Reading Reserves 0 Tottenham Hotspur Reserves 1
Madejski Stadium, Reading
Wednesday 4th October 2006
As we suggested a month ago, you’re unlikely to be watching anybody playing in a Premiership reserve fixture these days who could legally be served in a bar in America. Last night a 71st minute close range header from Northern Ireland under-19 captain Kieran McKenna, set up by a far post nod from Czech youth international Tomas Pekhart following a deep corner from twenty year old Swiss international Reto Ziegler, provided the difference between last year’s Premiership South reserve champions Tottenham Hotspur and newcomers Reading.
This textbook-perfect set piece was the natural offspring of a game that, virtually bereft of seasoned professionals, inevitably resembled a sequence of well-executed training ground routines. The Reading defenders on the goal-line stood and watched McKenna guide the ball over them and seemed barely able to restrain themselves from politely applauding such efficiciency.
The evening was crying out for a player to offer something beyond the results of athleticism and fine coaching and Tottenham right winger Jacques Maghoma, who turns nineteen in three weeks, came closest. While Reading preferred to build neatly through the middle Tottenham’s defenders looked early and often for Maghoma who, while not as prodigious as Aaron Lennon, offers a different kind of wing threat. He’s quite quick, but his speciality is to roll off challenges in the manner of an NFL running back trying to gain an extra three yards after the tackle. He’s so accomplished at this that he seems to emerge from each collision even better balanced and ready for the next contender. The only booking of the night came when former Arsenal left back John Halls finally slid him into the advertising hoardings in frustration.
Picture of Tottenham: Centre of Excellence via cottontimer's Flickr stream.
Sadly, Maghoma pulled up with a strained left hamstring with seven minutes to go, following his captain, centre-half Charlie Lee, to an early shower through injury. Lee hurt his knee in an innocuous looking challenge and hobbled off in the first period, handing the armband to left back, and Pat Van Den Hauwe lookalike, Charlie Daniels who was keen to bustle forward as much as possible. Ahead of him on the left Ziegler showed classy touches and accurate delivery, but lacked significant pace or a trick that would undo a defender. In the middle Stuart Lewis displayed plenty of the tenacity that he’s becoming known for as Jake Livermore worked assiduously on his Jermaine Jenas impersonation.
Up front the imposing Pekhart led the line effectively in a style reminiscent of his countryman Jan Koller while McKenna was quiet but took his chance perfectly when it came. In defence, right back Philip Ifil moved across to replace his departed captain with great gusto, including three epic hoofs towards row Z that would have made a rugby fullback proud. Alongside him former Lille central defender Dorian Dervite looks considerably older than eighteen and used his size and presence to good effect. Substitute Cian Hughton filled in for Ifil without the defence missing a beat while goalkeeper Radek Cerny coped admirably with the little work he had to do. Only once was he beaten when Simon Church’s dynamic swivel and snapshot crashed back off the far upright from ten yards out.
Tottenham themselves threatened little real danger until the goal. In its immediate aftermath Pekhart wasted a good heading opportunity eight yards out created by Zeigler’s persistence before McKenna almost doubled his tally, winning a twenty yard sprint to Lewis’s exquisitely measured through ball only for his first time strike to be turned over emphatically by another former Arsenal man, goalkeeper Graham Stack. At the death, Stack rushed out smartly to deny Ziegler’s run beyond a stretched defence, but Spurs comfortably held firm for the victory.