Thanks to Chris Fincham for this exclusive report on last night's first official reserve game of the season:-
FA PREMIER RESERVE LEAGUE SOUTH
Tues 12th August, 2003, k.o.7.00pm
Leicester City Reserves 1 (1) Spurs Reserves 1 (1)
Coyne, Curtis, Deen, Lewis, Heath, Priet, Brooker, Williamson, Benjamin, Larvin (O'Grady, 70), Stewart. Subs: Doyle, Logan, O'Grady, Pearman, Tozer.
Sullivan, Marney (Barnett, 52), McKie, Kelly, Doherty (Henry, 59), Perry, Hughes, Jackson, Slabber, Acimovic (O'Donoghue, 59), Barnard. Subs: Henry, Burch, O'Donoghue, Galbraith, Barnett.
On a warm summer evening, I made a rare excursion to see the 'Stiffs' in action at the Walkers Stadium, in what was their opening league encounter of the new season.
The team had what would have been to the more regular Spurs Reserves supporter, a somewhat familiar appearance with a sprinkling of first team fringe players and regular stiffs on display. You often hope to see a couple more that might do enough for Colin Calderwood to recommend a first team chance but with the possible exception of Doherty, who carried on where he left off on Sunday, with an assured if unspectacular performance, and Lee Barnard who perhaps seems destined for first team football elsewhere, as I get the impression that he often looks a cut above at his level but is likely to be way down the pecking order in terms of first team chances. With Slabber playing the target man, Barnard played deeper and often seemed to be the source of our more dangerous moves, and caught the eye with an assured performance and his distinctive flowing blonde hair.
Most disappointing for me was Captain Johnnie Jackson who, despite his normal best endeavours, lost the ball in crucial positions too often and seemed lacking in ideas in terms of building Spurs attacks, there is definitely a better player there trying to get out. However, I was similarly disappointed when watching Rohan Ricketts last season, his exciting performance on Sunday against better opposition and his non-appearance tonight, might mean a substitutes place for the first team's opener at St. Andrews on Saturday.
With regard to those with first team experience, Gary Doherty did little wrong and Milenko Acimovic tried his usual clever flicks and the odd defence breaking pass but with a minimum amount of effort. With both being substituted on the hour, perhaps Calderwood was acting on instructions from Glenn Hoddle.
Chris Perry put in another of his usual performances, the odd decisive tackle, the odd mistimed one which would could easily earn a yellow card and over confidence in bringing the ball out of defence, instead of a neat and tidy first time ball.
Spur lined up with Perry and Doherty as centre backs with Marney right hand side pushing a little further upfield when given the opportunity and Stephen Kelly playing on the left in a more defensive role covering the space used by Leicester's Brooker.
Jackson and Acimovic were assigned the centre midfield spots with Marcel Mckie seemingly playing to instructions wide left but was destined to have a quiet game and seemed unwilling to take on Leicester's defence, content to pull the back onto his right foot and look for a colleague to make the incisive pass.. Mark Hughes made up the midfield compliment and had a busy game without showing anything exceptional. The upshot was that Spurs tended to be ponderous in their game and, with the exception of the occasional burst from Barnard, possession tended to be given up with a final ball up in the air for Slabber which, more often than not, tended to be food and drink for a typical Leicester City big centre back partnership.
Leicester in contrast, were more direct in their play, with their midfield runners, predominantly Jordan Stewart, more pacy and adventurous putting the Spurs defence on the backfoot, but with the lumbering Trevor Benjamin picked to finish such moves off, a somewhat overweight Neil Sullivan was destined for a reasonably comfortable night.
1st min. Spurs defence backed off allowing Benjamin a 25 yarder which Sullivan saw go well wide.
4th Min. A series of short passes led to Jackson trying a spectacular bender from 30 yards which, whilst looked impressive, did not trouble Leicester's keeper Coyne.
9th min. Stewart floated a free kick in the from the left witch Lewis got his head to but straight into the arms of Sullivan.
26th min. Stewart makes a direct run hitting a low shot just past Sullivan's left hand post.
28th Min, Barnard hits a right foot dipping volley from fully 30 yards which Coyne did well to keep out diving to his right, from the resulting corner Acimovic hits the near post with a direct aim.
37mins. Leicester score when Williamsons corner finds the head of the poorly marked Priet who scores through a crowd of players, but Benjamin may have got the final touch.
45mins.Spurs hit back with an equaliser when an Acimovic through ball sends Slabber away in space. With the Leicester defence desperately getting back to cover his run, he knocks the ball inside onto his right foot to hit a nice low shot to the keepers right hand side and the ball nestles into the corner of the net.
HALF TIME (no substitutions)
Leicester started the 2nd half with more urgency and Spurs are put under pressure.
47th min: Perry tries to dribble the ball out of defence, loses possession which leads to a quick move involving Brooker giving an opportunity for Larvin to shoot from close range which was turned away well by Sullivan.
48th Min. Leicester try a similar move with Brooker charging into the right corner of the box hitting a low drive to the near post but Sullivan has his angles right.
50th Min.Leciester on the attack and a long ball is chased into the corner by Brooker but a Marney slide tackle clears the danger. Marney however is injured by the challenge and is replaced 2 minutes later by Lee Barnet in a straight one for one swap.
54th min. A nice first time ball is threaded through by Acimovic giving Slabber a half chance on his right foot but the Leicester keeper Coyne comes out well to smother the ball in a 50-50 challenge.
60th min. Acimovic and Doherty are replaced by O'Donoghue and Henry respectively but neither player were destined to influence the game to any degree.
68th Min. A good run by arguably Leicester's most dangerous player, Stuart leads to a neat lay back for Benjamin to shoot, whilst falling back and the ball, is gathered comfortably by Sullivan.
69th Min. After a slow build up, a Leicester cross is met by Larvin who again headed into Sullivan's grateful outstretched arms. Larvin is then replaced by O'Grady.
78thmin.Mckie gets in a rare first time cross which Kelly weakly headed towards the Leicester goal but presented keeper Coyne with little danger.
81st Min. What turned out to be Spurs best chance of the half was started by a Jackson corner, touched on by Kelly for Henry at the far post to head back in the opposite direction, only to see the ball agonisingly hit the post low down, and rebound to safety.
In the final 10 minutes, Leicester looked the more likelier side with Brooker getting a half chance, but the game fizzled out as the players tired, and Spurs Reserves were to gain a creditable draw from their first league meeting of the season.
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