A small crowd turned up for Spurs U18s’ 5th FA Premier Academy League match of the season against Fulham. Remembering that the mysterious Omar had told us that Fulham’s Academy were “much better” than ours, but also having noted that Fulham had lost three out of their four games so far, I was quietly confident that Spurs would make it three wins in a row.
Presumably the first team were in for a training session, as Clive Allen and Tony Parks were present at the game. Also worth nothing that Bostock was there, crutches and cast now gone – he was doing some sprints on one of the other pitches, and also kicking a ball again.
Inglethorpe made a slight change to the formation for this one, switching from a 4-4-1-1 to a 4-1-4-1, with Harry Kane’s starting position noticeably deeper. Kane again took the armband, and we included three “overage” players in Smith, Butcher and Blackwood.
Smith (18) Butcher (18) Byrne (17) Francis-Angol (16)
Fredericks (16) Kane © (16) M’Poku (17) McBride (17)
Durojaiye (16) for Butcher (18), 46.
Waller-Lassen (16) for McBride, 66.
Blackwood (18) for Francis-Angol, 72.
The opening was frantic with both sides playing at a high tempo and, therefore, it took a while for things to settle down. Spurs’ first meaningful attack came when “Pablo” (previously Polo!) M’Poku took a quick free-kick, exchanged passes with Francis-Angol, and set Fredericks away on the right. He beat his man and put in a low cross which was easily cut out at the near post.
On 7 minutes, Nicholson set his stall out – Spurs had committed a lot of players forward in an attack and, when the move broke down and Fulham broke forward, it looked as though we might find ourselves in a spot of bother. Nicholson, through good positioning and reading of the game, came across and saw out the danger.
Fulham had the first reasonable chance to score 10 minutes in – Keanu (that was never going to get old…) Marsh-Brown forcing a decent save from Butler. Francis-Angol then committed himself in a dangerous area, his man going round him, before the young full-back showed great responsibility and commitment by getting back and clearing the danger.
With 18 minutes gone, Spurs were having plenty of possession without finding the cutting edge – although a couple of borderline offside decisions didn’t help the cause. Minutes later, Spurs had their best move of the match. Skipper Harry Kane decided to go direct and, from the centre circle, fired a brilliant ball right-footed down the left flank for Oyenuga. Kudus showed a good touch and found space for a cross. Unfortunately McBride was stretching slightly, and couldn’t bring it under control, although a first time finish may have been the better option.
Oyenuga was involved again, this time cutting in and having his shot blocked after a similar long ball from Kane. The ball came back out to Kane, but his shot dribbled wide. Oyenuga was, by this point, really giving Fulham the run around. He received the ball wide on the left, found room for a shot, and his near-post effort rattled the goal frame. Reacting quicker than any of the Fulham players, he charged off after the rebound, stopping it going out for a throw, before laying off a pass to Francis-Angol. Eventually the ball found its way to Nathan Byrne, but his pass was intercepted. Kudos to Oyenuga (groan) for the effort though.
Spurs opened the scoring on 26 minutes – a cross from Fredericks was not dealt with by Fulham’s huge centre backs, and M’Poku intelligently headed the ball down to Kane. With two men behind him, he turned and fired in a low shot, which found the bottom corner. A well-deserved lead.
Virtually immediately after this, Spurs should have made it two. Nicholson turned his man in the middle of midfield, and lofted an excellent pass wide to Fredericks. He beat the full-back again and laid off to M’Poku, who picked out Harry Kane in the box – his initial shot hit Oyenuga, and Fulham tried to clear the ball. It came back to Kane and, as he controlled, the Fulham players appealed for handball. Play continued, and he drew a good save from Bettinelli in the Fulham goal – the ball rebounding out again and, this time, it looked like McBride would score, but his volley hit the bar! A real goalmouth scramble.
Spurs were playing well and dominating against a poor Fulham side, and M’Poku was getting increasingly involved. He showed some brilliant skill in the middle of the pitch, turning his man with ease before striding forward and hitting a firm effort down the keeper’s throat. M’poku and Fredericks than played a lovely one-two which ended with Fredericks intelligently attempting to pick out McBride at the far post. Unfortunately the cross was slightly overhit.
It wasn’t until the 40th minute that Spurs doubled their lead. Adam Smith, ever the willing runner, charged up the right before cutting in and drilling a left-footed shot from 20 yards into the keeper’s bottom left corner. A fine finish, and some breathing room. The next goal came more quickly! Oyenuga had again pulled to the left and, when he received the ball, he managed to cut in and get the ball on to his right foot. This time he went across the keeper, curling the ball into the far corner – a great finish and certainly a well-deserved goal. He celebrated with a dance, before thanking Kane for the assist – “cheers for the ball H!”
The half ended with a slight annoyance – Jake Nicholson went into a 50/50 strongly but, in my opinion, fairly. He won the ball but was deemed to have been showing his studs and the referee booked him.
At half-time, Inglethorpe brought on Olumide Durojaiye for Calum Butcher, as he had in the previous home game against West Ham. Valuable experience for Durojaiye, who is one of the first year group. He will almost certainly have a role to play later in the season when the likes of Smith and Butcher go out on loan.
