Checkatrade run ended at Oxford
Oxford United 3-0 Spurs U21s (Checkatrade Trophy)
Tue 18 December 2018, 21:51|Tottenham Hotspur
It was a frustrating night for our Development Squad as we exited the Checkatrade Trophy following a 3-0 defeat to League One side Oxford United on Tuesday.
We endured a tough opening 20 minutes at the Kassam Stadium as we conceded from two set pieces in quick succession, with Charlie Raglan and Sam Smith heading the home side into an early 2-0 lead. We worked hard to find a way back into the second round tie and had our opportunities through Rayan Clarke and Kazaiah Sterling but just minutes after the break, the game was put out of our reach as Tony McMahon fired home a third from just inside the box.
We may have held our own in the first 10 minutes against our Football League opponents as we enjoyed plenty of possession of the ball but, following poor defending from set pieces, we quickly found ourselves two goals down. Having seen Gavin Whyte’s cross headed over by Smith moments earlier, the U’s wouldn’t miss their next opportunity as, on 13 minutes, McMahon’s curling free-kick was powered home by centre-back Raglan.
It would be a lesson that we would not learn from as just three minutes later, Oxford had their second. Everton loanee Luke Garbutt was now the provider as he fizzed in a corner from the right and Smith was the finisher as he flicked the ball past Brandon Austin at his near post.
Conceding two goals in such quick succession can usually be a sucker punch for teams but, as Karl Robinson’s side sat back, we grew in confidence. We were moving the ball better, looked threatening on the break and should have halved the deficit after the half-hour mark. Fresh off scoring a brace in the Premier League 2 win over Manchester City on Saturday, Sterling was released through on goal by a perfectly weighted pass from Jamie Bowden but, with just the keeper to beat, the striker’s effort was saved well by Simon Eastwood. It was our only meaningful effort of the first half as we were unable to make our possession count, while Oxford on the other hand could have extended their lead further just five minutes before the break but, with plenty of time and space to place his header, debutant Armani Little could only direct it wide of Austin’s upright.
Again though, the home side would make up for a missed opportunity as they put the game out of our reach just after the start of the second half. A Whyte delivery from the right eventually fell to defender McMahon, who set himself before rifling the ball past Austin from 15 yards.
The game was certainly becoming a test of character for our young side, but we were showing plenty of it, even though we were three behind. We were still creating chances and came closest to replying when Jack Roles found space in the box on 51 minutes, but the playmaker could only curl his effort off the post. We were also showing fight at the other end – with shots coming in from all angles, bodies were being put on the line by the whole defence as we continued to fight until the full-time whistle.
The concession of two goals in less than three first-half minutes made what was already a tough test against League One opposition even more difficult.
We had started confidently but after Raglan nodded in Whyte’s cross and moments later Smith headed in Garbutt’s corner, we were left chasing the game.
While disappointed with the manner with which we conceded the goals, Development Squad coach Wayne Burnett believes that the lessons learned will serve our young players well in their progression.
“We’ve conceded three goals from set pieces and crosses into the box and that’s the harsh reality of League football,” he explained. “This is a tough game. It’s unforgiving and it’s relentless. If you want to be part of that you need to understand what’s required.
“We were playing against a good team in good form. We played some decent stuff though and created one or two chances. Kazaiah Sterling had a chance at 2-0 and if that had gone in, we’d have been back in it. Jack Roles had a chance as well, hitting the post, but Oxford were a bit more clinical than us in both boxes and that was the difference.
“On the third goal, we could have cleared the ball. We had two opportunities to do so but we didn’t. If you don’t defend set pieces and crosses well enough and you don’t defend well from the restart, that’s where a lot of goals are scored from and we were punished there tonight. Obviously we don’t want to lose football matches but as long as you take something from it, learn from it and move forward from it, that’s the most important thing. If we can do that, then these games are massively beneficial for us.”
Oxford United 3-0 Spurs U21s (Checkatrade Trophy)
Oxford United: Eastwood (c), McMahon, Garbutt, Hanson, Nelson, Raglan, Brannagan (Heap 77), Little, Smith, Henry (Browne 58), Whyte (Holmes 58). Substitutes (not used): Stevens, Mousinho, Mackie, Long.
Spurs: Austin, Hinds (Reynolds 84), Brown, Bowden (Tracey 71), Tanganga (c), Marsh, Oakley-Boothe, Duncan, Sterling, Roles, Clarke (Thorpe 89). Substitutes (not used): De Bie, Cooper, Okedina.
Goals: Oxford – Raglan 13, Smith 16, McMahon 47.
Yellow card: Oxford – Smith 90.
Referee: Kevin Johnson.
Venue: Kassam Stadium, Oxford.
Weather: Raining, seven degrees.