Defender TJ Eyoma, captaining the side for the first time, and midfielder Jack Roles rose to score a brace of headers as we surged into the lead inside 26 minutes at the Gunners’ Colney training centre.
Goalkeeper Alfie Whiteman pulled off a series of good stops as the hosts pinned us in for a spell in the second half, but it was only a long-range thunderbolt from Josh Da Silva that breached our resistance.
We never really looked in danger of conceding for a second time, while substitute Juan Pablo Gonzalez-Velasco could have restored our two-goal cushion on the counter-attack towards the end, only to be denied by Joseph Olowu’s covering challenge.
It was a committed effort from the players, two of whom featured as substitutes in the Premier League 2 clash with Arsenal on the same enclosure less than 24 hours earlier, and the 2-1 win means we finish the first phase of the Under-18 Premier League season on a high note.
We took the lead from a set piece after eight minutes on a mild, sunny morning when Phoenix Patterson lofted in a free-kick from the left flank and Eyoma rose highest in the box to steer a header back across goal and into the net.
The first sign that Whiteman was in for a busy day came on 13 minutes when he saved well at his near post from Joe Willock, while Eyoma was on hand to make a vital block to deny Charlie Gilmour a few moments later.
The home side were making their attacking intentions known but our defence stood up to them well and we grabbed a second goal against the run of play on 26 minutes when Patterson got to the byline down the right and lifted up a cross for Roles, who glanced a header beyond goalkeeper Jono Virginia.
Five minutes before the break, Kazaiah Sterling robbed Zech Medley and raced through on goal, only for Olowu to come across and tackle him. To Sterling’s credit, he tirelessly closed down Arsenal’s defensive players and forced occasional errors throughout the game, but sadly we couldn’t take advantage.
Above: Dylan Duncan in action.
We started the second half brightly but Arsenal had their best spell of the game around the hour mark and Whiteman had to be at his best to keep our two-goal lead intact. First he saved one-on-one from Emile Smith-Rowe as he sped through in the right channel, then tipped Yassin Fortune’s angled shot behind at his near post before denying the same player with a brave low intervention amid a congested 18-yard box, with Eyoma there to shepherd the ball away.
The Gunners did manage to find a breakthrough on 67 minutes when Da Silva blasted one beyond the diving Whiteman from 22 yards but after that, neither goalkeeper was really tested as players from both sides went into the book for late challenges.
Our best chance to add a third goal came on 77 minutes when we counter-attacked with four-on-two but, after Reo Griffiths ferried the ball on to Gonzalez-Velasco, he was denied by Olowu.
JOHN MCDERMOTT, HEAD OF PLAYER DEVELOPMENT, SAID
“It was a performance that showed real character and sprit. We’re currently midway through an incredible amount of games, we got back from the FA Youth Cup game at Newcastle at four o’clock on Tuesday morning and we’ve not really had the ideal preparation, like Arsenal as well – a couple of our boys (Reo Griffiths and Tariq Hinds) were involved in back-to-back games today and yesterday so it’s unusual and they’ll have had a bit of fatigue in their legs, but we played with spirit and I was really pleased. We always explain how that’s the foundation stone on which you build yourselves as players and as a team, plus we scored two good goals. I was really pleased with Phoenix Patterson with two excellent assists and I thought TJ Eyoma was stand-out in his defending.
“There were some very good performances, some good saves from Alfie Whiteman and also some really good blocks from the defenders. It’s very rare that in a game you’re on top for 90 minutes and in a match like this, the goalkeeper, the defenders and the team defensively as a whole has really got to contribute. You could mention Alfie and the two centre-halves but one of our best defenders today was Kazaiah Sterling (up front). He really worked his socks off and I think he takes some credit for how much he gave to the team both in possession, which we know he can do, and out of possession as well.”
Spurs U18s: Whiteman, Eyoma (c), Hinds, Oakley-Boothe, Dinzeyi, Skipp, Patterson (Gonzalez-Velasco 71), Duncan (Omolabi 80), Sterling, Roles, Griffiths (Reynolds 84). Substitute (not used): Austin (GK).
We await the identity of our opponents next Saturday, with the fixtures for the merit group phase of the season due to be announced early next week. We’ll be in the second of the three groups, along with the fifth to eighth-placed sides from the northern and southern divisions. Meanwhile, the dates for both legs of our FA Youth Cup semi-final against Chelsea have now been confirmed.