Under-18s report: Tottenham 4 Chelsea 4

Our Under-18s battled back from behind to earn a league point at the home of their London rivals, with captain Conor Gallagher’s second-half hat-trick central to the comeback.

The Blues were trailing 3-1 at the break following an under-par first half and, despite reducing the deficit early after the restart, Spurs restored the two-goal lead before the hour mark. However, Jody Morris’s side refused to give up and netted twice in the final 10 minutes to stay six points clear at the top of the southern section.

This was the final league outing of the calendar year for our youngsters and the entertainment was enough to warm any winter chill on a cold December’s morning in Enfield. It was a first half largely to forget for the visitors, who struggled to settle into their usual passing game and surrendered consistent opportunities to the hosts, who started the day six places and 15 points behind us in the league standings.

Morris made three changes from our most recent match action, a 2-1 victory over Newcastle United in the Under-18 Cup a week previously. The system was altered slightly too as we started with Daishawn Redan and Charlie Brown leading the line in a 3-5-2, with Marcel Lavinier, Marc Guehi and Jon Panzo protecting Nicolas Tie in goal.

Juan Castillo and Tariq Lamptey operated in the wing-back positions, with Billy Gilmour, Gallagher and George McEachran across the midfield. The opening exchanges were fairly even as Lamptey made a crucial sliding intervention to thwart Paris Maghoma before Gallagher fired over down the other end.

Rodel Richards then forced the first save of the morning from Tie, striking straight at our French keeper following a neat move from the right wing as the hosts upped the pressure after 15 minutes played. Tie saved again moments later, springing off his line to block the ball at the feet of striker Reo Griffiths before Phoenix Patterson’s effort on the follow-up was blocked by Guehi.

The warning signs were evident for Morris’s men and they fell behind after 18 minutes. The referee pointed to the spot and awarded a debatable penalty, not for the first time in the game, as Lavinier made a challenge on Griffiths. The decision looked a harsh one but Griffiths was uncompromising from 12 yards, burying his finish into the bottom corner.

Morris demanded a response from his side and Gilmour volleyed wide in retaliation, while Castillo spurned a promising free-kick opportunity with an effort that flew harmlessly over the crossbar. The deficit doubled before the half-hour mark, though the visitors had only themselves to blame for this goal as Eyoma charged into the six-yard box unchallenged to meet Patterson’s inswinging corner and power his header beyond Tie.

It might have been game over before the Blues had a chance to initiate a comeback as the lively Griffiths was supplied again, though his shot trickled towards goal and was eventually cleared by Guehi, despite the back-tracking defender stumbling awkwardly on the line.

Chelsea’s lifeline came a minute later as a similar stumble, this time from Spurs keeper Jonathan De Bie, allowed Redan to capitalise. Our Dutch striker had been set clear by his countryman Castillo and advanced in behind towards goal before spotting the slip and slotting the ball into a partially unguarded goal.

With a foothold back in the contest, the young Blues needed to settle and reach the interval before regrouping, though those plans were ripped up as J’Neil Lloyd-Bennett’s pace caused problems down the left and Guehi turned a teasing delivery into his own net.

Morris made a switch at the break, having earlier reverted to a 4-diamond-2 system, as Tariq Uwakwe replaced Panzo. Within four minutes of the restart, they had pulled it back to 3-2 after the referee awarded the second of the game’s three penalties. Brown went down after a defender’s push and Gallagher stepped up to convert, shuffling in his approach before clipping the ball down the middle.

Picture courtesy of Mark Sandom.

However, just as they had done following their earlier goal, the Blues lost their momentum by conceding again. A neat one-two on the edge of the box fashioned the chance and Griffiths was clinical with his finish, slotted into the corner to make it 4-2.

From that point, anything from the encounter for Morris’s men would be considered a bonus but in truth the visitors created enough chances to secure all three points. Their finishing from inside the area appeared like it would cost them though as both Brown and Redan missed headed chances to start the comeback earlier.

Castillo provided a source of frequent deliveries from wide, first teeing up Brown to miss his header before Redan saw his shot on the rebound saved well by De Bie. Redan was then set up, with Castillo again the creator, but his stooping header lacked the power or accuracy to threaten. Brown fired straight at the keeper after showing quick feet in the box before he got his header wrong again following Redan’s perfect clipped pass.

Tino Anjorin’s introduction from the bench made a difference to the visitors in attack as our pressing from the front cut the Tottenham supply lines. Pinned into their own half, chances were carved out at a relentless rate that it would surely be only a matter of time before we broke through. Lavinier headed wide and McEachran fired waywardly off-target before another foul in the box, this time on Lamptey by Jamie Reynolds, was called up for a penalty. Gallagher took on responsibility from 12 yards once again and beat the keeper to set up a grandstand finish.

Gilmour thought he had scored the equaliser with a free-kick from 20 yards out, the Scottish midfielder’s curling effort appearing goal-bound before it clipped off the wall and behind. Yet the leveller soon arrived with two minutes of normal time remaining. Anjorin’s strike was superbly kept out by De Bie but the keeper was helpless to prevent Gallagher following in to poke the loose ball over the line.

A point was the least we deserved as the two London youngsters served up an early Christmas treat at Hotspur Way. Next up for Morris’s men is Scunthorpe United in the FA Youth Cup third round next Friday 15 December.

 

Chelsea (3-5-2) Nicolas Tie; Marcel Lavinier, Marc Guehi, Jon Panzo (Tariq Uwakwe h/t); Tariq Lamptey, Billy Gilmour, Conor Gallagher (c), George McEachran, Juan Castillo; Charlie Brown (Tino Anjorin 68), Daishawn Redan
Unused subs Jack Wakely, Karlo Ziger, Clinton Mola
Scorers Redan 33; Gallagher (pen) 49, (pen) 86, 88
Booked
Gilmour 51; Uwakwe 72

Tottenham Jonathan De Bie (c), Tariq Hinds, Jamies Reynolds, Oliver Skipp, Timothy Eyoma (Rayan Clarke 70), Brooklyn Lyons-Foster, Rodel Richards, Paris Maghoma, Reo Griffiths (Armando Shashoua 76), Phoenix Patterson, J’Neil Lloyd-Bennett
Unused subs Josh Oluwayemi, Jamie Bowden, Enock Asante
Scorers
Griffiths (pen) 18, 53; Eyoma 26, Guehi (og) 38
Booked
Richards 90+2