Our development squad earned a point at Tottenham in Premier League 2 but left Stevenage frustrated after playing the entire second half with a man advantage yet failing to find a winner.
An unfortunate own goal from Richard Nartey handed Spurs the initiative early on but our youngsters fought back to level before the interval as Billy Gilmour smashed a confident penalty into the bottom corner.
The hosts played the second half with 10 men after Japhet Tanganga was shown a second yellow card for his foul that led to the spot-kick and it was a difficult period for both sides. The hosts were pinned back in their own half for long spells, while Chelsea struggled to break down a resilient defence.
Tariq Uwakwe hit the woodwork and substitute Luke McCormick was denied by an incredible goal-line clearance in stoppage time as Joe Edwards’s side had to settle for a point.
Edwards made two changes from our last league outing, a disappointing home defeat at the hands of Swansea City a fortnight previously. Ethan Ampadu kept his place in the team but reverted to a central defensive role after a start in midfield against the Swans, with Gilmour taking his place in the engine room.
Ampadu lined up alongside captain Nartey and Marc Guehi in front of goalkeeper Jamie Cumming as the Blues continued with 3-5-2. The Dutch duo of Ian Maatsen and Juan Castillo started in the wing-back positions, while Gilmour was joined by Conor Gallagher and Uwakwe in midfield. Daishawn Redan returned to partner Martell Taylor-Crossdale up front.
GOALS: TOTTENHAM (A) U23 18/19
All the goals from the U23's draw against Spurs.
Spurs had gone four league games without a win and made three changes from a heavy 4-0 defeat in the north London derby last time out. J’Neil Bennett, their left winger, had the game’s first sight at goal inside two minutes after cutting in from the wing but his right-foot strike flashed across goal and narrowly wide of the far post.
Yet that early effort failed to prevent the visitors from taking charge of the opening exchanges, using both short and longer passing to put pressure on the Tottenham defence. Uwakwe’s inswinging corner after six minutes was headed comfortably clear of the box but only as far as Gallagher, who fired well wide.
Maatsen and Redan then combined to tee up a chance for Taylor-Crossdale from the edge of the box, though the striker’s bending effort lacked the necessary accuracy to trouble Brandon Austin, the Spurs keeper. Castillo did a better job at hitting the target moments later with a dipping drive but Austin watched the bouncing ball carefully and gathered in his midriff.
Our good start was quickly undone though after 17 minutes as Tottenham broke the deadlock with a goal that came fortuitously and against the pattern of play. Full-back Dennis Cirkin advanced down the left flank and delivered powerfully, with the ball cannoning off Nartey and flying beyond the helpless Cumming into the back of the net.
It was harsh on the Blues and welcome relief for a side still firmly mired in the Division 1 relegation fight, though Wayne Burnett’s team will have recalled Charlie Brown’s last-minute equaliser at Aldershot back in November costing them two league points and appreciated there was a long way to go in the contest.
Nevertheless, the goal appeared to deflate our momentum and Bennett was the primary protagonist to exploit emerging vulnerabilities. The 17-year-old brought a good save from Cumming with a rising strike from left to right. Shortly afterwards, he capitalised on a mistake in possession from Guehi and pushed forward dangerously from halfway before unleashing an effort that dipped inches over the crossbar.
Edwards’s side slowly started to re-establish their authority in the game, never shy to turn the ball quickly from back to front in an attempt to expose the high defensive line adopted by Spurs. It was this tactic that earned them a penalty late in the half and saw the early dismissal of Tanganga, the defender shown a second yellow card for hauling down Redan as the Dutchman latched on to Guehi’s direct ball forward.
Gilmour stepped up from 12 yards and made no mistake with a spot-kick rifled into the bottom corner. It was the Scotland Under-21 international’s ninth goal of the season and promised to alter the dynamic of the London derby significantly, with Spurs facing the prospect of playing over half the game with a numerical disadvantage.
Their pain was almost compounded before the players left the field for half-time as Gallagher got the chance to line up a free-kick 20 yards from goal but the midfielder’s curling effort whistled narrowly wide of Austin’s upright.
Edwards will have focused his team talk on how his side could make the most of their extra man in the second period, promoting patience as they pushed for the game’s third goal. Taylor-Crossdale was thwarted at the near post shortly after the restart before Gallagher delivered a shot that packed plenty of power but flashed just wide.
The introduction of McCormick on the hour mark added a more direct attacking threat from midfield and the 20-year-old thought he had played his part in firing us in front three minutes after his arrival. His volleyed effort into the ground ricocheted through a crowded 18-yard box and into the back of the net, though Redan was adjudged to have both touched the ball on the way through and been in an offside position.
McCormick threatened again at the midway point of the second period, latching on to Uwakwe’s low delivery but failing to test Austin. Gallagher brought a routine save from the home goalkeeper and then curled a free-kick just over the top as the visitors continued to create plenty of chances with the clock ticking away from them.
Down the other end, Tottenham had opportunities to threaten a goal of their own on the break. Paris Maghoma fashioned their best chance 10 minutes from time but lashed wide from distance.
The Chelsea pressure intensified, culminating in two big late chances in the final five minutes. Uwakwe was inches away from winning it with a brilliant bending effort from the edge of the box that thundered off the underside of the crossbar and bounced back into the six-yard box. The ensuing melee saw the ball fall invitingly for Taylor-Crossdale but he blazed high over the bar.
In added time, Nartey floated a pass forward for McCormick to charge towards goal but the midfielder was first denied by an excellent save from Austin and then an even more impressive block on the line from the recovering midfielder George Marsh. It meant the Blues had to settle for a point on the road, which keeps them sixth.
Chelsea (3-5-2) Jamie Cumming; Ethan Ampadu, Richard Nartey (c), Marc Guehi; Juan Castillo, Tariq Uwakwe (Joseph Colley 89), Billy Gilmour, Conor Gallagher, Ian Maatsen (Luke McCormick 60); Martell Taylor-Crossdale, Daishawn Redan (George McEachran 75)
Unused subs Karlo Ziger
Scorer Gilmour (pen) 43
Booked Gallagher, Ampadu
Tottenham Hotspur Brandon Austin, Tariq Hinds, Dennis Cirkin, Harvey White, Japhet Tanganga (c), Brooklyn Lyons-Foster, Tashan Oakley-Boothe, George Marsh, Shilow Tracey (Jonathan Dinzeyi 83), Paris Maghoma (Armando Shashoua 90+3), J’Neil Bennett (Dylan Duncan 81)
Unused subs Tom Glover
Scorer Nartey (og) 17
Booked Lyons-Foster, Tanganga, Tracey, Maghoma, Cirkin
Sent off Tanganga 42
Referee Sam Allison