Although the two second half goals which secured their victory after the teams had gone in at the break level at 1-1 were, perhaps, a bit dubious, justice was probably done at Leckwith on Saturday as Spurs halted the Academy team’s mini revival with a 3-1 victory. City contested the first half well and, possibly, deserved to be ahead after forty five minutes, but a harsh penalty decision in the opening minutes of the second half seemed to knock the stuffing out of them and Spurs were pretty comfortable after that.
City were first to threaten when Kevin Saint Luce, who had a very good first half, crossed low from the left and Yannis Drais was not too far from turning the ball in, but soon afterwards, a back pass from captain Adam Davies was intercepted by one of the opposing strikers who shot narrowly wide. Drais was in the action again within minutes, but this time for the wrong reasons as he kicked out at an opponent near the half way line and a less sympathetic referee (Alain Rolland?) would have been flashing a red card straight away, but I thought the official did well to show some common sense and let the young French forward off with a stern lecture. Within seconds though, Drais was lucky not to make contact with an opponent as he flew into another tackle and I noticed that Neil Ardley had a quiet word with him at the next break in play – if, as I suspect, Ardley was telling him to calm down, then, fortunately, it worked.
Spurs had shaded the opening stages of the match, but City had come back into it when the visitors rather luckily took the lead as a cross was diverted into his own net by centreback Kane Owen. City reacted well to this setback though with Saint Luce twice testing the Spurs keeper before he equalised when he was left free at the far post to score with ease after the visitors had failed to reorganise when defending a cross while one of their centrebacks was off receiving treatment. Heartened by the goal, City could easily have gone in front in the few minutes left until half time as Diallo had a side footed effort from the edge of the penalty area blocked virtually on the line by a defender before the ball flew out quickly to Drais who wasn’t quite able to keep his follow up volley under the crossbar.
City had continued their good form of last week, when they beat Watford 4-0, into this game, but they were unable to sustain it in the second period and their cause was certainly not helped by a penalty decision given against right back Luke Jones for a foul – from where I was sat (and although I was some way away, I had a clear view of the incident), the City defender played the ball.
The penalty was converted with the minimum of fuss and, truth be told, City were always second best after that – they did threaten on a few occasions, but another Spurs goal always looked more likely and it duly arrived with about a quarter of an hour to go. Once again though there was an element of doubt about the goal as the ball fell at the feet of a Spurs player, who looked suspiciously offside, and he scored from close in. This was one of a few marginal offside decision which went in favour of Spurs in the second half, but, speaking as someone who gives officials stick for not giving the benefit of the doubt to the attacking side (as should be the case now) in such situations, I can hardly complain too much when it appears the linesman is doing what he is told he should do. After that, City attacked for much of the time that was left, but there was little zip or urgency to their play and Spurs saw the game out with few real alarms.
Last week there were plenty of City players worthy of mention, but, this time, there weren’t that many – I’ve mentioned Saint Luce already, but, just like most of his team mates, he faded in the second half. I thought Theo Wharton did pretty well in central midfield and Josh Yorwerth used the ball well when he got the chance, but it was a tougher day for the team today and it shouldn’t be forgotten that, once again, mainstays Darko and Oshilala were missing as was Joe Ralls who probably won’t be playing too many games at this level from now on.
Finally, it was better news for the Under 16′s who came out 2-0 winners in their match – from what I saw of the game, they gradually got on top after a bright start by Spurs and a couple of second half goals (one shortly after they had hit the crossbar and the other seconds before the final whistle) saw them to a notable victory.