Late drama as Under-18s claim first win
Spurs 3-2 Reading (Under-18 Premier League)
Sat 11 September 2021, 13:47|Tottenham Hotspur
Jamie Donley cancelled out a stoppage-time equaliser from Reading's David Nyarko with an even later winner to give our Under-18s a deserved first victory of the season at Hotspur Way on Saturday.
A spectacular opener from Renaldo Torraj and a cool finish from Jaden Williams had us in control at the break but it wasn't all one-way traffic and we were indebted to goalkeeper Adam Hayton for a string of excellent saves to keep the Royals at bay.
Jordan Addo-Antoine pulled one back with a close-range tap-in after one such stop within moments of the restart but we retained the upper hand and seemed destined to win 2-1 until Nyarko's deflected shot from 18 yards out crept into the net in the 93rd minute.
But to the credit of Stuart Lewis' side, we kept pushing forward and grabbed a sensational 95th-minute winner, Donley bundling over the line after Williams had twice been denied from close range, sparking wild celebrations among the players.
With a number of injury absentees, we gave Under-18 Premier League debuts to Under-16s defender Archie Chaplin and midfielder Sam Amo as both sides went into the game looking for their first points of the season. Hamid Abdel-Salam scooped an early shot over the bar for Reading while Donley and Khalon Haysman went close before the breakthrough arrived on 31 minutes. Haysman's cross was half-cleared, Dante Cassanova's shot was charged down at the edge of the box but the ball came to Torraj, who assessed his options before sending a swirling strike high into the net from 20 yards.
Hayton saved brilliantly from Caylan Vickers and then turned away Harry Murphy's angled strike as Reading looked for a quick equaliser, while striker Williams was left kicking himself after charging down a clearance from visiting goalkeeper Matthew Rowley and surging towards an empty net, only to be denied by a last-ditch tackle from behind by centre-back Kelvin Abrefa before he could pull the trigger. Williams redeemed himself in the first minute of first-half stoppage time, though, as he ran onto Donley's through ball and slotted home for 2-0.
Reading hit back six minutes after the break as Addo-Antoine converted at the back post after Hayton had saved Nyarko's shot, with Nyarko and substitute Aston Greaver also denied by the goalkeeper in the moments that followed. Rio Kyerematen had a good chance for us just minutes after coming off the bench, but was thwarted by Rowley at his near post, while fellow substitute Tom Bloxham couldn't quite get to Donley's cross on the stretch in front of goal as another opportunity to kill the game slipped away.
Reading hadn't threatened much in the last half-an-hour but in the third minute of added time, Nyarko's shot from 18 yards out took a deflection and sailed past Hayton to level the scores. We weren't to be denied, though, and two minutes later grabbed the winner after a sustained spell of pressure was finally finished off by Donley, the forward forcing the ball home from close range after Williams had been denied by both Abrefa and Rowley in quick succession.
'You could see from the celebrations that it meant a lot'
Under-18s Coach Stuart Lewis was delighted with the outcome, explaining afterwards: "I'm really pleased for the lads to get their first win of the season, especially in the last minute - that's always a great feeling and you could see from the celebrations at the end that it meant a lot to them. I felt on the balance of play we deserved to get the win and we had some really pleasing elements to our performance. We wanted to keep building on some of the things that we've been showing in our previous games where there have been some good parts to our play and it was just about applying the final touches to that and getting that belief that comes with a victory, so it was great to get that today and I'm over the moon for the players."
With his squad unfortunately hit by some long-term injuries of late, Stuart dedicated the win to those members of the group who are battling hard on the road to recovery. Among them is attacker Roshaun Mathurin, who unfortunately suffered a serious knee injury in training last month and looks set for an extended spell on the sidelines.
"Some of our players have encountered some really difficult injuries and we'll obviously support them completely in that," Stuart added. "Our squad is a very young group, predominantly first-years, we had two Under-16s who played today and did really well, some of the second-years have led well but for a couple of other second-years who have encountered some major injury setbacks, we're supporting them and it was really good to get that win for them today as well. A couple of them were with us on and around the bench and Roshaun has already texted me to congratulate the team as well, so it's important that we win for the whole group, as everyone still has a part to play."
Spurs 3-2 Reading (Under-18 Premier League)
Spurs: Hayton, Torraj, Linton, Cassanova (c), Dorrington, Chaplin, Amo (Bloxham 68), Haysman (Kyerematen 63), Williams, Donley, Owen (McKnight 81). Substitutes (not used): Krasniqi, Heaps.