Sunday, July 31, 2011

Tottenham U-17s Finish 5th in NI Milk Cup 2011

The last week of July is the traditional date for the Northern Ireland Milk Cup to be held in venues in the towns around the North Antrim coast - Coleraine, Ballymoney, Portrush, Portstewart, Limavady and Ballymena.   It is a youth tournament which has grown dramatically since its early days and now attracts teams from all across the world.

Spurs sent a young squad to play in the Premier Section (Under - 17s) of the Northern Ireland Milk Cup competition.  Spurs have won the competition twice - in 1990 and 1996, but last year was the first time they had competed for a number of years.  Last year's team won their opening two games to qualify for the Q/F which they lost.    In the play-offs they lost to Porto on penalties but won their final game to finish 7th.

As always the competition started with a parade of participating teams through the town of Coleraine.

The draw was made today by that 'legendary' former Spurs 'star' Gerry Armstrong decreed that Spurs would play:
Mon. 25th July: v Otago (NZ) at Limavady Showgrounds.
Tues. 26th July: v Co. Fermanagh at Ballymoney
Wed. 27th July: v South Coast Strikers (USA) at Ballymena Showgrounds.

Tottenham Hotspur U-17 Squad:
1. Billy Grainger (g/k)
2. Grant Ward
3. Reuben Lameires
4. Dominic Ball
5. Kodi Lyons-Foster
6. Oliver Modeste
7. Freddie Champion (Capt)
8. Emmanuel Sonupe
9. Victor Zapata - Caicedo
10. Leeroy Maguaraushe
11. Kenneth McEvoy
12. Daniel Akindayini
13. Liam Priestly (g/k)
14. Samuel Smith
15. Thomas Gardiner
16. Roman Michael-Percil
17. Kolade Nathan Oduwa
18. Connor Ogilvie

Five of the players included in the squad, were part of last year's team in the competition - Freddie Champion, Oliver Modeste, Samuel Smith, Victor Zapata-Caideco and Kenneth McEvoy.

Monday, 25th July v Otago (NZ) at Limavady Showgrounds (7pm KO)

Won 4 - 0 Scorers:   Ball(2) (1 pen), Oduwa, Opp. o.g.

Spurs made an impressive start to the competition.  Dominic Ball scored twice in the first half - the first a shot into the roof of the net following a cross by Zapata-Caidedo and the second from the penalty after he was brought down following a good pass into the box from Lameires.  In the second half, a defender turned a cross from McEvoy into his own net and Oduwa scored the fourth after more good work from Lameires, left him to knock the ball home.

Team: Grainger, Michael-Precil (Sonupe), Gardiner, Modeste, Ward (Ogilvie); McEvoy (Oduwa), Smith, Champion, Ball, Lameires; Zapata-Caidedo (Akindayini)

Goals v Otaga at 5.35 (from BBC website)

Tuesday, 26th July v Co. Fermanagh at Ballymoney (8pm KO)

Won 2 - 1 Scorer: McEvoy(2)

Spurs came from a goal down at half-time to win with two goals from half-time substitute Kenneth McEvoy in the last ten minutes against the local County side.  The first was a strong header from a free-kick on the right taken by Ruben Lameires while the second was a solo effort as he cut in from the right to beat three men and score with a powerful shot.

Team:  Priestley, Lyons-Foster (Michael-Precil), Modeste, Ogilvie, Ward, Maguraushe (McEvoy), Champion, Ball, Oduwa (Lameiras), Zapata-Caidedo (Akindayini), Sanoupe (Smith).

Goals v Co. Fermanagh at 5.40 (from BBC Milk Cup website)

After the opening 2 matches of the Milk Cup, Spurs were one of 7 teams on 6 points.  Spurs were 4th with a goal difference of +4 and in a position to qualify for the Milk Cup semi-finals.

Wednesday, 27th July v South Coast Strikers (USA) at Ballymena Showgrounds (6pm KO)

Lost 1-2 Scorer: Lameires (pen)

Going into this match Spurs were 4th in the league standings after two wins and needed a win with some goals to be certain of qualification for the semi-finals if the top Milk Cup competition. South Coast Strikers had 4 points following a draw and a win.