The start of the half was quite competitive and, one of Fulham’s better players, Christian Marquez, had a decent chance which Butler saved. McBride was cynically brought down on the edge of the box (no yellow shown), and M’Poku’s free quick was firmly struck just wide. Minutes later, we probably should have scored again. A corner was headed down by M’Poku, but a defender cleared off the line, and the rebound was harmlessly put wide.
On 60 minutes Jamie Butler was forced to rush out and make an excellent save with his legs as Fulham broke our offside trap. The game became a little more scrappy, and a few tackles started going in. McBride was hacked down over on the left – a clear yellow card offence from where I was stood – but the referee didn’t even give a free-kick. Kane went down heavily moments later and received fairly lengthy treatment. Minutes later he had another heavy fall which knocked the wind out of his sales.
With 65 minutes gone, Adam Smith went on yet another marauding run, and put in a superb cross, which M’Poku put wide on the half volley. At this point, Jesse Waller-Lassen was brought on for McBride, who had received some rough treatment from the Fulham defenders all game. With one of his first touches, Jesse buried a simple header at the back post after an excellent run and cross from Ryan Fredericks.
Fulham had a couple more chances, one of which fell to Keanu (!), before Spurs made their final change – the impressive Francis-Angol withdrawn, Blackwood coming on at left-back. Fulham did eventually get a goal back – Blackwood didn’t deal with the ball, and eventually it was crossed for one of the subs to head the ball against the bar, having not been picked up by Smith and Durojaiye. The rebound fell to another substitute, who finished past Butler. Smith seemed to be explaining to Durojaiye that it was his man who had headed on to the bar.
It didn’t take long for Spurs to go 5-1 up, with Adam Smith again causing problems. This time he drew a free-kick (and this time the offending player was booked), and Kane’s set piece was palmed out by the keeper to Waller-Lassen, who scored his second. The icing was put on the cake by Fredericks, who deserved a goal for some good wing play throughout. M’Poku slid him in with a well weighted pass and, with the Fulham defender backing away from him, he had plenty of space to plant the ball across the goalkeeper.
There was just time for another great Spurs chance, a perfect set up for Kane after good play from Waller-Lassen on the left flank. He blazed well wide first time, when in reality he had as much time as he wanted.
Butler – my first time seeing him, and he was called upon to make a few stops, none better than the save with his feet. Did everything expected of him, but I didn’t really get to see a range of goalkeeping skills, so it’s hard to really judge him on this performance. 7/10
Smith – looked useful going forward, and clearly needs a full season out on loan now. A few lapses defensively, but it’s a bit of a mish-mash defence at the moment, so I think these moments can probably be forgiven. 7/10
Butcher – marshalled the back four well, winning headers and often taking the safety first approach. Job done for him at half time, and he didn’t re-appear. 7/10
Byrne – the first time I’d seen him play at centre back, and he did a good job. Not the tallest, but he’s fast and quite strong, so has enough of the necessary skills. Reads the game well, and broke forward a couple of times. I don’t think this position is going to be a long-term thing for Nathan, and he may well end up at right-back if Smith goes back out on loan. 7/10
Francis-Angol – looked a different player compared the United game, and he really impressed me. Some good, no-nonsense defending, and looked much more useful going forward. Never likely to carry the ball 50 yards like Smith can, but he got up in support, and was sensible in possession. Encouraging! 7/10
Nicholson – he has made this role his own, and he looked very comfortable. Good reader of the game, and generally useful in possession. Sometimes his range of passing can let him down, but he picked out Fredericks with a cracking long pass in the first half. Made plenty of interceptions, but also wasn’t scared of a tackle, despite being a real bean-pole. I thought he was very unlucky to be booked at the end of the first half. 8/10
Fredericks – impressive performance from Ryan, who has quick feet, and generally delivers dangerous crosses. Mixes it up by firing in low crosses once in a while. Clearly a player who likes to get to the by-line, and I think he would benefit from keeping defenders guessing by coming inside more. 7/10
Kane – generally I’ve seen him used in the Mason role, but he was even deeper today. Kane is more of a passer, whereas Mason is probably more of a Modric-esque schemer. He still looks quite clumsy at times, but he is very effective, and he took his goal really well. Good all-round performance. 8/10
M’Poku – he was less involved this week than he had been in the previous three games, but looks a real class act. One of the few players in this squad who has a bag of tricks, and is not afraid to use them. He’s a strong runner, and has clearly also improved on his defensive game this year. The brightest prospect in the current side IMO. 7/10
McBride – he impressed me again. He’s quite unfussy – I get the impression that he likes to work a yard, and deliver a cross where possible. Has a very neat touch with his left, and also showed the occasional burst of acceleration, although he doesn’t have blistering pace. 7/10
Oyenuga – he battled very hard, which I felt was lacking from his game against United. He must have given up 3 or 4 inches to the two Fulham centre halves, but he won a very high percentage of aerial challenges, to the extent where the Fulham goalkeeper bellowed “how many more d’you wanna let him win?” at one point in the second half. Willing runner, great workrate, and plenty of quality too. Probably our MOTM. 8/10
Durojaiye – we looked a little uncertain with the Durojaiye/Byrne combination at the back, and he was probably at fault for the goal. 6/10
A drastic improvement from the last time I saw this team, and I’m pleased that Inglethorpe now has the balance right in the middle of midfield. I have a few concerns about the defence, as there doesn’t seem to be a natural partnership that can take over from the Caulker/Butcher combination.