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Under-21s' EFL Trophy progress hopes dented at Cambridge

Cambridge 4-1 Spurs Under-21s (EFL Trophy)

Tue 07 November 2023, 21:00|Tottenham Hotspur

Our hopes of progressing to the knockout stages of the EFL Trophy were dented on Tuesday night as our Under-21s fell 4-1 at Cambridge United in our final group stage game.

Goals either side of half-time at the Abbey Stadium from Kai Yearn and Saiko Janneh had given our hosts a comfortable advantage before Will Lankshear sparked a late fightback, steering home on 72 minutes to reduce the arrears. A gilt-edged chance to level then went begging with seven minutes remaining as Jamie Donley turned the ball wide with the goal gaping before we were twice caught out in our pursuit of an equaliser with strikes from Jack Lankester and Lewis Simper securing the win for the Us. 

The defeat leaves us sitting in the final qualification spot in Southern Group D with only Colchester's clash with leaders Peterborough to be played - and only a Posh win will be enough to see us through.

Despite the final scoreline, we held our own for much of the first half as our incisive build-up from the back went toe-to-toe with a fierce press from Cambridge. Tightly contested throughout, the first 45 minutes played out like a game of cat and mouse as we tried to beat that press.

Yearn was the dangerman for the hosts, continually popping up in the space behind the forward line, and his threat was made clear within minutes of the first whistle as he curled just over after wriggling through our defence - and bar miscued efforts from range from Tyrese Hall and Donley, it was the hosts that controlled proceedings. Spurs Academy product Jubril Okedina glanced a header wide from a corner for the on 23 minutes before John-Kymani Gordon got a sight of goal after we lost the ball on the edge of our box, but his effort was well saved by Josh Keeley.

The danger of Yearn remained though and, after forcing Keeley into a save from range on 35 minutes, it was thew midfielder who broke the deadlock, firing home on the volley from 10 yards six minutes later after we failed to clear our lines.

While the hosts were in control of the game, we did pose a threat when we managed to break through the lines as a goal ruled out for offside on the stroke of half-time for Will Lankshear showed yet, that seemed to just be a flicker of light for us as, after a a forceful start from the hosts after the break, a Janneh strike gave us a mountain to climb. gave us a mountain to climb.

Cambridge should have further extended their lead on 63 minutes as Janneh's cutback picked out Simper in the box, but the midfielder's effort was brilliantly saved by Keeley before he miscued his follow up. The goalkeeper was then called upon to to claw away Jack Lankester's drilled effort from the left.

Struggling to further pierce our armour though, we began to finally get a foothold in the game and began to create. Jude Soonsup-Bell started to find space down the right while Will Lankshear was beginning to give the Us' backline much more to think about. On 68 minutes, the forward almost got us back into the game when he was threaded through, only for Okedina to make a superb challenge to deny him. Yet, Lankshear did get the better of him four minutes later as, with a neat ball through the lines from Jamie Donley, the striker took it round his man and the goalkeeper before squeezing home from a tight angle.

And the creator should have then had us level on 83 minutes. A superb piece of play down the left saw Charlie Sayers released into the box, he showed great composure to cut the ball back for Donley but, as the goal gaped for the in-form forward, he could only send his effort wide of the mark.

That was a miss that we were made to rue five minutes later as the hosts broke down the right before picking out Lankester on the edge of the box, who had time to drill home. It was then made even worse for us as Lankester turned provider, floating a free-kick into the box which was turned home by Simper to rub saltin our wounds.

We will learn whether we will progress to the next round of the competition on Tuesday 21 November when Peterborough host Colchester and know only a Posh victory will see us through.

Cambridge 4-1 Spurs Under-21s (EFL Trophy)

Cambridge: Mannion, Lankester (c), Okedina, Janneh, Haunstrup, Simper, Gordon (Kaunda 90+1), Jobe, Yearn (Ismaili 87), McConnell, Scales. Substitutes (not used): Briggs,, Ewens-Findlay, Staszewski.

Spurs: Keeley, Ashcroft (Ajayi 61), Dorrington, Sayers, Abbott, Lyons-Foster (c), John, Soonsup-Bell (McKnight 77), Hall (Cassanova 64), Donley, Lankshear. Substitutes (not used): Gunter, Robson, Kyerematen, Williams.

Match data

Goals: Cambridge - Yearn 41, Janneh 52, Lankester 88, Simper 90+3; Spurs - Lankshear 72

Yellow card: Cambridge - Simper 78, McConnell 87; Spurs - Donley 70

Referee: Jacob Miles

Venue: Abbey Stadium

Attendance: 1,311

Weather: Clear skies, nine degrees