After a lovely, warm sunny day the rain arrived as forecast at 6pm just in time for the kick-off and so was played in a typical wet Northern Ireland evening under grey skies and constant light rain. Fortunately for us, Ballymena Showgrounds is one of the few grounds used for this tournament which has a stand to provide cover for all spectators. Prior to the game the local 'unbiased' announcer treated us to his record collection of Spurs favourites - 'Nice One Cyril', 'Tottenham Tottenham' and 'Glory, Glory Tottenham Hotspur'.

Team: Grainger; Michael-Percil(Akindayini), Gardiner (Modeste), Ogilvie, Ward; McEvoy, Champion (Capt), Ball(Sonupe), Smith(Lyons-Foster), Lameires; Zapata-Caidedo(Oduwa)

South Coast Strikers started the more quickly, denying Spurs time and space and the pressure paid off early as the Spurs defence struggled to play the ball out from the back, gave it away and SCS went ahead with a powerful shot after a few minutes. This encouraged the team from USA and they maintained the pressure on the Spurs players who were looking to play McEvoy into a dangerous position but the ball was often misplaced or cut out by the quick American players who often threatened on the break. Shortly after the goal, Zapata-Caidedo had a chance to get clear but a poor first touch let him down. The Spurs defence was often vulnerable to a ball down the centre with no-one taking responsibility.

Play continued in a similar vein with Spurs struggling to get into their opponent's half but after about 20 minutes Spurs came more into the game - Lameires had a shot straight at the goalkeeper and then McEvoy ran at pace into the area and was brought down. Penalty awarded and Lameires showed great self-confidence and stepped forward to score from the spot. Lameires was causing difficulties for SCS with his quick footwork and pace as well as his eagerness to be involved. Just before half-time Ward had a shot saved by the goalkeeper when with more power he might have scored.

Spurs were much sharper in the second half and with increasing pressure were often playing with the two full backs pushing forward and only leaving the two central defenders at the back. Lameiras was a constant threat and both he and McEvoy were being treated harshly by the strong SCS defenders. From one free-kick for a foul on himself, Lameires had his shot save by the goalkeeper. Then Ball picked up a poor clearance in central midfield but shot wide when through on goal.

After this constant Spurs pressure SCS suddenly came into the game and had a shot over on the break. Oduwa replaced Zapata-Caidedo who had offered little threat and immediately had a good shot on the turn, saved by the goalkeeper. In quick succession SCS had a goal disallowed for off-side, a shot over and a goal. Spurs had been doing so much attacking that they had got dis-organised at the back and got caught again with too few defenders back as SCS picked up a poor clearance and attacked at pace to score after an hour.

Spurs tried to get a goal back but couldn't get the break they needed - Ward moved into midfield and had a couple of shots, one over and one against the bar, but the goal wouldn't come. Defenders managed to get a block at a vital moment and in a final late effort Oduwa shot over.

Spurs have missed out in qualifying for the Milk Cup semi-finals but will be in the 5th-8th play-offs where their goal will be to improve on last year's 7th place finish.

McEvoy and Champion who played in this competition last year have grown in confidence and ability in the past twelve months. Ball looks a strong, capable player and Lameiras is a lightly built player with quick feet and pace who is keen to be involved. Ward was busy throughout, especially going forward.

Like the Tottenham PL team, they play passing football from the back to create space and to release their Gareth Bale lookalike Kenneth McEvoy who has good pace, strength and ability.

Goals from Match vSCS at 5.20 (from BBC NI milk Cup website)

After this round of matches Spurs had slipped to 8th in the Premier Section.  With 6 points and a positive goal difference of 4 they would compete in the Globe Section play-offs for 5th - 8th position.

Thursday, 28th July  v Cherry Orchard (Ire) at Broughshane (7pm KO)

Won 4 - 3  Scorers: Lameires, Gardiner, Akindayini, Opp. o.g.

What a game! After going two goals up in the first five minutes, it looked as if it was going to be a matter of counting the goals against the team who had been thumped 7-0 by Bolton in the previous game. A third followed late in the half but Orchard from Dublin scored just before half-time with a header from a corner.

