Cole (Efrem 8)
Lee (Martin 72)
Davis (Hamed 79)
Dawkins (Maghoma 46)
took a huge step towards securing the Southern Premier League Reserve
title after a deserved win against title rivals Arsenal last night.
In front of a packed Underhill crowd that was evenly split between Spurs
fans and Goons, our young line-up outplayed the home side for much of a
high quality contest. The Arsenal defence – disrupted after Ashley
Cole’s early withdrawal – struggled to cope with the pace and movement
of front two Andy Barcham and Simon Dawkins, both of whom were rewarded
with first half goals. Arsenal used the famous slope to their
advantage in the second half (how many more goals are scored in that
goal I wonder ?), but could only pull one back. Spurs moved seven
points clear at the top of the table with this win and Arsenal had to
cope with the double disappointment of Cole breaking down. He went
down in the first five minutes and limped off soon after with what
appeared to be an ankle injury.
Spurs dictated play from
the start and created their first chance after five minutes.
Daniels released Davis into the space where the indisposed Cole should
have been and the right winger beat Almunia from just inside the area,
but his low drive also flashed past the keeper’s right hand post.
Johnnie Jackson was pulling the midfield strings and Arsenal failed to
get any foothold in the game. A period of concerted pressure
culminated in a corner in the 13th minute which was met firmly by Calum
Davenport at the back post. His header was blocked, but the ball
was not cleared and the alert Barcham pounced to slot the opener.
Spurs continued to
pour down the slope into Arsenal territory and produced some excellent
passing. A quick interchange between Charlie Daniels and Barcham
released the muscular left winger who crossed low for Dawkins to sweep
the second under the advancing Almunia. A two-goal lead after 23
minutes did not flatter us and Clive Allen must have been delighted with
our response to defeat at Southampton last week. The Arsenal
players, notably Alexandre Song and Jay Simpson, showed some nice
touches, but their passing and in particular their crossing, was poor.
Simpson made a good run into the Spurs box soon after our second goal,
but he threw himself to the ground when in a crossing position.
The watching Nomad management, disappointed by Cole’s injury, would have
been more encouraged with such playacting.
Spurs continued to be
more incisive with their passing and were disappointed not to increase
their lead before the break. Stuart Lewis sliced wide after good
work from Dawkins in the box and Daniels shot at Almunia after a strong
run from the halfway line. He possesses a subtle touch and good
left foot, but his wing play is based more on strength than pace.
Along with Jackson and the front two, he caught the eye the most.
Arsenal’s only threat before half-time came from a quick free kick from
Nicklas Bendtner, but it sailed past Burch’s left post.
Dawkins was replaced
by Jacques Maghoma at the break after picking up a knock, and the
substitute immediately missed a great chance to kill the game off;
Barcham once again wriggled free to cross, but Maghoma shot straight at
Almunia. Spurs nearly regretted this miss as most of the second
half goal action came at our end. Arturo Lupoli showed his first
team credentials by dropping deep and causing Tony Gardner some
problems, first testing Burch from close range and then scoring in the
68th minute after Song had dispossessed Daniels.
Arsenal were keeping
the ball better, but we continued to threaten on the break.
Barcham shot wide after a twisting run and Lewis drilled over from a
driven Bunjevcevic cross. However, we couldn’t score the decisive
third and being a derby, there were some tense moments as the game
reached a frantic conclusion: Lupoli and Fabrice Muamba both missed the
target when clean through and Davenport blocked a goal-bound strike by
substitute Mark Randall. At the other end Barcham was a menace
right up to the final whistle, forcing Almunia off his line after
collecting a Daniels through-ball.
We held on for a
satisfying victory, important not only as a win over the scum and in the
context of the league, but also because some players really came to the
fore in a big game. I was impressed with Davenport (who inspired
more confidence than Gardner) and Daniels definitely has potential.
Jackson looked extremely comfortable in a central position and Barcham
was always dangerous up front, possessing pace, skill and an eye for
MEHSTG TOP MAN : - JOHNNIE