Six unbeaten as U23s held by Rovers
Spurs 1-1 Blackburn Rovers (Premier League 2)
Fri 26 February 2021, 14:15|Tottenham Hotspur
Our Under-23s extended their unbeaten run in the Premier League 2 to six games after earning a 1-1 draw in a feisty encounter with Blackburn Rovers.
After controlling proceedings in the opening 45 minutes, we deservedly took the lead on the stroke of half-time as Kion Etete prodded home from close range. Yet, just before the teams headed in for the break, we were reduced to 10 men as captain Brooklyn Lyons-Foster was sent off.
Within four minutes of the restart, our lead was cancelled out as Rovers were awarded a penalty, converted by Samuel Burns. Despite our man disadvantage, we looked the more likely of the two sides to find a winner in the game with Etete and J’Neil Bennett both coming close for us in the second period. Ultimately though, we had to settle for a point, with the visitors also receiving a red card in the latter stages as opposing skipper Samuel Barnes was dismissed on 88 minutes.
We might have headed into the game sitting three points and two positions behind second-placed Rovers in the table, but we enjoyed the better of the early exchanges at Hotspur Way.
Marcel Lavinier, Nile John and Dilan Markanday all started in the clash, fresh from being involved in Wednesday’s first team matchday squad for our Europa League round of 32 second leg win over Wolfsberger AC - and all three of them linked up for the first effort of note in the game on nine minutes. Lavinier and Markanday provided the creative element with a neat interchange on the right but, once threaded through on goal, John could not provide the finish as he fired over. Six minutes later, we went a step closer to taking the lead as Bennett crashed a close-range effort off the post.
That missed chance was one we were almost made to regret though as just after the half-hour mark, Rovers’ forward Burns found himself one-on-one with goalkeeper Josh Oluwayemi. Our man between the sticks, however, reacted brilliantly and bravely to turn the ball away. Defender Lyons-Foster was then called upon to make a goal line clearance from the resultant corner.
That was as good as it got for the visitors in the opening period though as we quickly regained control of the game and, once again, created another great opportunity to take the lead. Dennis Cirkin started the attack, breaking with pace down the left. A quick interchange then followed between himself and Bennett before the ball was rolled into the centre of the box for Jamie Bowden. Under pressure from two defenders, however, Bowden couldn’t get the desired purchase on the ball as he dragged his effort wide.
Yet, on the stroke of half-time we did manage to break the deadlock as Etete reacted quickest to a looping loose ball and force it over the line. In the moments that followed though, we were reduced to 10 men as Lyons-Foster was dismissed for an off-the-ball incident.
Just four minutes after the restart, the visitors were level. Markanday was penalised for a foul on Lenni Cirino in the box and Burns stepped up to dispatch the resultant penalty. For the next five minutes, we were made to weather a slight storm as Blackburn looked to capitalise on their numerical advantage, however, we remained strong at the back with George Marsh filling in the void left by Lyons-Foster. Oluwayemi also claimed every cross that came into the box.
From that platform, we built and ended up looking the more likely of the two sides to score the next goal. Bennett was a constant threat down the left without seriously testing visiting goalkeeper, Antonis Stergiakis. Our best chance of the second period fell to goalscorer Etete. He was slipped in by the impressive John with just over 20 minutes remaining but Stergiakis did well to react quickly and block the forward’s effort from the angle.
One final half-chance fell our way as we approached full-time but John’s drilled effort from distance was held, just, by Blackburn’s number one. Then, with just two minutes left, Rovers’ man advantage was wiped out as their skipper Barnes was shown his second yellow card of the game to see the teams finish square not just on the scoreline, but also personnel.
‘They showed real character, resilience and bravery’
Under-23s coach Wayne Burnett admitted that, while his players were ultimately left disappointed not to take the victory, despite their numerical disadvantage, he was pleased with the application they showed, not just to earn a point, but to continue to fight for all three.
“I thought some of our football in the first half was very good. I thought we probably deserved to go in at the break in front but then the sending off seemed to change the complexion of the game a little,” he explained. “But we came out in the second half and said we needed to continue to be positive, both with and without the ball, and I think we showed that. We had more opportunities on their goal than they did on ours and we probably had the better of the chances in the second half - that was really pleasing.
“We continued to try and do what we had set out to do from the first whistle. It was going to be difficult because we had one less player but what the players cannot be faulted for is their endeavour, work ethic, application and desire to want to win the game. We could have just sat back and defended for 45 minutes but we didn’t and that was pleasing. We continued to press to win the game and we continued to show the right application. We covered a lot of ground and I think the group did themselves proud considering they played for that amount of time with one less man. Afterwards, they were disappointed that we hadn’t won the game, but sometimes your efforts aren’t always rewarded - that’s football.”
Spurs 1-1 Blackburn Rovers (Premier League 2)
Spurs: Oluwayemi, Lavinier, Cirkin, Marsh, Lyons-Foster (c), Omole, Bennett, John, Etete, Bowden (Pedder 85), Markanday (Scarlett 72). Substitutes (not used): Lo-Tutala, Asante, Skinner.
Blackburn: Stergiakis, Whitehall, Cirino, Garrett, Barnes (c), Annesley, Durrant (Harlock 77), Rankin-Costello (Saadi 77), Burns, Nolan, Baker (Thompson 66). Substitutes (not used): Dowling, Connolly.
Goals: Spurs - Etete 45; Blackburn - Burns (pen) 49.
Yellow cards: Blackburn - Burns 40, Garrett 43, Barnes 45+2, Cirino 60.
Red cards: Spurs - Lyons-Foster 45+2; Blackburn - Barnes 88 (second yellow).
Referee: Alan Dale.
Venue: Hotspur Way.
Weather: Sunny, 11 degrees.