In the second half Spurs scored a fourth - game over, but it wasn't as Orchard playing with a strengthening wind on their backs built up the pressure on the Tottenham defence with a sequence of high balls, corners and free-kicks. Spurs succumbed and conceded two in two minutes, game on again with about ten minutes remaining. Fortunately, Spurs re-organised and held out under a constant barrage of high balls into the box. Spurs now play tomorrow in the play-off for 5th and 6th in a re-match with last night's victors, South Coast Strikers from USA at the Coleraine Showgrounds at 1.30pm.

Team: Grainger; Lyons-Foster, Gardiner, Modeste, Ogilvie; McEvoy (Smith), Sonupe (Zapata-Caicedo), Lameires (Capt), Ball, Oduwa (Ward); Akindaylini (Michael-Percil)

In the picturesque setting of Broughshane, the Best Kept Large Village in Northern Ireland, it was a cool summer evening as Spurs kicked off, playing up the slope with the slight breeze behind them. It was a completely different game from last night when Spurs took time to get into the game - this time they were two ahead after five minutes as Cherry Orchard stood back and let them pass the ball around. The first came from Lameires who was playing in a central midfield role and was much more influential in the game. He picked up the ball outside the penalty area, beat a couple of men and scored with a fierce shot from the edge of the box.

Two minutes later, Oduwa played in a dangerous cross which missed the waiting Akindayini but an Orchard defender, under no pressure, sliced it into his own goal. It all looked too easy as Cherry Orchard seemed overwhelmed. Spurs continued to enjoy the majority of the play but gradually Cherry Orchard worked their way into the came with dangerous high balls into the box from free-kicks and corners. Spurs survived and Grainger made a good save from a free-kick, pushing the strong shot up and catching it on the way down. Spurs continued to create chances with Akindayini looking dangerous and they went further ahead after being awarded a free-kick as McEvoy was brought down. The ball was played into the box but as the goalkeeper was challenged for the high ball he dropped it and Gardiner bundled it home after 33 minutes.

Just before half-time Cherry Orchard managed to get on the score-sheet heading in from a corner.

in the second half Orchard were more assertive and looked more dangerous putting the Spurs defence under pressure using the strengthening wind to their advantage. A header was cleared off the line for a corner and then a dangerous ball from the corner had to be cleared to safety. Spurs re-gained their composure and continued to be controlled in their play but were finding it more difficult to clear their lines because of the wind. However, they worked their way forward and Ward had a good long range shot just wide. A long free-kick in to the box by Modeste was headed down and Akindayini scored, a goal he deserved for his hard work as the lone striker.

Surely, that would give Spurs a comfortable win but Orchard threw everything into the game and went for it. They had shots over and wide but then they got a cross in from the left, Granger blocked the shot with his legs but had no chance from the rebound. Two minutes later a curling cross from the right was headed home and with ten minutes left it was looking as if penalties could be a possibility. However, Spurs held out without too much difficulty although Grainger was booked for time wasting and an indirect free-kick awarded inside the box but it was cleared.

Victory ensured that the Spurs' team would finish higher than their counterparts did last year as they take on South Coast Strikers in the Globe Section Final to decide 5th/6th places.

Friday, 29th July v South Coast Strikers at Coleraine Showgrounds (1.30pm KO)

Draw 1 - 1 (Won 4 - 2 on penalties)  Scorer: Ball

Team: Grainger; Michael-Percil, Gardiner, Modeste, Ogilvie; McEvoy (Oduwa), Champion, Ward, Lameiras, Ball; Zapata-Caicedo (Akindayini)

Spurs fielded what would appear to have been their strongest team knowing that they would have to put in a good performance against a hard-working and pacy American team. As usual they played with a lone striker although McEvoy did play further up to support Zapata-Caicedo today. The midfield 4/5 is a very flexible formation will all of the players inter-changing and playing right across the pitch. The central defence is much more secure with Modeste playing and both full-backs got forward on the wings.

