After the frustration of letting slip a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 at home to Stoke City last weekend, we were on song from the off at Rockliffe Park, with Kazaiah Sterling and Dylan Duncan slotting home inside the opening quarter-of-an-hour.
It was largely one-way traffic and we extended our lead on 32 minutes when a corner was scrambled in, Reo Griffiths getting the final touch.
The home side came into the game a bit more after the break but we remained in control and it was only an 84th-minute free-kick from Brandon Holdsworth that breached our resistance as we ran out 3-1 winners.
It was one week shy of a year ago that we last travelled to Boro in the merit group stage of the Under-18 Premier League. On that occasion we slipped to a 1-0 defeat but it was quickly evident that there would be no repeat of that outcome this time as we made a purposeful start and took a ninth-minute lead.
Following a good build-up through the middle, Duncan picked out Sterling with a reverse pass and the striker pulled away from his marker to side-foot the ball into the corner from 15 yards.
Six minutes later it was 2-0 as midfielder Oliver Skipp fired the ball in to the feet of Duncan and he drilled low into the net from just outside the area.
We continued in the ascendancy and on 32 minutes we grabbed a third goal as a corner was floated in right on the Boro goalkeeper and the ball was scrambled home. Right-back TJ Eyoma was in the thick of it but Griffiths was deemed to have got the final touch – his eighth league goal of the season and 12th in all competitions.
Goalkeeper Alfie Whiteman was forced into a good save five minutes before the interval, tipping over Jay Wilson’s effort as it arrowed towards the top corner, but with 11 shots to Boro’s two in the first half, we were firmly in the driving seat.
Coming back out at 3-0 up, we managed the possession well and while Boro had a couple of half-chances, we always looked in control. Sterling was just off-target from outside the area from a difficult position but, with six minutes left, the hosts did manage to find a breakthrough. George Marsh was penalised for a foul just outside the box and, placing the ball down centrally, Holdsworth blasted home direct from the free-kick. There was to be no comeback, though, as we saw out the game to take maximum points.
JOHN MCDERMOTT, HEAD OF PLAYER DEVELOPMENT, SAID
“We had everyone back yesterday and we trained yesterday for the first time as a group after the international window. That session was good and then today we played really, really well for 45 minutes – perhaps the best performance of the season. We played with real energy and real quality, carved out lots of chances and scored three goals. In the second half we dominated possession rather than dominated chances but overall it was very pleasing.
“We’d spoken about the need to re-establish winning habits and winning performances and that happened today. The first goal saw excellent work from Oliver Skipp and Dylan Duncan to set up Kazaiah, Skipp and Duncan combined well with an excellent finish from Dylan for the second and then the third goal saw Reo score from a well-worked corner at the far post. We had a number of other chances that we didn’t finish or that their goalkeeper did well on and Alfie Whiteman had to be sharp on a couple of their chances, but overall I thought we were well worthy of the win.”
Spurs U18s: Whiteman, Eyoma (Hinds 62), Brown, Skipp, Marsh (c), Tanganga, Griffiths (Patterson 62), Oakley-Boothe, Sterling, Duncan, Bennetts (Shashoua 73). Substitutes (not used): Omolabi, Freeman (GK).
We return to action at Hotspur Way next Saturday in what will be our fourth meeting with Norwich City this season. We drew 2-2 at home to the Canaries in September and lost 3-2 away in December in the initial phase of the Under-18 Premier League season, before securing a 2-0 victory against them at Stevenage in the fifth round of the FA Youth Cup in February.