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#U18 #MatchReport #Stoke #LucaGunter

Gunter shines on debut as Under-18s draw with Potters

Spurs 0-0 Stoke City (Under-18 Premier League Cup)

Sat 16 October 2021, 16:37|Tottenham Hotspur

Goalkeeper Luca Gunter pulled off a string of vital saves to maintain a clean sheet on his Under-18s debut as our youngsters battled out a goalless draw with Stoke City in the Under-18 Premier League Cup on Saturday afternoon.

In the second of our three group stage games in the competition, we had the better chances of the first half at Hotspur Way as Tom Bloxham rounded goalkeeper Connor Robson, only to be denied by a last-ditch block by defender Logan Laird, while Jaden Williams hit the base of the post with a good attempt shortly before the break.

But the Potters fashioned more opportunities during the second period and we were indebted to Gunter for a number of brilliant stops, the England youth international denying Shilo Waldo, Jack Griffiths and Matty Lusakueno in separate instances while Stoke spurned a couple of other attempts as they sought a breakthrough.

Nevertheless, we did enough to keep the visitors at bay and put our first point on the board ahead of our third and final group stage game at Fulham next month. The group winners and best runner-up from across the competition advance to the knockout stages.

In addition to Gunter, who recently recovered from a wrist injury that had kept him out since the summer, Under-18s Coach Stuart Lewis handed a debut to midfielder Han Willhoft-King, who started alongside Under-16s team-mate Sam Amo-Ameyaw in a youthful line-up. Defender Brandon Bryan-Waugh earned his first competitive start of the season at this level, but we had to do without the services of Jamie Donley and Rio Kyerematen, who are away on international duty with England Under-17s.

Neither side really took hold of the game in the opening stages but from the 20-minute mark, we began to carve the visitors open and create openings for ourselves. Striker Williams was just unable to get enough on Jahziah Linton’s left-wing cross to steer the ball on target while Bloxham went through on goal and rounded the advancing Robson approaching the half-hour mark, only to see Laird get back in time to block his shot in the area. Williams did well to dig out a shot from inside the Stoke box three minutes before half-time, but his effort cannoned back off the far post.

We would come to rue those missed chances in the second period as we struggled to create much in the final third, although Gunter and his defence made sure we weren’t punished at the other end. Waldo had a couple of shots in quick succession at the start of the half, the first blocked well by Gunter’s legs and the second zipping across goal and wide, with Gunter then beating away Griffiths’ shot to his left. Khalon Haysman drilled fractionally wide for us before Lusakueno had the Potters’ best chance to win it on 68 minutes, only for Gunter to save one-on-one and then stretch to claim the rebound with the visitors’ forwards still prowling.

Amo-Ameyaw juggled his way through the visitors’ back line but saw his deft attempt claimed by Robson, while Stoke substitute Ted Cargill whipped a shot across goal and wide, with George Lewis’ attempt blocked in the box by centre-half Alfie Dorrington a few minutes later as the Potters’ attempts to find a winner came to nothing.

‘A much-improved defensive display’

Under-18s Coach Stuart reflected: “There’s a feeling of disappointment in the group because obviously we wanted to win the game. We had some good opportunities to score in the first half but that said, as a whole, it was a much-improved defensive display from the team – the willingness to make blocks, to defend set-pieces, to defend as a collective and individually was there and it was good to get a clean sheet off the back of that. Luca coming in after injury was a real plus – he alongside the back four provided a positive for us, showing the importance of those defensive habits which we’ve been working really hard on.

“With two Under-16s in the team as well, it was a good experience for them and I thought they both played really well and showed real character and personality to play for the Under-18s in a cup game. There was a real steel to us in the second half but we probably lacked a little bit in the final third to win the game.”

Spurs 0-0 Stoke City (Under-18 Premier League Cup)

Spurs: Gunter, Bryan-Waugh, Linton, Cassanova (c), Dorrington, Andiyapan, Amo-Ameyaw, Willhoft-King (Owen 70), Williams, Haysman, Bloxham (Abbott 86). Substitutes (not used): Hayton, McKnight.