On a sunny afternoon in Coleraine Spurs started strongly and took the game to the South Coast Strikers not giving them the time to close them down as they had been able to do in the previous encounter on Wednesday evening. Spurs were obviously up for the game and determined not to be dominated by the other side's pressure. Today, it was the SCS players who were struggling to get to grips with the game. Spurs were lively and having most of the play but had to be alert to speedy counter-attacks from SCS. Zapata-Caicedo was working hard and had a shot over, Ward was working hard in midfield and looking to get forward to shoot at goal.

it was a close game with Spurs edging the possession and control but failing to get a break-through with SCS defenders managing to get in important tackles. Spurs almost went ahead with a fluke goal when a SCS defender sliced a clearance back towards his own goal, his keeper tried to kick it but missed completely but the ball bounced over the bar for a corner. Spurs were keeping the SCS goalkeeper busy but Grainger was also active coming for crosses and through balls.

Spurs finally got their reward when awarded a free kick on the left centre of the box, Ball curled a lovely shot into the net after 27 minutes. Spurs continued to press to half-time.

SCS started brighter in the second half, determined to pull back the goal. They started to run at Spurs and the defenders had to be alert. Modeste was cool under pressure and midfield worked hard to cover. Both sides were working hard to create goal scoring chances but the final pass was cut out or shots blocked. SCS final drew level after 45 minutes with a run and shot from midfield giving Grainger no chance. Chances at both ends with Spurs working hard in defence - Grainger made a good save when a cross was headed back across him towards the goal. SCS had a goal disallowed for a foul on the goalkeeper and as time wore on both sides were looking for the winner - Ward and Oduwa had shots but no goals came, so the game went to penalties.

Ball scored first for Spurs, SCS missed, shot over (1-0)
Modeste had good shot saved, SCS scored (1-1)
Champion scored, SCS scored (2-2)
Lameires scored, Grainger saved SCS penalty (3-2)
Oduwa scored - (Spurs won 4-2 on penalties)

Spurs deserved the win as they had endeavoured to play a passing game throughout the competition.

A young team, they worked hard and showed a high level of skill and composure even under pressure.

Grainger played confidently and made a couple of important saves, including in the penalty shoot-out.
Modeste played with composure in central defence and had good control and passing.
Champion worked hard and has progressed since last year.
Lameires is an exciting player with quick feet and skills but will work hard to defend as well. Not as influential in the game today but has great confidence.
Ball is a strong player, works hard and has an eye for goal - lovely free-kick and three goals in the week.
McEvoy has good pace and control, is dangerous but often had to cope with three defenders around him.
Ward is a hard-working midfielder/full back with a powerful shot and an eye for goal.

The players were a credit to Tottenham Hotspur, finishing a very worthy 5th in the Milk Cup with the Globe trophy in the White Hart Lane trophy cabinet.



Saturday, July 23, 2011

Van der Vaart Double Gives Tottenham Success in South Africa

Vodacom Challenge Trophy
Orlando Pirates 0 Tottenham Hotspur 3

Van der Vaart scored twice and Jermain Defoe got a third against Orlando Pirates as Tottenham won their first pre-season game in South Africa and secured the Vodacom Challenge trophy.  Having lost to Kaiser Chiefs a week ago and drawn against Orlando Pirates in mid-week, Spurs were looking to go one better and secure a win against the Pirates to boost their pre-season morale.

On Tuesday evening Spurs started the brighter of the two teams but today it was the Pirates who made the quicker start keeping possession well and running at Tottenham with pace but without causing Gomes any difficulty.  When Spurs had the ball they made limited progress and often conceded possession easily.  However, Van der Vaart came to the rescue with another goal direct from a free-kick, just as he had done on Tuesday evening.  This enabled Spurs to go into half-time with the lead and then early in the second half as Pirates constantly looked to catch Spurs on the break a pass from Assou-Ekotto released Van der Vaart who got into the penalty one on one against the goalkeeper. His shot was blocked by the keeper but Van der Vaart was quick enough to recover and lift the rebound over the keeper and in to the net.

The game looked over and with the introduction of Gareth Bale for Luka Modric, Spurs were much more lively and dangerous as an attacking force.  He had a goal disallowed for offside immediately after coming on and created a further chance which went begging. Then the Pirates were awarded a penalty for handball against Bassong.  Gomes dived to his left but the ball went to the right and hit the post and went across the goal to safety.  Gomes was then called upon to make a couple of important saves before Defoe secured the win with the third goal following a run and cross by Bale.

