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Under-18s held by Hammers

Spurs 1-1 West Ham (Under-18 Premier League)

Tue 20 April 2021, 15:06|Tottenham Hotspur

Our youngsters were made to rue a number of missed chances in the first half as West Ham escaped with a point from Tuesday lunchtime’s Under-18 Premier League clash at Hotspur Way.

Roshaun Mathurin’s well-taken opener came amidst a spell of heavy pressure from us in the opening stages of the game in which striker Jamie Donley went close a couple of times and Maksim Paskotsi, Yago Santiago and Jordan Hackett all hit the woodwork.

But the visitors battled back towards the end of the first half, Michael Forbes’ header hitting the post, and they levelled from the penalty spot shortly after the restart when left-back Hackett was adjudged to have handled the ball in the box and Divin Mubama sent goalkeeper Adam Hayton the wrong way from 12 yards. Romaine Mundle and Donley were both denied by Hammers stopper Kristian Heggi as we pushed for a winner, but there was to be no late drama as the game ended 1-1.

Coach Matt Taylor handed a first league start to Renaldo Torraj at right-back and a debut to Under-16s defender Alfie Dorrington at centre-half and the latter enjoyed a tremendous first-half display, starting an early move that led to the dangerous Mathurin firing over from the right angle.

Donley, another player up from the Under-16s, saw his header superbly saved by Heggi two minutes later, while centre-back Paskotsi – wearing the captain’s armband in the absence of the injured Thimothee Lo-Tutala and suspended Marqes Muir – ventured forward and saw his low shot deflected onto the near post. Mundle was then denied by Heggi before we finally got ourselves in front on 17 minutes when Donley dropped deep and sent a superb left-footed pass in from the right which Mathurin controlled in a central position before firing home. Santiago and Hackett then hit the post and bar with curling efforts from the left side within two minutes of each other while Hackett’s dangerous low centre was almost turned into his own net by skipper Forbes, only for Heggi to bail him out.

West Ham mounted a response as half-time approached and Forbes’ back-post header from Sonny Perkins’ free-kick hit the woodwork while George Earthy fired narrowly wide at the start of the second period before Hackett was deemed to have handled the ball just inside our box and Mubama restored parity with the resulting penalty on 53 minutes.

Hayton denied Mubama one-on-one with a quarter of the game left while his opposite number kept out Mundle’s attempted chip following a great forward pass down the right flank by substitute Dante Cassanova, then tipped Donley’s header over the bar quickly thereafter as we looked to regain the upper hand with 20 minutes left. But despite some persistent weaving runs from deep by Santiago, we couldn’t fashion another opportunity and were forced to settle for a share of the spoils.

‘That first 20- to 30-minute period was the best I’ve seen from this group of players’

Under-18s Coach Matt Taylor said: “The players have maybe been feeling down in the last seven days which is understandable after the FA Youth Cup match, but the way in which we started the game was excellent with some of the passing, how fluid our play was and to create the opportunities that we did in the opposition box, to have the amount of shots that we did and the amount of penalty area entries was really pleasing. The most difficult thing to accept is that we haven’t won the game because I believe with the quality of the players we had on the pitch and the chances created, we should’ve been out of sight in the first 30 minutes. That first 20- to 30-minute period was the best I’ve seen from this group of players all season so I’m really happy about that, but it’s extremely disappointing that we haven’t won the game. We had character today and that’s obviously extremely important. At whatever level, it’s still Tottenham v West Ham so there will still be that element of desperation for both teams to win, but we didn’t abandon our principles. At times we probably should have used the ball better in the second half because they changed their shape, they changed the way they pressed and we probably didn’t figure that out well enough in the second half but having said that, a draw is a result that they’ll probably be happier with than us.”

On the players he brought into the starting line-up, Matt added: “I thought Alfie Dorrington’s first-half performance was excellent, with the ball and without it. In the second half he faced a different challenge as a centre-half where the balls that he was contesting were longer passes and he stood up very well. Renaldo has worked extremely hard to earn his opportunity and he took his chance, so I’m really happy for him. We started the game with two Under-16s players which is fantastic for the Academy and hopefully now we’ll see towards the end of the season that we can get more of the Under-16s group involved with the Under-18s. The good thing about football is that we’ve now got an opportunity in four days’ time against a team, in the form of Crystal Palace, that’s doing extremely well in the league, that we’ve beaten this year, to go and put in another performance and see where that takes us.”

Spurs 1-1 West Ham (Under-18 Premier League)

Spurs: Hayton, Torraj (Cassanova 66), Hackett, Matthew Craig, Dorrington, Paskotsi (c), Mathurin (J Davies 81), Michael Craig, Donley, Mundle, Santiago. Substitutes (not used): Maguire, Kyezu, Haysman.