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Under-18s go top with last-gasp winner over Villa

Spurs 3-2 Aston Villa (Under-18 Premier League)

Fri 12 January 2024, 15:00|Tottenham Hotspur

Our Under-18s made a perfect start to 2024 thanks to Tyrese Hall’s dramatic 97th-minute winner against Aston Villa on Friday afternoon.

Ellis Lehane gave us a deserved lead from the penalty spot in the 18th minute before Hall doubled our lead with his first of the afternoon after stealing the ball in midfield and slotting a composed finish on 32 minutes.

For all our dominance throughout the contest, we were made to rue missed chances as our opponents got back on level terms in eight second-half minutes. Just after Villa goalkeeper Sam Proctor had given his side a lifeline to deny Miracle Adewole our third with 20 minutes to play, the visitors sprung into life with goals from Charlie Pavey and substitute Abube Onuchukwu restoring parity with nine minutes of normal time remaining.

However, as the clocked ticked into the seventh minute of stoppage-time, our young midfielder showed his class by starting and finishing a superb team move to earn all three points and reclaim top spot in the Under-18 Premier League.

Up against a Villa side who had already got the better of us in the season opener in August 2023, this had the hallmarks of a tricky contest to start the New Year for Stuart Lewis’ young side. In a major boost to the matchday squad, key attacking duo Oliver Irow and Mikey Moore were back in the fold after injury with the former named on the right of our front three from the start.

After a scheduled block of training over the festive period, there were no signs of rustiness as we enjoyed a fast start to proceedings with Irow causing havoc in attack to create good early chances for Lehane and Kieran Morgan inside the first quarter. Irow and Callum Olusesi continued to threaten down our right flank and the pair combined to great effect with a neat give-and-go that led to a penalty awarded after Olusesi was bundled over inside the area on 18 minutes. Lehane made no mistake from 12 yards as he sent the Proctor the wrong way to break the deadlock.

For all our excellent work in possession to create opportunities, as Adewole and Morgan squandered chances to double our lead midway through the first half, our second came through our work-rate off the ball. As the away side looked to build up from the back, our forwards’ intensity in the press forced a short pass into deep midfield and Hall was there to pounce on his opposite number before placing a neat, low finish for 2-0 just after the half-hour mark.

Looking comfortable with our two-goal advantage, the hints at a Villa comeback were there to see with their best chances falling either side of the break as first Cole Brannigan was denied by Carey Bloedorn on 43 minutes and then Maeson King produced a goal-saving block to keep out half-time substitute Brad Burrows’ attempt minutes after the restart.

With Irow working his way back to full fitness, Lewis turned to the returning Moore in the 58th minute to give the young forward his first minutes since 28 October 2023. And the 16-year-old’s impact was almost instant when, moments later, he produced a lovely nutmeg and driving run to create a goalscoring opportunity but his eventual shot was kept out with Olusesi seeing his rebound blocked. However, in the 71st minute, that Villa revival was suddenly on out of nowhere. In a frantic passage of play, Adewole was denied what looked a certain goal by a strong right hand from Proctor before the Villans instantly broke down the other end and a recovering King brought down I-Lani Edwards in the box with Pavey halving the deficit from the spot.

Lehane then headed over a golden chance to restore our two-goal cushion – after some lovely interplay between Moore and the impressive Leo Black down the left channel – on 78 minutes but we were punished three minutes later when substitutes Burrows and Onuchukwu combined to level proceedings.

Not content with a draw, suddenly our young side had to dig deep and it took a moment of inspiration from the influential Hall to win the game with seconds remaining. Needing someone to step up when needed, the 18-year-old swivelled away from his marker on halfway, played in the tireless Lehane who found Moore inside the box and he squared to an unmarked Hall who showed the poise to finish from close range and spark jubilant scenes at Hotspur Way.

Up next is an enticing FA Youth Cup trip to Burton Albion Under-18s on Tuesday night (16 January), who knocked out Aston Villa in the previous round.

Watch - Lewis reflects on our dramatic win over Villa

Spurs 3-2 Aston Villa (Under-18 Premier League)

Spurs: Bloedorn, Black, Chaplin (c), King, Logan (Egan-Riley 58); Hall, Morgan, Olusesi; Irow (Moore 58), Lehane, Adewole. Substitutes (not used): Archer, Adelusi, Arganese-McDermott.