The end of a shortened season's programme
for the Reserves ended with a home win by a single goal against a very
young Portsmouth side. With Reading and Watford taking the Reserve
league seriously and playing it like an old time second XI, fielding
players who are on the fringe of the side or coming back from injury,
they were too strong for the younger sides fielded by most clubs in this
league. So Tottenham finished fifth behind the aforementioned two
sides and Chelsea, with goal difference putting Aston Villa above
Tottenham with both on 30 points.
With some interested parties watching,
including representatives from Grimsby Town and Blackburn Rovers, Paul
Goddard (agent), Steve McCall (Ipswich Town), Mick Harford (Colchester
United), Kevin Blackwell (Luton Town), Martin Ling and Dean Smith
(Leyton Orient), possible loan signings were in the shop window for next
season. Among the Spurs staff and ex-Spurs managers in attendance
were Ricardo Ortiz, Peter Shreeves, Pat Holland and Alex Inglethorpe.
With Ms Rayner taking the field as the
referee, many thought it would be a calamity with her in charge of the
whistle, but she put in a good common-sense show of refereeing and
despite Clive Allen having a moan about her not stopping the game for an
injury, he was on his best behaviour. The players were not holding
back though and they responded to the ref in a positive manner.
The game started with Portsmouth looking
good on the ball for the first five minutes. Wide left midfielder
Matt Richie looked as though he could be a handful, but without
troubling Ben Alnwick in goal, they faded and were penned back by Spurs,
who went on to dominate the remainder of the game. The scoring
should have been opened by Spurs in the ninth minute, when a 30 yard
free-kick was taken by Jamie O'Hara found Lee Barnard unmarked in the
six yard box, but he volleyed his effort over the crossbar. Having
just got fit for the end of the season, Barnard looked sharp and
aggressive, getting onto the end of a low Troy Archibald-Henville cross
from the right wing, but his toe-poke went just wide.
Battling midfielder Kieran McKenna caught
defender McCoy with a late tackle and got a yellow card just fifteen
minutes in and that might have held back another player, but the
Irishman still got stuck in, but with some better timed challanges.
A minute later, O'Hara played a fast pass into Andy Barcham on the edge
of the Pompey penalty area. The striker took a touch to set
himself and drilled a low shot past the goalie, but saw it bounce back
off the post. Barnard was quick to seize on the follow-up and he
got his effort on target, but Ward got back to head it over on the line.
As Tottenham continued to attack, Barnard had another great opportunity
a minute later, when Taarabt played a low ball into the area and Lee
stroked it past the post with his left foot, with the whole goal to aim
Barcham looked nervous and he seemed to
be trying too hard, so when O'Hara played him through, with a run past
the back line, he couldn't get the ball onto his right foot, so laid the
ball back for Barnard to shoot just wide. It didn't matter too
much, as in the 29th minute Spurs took the lead.
Captain Charlie Lee brought the ball out
of defence on the left and played in Barcham in the left hand channel of
the penalty area. Looking up, he played a low ball across the box
and Barnard ran in to lift the ball into the top corner of the goal from
Portsmouth tried to hit back, with Jon
Docker striking a 30 yard shot that caused Alnwick to save as the ball
bounced difficultly just in front of him. The game then got bogged
down in a scrappy midfield battle, with neither side holding the bal
that well. Just before the break, Mills got a booking for a foul
and McKenna strode forward to strike a 25-yarder that Portsmouth keeper
Begovic dived full length to keep out.
The teams turned around at 1-0 to Spurs,
but the second half failed to live up to the excitement of the first.
O'Hara tested Begovic with two low shots that brought two low saves,
while Docker brought a save from Alnwick when he hit a 20 yard shot
straight at the new Tottenham goalie. Scott Harris came closest
for the visitors with a drive that dipped just over the bar with four
minutes left. A minute later, the season could have ended well for
Barcham, as O'Hara's cross to the far post caught him unawares and the
ball came off his knee and dropped gently into the keeper's arms.
A nice way to end with a win against the
bottom side, but there were other plusses. it was the first time I
had seen Ben Alnwick in action and his handling of crosses was very good
and although he didn't have much to do, his concentration was good.
Ifil got a knock and went off, but showed some good defensive work as
well as trying to get forward. Troy Archibald-Henville was playing
at right back and looked very good, even though he is happier in the
middle, while Leigh Mills had a storming game alongside Charlie Lee, who
had a couple of falls on his back near the end. Both looked
comfortable bringing the ball out of the back.
Having Jamie O'Hara and Kieran McKenna in
midfield is a good blend, with the industry and defensive focused
McKenna complements the free-running and pin-point passing of O'Hara.
David Hutton showed some good touched wide on the right, but looked a
little lightweight at times, being muscled out of it by the bigger boys
in the Portsmouth defence. Adel Taarabt is an interesting
conundrum. Skilful on the ball and willing to move to receive it
off the ball, he looks like Eric Cantona. When he loses the ball,
he lets out s shout of anguish. Usually because he tries t
convince the ref he was fouled, but often through the sheer affront that
someone has taken the bal off him. He runs well with the ball, but
sometimes into blind alleys and he can juggle the ball while shaking off
opponents and then give up when he loses possession. He is still
young, so hopefully, he will realise what is required of him if he wants
to play in the first team soon and regularly.
Andy Barcham is a strong runner, but his
lack of inches might count against him in the long run. He also
needs to develop his ability to get into the positions he needs to score
from, as he seems to lack the nous to "take a gamble" on where the
ball will end up. Hopefully, working with Clive Allen, he will
pick up some useful tips to put into practice. In comparison,
Barnard just needed a few more games to sharpen his goalscoring before
the season ended. I guess a few of the watching bosses were
viewing him as a possible loan player next term, as he will score goals.
Two in the three games he has started since his return prove that.
And he could easily have hit a hat-trick tonight on any other day.
So, perhaps you might say that it is
disappointing to finish fifth after winning the division last season,
but new seasons bring new players and the overall age of the group has
dropped significantly without players like Bunjevcevic to guide them.
Injuries have hit the side too, with Barnard's goals being a big miss
for the bulk of the campaign and Chris Riley's injury keeping him out of
the back four all season.
Clive Allen is doing a fine job though,
preparing this group of players for the real thing. The fact that
Martin Jol has felt comfortable in bringing Charlie Lee, Taarabt, O'Hara
and Alnwic into first team squads this season.
Expect to see more progress through the
ranks in the years to come.
Marco van Hip