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Under-18s defeated by Fulham

Fulham 5-0 Spurs (Under-18 Premier League)

Wed 17 February 2021, 15:01|Tottenham Hotspur

Our Under-18s fell to just their third league defeat of the season on Wednesday at Fulham.

In difficult conditions at the London School of Economics Sports Ground, the hosts took control of the game in the first half as two goals from Mika Biereth and then a Luke Harris header put them 3-0 ahead at the break. Kieron Bowie then made it four just after the interval before Biereth completed his hat-trick on the hour mark to make it 5-0. We improved as the game went on, coming closest in the final few minutes through Max Robson, but it wasn't to be on a disappointing afternoon for us.

The game had started as a rather scrappy affair with neither team quite able to get hold of the ball. The heavens opened just a quarter of an hour into the game and by that time, Fulham had already shown their threat as Biereth had tested goalkeeper Aaron Maguire within the first 10 minutes, our man between the sticks producing a fine save to keep out the forward’s close-range header. Yet, on 18 minutes, there was little Maguire could do to stop Biereth a second time as the striker volleyed home at the far post to give the hosts the lead.

Incredibly, despite a difficult start to the game, we could have been level just over a minute later as Robson went close with a speculative acrobatic effort. That, however, would be the last sniff of goal we would have for a while as the intensity of Fulham’s play stepped up from that moment. Out of possession, they harried and pressed us while also looking to exploit our high line. Their tenacious pressing almost saw them double their lead on 24 minutes, only for Maguire to bravely smother the ball with Biereth ready to pounce. Four minutes later, however, he wasn’t to be denied again as the striker rolled home his second of the game after picking up a loose ball inside the box.

Chances continued to come the Cottagers’ way, including two which forced us into goal-line clearances, before they found their third of the afternoon with five minutes of the first half remaining. Harris was the man to get his name of the scoresheet as he nodded home Oliver O'Neill's free-kick with a free header.

Despite an encouraging start to the second period, within five minutes of the game resuming, Fulham found a fourth. A long ball forward saw Biereth break down the left flank and into the box. From there, he squared the ball to his strike partner Bowie who finished first-time past Maguire from the centre of the area. Eight minutes later, Biereth wrapped up his hat-trick and the game's scoring as he rattled in from close range after a deflected clearance had fallen kindly for him.

Despite our struggles, we continued to battle and show our fight in the game and benefitted from our substitutes' efforts. The introductions in attack of Eddie Carrington and Tarrelle Whittaker had given us a renewed energy up front, while the addition of Matthew Craig in midfield provided us with a different platform to build from. Fulham did have two more good openings, but we defended those well before we went in search of a consolation – something we nearly found two minutes from time.

Hopefully the players will use this as a steep learning curve, especially with conditions like that.

Under-18s Coach Matt Taylor

Carrington was integral in the chance as he drove the ball forward, beat his man before finding his way into the box. Then, looking up for support, he picked out the unmarked Robson in the middle of the area. Striking for goal, the midfielder's effort was ultimately comfortable for Fulham's goalkeeper Demott Mee, as the pace was taken out of the strike when it bounced off the turf – an exhibit of a frustrating outing for us in Surrey.

‘We tried to play our way’

Dissecting the defeat, Under-18s Coach Matt Taylor felt his side struggled to adapt to the conditions of the game. However, he is hoping we can learn from the disappointment and immediately bounce back to winning ways in Saturday’s trip to Aston Villa.

“We didn’t deal with the physical aspect of the opposition,” Matt explained. “Individually and collectively, we weren’t good enough today, so it was a difficult one for us to take. I’m not going to stand here and make excuses – the conditions were the same for both teams – they adapted better than we did. At times we tried to play our way, but the conditions weren’t conducive to that.

“There’s always a why – I think that’s the important thing – ‘why did you lose the game?’ Hopefully the players will use this as a steep learning curve, especially with conditions like that. It's just now about making sure that the players notice that on the pitch, and if they can see it, how they can then make sure their game is changed slightly to deal with, ultimately, a tough opposition. It's only our third league defeat of the season which, in itself, is a positive statistic. We are lucky in football that the players have the opportunity in three days’ time to go and put today right.”

Fulham 5-0 Spurs (Under-18 Premier League)

Spurs: Maguire, Cassanova, Hackett, John, Muir (c), Paskotsi, Mathurin (Carrington 64), Devine (Matthew Craig 67), Mundle (Whittaker 73), Robson, Santiago. Substitute (not used): Lo-Tutala.