Carlito Williams put both of the hosts’ first-half chances away to cancel out Phoenix Patterson’s 20th-minute opener at Bodymoor Heath.
It was one-way traffic after the interval as we chased the game but we didn’t have the cutting edge to make our control of the contest count. Substitute Noni Madueke did manage to force the ball home five minutes from time but his effort was ruled out for off-side.
There were positives, however, as a handful of Under-16s players impressed on their debuts at this level, while Moroyin Omolabi, one of the more experienced individuals in the side, was influential in stepping out from the back to drive us forward in the second period.
Ultimately, though, the result extinguished any faint hopes of finishing the first phase of the league season in the top four, meaning we’ll enter merit group two next month along with the fifth to eighth-placed clubs from the northern and southern divisions.
With an FA Youth Cup quarter-final to come at Newcastle United on Monday night, Head of Player Development John McDermott handed opportunities to some of our younger academy players in what was a fiercely-contested game, with several free-kicks awarded to us in the first hour.
We also racked up the corners in the opening 45 minutes but, after Patterson’s early free-kick flew off target, it was from a good spell of pressure high up the pitch that we took a 20th-minute lead. Debutant right-back Brooklyn Lyons-Foster forced an error in the Villa defence with Jamie Reynolds seizing on the loose ball and playing it across the 18-yard line for Patterson, who drove a shot in off the far post after stepping inside the area.
Our inexperience showed, though, as Villa equalised within 60 seconds, Williams bursting forward with pace in the right channel before lashing high into the net.
Luis Binks replaced the injured Matt Lock and almost scored with his first action of the game but couldn’t get proper contact on the ball in the six-yard box following a corner while Paris Maghoma arrowed a shot off target shortly after the half-hour mark.
Villa were clinical, however, and took their second chance of the game to edge in front three minutes before the break. Goalkeeper Charlie Freeman bravely punched out Jack Birch’s centre but the ball fell kindly for Williams to drive in from an acute angle on the right.
Above: Jamie Reynolds in midfield action.
Maghoma was central to the action in the second period, frequently getting on the ball and running at Villa through the middle, but a clear opening proved elusive. Patterson blasted wide on 63 minutes while Freeman did well to dash out of his area and slide-tackle Williams 17 minutes from time after defender Jubril Okedina’s back-pass fell short.
Villa substitute Michael Tait somehow put one over the bar from close range as the hosts tried to seal the game on the counter but the final stages saw us hammering on the door and the hosts defending for their lives. Patterson sent in some teasing crosses from the left but the ball wouldn’t quite fall for us in the area. Madueke did manage to ram home five minutes from the end but was flagged off-side.
JOHN MCDERMOTT, HEAD OF PLAYER DEVELOPMENT, SAID
“It took us 45 minutes to get to grips with the seriousness and the intensity of the game. We were really disappointed to concede two goals in the first half when we had a strong wind behind our backs but credit to Villa today – they were very efficient in the chances they had and they created more problems than us.
“Our second-half performance had more intent and intensity and was in line with how it should be. To play into the wind and to keep the ball for a considerable chunk of the time in their half was good, so there was positive intent and positivity in pinning them in, we were just a little bit disappointed in our quality in the final third. The players have undoubtedly got quality but are they then able to have quality in terms of making and scoring goals? We just need that cutting edge, when the other team is on the ropes, to be able to deliver a knockout blow but credit to Villa – they didn’t concede and we weren’t able to score.
“Obviously we had some Under-16s players in the team today because of the fixture congestion but I’m certainly not despondent after that second half and I’m quite looking forward to working with the boys when they come in full-time. I was pleased Moroyin Omolabi (Under-18s scholar), he stepped up to the plate and asserted himself and Phoenix Patterson, although frustrating with some of his finishing, created a number of opportunities.”
Spurs U18s: Freeman (c), Lyons-Foster, Lock (Binks 29), Bowden (A Shashoua 79), Okedina, Omolabi, Clarke, Reynolds, Mukendi (Madueke 79), P Maghoma, Patterson. Substitute (not used): Oluwayemi (GK).
We’ll be bidding to reach the semi-finals of the FA Youth Cup for the second time in three years on Monday night as we take on Newcastle United at St James’ Park in the last eight. We’ve scored 16 goals and conceded only twice across our three games in the competition thus far, but with a large crowd behind the Magpies at such a vast stadium, we’ve a big challenge on our hands if we’re to make further progress.