Last night was a first trip to The Hive this season to see struggling Barnet take on the up and coming stars from the other side of North London, Tottenham. Both sides were unable to progress due to previous results in the Checkatrade Trophy and for Mark McGhee a chance to see in competitive action some of his squad who hadn’t featured in his first 3 games.
Spurs as you would expect started brightly, many of the 17 having featured this season in the UEFA Under 19 Champions League, including the highly rated Marcus Edwards. McGhee chose to rest the likes of John Akinde and Jamie Stephens despite the Bees not having a game this coming weekend.
Edwards was involved heavily during the first half, neat and tidy and rarely giving away possession, showing the experience of being in and around the first team squad and if anything was to come from Spurs it was going to come through him. It was Barnet though who almost opened the scoring but skipper Michael Nelson’s header hit the post.
It was evident throughout the 90 minutes that the Under 21’s are set up exactly as the first team are, playing out from the back from goal kicks, back passes etc even if it looked like the ball should have gone straight forward. Barnet did put the pressure on the defenders and force them to move the ball across the box far more quickly than Spurs were expecting, not that it stopped them taking the lead through Shayon Harrison after 16 mins, a move started by Edwards in midfield.
The Bees again came close to a goal 10 minutes before half time, Ryan Watson hitting the bar from a free kick, his best moment from a tidy if unspectacular performance in the Barnet engine room.
The second half appeared to look 45 minutes too long for the Tottenham youngsters, but in truth, McGhee’s half time team talk must’ve contained the words ‘shut down Marcus Edwards and we shut down Spurs’, because that’s exactly what happened! No specific man marker for Edwards, but the pressure from the Bees midfielders certainly contributed towards a lack of creativity from Spurs.
Barnet’s equaliser was fortuitous, Maghoma putting through his own net soon after the re-start despite no pressure from any amber shirts around him. Less than 10 minutes later, the Bees had the winner, Alex Nicholls charging down Alfie Whiteman’s clearance and the ball cannoning into the net. Whiteman certainly rode his luck through the previous 56 minutes and was lucky not to have conceded in the same manner having taken a few chances rather than clearing his lines.
Ryan Loft worked tirelessly up front until he was substituted but got little change from Nelson and Ricardo Santos, whilst at the other end Shaq Coulthirst was busy, but lacked support through a majority of the game. Both Wes Fonguck and Mauro Vilhete will have given McGhee food for though, Fonguck having a steady game if not spectacular while Vilhete certainly has pushed his way into contention.
The late Bees substitutes had little time to impress, although Coker showed a few nice touches in a brief 8 minute cameo. With nearly all those in the treatment room returning to full fitness and no more cup matches left in the season barring the County Cup, some of the youngsters should find a few loan moves coming their way to increase their experience levels further ready to move the club away from the relegation zone.
For Spurs, a surprise Kazaiah Sterling was kept on the bench for 81 minutes given his form this season and they will be disappointed with the two goals they conceded, but with a majority of the side still under the age of 18, there is promise within the ranks that in a few years could save Spurs some money in the transfer market.