Valentine's heartbreak for Under-23s against Foxes
Leicester City 3-2 Spurs (Premier League 2)
Fri 14 February 2020, 20:59|Tottenham Hotspur
Our Under-23s gave their all against high-flying Leicester City in the Premier League 2 - but there was no reward for their efforts on a rainy Valentine's night at Holmes Park.
We started brightly in the first half and deservedly led through Dilan Markanday's effort on 18 minutes. Two goals in four minutes just before half-time shifted momentum to the home side for the second half but we got back into the game when impressive Jubril Okedina drilled home his first Premier League 2 goal for 2-2 on 58 minutes. Crucially, Markanday struck the post seconds later.
However, Leicester grabbed the initiative again via George Hirst's second of the night on 74 minutes and despite the best efforts of our young team, that proved decisive.
Markanday and Dennis Cirkin caused all sorts of problems down the left flank in the first half, leading to early half-chances for Brooklyn Lyons-Foster - captain on the night - and Harvey White, and it was no surprise when Markanday opened the scoring. Rodel Richards, picking up pockets of space playing off Kion Etete, chipped the ball wide to Markanday, who glided into the box and let fly, his shot taking a deflection over home goalkeeper Victor Johansson.
Both goalkeepers responded well in the middle section of the half. Johansson kept out Richards and Malachi Fagan-Walcott, while Josh Oluwayemi twice denied Josh Eppiah, the second from point-blank range. In-between, Okedina broke onto Maurizio Pochettino's pass and rifled into the side-netting.
The game turned late in the first half. Hirst levelled from the penalty spot on 44 minutes after Cirkin fouled Vontae Daley-Campbell and the home side took the lead in the third of four minutes' added time when Callum Wright got between defenders to head home Daley-Campbell's cross.
That was tough to take after our performance in the first half but credit to the players, who responded well. Once again, Cirkin and Markanday got us on the front foot and just before the hour, Markanday, in space centrally and with options, rolled into Okedina, who powered forward before drilling low into the corner from 20 yards.
Seconds later, a key moment as Markanday struck the outside of the post. At 3-2 up, you would have fancied us to go on and take something from the game. However, Leicester fought back and won it on 73 minutes when Wright's cross fell kindly for Hirst, who made the most of it with a quick turn and low shot across Oluwayemi into the far corner.
A pity for the players, but positives on the night.
There were a few but you just felt if Markanday's shot had hit the inside of the post and gone in for 3-2 instead of the outside of the post and wide just seconds after we'd made it 2-2 in the second half it might have been a different story.
Wayne Burnett spoke to us after the final whistle at Holmes Park: "We started off really brightly. I don't think anyone would have argued if we'd gone in at half-time 2-1 up, but it was 2-1 to them," he said. "We'd spoken all week about the importance of defending our penalty box and we knew that would be the key element of the game. Leicester put good deliveries into the box, delivered with quality and they attacked the box well. We created chances and we were certainly in the ascendancy when we gave a silly goal away and then didn't mark even though we're three against one in the box, and suddenly it's 2-1 to them.
"We weren't too despondent because we knew we could get back into the game. We did that, it's 2-2 and we've got them... but we let them off the hook. We were in control but we didn't sense that enough and didn't take advantage of that. When you have the players Leicester have, you are always susceptible to conceding and we're disappointed again with the third, again three against two in the box, but they took the goal well.
"There were good performances in there - but we've lost. We have to learn from it. We've got to take the positives and most importantly, we have to learn from it, we have to, and as a young group of players, if we can learn from it, that can only hold us in good stead."
Leicester City 3-2 Spurs (Premier League 2)
Leicester City: Johansson, Johnson (c) (Ndukwu 64), Thomas, James, Hughes, Ughelumba, Daley-Campbell, Wright, Hirst, Leshabela (Reghba 64), Eppiah (Shade 74). Substitutes (not used): Arlott-John, Stolarczyk.
Spurs: Oluwayemi, Okedina, Cirkin, Lyons-Foster (c), Fagan-Walcott, Dinzeyi (Bowden 85), Pochettino (R Clarke 78), White, Richards, Etete (Mukendi 78), Markanday. Substitutes (not used): Kurylowicz, Thorpe.
Goals: Leicester - Hirst 44 (pen), 74, Wright 45+3; Spurs - Markanday 18, Okedina 58.
Yellow cards: Leicester - Daley-Campbell 66.
Referee: Martin Woods.
Venue: Holmes Park, Leicester.
Weather: Rain, windy, eight degrees at kick-off.