Final-day win proves insufficient for Under-21s
Spurs 1-0 West Ham United (Premier League 2)
Sun 07 May 2023, 14:20|Tottenham Hotspur
The curtain fell on a difficult season for our Under-21s with a 1-0 home win over West Ham United on Sunday, but it wasn't enough to avoid a bottom two finish in the Premier League 2 table.
Results last weekend meant we had to win by three clear goals to secure top-flight safety - an outcome that would have conversely relegated the Hammers - but after taking an early lead at Hotspur Way through Jamie Donley, we couldn't press home the advantage, Krisztian Hegyi in the West Ham goal making a string of fine saves throughout the remainder of the first half as we sought to rack up the amount of goals required.
With the visitors happy to sit in, we struggled to create anything in the way of clear-cut opportunities after the break and were reduced to 10 men in the last couple of minutes when substitute Kallum Cesay was shown a straight red card after an incident involving West Ham's Regan Clayton. Romaine Mundle also saw red after the final whistle as a challenging campaign at this level ended with a 13th-place finish - we've ended up level on points with Wolverhampton Wanderers and West Ham but, while they're outside the drop zone, we're below them on goal difference. Only two points separate us from ninth-place Manchester United in a congested lower half of the table.
Several factors have contributed to our overall position but with player development always at the fore, the brave performances on show in spells on Sunday - and for much of the second half of the campaign - certainly point towards a bright future for our Academy starlets.
Indeed, three members of our starting XI and two substitutes played in our Under-18 Premier League Cup final-winning side at Aston Villa on Thursday, with the group once more able to draw on the experience of Lucas Moura, who again showed his professionalism with a thoroughly committed display. Fellow first team squad members Pape Matar Sarr and Brandon Austin also picked up valuable game time, the latter keeping a clean sheet on his first appearance at this level in over two years.
In truth, Austin didn't have much to do as West Ham prioritised defending from the outset, although when Mundle kept the ball in play down the right flank and crossed for Donley to turn home from six yards out with only eight minutes played, you sensed we might pull off the great escape.
Hegyi was at his best to keep out Sarr's free-kick and Donley's first-time shot from Lucas' cut-back down to his right, before beating away Mundle's shot from distance as we tried to build on our lead before the first half had reached its mid-way point. Lucas tried a free-kick moments later which smacked off the outside of the post before an angled drive from Matthew Craig inside the box was somehow blocked on the line by Hegyi in the lead-up to half-time.
Donley's free-kick at the start of the second period again forced Hegyi into action, but the chances dried up for us after that as West Ham began to stifle our advances, slowing the game down and creating a couple of openings for themselves. George Earthy notbaly hit the outside of the post just before the hour mark, while Austin deflected Dan Chesters' angled drive onto the underside of the bar on its way in, but the offside flag went up and it remained 1-0. We had a whiff of an opening seven minutes from time when Alfie Devine flicked on Mundle's corner at the near post, but the ball arrived at an awkward height for substitute Nile John at the far post and he could only cushion a shot over the bar.
Cesay's red card for lashing out at Clayton after the latter's initial challenge on him in the 89th minute didn't help our cause but, with no further chances coming our way, we couldn't add to the scoreline.
Spurs 1-0 West Ham United (Premier League 2)
Spurs: Austin, Abbott (Cesay 68), Craig (c), Dorrington, Lyons-Foster, Sarr (John 68), Mundle, Donley (Moore 68), Santiago (Ajayi 81), Devine, Lucas. Substitute (not used): Keeley.
West Ham United: Hegyi (c), Chesters, Luizao, Potts, Casey, Laing, Simon-Swyer (Marshall 46), Appiah-Forson, Mubama (Scarles 87), Earthy (Okoflex 84), Clayton. Substitutes (not used): Knightbridge, Orford.
Goal: Spurs - Donley 8.
Yellow cards: Spurs - Devine 26, Sarr 29, Mundle 90+5; West Ham - Laing 10, Casey 28, Luizao 54, Mubama 84, Clayton 89, Potts 90+6.
Red card: Spurs - Cesay 89.
Referee: Aji Ajibola.
Venue: Hotspur Way, Enfield.
Weather: Sunny intervals, gentle breeze, 19 degrees.