Spurs under 21’s versus Portsmouth: (match preview)
Tomorrow night our development side will play their most important game of this season, when they travel down to the south coast to take on Portsmouth in their final group game of this seasons Checkatrade trophy. Wayne Burnett’s side are within touching distance of making history by reaching the knockout stages of the competition for the first time in the clubs history. After picking up four points from their first two group games against both Crawley and Gillingham, Burnett’s side occupy second place in the table, ahead of tomorrow’s crucial game at Fratton Park. For Kenny Jackett’s Portsmouth side this competition won’t hold the same significance as it does for Burnett’s youngsters. ‘ Pompey ’ have already qualified for the knockout stages of the competition following two wins from their first two group games, this despite the fact that Jackett has fielded a second string side for both of those matches. Kenny Jackett’s high flying Portsmouth have started the season in excellent form, and the league one leaders have only lost two of the 21 matches that they have played this season. Jackett previously spent some time coaching our under 18 side during the 2016/17 season (he is a thoroughly nice man!) and he currently has two former Spurs lads on his books, both of whom are likely to start tomorrow. Those are former Spurs goalkeeper Luke McGee (23) and our former defender Anton Walker who joined Portsmouth for a fee last summer. There a number of outcomes which could see us progress to the knockout stages of the competition following tomorrow’s game against Portsmouth. If Burnett’s side win tomorrow’s game in 90 minutes then they will qualify as group winners. If they draw the game in 90 minutes and then go onto win the resulting penalty shootout then they will qualify in second place. But here’s where things get a bit tricky, if Crawley beat Gillingham and we lose against Portsmouth then we are eliminated from the competition. However, if Crawley draw against Gillingham and then go onto win the penalty shootout and we lose tomorrow’s game, then it will all come down to goal difference. Following our excellent 4-0 win over Gillingham in the last game, Burnett’s side have the superior goal difference to Crawley who will be reliant on us losing by a heavy scoreline in order to progress.
Although Portsmouth don’t have a league game next weekend due to the ongoing international break, they will be without a whole host of key players for tomorrow nights game. Most notable of which is highly rated forward Ronan Curtis who has been called up to the Ireland senior squad. In addition, they aren’t likely to field other important players such as speedy winger Jamal Lowe and experienced centre forward Brett Pitman who is out injured. More encouraging news for Spurs, is that Portsmouth have given minutes to a number of their under 23 players in this seasons competition. 17 year old Joe Hancott and 16 year old Haji Mnoga are two of those players that Jackett has given debuts to in this competition. Whilst Portsmouth will be fielding a second string side for tomorrow nights game, Spurs head coach Wayne Burnett will also be making wholesale changes due to the ongoing international break. Key players Jack Role and Paris Maghoma are just two of seven players that Burnett will be missing for tomorrow’s game due to international call ups. In addition, we are missing the likes of Anthony Georgiou, Jonathan Dinzeyi and Shayon Harrison who are all out injured. On a more positive note 20 year old winger Shilow Tracey has returned to training following an injury he picked up for our under 23’a back in August, and could well feature tomorrow night. Under 18 players Luis Binks, Brooklyn Lyons-Foster, Rodel Richards, Troy Parrott and Harvey White are just some of the players who could find themselves being included in tomorrow’s match day squad. This is a massive game for Spurs and it will mean a hell of a lot more for our youngsters than it will for the Portsmouth players, especially as they have already qualified for the knockout stages. If Spurs approach tomorrow’s game in the same positive fashion that they did against both Crawley and Gillingham, then they will stand a fighting chance of defeating inform Portsmouth. After suffering disappointing defeats in our last two PL2 games, Burnett will be hoping that his side will be able to respond when his players make the trip down to the south coast on Tuesday. Whilst there has been a lot of disgruntled EFL fans following the introduction of academy sides into this competition. I know full well how much this competition means to our lads, and progressing to the next round of the it would mean the world to them at this stage in their careers. Whatever the outcome of tomorrow’s game the whole experience of playing at a stadium like Fratton Park is one that will live long in these young players memories. I will be getting the train down to Portsmouth tomorrow evening to report on what promises to be a fascinating game of football. I wish all of our lads the very best of luck for tomorrow’s game, and whatever happens I have been immensely proud of how well our youngsters have performed in this competition, this season and I hope that they enjoy the occasion.
My predicted lineup: (4-2-3-1)) Whiteman, Marsh (c), Tanganga, Binks, Brown, Bowden, Skipp, Oakley-Boothe, Richards, Duncan, Sterling.
Subs from: Austin, Lyons-Foster, Reynolds, White, Tracey, Parrott.
Injured/unavailable: Jonathan Dinzeyi (injured), Anthony Georgiou (injured), Luke Amos (injured), Shayon Harrison (injured), Jonathan De Bie (international duty), TJ Eyoma (international duty), Jack Roles (international duty), Malachi Walcott (international duty), Paris Maghoma (international duty), Maximus Tainio (international duty), J’Neil Bennett (international duty).
Doubtful: Tariq Hinds.
Previous meeting: N/A.
My score prediction: Spurs 2-1.
My one to watch: Andre Green. Some Spurs fans may remember us being linked with the skilful winger after he broke through the ranks at Aston Villa during the 2015/16 season. Now on loan at Portsmouth from Aston Villa following a season and a half of injury troubles, the 20 year old winger has made two appearances for ‘ Pompey ’ this season following his return from injury. And the former England under 20 international will definitely start against us tomorrow evening as confirmed by Portsmouth manager Kenny Jackett in today’s press conference. The experienced Green’s pace and agility is likely to cause problems for Spurs down the channels. And neutralising the threat of the wide man could prove to be crucial come the end of tomorrow nights game.