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Skipper Archie rescues point for Under-18s

Spurs 2-2 Southampton (Under-18 Premier League)

Sat 09 March 2024, 14:08|Tottenham Hotspur

A late equaliser from captain Archie Chaplin salvaged a point for our Under-18s at home to Southampton on Saturday.

The defender glanced in a header from Oli Irow’s corner in the 87th minute to make it 2-2 after we’d trailed since a below-par first half, in which Harrison Miles had restored the Saints’ lead after Yusuf Akhamrich’s deflected strike had cancelled out Josh Pitts’ opener.

You sensed a feeling of frustration from the players and coaches despite the late leveller, though, after the manner in which we conceded both goals and the chances we afforded the visitors at times. The result at Hotspur Way left us without a win in three Under-18 Premier League games – four in all competitions following the crushing late loss at Manchester City in the FA Youth Cup last time out.

Coach Stuart Lewis handed Under-16s defender Malachi Hardy his first start at this level in the heart of our back four alongside Chaplin, but it was another youngster, Miracle Adewole, who had our first attempt, arrowing a shot over the bar in the early stages. Chaplin and Maeson King made vital blocks from Nick Oyekunle and Alejandro Gomes at the back, before the latter squared for Pitts to sweep home the visitors’ opener in the 26th minute.

We needed only a minute to draw level, though, as Akhamrich’s shot from just inside the box took a wicked deflection, looping up over goalkeeper Dylan Moody before dropping underneath the crossbar and inside the post. Oyekunle subsequently went through on goal and lifted the ball over the advancing Carey Bloedorn, only to see his effort clip the top of the crossbar as Southampton continued to threaten and they duly restored their lead on 37 minutes, Jayden Moore seeing his header blocked almost on the line before Miles lashed in from a tight angle on the right.

The visitors had another good chance at the start of the second period when Pitts fired wide from Gomes’ right-wing delivery while Irow and Leo Black were narrowly off-target as we tried to mount a response. Tommy Dobson-Ventura had a couple of near-misses at the other end before a brave Bloedorn save at the feet of Sufianu Dibaga ended up leading to our late leveller as we pushed forward, substitute Ellis Lehane couldn’t quite connect with Akhamrich’s cross and the ball was put behind, with Irow’s resulting corner headed home by Chaplin at the front post for his first Under-18 Premier League goal. Bloedorn had to make another sharp save at his near post to deny Jay Robinson moments later, but a share of the spoils was probably fair on the balance of play.

‘We’ve got a lot of work to do on parts of our game’

Under-18s Coach Stuart felt the first-half performance was ‘short of our level’, telling SPURSPLAY: “We had a couple of early opportunities where we could have been a bit more clinical but after that we were slightly disappointed as staff with our reactions in the first half, I thought that could have been much improved and we spoke to the lads at half-time about that, about having the passion that’s needed to win the game and ultimately to do the things that we speak about daily. I thought we were better at that in the second half, we were probably fortunate at times on the counter, Southampton had a couple of opportunities, but probably a draw was a fair result on reflection.”

On our late equaliser, which came from a corner, he added: “They scored from a set-play in the first half and we got the goal late on with a good ball from Oli and a good touch from Archie – we’ve probably wanted him to get on the scoresheet a little bit more at times, but it was good for him to score towards the end, although as a team we’ve got a lot of work to do on parts of our game, so we’ll assess that in the coming days.”

Spurs 2-2 Southampton (Under-18 Premier League)

Spurs: Bloedorn, Adewole, King, Chaplin (c), Hardy, Willhoft-King (Adelusi 66), Irow, Black, Ajayi, Olusesi (Lehane 46), Akhamrich. Substitutes (not used): Archer, Logan, Egan-Riley.