Under-23s held in Lancashire goal-fest
Blackburn 3-3 Spurs (Premier League 2)
Fri 17 September 2021, 21:00|Tottenham Hotspur
Our Under-23s were forced to settle for a point in a Premier League 2 thriller on Friday night as they were held to a 3-3 draw away to Blackburn Rovers.
Having stormed ahead to a 2-0 lead at the Leyland County Ground with Nile John drilling home on 14 minutes before Harvey White headed in 13 minutes later, we were then pegged back by the hosts with former Norwich City midfielder Bradley Johnson driving in a free-kick on 38 minutes and Connor McBride converting a penalty kick two minutes before the break. We did regain the lead just before the interval though through Tobi Omole - only for the defender to then send the ball into his own net midway through the second half to bring the scores back level.
Pressing to the last to find a winner, we had a glorious chance for just that in the first minute of stoppage time as we were awarded a late penalty with Lenni Cirino deemed to have handled the ball on the line. The defender was shown a red card however, White could not convert the spot-kick, with Antonis Stergiakis producing the save.
The tone of the game was set early on with a flurry of chances for both sides inside the opening 10 minutes. The first fell to us within the first minute but Alfie Devine was unable to keep his strike from the angle on target after being threaded through by John. The hosts then soon had their first chance of the game and McBride might have troubled goalkeeper Josh Oluwayemi had Malachi Fagan-Walcott not bravely blocked the striker’s close-range effort. Full-back Cirino then should have done better on 10 minutes as, after having carried the ball 45 yards and into the box, he could only find the side netting with his low drive.
For much of the opening phase, we were allowed to hold onto the ball and dominate possession. With such control, we took a deserved lead on 14 minutes with John drilling low across the goalkeeper and into the corner. We then doubled our advantage 13 minutes later as White powerfully headed Jack Clarke’s teasing cross home. The midfielder then almost made it three on 34 minutes as he drew a smart save out of goalkeeper Stergiakis from distance as we continued to assert our dominance.
A period of ill-discipline from us however, allowed the hosts back into the game. First, a foul from Brooklyn Lyons-Foster on the edge of the box on 38 minutes gave Johnson the chance to drill home a free-kick, which he duly did. Then, four minutes later, the referee spotted an infringement from Fagan-Walcott in the box and awarded the hosts a penalty. McBride stepped up and dispatched.
Having lost our healthy advantage in the game, you could sense the team’s frustration on the pitch, yet it was something they put to good use as it re-energised us on the attack. We came agonisingly close to retaking the lead on the stroke of half-time as, after the referee awarded us a free-kick of our own on 45 minutes, White’s curling effort cannoned off the crossbar. We were not to be denied again though as deep into stoppage time White turned creator, sending his corner from the right into the six-yard box where Omole was waiting to bundle the ball home.
Looking for an equaliser, it was the hosts that came out for the second half with the bit between their teeth. They controlled the play for the opening 15 minutes, but were unable to seriously test Oluwayemi, despite creating promising openings through Jared Harlock, Sam Burns and Sam Durrant. On 68 minutes though, they did get themselves back on terms with Luke Brennan’s effort deflecting in off Omole.
Needing to push to restore our advantage, we regained control of the ball and pushed forward. Enjoying possession, Rovers allowed us to play it around their box with John, Devine and Clarke all causing the hosts problems however, we couldn’t quite fashion the required opening. When we did find an opening, usually from a dead-ball situation, we couldn’t get the desired connection to the delivery to really test Stergiakis, with both Fagan-Walcott and Lyons-Foster mistiming strikes. With five minutes to play, Dilan Markanday then did force the Rovers goalkeeper into a save as he picked up a loose ball and struck from range.
Our best chance was still to come though as in the first minute of stoppage time, we should have had a winner. Markanday was picked out in the box brilliantly by Yago Santiago but, striking first time, his effort was blocked on the line by Cirino. The referee however, deemed the defender to have used his arm – a red card and penalty followed. White stepped up to the ball but, despite firing hard towards the corner, goalkeeper Stergiakis produced a spectacular save to ensure both teams shared the spoils.
‘We probably became a bit too content’
Under-23s coach Wayne Burnett admitted the feeling within the squad was one of two points dropped rather than a point gained after the draw in Lancashire.
“We scored two very well-taken goals. At 2-0, I thought we were in complete control of the game, but then we lost a little bit of concentration, we probably became a bit too content and gave them a lifeline by giving them two goals,” he explained. “The first one was probably from our mistake. The second one – we’ve looked at it now - we don’t believe it was a penalty and then it was 2-2. We scored before half-time to make it 3-2, but then gave them another goal which is deflected.
“It’s disappointing that we’ve missed a penalty in the 92nd minute but that isn’t the reason why we haven’t won the game. I thought we had enough within the game, enough of the ball within the 90 minutes to win the game. We probably feel like it’s two points dropped than one point gained.”
Blackburn 3-3 Spurs (Premier League 2)
Blackburn: Stergiakis, Ferguson, Cirino, Phillips, Pratt, Johnson (c) (Wharton 46), Burns, Harlock (Edmundson 66), McBride, Durrant (Gilsenan 71), Brennan. Substitutes (not used): Eastham, Gamble.
Spurs: Oluwayemi, Matthew Craig, Cesay, Lyons-Foster (c), Fagan-Walcott, Omole, Clarke (Santiago 77), White, Markanday, John (Pedder 85), Devine. Substitutes (not used): Lo-Tutala, Lavinier.
Goals: Rovers – Johnson 38, McBride 43, Omole OG 68; Spurs – John 14, White 27, Omole 45+5.
Yellow cards: Rovers – Phillips 44, Pratt 65; Spurs – Markanday 20, Lyons-Foster 36, Clarke 40, Fagan-Walcott 42, Devine 43, John 73.
Red card: Rovers – Cirino 90+1.
Referee: Andrew Miller.
Venue: The Leyland County Ground, Lancashire FA.
Weather: Clear skies, 19 degrees.