Sunday, 22 July 2012

Milk Cup Match Report. Tottenham 1-1 Co. Armagh 21/07/12

Lyons-Foster (4), Vincent-Young (C) (2), Ogilvie (3), Walton-Owens (16)
Miller (11), Pritchard (8)
Sonupe (18), Winks (12), Georgiou( 17)
Oduwa (15)

Substitutes: Voss (13) Magbadelo (5) Walkes (6) Campbell-Young (7) Goddard (9) Amos (10) Harrison (14).
(Shirt numbers)

A young Tottenham Hotspur side kicked off their N.I. Milk Cup 2012 campaign with a 1-1 draw against the County Armagh representative side.

Spurs lined up in a fluid 4-2-3-1 formation, which looked more like a 4-3-3 at times. The midfield trio of William Miller, Joe Pritchard and Harry Winks interchanged and rotated willingly and effortlessly when the opportunity arose. All three looked comfortable on the ball, as well as having the energy and effort to retrieve the ball when possession was lost.

Liam Priestley in goal looked assured and he was always willing to accept the ball from his defence as Spurs looked to play out from the back. Kodi Lyons-Foster impressed at right-back as he bombed forward as did left-back Amon Walton-Owens, while both looked competent defensively. Lyons-Foster had a touch of the Kyle Walker's about him as he often over-committed to tackles, before using his pace to recover any mistakes.

Connor Ogilvie, playing as the left of 2 centre-backs, stood out for me. He was calm and assured on the ball and was even able to break forward from deep at times. I've already mentioned on twitter that he looked like the player most capable of making it as a pro, despite not being the Man of the Match on the day.

Nathan Oduwa started the game as the lone striker, but constantly switched with right winger Emmanuel Sonupe and both threatened with their pace when chasing through balls behind the Armagh defence. Left winger Anthony Georgiou looked bright in spells, possessing plenty of skill, but often failing to lift his head when attempting a pass or cross.

It was Oduwa that put Spurs ahead after just a few minutes. Pritchard playing the ball beyond the Armagh defenders and Oduwa finished strongly, low into the bottom corner. He then spun away to celebrate like a pro' in front of the packed stand to the delight of the sprinkling of Tottenham supporters.

Armagh came close soon after though, when a left sided cross found it's way to the back post, but their number 12, Cathal McKenna, couldn't do better with his free header.

Martin Marron, Armagh's goalkeeper, made one of the saves of the game to deny Sonupe after he took his turn attacking through the middle, Marron climbing high to tip his shot around the post. Marron was nearly called into action again quickly, as Oduwa raced onto Winks' perfect through ball only to be denied by a late offside flag.

Oduwa had another chance soon after, but not for the last time today, took too long to apply a finish and was denied by a fine last ditch tackle.
Ogilvie gave the ball away with a sloppy pass but wasteful finishing from the home side left his mistake unpunished.

Sonupe then let up Shamrock Park with a fine piece of skill, bamboozling a couple of markers with some clever trickery in a crowded midfield that was too quick for me to even be sure how he managed it. But a drop of the shoulder and a flick of a heel later and suddenly he went from being surrounded to being out on his own, pulling away from his would be tacklers.

Ogilvie then showed good awareness to block a shot that could have called Priestley into action shortly before the half-time whistle. Spurs were good value for their 1-0 lead at the break, and will probably feel they could have been further ahead.

Captain Kane Vincent-Young was replaced at half-time by Channing Campbell-Young, while the red-headed Ogilvie took over the captaincy.

The new skipper was called into action soon after some pinball and sloppy defending saw the ball burst towards the Tottenham goal but Ogilvie tidied up at the back before recycling possession.

Spurs looked set to go 2-0 up at the other end when Sonupe looked to have beaten the offside trap and beat Marron in the Armagh goal, but saw his shot cannon back off the bar. Oduwa was in again soon after a rare long ball over the top from Campbell-Young, but the tall front man pulled his shot wide.

Ogilvie was left for dead after a long Armagh through ball but Priestley produced a fantastic diving save to beat the goal bound effort away from goal and despite regaining possession, Armagh saw their next shot fly harmlessly over the bar.

A second Spurs change saw the dangerous Sonupe replaced by Shayon Harrison before Oduwa was in again. But once again he wanted more time than he had, and his marker recovered well to get a tackle in.

Another substitution from Spurs saw Pritchard replaced in midfield by the exciting Luke Amos, who despite his small frame, dominated the midfield against larger opponents. His midfield compatriot Harry Winks was also replaced by another diminutive schemer, Cy Goddard, who also impressed.

Armagh nabbed their equaliser, against the run of play following a broken period of play as a result of changes on both sides. The subs' had no part in the goal though, as a mistake from Ogilvie, an awkward high back-pass, let the County Armagh striker to beat Priestley to the hanging ball and head into an empty net.

Luke Amos got his first taste of action, as he swapped the ball from his left foot to his right, before chipping an exquisite ball over the top of Aduwa who delayed before crossing onto his markers arms, penalty Spurs.

Oduwa himself grabbed the ball to take the spot kick, but a long delay followed which seemed to frustrate our number 15. Marron dived low to his right to bat away the effort. Oduwa was soon substituted, Anton Walkes his replacement. His disappointment at missing the penalty added to two tame free-kicks from the first half that landed harmlessly in Marron's arms.

Miller, outstanding for the whole game, played through Georgiou down the left, but a fine recovery tackle left him frustrated.

Spurs nearly had an unlikely hero, as Ogilvie raced clear and looked destined to make up for his previous mistake, but could only shoot straight at Marron and penalty shouts from the rebound were waved away.

Luke Amos then tricked his way clear down the right wing before crossing, but committed Armagh defenders blocked the resultant shot. A final chance went begging for Tottenham as Geogiou again beat his man on the left, before putting a fine low ball in which teased its way across the goal but a stretching Walkes couldn't reach it and our young side were left to wonder what could have been.

1-1 is a decent platform to build on, and the gap of technical ability between the two sides was incredible and is a credit to the work being done throughout the Club. There is a clear mantra being taught at every level, making every player in every age group comfortable on the ball with an eye for a pass. As well as the development of the players and exposure to competition football being more important than results, as it should be in academy football.

Any of the starting midfield threesome could have deservingly be named Man of the Match, but my nomination goes to William Miller, who played the full 70 minutes and kept the team ticking even after the substitutions disrupted the tempo of the side. He's a player I'm looking forward to seeing more of and it must be a nice problem for the coaching staff, including ex-Spur Kieran McKenna, to have trying to fit five excellent ball players into three spots.

Next up for Tottenham on Monday evening are the South Coast Strikers from USA in Limavady at 7pm. They will undoubtedly be hoping to win their next game, as the Milk Cup's format dictates that the four teams with the highest points total enter the semi-finals. The next four highest ranking teams then enter the Milk Cup Globe semi's etc.

It was a pleasure to watch some of the younger players that little is ever written about. There is plenty of fine footballers in the making, in that team, which can only bode well for Tottenham's future.

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