrison 7 – you can’t ask much more than coming off the bench and scoring!
Cy Goddard – was creative and lively off the bench.