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Sully back but reserves beaten

Posted on 12 February 2003  - 12:00

FA Premier Reserve League South

Neil Sullivan was kept busy on his return as our reserves were ground down by Arsenal in an eventful clash at Stevenage Borough.

It's arguable that the Scottish international would have liked to have been in action so much in his first competitive match since August but that was always going to be the case after Les Ferdinand was somewhat controversially sent off - without the benefit of a replay - after a clash with Stathis Tavlaridis with only 22 minutes on the clock.

Despite some stern resistance there was little the lads could do to stem the tide of attacks as the visitors chipped away and chipped away.

Sullivan was called into action early as Arsenal started the brighter.

Only two minutes had gone when he produced a sharp reaction save to his right to deny Francis Jeffers and he was there again to block David Bentley's follow up.

However, Sullivan had no chance as the Gunners struck the crossbar twice in three minutes soon after.

Jeffers was unlucky to see an audacious lob come back off the woodwork from 25 yards and Jerome Thomas should have done better when Bentley unselfishly squared but he could only rattle the frame from 10 yards.

Our first chance arrived after 19 minutes when Stuart Taylor spilled a wicked Milenko Acimovic free-kick but Ferdinand's effort was blocked by Tavlaridis.

The game exploded after 22 minutes when Ferdinand and Tavlaridis went in for a crunching tackle and squared up head-to-head afterwards. Ferdinand was sent off - Tavlaridis survived with a yellow card.

Acimovic then brushed the top of the net with another free-kick and Jon Blondel's strike from Dean Marney's cutback was superbly tipped aside by Taylor.

Sullivan matched Taylor's effort five minutes before the break with a double save, first blocking Jeffers' close-range stab from a deep Thomas free-kick before recovering to magnificently tip over Ben Chorley's follow up from 10 yards.

We hit back before the break as Rebrov skipped away from two challenges and poked a low shot against the foot of the post.

Arsenal were bright again at the start of the second half as Thomas first drilled a shot just wide and then wasted a one-on-one after being sent clear.

They finally opened the scoring just before the hour with a goal out of nothing from the lively Jeffers. He picked up the ball with his back to goal on the edge of the box after a probing Thomas run and in an instant turned and curled the ball beyond Sullivan into the corner.

It was clearly hard work for the lads with the Gunners afforded the luxury of being able to stroke the ball around but the 10 men stuck at the task.

Naturally, the visitors created most of the chances as Brown diverted Bentley's cross wide and Sullivan stayed big to block Jeffers from 10 yards.

Jeffers doubled the lead after 76 minutes with a cool finish after Moritz Volz threaded the ball through and it was 3-0 within seconds as Thomas finally found the target from Sebastian Svard's pass.

To our credit we managed a couple of late strikes at goal and a John Jackson 'goal' was disallowed as the referee had already blown up for a Spurs free-kick as the ball was in flight - it was that sort of night.

Line-ups: Spurs: Sullivan, Marney, Taricco (S Kelly, 60), Henry, Thatcher, Ricketts, Clemence, Acimovic (Bowditch, 82), Blondel (Jackson, 70), Ferdinand, Rebrov. Unused subs: Hirschfeld, Slabber.

Arsenal: Taylor, Chorley, Grondin, Volz, Stepanovs, Tavlardis (Simek, 78), Brown (Bradley, 82), Svard (Spicer, 82), Jeffers, Bentley, Thomas. Unused subs: Bailey, Holloway.