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More cup heartbreak

Posted on 5 March 2009  - 12:00

Our Under-18 side were left stunned by two late goals that knocked us out of the FA Youth Cup at the quarter-final stage against North London rivals Arsenal at White Hart Lane.

More cup heartbreak

Our Under-18 side were left stunned by two late goals that knocked us out of the FA Youth Cup at the quarter-final stage against North London rivals Arsenal at White Hart Lane.

On a magnificent occasion in front of a bumper crowd of 19,084 - which included a strong away support - our bright young side - who have only lost once before this all season - got the night off to the best possible start when Jon Obika gave us a sixth minute lead.

But the Gunners went on to take control, and after Kyle Bartley equalised just after the break, captain Jay Thomas and substitute Ryan Murphy ended our cup dreams for 2009 in the final moments.

It was a familiar-looking starting XI with all eight of the players named in the squad for our UEFA Cup tie with Shakhtar Donetsk last week featuring in the starting line-up.

One of those, Obika, gave us the lead after six minutes during what was an opening and entertaining start to the match.

Arsenal were on the attack when Steven Caulker strode out of defence to intercept. Ryan Mason then spread the play wide to Andros Townsend, who attacked Bartley at pace, took it past the defender, and rolled the ball across the face of goal for the striker to turn home.

It was Obika's 15th goal of the season and his fifth in this competition - a tally of goals that included a hat-trick in the third round here against Sheffield United.

But on this occasion, it was impressive winger Townsend who was causing most of the Gunners' problems during the first half.

On 19 minutes, Mason found him again on the left-hand side, and it was Craig Eastmond who was left at his mercy this time as he was skinned for pace, but Townsend fired his eventual shot wide.

Our best chance to double the lead came four minutes after this when Mason chipped a delightful ball over the back four right into the path of Obika, who chose to volley first time but couldn't connect properly as the ball trickled wide.

This seemed the kick the visitors into gear, and the second part of the half was all theirs.

The best chances both fell to lone striker Gilles Sunu, first when he headed Jack Wilshere's corner over from six yards on 26 minutes, and secondly when he latched onto the same player's pass and forced Oscar Jansson into a good low save 10 minutes later.

Those opportunities do not tell the story of how much possession Arsenal were having in our third in the latter stages of the half, and after the break they made it count.

Francis Coquelin's 51st minute corner took a touch off John Bostock at the near post, hit Adam Smith and ricocheted off Bartley and in. Somewhat fortunate, but probably deserved at the time.

Two minutes later, the Gunners were nearly in-front. Luke Ayling broke from the back and played in Thomas, whose powerful shot was blocked by Jansson.

It was game on! We had our first chance for what seemed like an age on 64 minutes. Mason's low corner bounced up off a defender and Caulker climbed to head straight at goalkeeper James Shea from six yards.

And although, Sanchez Watt hit a shot just over the bar from the edge of the box a minute later, we were really starting to come back into the game.

Obika set up Mason to curl a shot just wide on 71 minutes, and the top scorer forced Shea into a save five minutes later when he turned Townsend's cross goalwards.

Mason, playing just off the front, is a strong contender for this side's player of the season so far, and he was starting to pull the strings.

But on 80 minutes he was taken out in what looked like a clear foul by Emmanuelle Frimpong in the middle of the park, and the same player then released Sunu to fire a shot across the face of our goal and wide.

But Mason picked himself back up and got on with it - and so did we. Two minutes later, it took a superb tackle by Ayling at the other end to deny Obika tapping home after more good work by Townsend.

Nonetheless, we sensed the game was there for the taking - and this is perhaps what ultimately cost us as we committed men forward looking for a winner.

On one counter-attack a minute from time, Wilshere broke into our half and found Watt. He set up Thomas on the edge of the box, who side-stepped Caulker and hit a shot that deflected wickedly off Calum Butcher and past Jansson.

It was a bitter blow after so much effort, not just in this game but throughout the run to this stage from the lads.

Our heads had dropped, and Arsenal doubled their lead in stoppage time when Coquelin picked out Murphy with a ball over the top, and the finish was low into the bottom corner.

But our stars of the future have been a credit to the Club in the FA Youth Cup this year, and will no doubt take much from this fantastic experience going forward as they look to further their Spurs careers in the future.

Spurs (4-4-1-1): Jansson; Smith, C Butcher, Caulker, Cox; M'Poku (Kasim, 59), Parrett, Bostock, Townsend; Mason; Obika
Subs not used: Butler, Byrne, Nicholson, Oyenuga

Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Shea; Eastmond, Bartley, Ayling, Cruise; Coquelin, Frimpong; Wilshere, Watt, Thomas; Sunu (Murphy, 87)
Subs not used: Mann, Evina, Freeman, Blackwood