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#U18 #MatchReport #Arsenal #ThomasBloxham #JadenWilliams

Second-half display goes unrewarded in Under-18s' north London derby

Arsenal 3-2 Spurs (Under-18 Premier League)

Sat 08 January 2022, 14:52|Tottenham Hotspur

A spirited fightback from our young side was undone by Khayon Edwards’ header 15 minutes from time as our first Under-18 Premier League outing of 2022 ended in a narrow defeat at Arsenal on Saturday.

Having gifted the Gunners two goals in the opening period, we rallied back in the second half and hauled ourselves level through Tom Bloxham and Jaden Williams – only for Edwards to steal in and make it 3-2 to the hosts as we moved towards the closing stages.

It was a real blow after the efforts of Stuart Lewis’ team, much changed from the big FA Youth Cup win over Ipswich in our last game before Christmas. With regular centre-backs Alfie Dorrington and Charlie Sayers both absent, Will Andiyapan and Under-16s defender Archie Chaplin manned the barricades with commitment, while there was a first league start for Jez Davies in midfield alongside Chaplin’s Under-16s comrade Han Willhoft-King. Another of our Under-16s, Jayden Meghoma, made his debut at this level off the bench in the second half, while there was a welcome return to the matchday squad for goalkeeper Aaron Maguire, who was named among our substitutes after missing the first half of the season through injury.

We struggled to get going in the first half and Arsenal took advantage to open up an early lead. After we’d just about dealt with a corner, Andiyapan cleared the ball into space on the flank but Charles Sagoe Junior was first to it, cutting back in off the right side and firing across Luca Gunter into the far corner of the net inside eight minutes. Sagoe Junior then stole possession from Davies, exchanged passes with Mauro Bandeira and crossed for Edwards to tap in at the far post for 2-0 on 21 minutes, leaving us with a mountain to climb.

We were much improved after the break though, Rio Kyerematen getting at the Gunners with some driving runs from midfield and it was through those means that we pulled a goal back nine minutes after the restart. We built from a free-kick on half-way with Kyerematen pushing forward purposefully, his attempt to find striker Williams in the box was cut out by defender Taylor Foran who then blocked Kyerematen's shot from the edge of the box, but Bloxham was alive to the situation and latched onto the loose ball around the outside to the left before firing home.

To concede quite late in the game was obviously disappointing, but the boys were excellent in the second half.

Under-18s Coach Stuart Lewis

We fashioned more chances in the second half, Kyerematen having a go on his left foot from the edge of the area and Meghoma getting into the box, only to take his shot on early and find the side netting. Substitute Billy Heaps gave us a bit more control in central midfield and it was he who made our equaliser on the 70-minute mark, intercepting Sweet's pass out from the back and playing a perfect through ball which Williams took under control with an exquisite touch as he spun in behind Foran in one movement before clinically firing into the bottom corner.

Gunter made an important save moments later, but couldn't prevent the hosts from snatching a decisive third goal with a quarter-of-an-hour left as Foran, after a short free-kick, played a diagonal ball out to Sweet on the right, who crossed into the centre where Edwards bagged his second of the game with a downward glancing header.

Having impressed during the second half, we'll be looking to bounce back when we go to Southampton in the league next Saturday.

‘The reaction at half-time was excellent’

Under-18s Coach Stuart reflected: “In the first half we suffered from a slow start so we’ve got to learn from that, but the reaction at half-time was excellent and I felt we dominated the second half and had some outstanding individual displays.

“The bravery and courage we played with was a real plus point, we showed real character to get back into the game and then to concede quite late in the game was obviously disappointing, but the boys were excellent in the second half. We were a young side too – we finished the game with three Under-16s players on the pitch – and although we’re obviously extremely disappointed to lose the game, I was encouraged by some of the performances after half-time.”

Arsenal 3-2 Spurs (Under-18 Premier League)

Spurs: Gunter, Bryan-Waugh, Hackett (Meghoma 46), Willhoft-King, Andiyapan, Chaplin, McKnight (Owen 72), J Davies (Heaps 62), Williams, Kyerematen (c), Bloxham. Substitutes (not used): Maguire, Abbott.