12/09/2014: Tottenham U21s 3-2 Saints U21s
Saints U21s lost for the first time in the league this season at Tottenham. The visitors threatened in spells, but Spurs were more than worthy of their win.
The first 15 minutes or so were quite congested. The game was played at a fast pace, with Tottenham fizzing the ball about well on the ground. The home side did most of the early pressing, finding gaps out wide. For all of Tottenham's possession, they couldn't quite find that killer pass. Saints defended fairly well as a unit. It took a moment of quality to break Martin Hunter's side down. Ryan Mason fired in off the post from just outside the area for 1-0.
Saints hit back immediately, with Ryan Seager completing a low finish. Spurs were quick to re-establish their lead, however. Josh Debayo fouled Kyle Walker-Peters just inside the penalty area. Emmanuel Sonupe stepped up to send Cody Cropper the wrong way. Saints broke on the counter a few times before the break, but didn't get enough men forward, which led to moves breaking down. Harley Willard, Omar Rowe, Josh Sims and Seager were too isolated when they got the ball. Seager had a header tipped over the bar just before half-time. Willard also tested the keeper with a low drive.
The action quietened down slightly in the 2nd half. Spurs were in control for much of the 45, with Saints only threatening in spells. Hunter changed things up on the hour, brining on Chris Regis for Harley Willard. Regis sat in midfield, allowing Jake Flannigan to move higher up the pitch.
Flannigan's 70th minute free-kick looked to be heading into the top corner, only for Luke McGee to brilliantly tip the ball past the post. From the resulting corner Will Wood headed wide. Saints' set pieces were disappointing all evening. Spurs looked to have wrapped the game up on 75 when Daniel Akindayini made it 3-1. Saints did rally late on. Sims had a shot straight at the keeper before Seager pulled one back on 85. Aside from one more half-chance from Sims however, that was about it from Saints. Spurs saw out the game fairly comfortably, keeping the ball away from their half for much of stoppage time.
Saints were very much second best at White Hart Lane. A few individuals can consider it a satisfying evening, however. Seager has made a good start to the season and looks much more at home playing as the fixed central striker. The forward set the U18 league alight during 2012/13, but didn't progress quite so rapidly last term. This season could be make or break for the natural finisher. Rowe shone once again. While he hasn't come close to featuring in the first team for nearly a year, he has probably been the best of those development squad members who didn't spend most of the summer with Ronald Koeman. Given the paucity of Saints' attacking options right now, it wouldn't be completely outlandish to suggest giving him a slot on the bench, even if it's just to make up the numbers. Willard - who recently signed a pro deal - didn't get on the ball as much as he would of liked, but showed quality in flashes. He is definitely one to keep an eye on during the next few years.
Cropper: Distribution not that great. Did fairly well coming for crosses, but not many big saves of note
Mason: Battled hard, but out-muscled and outwitted by his man a few times
McCarthy: Got out of a few tricky situations with some intelligent defensive work
Wood: Not entirely faultless defensively, but steady enough. Took a few nasty knocks, but managed to complete the 90 minutes
Debayo: A level below his usual high standards. Made some mistakes, but you could still just about tell that he's a quality player
Hesketh: Calm under Tottenham's heavy pressing. Used the ball reasonably well and some good tackles
Flannigan: Stood out a bit more when he played further forward late in the game. A few killer passes
Sims: Asked to do more defensive work than he probably wanted to. An improvement on his West Ham display
Rowe: Class shone through in spells. Created some openings out of nothing
Willard: First competitive U21 outing. Coped fairly well all things considered. Matched up physically against more senior opponents and displayed some excellent technique, but tiring a bit just prior to coming off
Seager: Some good movement in and around the penalty area
Regis: Used his body strength to protect the ball
Tottenham - Mason (26) Sonupe (31) Akindayini (75)
Saints - Seager (27, 85)
Referee: Paul Kelly
Tottenham: McGee, Walker-Peters, McQueen, Mason (Lameiras 59), Veljkovic, Ball, Sonupe (Miller 78), Winks (Lesniak 68), Akindayini, Onomah, Oduwa
Subs not used: Voss, McEneff
Saints: Cropper, Mason, McCarthy, Wood, Debayo, Hesketh, Flannigan, Sims, Rowe, Willard (Regis 60), Seager
Subs not used: Johns, Cook, Little, Barnes