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North London derby joy for Under-18s

Spurs 2-0 Arsenal (Under-18 Premier League)

Sat 19 September 2020, 13:52|Tottenham Hotspur

A goal in each half saw our Under-18s claim a deserved victory in the north London derby at Hotspur Way on Saturday.

Dane Scarlett won and scored a penalty mid-way through the first half to give us the lead, but saw a handful of other chances slip away from him as we controlled the play and prevented Arsenal from giving Thimothee Lo-Tutala anything meaningful to deal with between the sticks.

The Gunners had to scramble a couple of goal-bound efforts off the line as the game went on but carried an increased threat going forward in the second period. However, we always looked in full control, Alfie Devine running the midfield areas in his first taste of the derby, before Yago Santiago latched onto Lo-Tutala’s long ball up-field and produced a pinpoint finish from a difficult angle to wrap up a 2-0 victory three minutes from time.

Coach Matt Taylor named an unchanged starting XI from last week’s big win at West Ham, and we nearly forged ahead inside 13 minutes in the Enfield sunshine. Nile John embarked on a driving run into the box and saw his shot come back off goalkeeper Hubert Graczyk before ricocheting back towards goal off Zach Awe, with his fellow defender Levi Laing forced to clear off the line.

Central midfielder Matthew Craig sent Scarlett racing forward a minute later with Devine motoring on in support, but the striker turned onto his right foot and saw his 18-yard shot brilliantly saved by Graczyk down to his left, with his header from the subsequent corner lacking power and easy for the keeper to deal with. However, there was no stopping Scarlett on 22 minutes as the striker brilliantly shrugged off Awe following John’s forward pass, only to be brought down by the defender before dusting himself down to drill home the resulting spot-kick, despite Graczyk nearly reaching it.

Jordan Hackett was sparking attacks from left-back during the first half while some nice interplay further down that flank between Devine and Santiago ended with the latter’s cross finding Romaine Mundle in the box, but his shot was charged down.

Scarlett will have wanted to have done better with a free header in the box from Hackett’s cross at the start of the second half, grabbed out of the air by Graczyk, while John’s half-volley from the edge of the box produced another fine low save from the Gunners’ goalkeeper after a flowing move started by Devine from deep.

Devine’s overhead kick from what looked like a lost cause almost caught Graczyk out but dropped onto the roof of the net, while Arsenal had a handful of attempts that flew over the bar at the other end. Scarlett had a couple of angled shots from inside the box but was denied first by a well-timed sliding challenge from Awe and then by the goalkeeper on his line, before the Gunners had their best chance of the game with 25 minutes left, Omari Hutchinson’s deep free-kick touched wide of the back post by substitute Khayon Edwards.

Scarlett bundled Santiago’s low centre towards goal but saw it scrambled off the line by Graczyk on 76 minutes while John’s free-kick zipped inches wide, but we finally doubled our advantage on 87 minutes when Lo-Tutala found Santiago in space in the right channel with his goal-kick and he ran on before converting brilliantly from a tight angle. There was more good news in the closing moments with Michael Craig returning to action off the bench after a year out with a back injury.

There was some exceptional play today – attacking-wise we were dominant, defensively at times we kept the ball really well, so it was a really top performance.

Under-18s Coach Matt Taylor

Taylor hails ‘exceptional’ performance

Under-18s Coach Matt Taylor felt the victory was just reward for the players after another strong team display: “We were worthy of the three points – I thought our performance from minute one, when we set the tone, was exceptional and we’re really pleased to get the win,” he said. “We wanted to continue and take the training week we’ve had into the game, and we did that. I thought there was some exceptional play today – attacking-wise we were dominant, defensively at times we kept the ball really well, so it was a really top performance.”

After naming an unchanged side, Matt underlined how fierce the competition for places is among the squad at the moment, and was pleased to see Michael Craig back in action as a late substitute after an extended period on the sidelines.

“It’s really good for Michael, he’s had to bide his time and it’s been tough for him, so for him to get some minutes on the pitch today was really good,” he said. “What we saw today was that the levels of competition on the training pitch on a daily basis are high and therefore the boys who have got the shirts need to respect that and bring these levels of performance every day, and if they do that they’ve got an opportunity to try to play well on a Saturday. What we’ve asked the boys to do now is to make sure that those players who aren’t in the team are pressing those who are. The boys who aren’t playing will get their opportunity to play and when they do so, they’ve got to take it.”

Spurs 2-0 Arsenal (Under-18 Premier League)

Spurs: Lo-Tutala (c), Cesay, Hackett, Matthew Craig, Lusala, Muir, Mundle (Mathurin 68), Devine (Cassanova 86), Scarlett, John (Michael Craig 88), Santiago. Substitutes (not used): Solberg, Kyezu.