Four goals but work to do for Under-18s
Brighton 1-4 Spurs (Under-18 Premier League)
Sat 12 January 2019, 14:43|Tottenham Hotspur
Our Under-18s weren’t at their usual exhilarating best but stepped up in the crucial moments to see off Brighton & Hove Albion at the American Express Elite Football Performance Centre on Saturday.
Leading 2-1 at the break despite a below-par first-half showing, J’Neil Bennett bagged an important third goal just under 20 minutes into the second period to give us some breathing space and from there we added a fourth through the impressive Troy Parrott, while Harvey White uncharacteristically failed to convert a penalty and Julien Carre was sent off for Brighton as the game ended 4-1.
Top of the Under-18 Premier League and unbeaten all season, our first-half display wasn’t befitting of our position in the standings as we didn’t move the ball quickly enough and at times played into Brighton’s hands. The unmarked Parrott put us in front with a glancing header from White’s left-sided cross after nine minutes but Stefan Vukoje led the hosts back into the game, seeing shots blocked in the box by the centre-back duo of Jubril Okedina and Brooklyn Lyons-Foster before cracking home an unstoppable equaliser in the 24th minute, advancing towards the box and leaving goalkeeper Josh Oluwayemi no chance as he curled into the top corner from 25 yards.
Our response was instantaneous. Bennett found space for a cross down the left flank and Richards slid home at the back post just a minute after the equaliser had gone in, but we continued to stall and Oluwayemi had to save Danny Cashman’s free-kick low to his right 10 minutes before the interval.
Under-18s Coach Matt Wells demanded an improved display at the break and, aside from a good chance for Brighton which Laurent Tolaj swept wide in the opening stages of the second half, he got one. Much brighter and more positive in our forward ventures, we survived a penalty appeal when Tolaj went down in the box and made it 3-1 on 64 minutes, substitute Armando Shashoua picking out Parrott on the edge of the area, who held off his marker and got a shot away early, goalkeeper Carl Rushworth tipping it into the path of the arriving Bennett who swept home at the back post.
We should have been out of sight five minutes later when Parrott was bundled over in the area and the referee gave us a penalty, but White was having a rare off day on set-pieces and his low shot was comfortably saved by Rushworth. Nevertheless, we retained the momentum and after Carre was shown a straight red card for a nasty challenge on Dilan Markanday, we scored the goal of the game to wrap things up three minutes from time, Paris Maghoma, Shashoua and Parrott producing some marvellous one-touch play to unpick the Brighton defence with the latter crisply finishing off the move from inside the area. Maghoma and Bennett tested Rushworth soon afterwards but it remained 4-1.
In view of the way the first half panned out, a third goal for us was always going to be needed and one duly arrived on 64 minutes.
Parrott was superb in holding the ball up on the edge of the area and getting a relatively early shot away, Rushworth got his fingertips to the strike but only sent it spinning into space at the back post, with Bennett reacting quickest to zoom in and sweep the ball home from the angle.
Despite emerging with another high-scoring victory in the end, coach Matt was annoyed with the way we performed on the south coast, especially in the early stages: “It was a really frustrating first half and it was similar against Swansea last week – it’s something we’ve spoken about all week, about setting our standard and setting new personal bests individually and collectively, so I was really disappointed with how we played after our first goal,” he said. “We allowed them to equalise but responded quickly with the second goal, then we were really poor until half-time and although we were much improved in the second half, there’s still a sense of frustration at a wasted first 45 minutes.
“We’ve demonstrated throughout the season that if we play the way we can and we respect the game then we can score a lot of goals but it’s not about the scoreline, it’s about how the individuals do within that and how close they look to pushing up to the next level. That was disappointing today because I don’t think there were too many that stood out individually or who could honestly say that that was one of their best performances of the season. Obviously it’s nice to win the game and continue the unbeaten run, but it was a disappointing performance overall.”
Brighton 1-4 Spurs (Under-18 Premier League)
Spurs: Oluwayemi, Tainio (Walcott 71), Cirkin, White, Okedina, Lyons-Foster (Binks 75), Markanday, Maghoma, Parrott (c), Richards (A Shashoua 43), Bennett. Substitutes (not used): Kurylowicz, Clarke.