Spurs have secured the Vodacom trophy for the second time following a similar score line against the same opponents in 2004.

Spurs have used this trip to improve the fitness of all the players in the squad and in coming matches we will get a better indication of who is likely to start in the first game against Everton in three weeks and who is surplus to requirements and will be moving on either as a loan deal or transfer.

This game showed that as last season, all the best that is Tottenham comes from Van der Vaart and Bale, without them Spurs' play would be rather mundane.  Now, with all the transfer rumours that are rife we just need some of them to become full transfers to strengthen the team and ensure that the best players want to stay and be part of what should be an exciting seasson at White Hart Lane.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tottenham's Pre-Season in South Africa.

Saturday, 16th July: Tottenham 0 Kaiser Chiefs 1
Tuesday, 19th July:  Tottenham 1 Orlando Pirates 1

Gareth Bale a constant threat
fot Tottenham
The early pre-season games are all about players getting some match time and building up their fitness but Spurs first two matches in the Vodacom Challenge in South Africa have also shown that Tottenham's problems from last season have not gone away.

No Goal Strikers:
The strikers remain unable to score or even create a goal-scoring opportunity for themselves.  The performances of Jermain Defoe, Robbie Keane, Peter Crouch and Roman Pavlyuchenko have all been very poor - their first touch is heavy, they can neither beat a man with pace or skill, their link-up play is non-existantand and throughout the two games not one of them has looked like scoring a goal.  The nearest any of them has come to putting the ball in the net was Crouch's header that was well saved by the Kaiser Chief's goalkeeper.

Conceding Goals:
Once again Spurs have illustrated their inability to keep a clean sheet.  On Saturday, a late breakaway from a Spurs' corner saw them concede an injury time goal to lose the match.  In the second game Brad Friedel flapped at a shot with his right hand in Gomesesque style at the end of the first half and only succeeded in waving it into the net to present the Pirates with an equaliser. The rampaging fullback had hit a powerful shot but Friedel should have done so much better.  Spurs don't need another flapping goalkeeper.  On Saturday Cudicini didn't look overly confident or impressive in nets and we've Gomes to come on Saturday.

Reliant on VDV and Bale:
Both games, once again, clearly illustrated that without Bale and Van der Vaart this Spurs team would be lacking any attacking threat.  Bale was a threat on the left in both games, looking to score and also create for others.  Van der Vaart was less creative but scored the goal against the Pirates from a free kick on the edge to the penalty area, lifting the ball over the defensive wall and into the goal.  Without this threat Spurs would be toothless.  Modric, in spite of the transfer rumours, played with enthusiasm and show wonderful passing as he created space for others, changing the direction od the play.  He was captain for the game and showed no signs of being disinterested or not wanting to be involved.

Shop Window Players:
The players who are surplus to Spurs requirements and are in the transfer window haven'y done anything in the two games to attract buyers or to persuade Harry Redknapp that they deserve another chance to establish themselves at White Hart Lane.  The list is long - Robbie Keane, David Bentley, Alan Hutton, Niko Kranjcar, Jermain Defoe, Roman Pavlychenko, Peter Crouch, Wilson Palacios, Bassong and Jermain Jenas.  Not all of those players will be leaving but in order to create room for new signings in the 25-man Premier League squad, some of them will be off to new clubs before the beginning of September but on their preformances from last year and now in pre-season, it could be difficult to move them on.  Their performances have been lack-lustre and wouldn't be encouraging to any prospective buying club, their wages are high and Totenham are looking to recoup considerable fees for them - all of which is delaying the selling process.

Pre-season has not brought anything to encourage Spurs supporters - there has been no new signings to improve the quality in the squad and to rectify the obvious deficiencies in the team, transfer rumours persist about Luka Modric and the early games have not brought any joy.  The best performances have again come from Bale but others need to raise their game while Kyle Walker looked accomplished as he attacked from right back in the second half against the Pirates. 

It will be interesting to see who comes and who goes in the next four weeks leading up to the opening Premier League game against Everton at White Hart Lane on 13th August and most importantly who makes the team for that vital match.