FA BARCLAYS PREMIERSHIP RESERVE LEAGUE (SOUTH)
(at Broadhall Way, Stevenage)
SPURS RESERVES 1 (0) WEST HAM RESERVES 0 (0)
Referee: - Mr J. Hopkins
Attendance: - Est. 450
Spurs (4-3-2-1):- Cerny; Smith, Davenport, Bunjevcevic (Capt.), Martin (sub Maghoma, 72); Lewis, Huddlestone, Jackson; Davis (sub Marney, 62), Daniels; Barcham
Subs not used: - Burch; Hughton, Kyriacou
West Ham (4-4-2):- Walker; Dailly, Collins, Ward, Clarke (sub Blewitt, 63); Reid, Fletcher (Capt.), Collison (sub Welsh, 73), Barradji; Ephraim (sub Hines, 83), Katan
Subs not used: - Blackmore; Cowley, Tomkins
It took a goal of real quality by Johnnie Jackson, ten minutes before the end of this hotly contested game to secure the three points and extend Spursí lead at the top of the Reserve League to a mighty ten points, as second-placed Arsenal lost at home to Fulham tonight. With six games remaining, Clive Allenís side are on target for an end of season showdown with Manchester United, although Unitedís lead (in the Northern section) is less emphatic, and will be tested to the full by second-placed Middlesbrough tomorrow (Tuesday) night.
Spursí resources were somewhat stretched, with top scorer Lee Barnard missing for the fourth game on the trot, and regular players Charlie Lee and Kieran McKenna also out of action through injury. Clive Allenís forced re-shuffle meant he had to rely upon two very young full backs, Alex Smith and Joe Martin, with the experienced Calum Davenport and skipper Goran Bunjevcevic shoring up the defence in the middle. Andy Barcham (only about 5ft 9ins tall) was given the difficult task of playing lone front man, faced by the massive Elliott Ward, whilst Jamie Davis and Charlie Daniels played on the flanks in support of Barcham. The advanced role of the wing-men meant there was a lot of space for the West Ham midfield to exploit behind them, despite the presence of Lewis, Huddlestone and Jackson for Spurs. I felt that for much of the time, these three got too close to each other, and the left flank in front of Martin seemed to lack protection. Mind you, The Hammersí right winger Kyel Reid was one of their star players.
For the first quarter of an hour, the two sides played out a chess-like battle in the middle, with neither goalkeeper being tested, although Radek Cerny was certainly getting more exercise than Jimmy Walker Ė a hero of West Hamís promotion last year, but still on the comeback trail after his horrific knee injury at the end of last season. The first opportunity to score came for the visitors, on an increasingly cold night, as Collison got into the area, and faced a great saving tackle from Davenport. The ball ran to Reid, whose shot went over. Ephraim tested Cerny after 23 minutes, receiving a good ball down the right channel, and hitting an early shot down the goalieís throat. Davenport was penalised for a foul on Barradji on the edge of the box, and Collins curled a free kick outside the post.
Spurs were struggling to create a realistic chance, and it began to look like a draw would be a creditable result. However, from Cernyís kick, the ball ran for Barcham, who hit one shot which Walker saved, then hit a second shot with less strength, which the Hammers cleared. Cerny was on the alert again after 31 minutes to hold Fletcherís curled free kick. Whilst he never had to make a spectacular save, Cerny certainly had plenty of practice tonight!
Spurs started to get a footing on the game, and following good work by Barcham and Davis, the cross by the latter reached Daniels, who hit a low drive wide. John Jackson was next to hit the target, after a probing pass by Tom Huddlestone. Jacksonís shot was well saved, then again well defended by the Hammers. Another Jackson shot before half-time nearly beat the keeper, who managed to touch the ball out for a corner.
West Ham carried on where they left of for the early stages of the second half, and Fletcher should have scored from close ranger from Reidís cross, but managed to sky his shot, Rosenthal style! This incident was to prove a turning point as far as domination was concerned, as Spurs started to make headway against a tiring Hammersí side. After 59 minutes, Barcham sent the ball out to Davis on the right. His cross was met by a Daniels header that could have done with more power and went wide anyway.
Davis was replaced by Dean Marney making his first appearance after returning injured from his loan to Norwich, before Christmas. Marney took up a central midfield role, and Lewis was pushed out to the right. Charlie Daniels released Joe Martin for a great run into the box, and despite being subject to blatant shirt-tugging, managed to hit a shot into the side netting. Martin took a knock, and was replaced by Maghoma, with Daniels moving back to cover the left-back slot. Now Spurs looked more comfortable against Reid, and began to look more and more controlled and composed. Maghoma was fouled by Reid outside the box, and Marneyís free kick was saved by Walker.
With ten minutes to go, Jackson picked up the ball in midfield, and went on a run, before launching a cheeky, but superbly targeted shot from 25 yards over the keeper into the roof of the net. It turned out to be a great winning goal, celebrated coolly by the lads on the pitch, but also enthusiastically by Clive Allen and Hans Segers in the dug-out, and the watching Martin Jol, Damien Comolli and Pat Holland in the stand.
Spurs next match is also at Broadhall Way, next Monday night against Portsmouth. If you are within reach, they are worth watching, and deserve your support! Iíll be there!
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