Saturday 10th August 2019, 1100 KO
Fulham FC U18 vs Tottenham Hotspur FC U18
For the second part of my Fulham-focused weekend, I was back at the Cottagers’ Motspur Park training complex for the visit of Tottenham Hotspurs’ U18s. After the torrential downpours in Dagenham the night before, the gale force winds felt like light relief, and likewise the five minute drive was a pleasant difference from the two hour slog across London 12 hours earlier…
The build up
Both Fulham and Tottenham’s U18 sides play in the southern section of the U18 Premier League, with Tottenham finishing 2nd last season, a mere four points behind eventual winners Arsenal. With 24 sides split between North and South, each team plays 22 matches across the campaign, before the winners of the North face off against the winners of the South for the overall title. Last time out, a strong Derby County outfit beat Arsenal 5-2 in the final.
For Tottenham, they would begin the new season without either of their top scorers from the last campaign – both Troy Parrott and Dilan Markanday have stepped up to the U23 side over the summer. Fulham, however, still have the services of last season’s star man in Fabio Carvalho, the 16 year old England youth international starting his second full season at U18 level. This is one of the hallmarks of Fulham’s approach to youth development, where the club routinely play young players above their age group – a practice which has generated good results. In the last few years, numerous teenagers have made their debuts for the first team, including the Sessegnon twins, Harvey Elliott and Matt O’Riley.
Fulham wouldn’t be the only team on the pitch at Motspur Park with players stepping up above their age group though, as Spurs’ centre forward Dane Scarlett is still eligible for the U16s, as are right-back Dermi Lusala and midfielder Michael Craig. The visitors also used this match to give a first competitive start to their new signing from Notts County, Kion Etete.
When the teams came out on the pitch, Fulham included five new scholars in the starting eleven, giving them an average age of under 17, making what came next – against a side as strong as Tottenham’s – quite remarkable. In the blustery conditions, the hosts started brighter, with Sylvester Jasper making life very difficult for Marqes Muir, something he would continue to do for the whole match. It took only seven minutes for Jasper to get his first chance, as he sprung the offside trap and had a shot blocked. Two minutes later, Jay Stansfield – a summer arrival from Exeter City – got into the action, and was unlucky to see his shot cannon back off the post after a good move involving himself, Fabio Carvalho and Ollie O’Neill.
O’Neill then had a goal disallowed for offside on 18 minutes, before Luca Ashby-Hammond was finally forced into action to make a save from Dane Scarlett three minutes later. Then, with just over half an hour played, came the first critical moment of the match, as Sylvester Jasper was brought down in the box on one of his regular surges from the left. He stepped up himself to take the penalty, and confidently dispatched it beyond Josh Oluwayemi to make it 1-0 to Fulham.
Two minutes later, Jay Stansfield beat the offside again, and teed up Fabio Carvalho, but his shot was easily saved by Oluwayemi. There was, however, nothing Oluwayemi could do on 40 minutes when Ollie O’Neill doubled the score. A deep Sylvester Jasper free kick was missed by everyone, but was pulled back from the byline by Adrion Pajaziti. With Oluwayemi stranded, O’Neill knocked it into an unguarded net, despite the best efforts of Tottenham skipper Harvey White to clear off the line. It was a nice moment for O’Neill, who was playing his first full match after a full year out with injury.
On the stroke of half-time, Stansfield created an opening for himself, when he beat both Luis Binks and Marqes Muir to a high ball. His first touch was exceptional, and despite being pulled back by Binks, he made it into the box where he shot well over. The whistle went shortly afterwards, with Fulham taking a two goal lead into the break.
It was more of the same in the second half, where it took Stansfield jus two minutes to extend the hosts’ lead. He converted a pinpoint delivery from Fabio Carvalho on the right, much to Tottenham manager Matt Taylor’s consternation, as he felt (quite strongly) that Carvalho had been offside in the build up.
The game ebbed and flowed as both sides made substitutions, and although Tottenham had the bulk of the possession, they were unable to create much. Ashby-Hammond made probably two, maybe three saves all match, and on the rare occasions that Spurs were able to get deliveries into the box, the ‘keeper from Kingston was able to claim it. The key for Fulham was their work-rate, as the high press starting with Stansfield, Jasper and Carvalho prevented Tottenham from building from the back.
On 71 minutes, Jasper got the final goal of the game, after Oluwayemi did well to save from Fabio Carvalho on the break. The ball came out to Jasper, who steered in from a tight angle to get his second – and Fulham’s fourth. The 17 year old Jasper has represented England at youth level, and was a threat all match with his aggressive running with the ball – with the pace he, Stansfield and Carvalho possessed, Tottenham were susceptible to direct counter attacks throughout.
The final notable action of the half again fell to Stansfield, who was thwarted by Oluwayemi with the save of the match. After more good play from Jasper, Stansfield found himself five yards out in a shooting position, but the ‘keeper who signed a new contract last month made himself big to block the shot.
There’s a more detailed break down of Fulham’s performances below, but for Tottenham, the stand out player was the right back Dermi Lusala. His ability to beat a man and drive forward from right-back was impressive, and he could do it as effectively in the 90th minute as the 1st, which demonstrated a high level of stamina for a player still eligible for the U16s. Also impressive was Nile John, who seemed the man most likely to create something for the visitors. It was interesting to see Kion Etete as well – after playing four matches in League Two last season, U18 football is quite a different proposition, but his hold up play was good, especially up against two such impressive centre backs and Idris Odutayo and Luca Murphy.
Line Ups – Fulham
1. Luca Ashby-Hammond – brother of fellow Academy ‘keeper Taye, Luca is an 18 year old local lad from Kingston. One of a number of highly promising stoppers on Fulham’s books he was a vocal presence at the back for the Cottagers and was aerially dominant in what was quite an easy day’s work for him.
2. Luciano D’Auria-Henry – 16 year old right back D’Auria-Henry is highly thought of at Fulham, and has been promoted as a first year scholar this season. Was relatively untroubled in this match.
3. Stefan Parkes – Still only 15 until next March, Parkes stood up well to a difficult test against Dermi Lusala down the Tottenham right, who was probably their best player. Astonishingly this wasn’t even his first match at U18 level despite his young age.
4. Jonathan Page – Born just down the A3 in Chertsey, Page did a fine job of shielding the back for, and provided the anchor for Steve Wrigley’s high press. Worked well with Odutayo and Murphy when Fulham did build through midfield. Turning 18 next month, Page is one of the elder statesmen of this team.
5. Idris Odutayo – A third new scholar in the defence, giving the back four an average age of just 16, Odutayo is another defender straight out of the Jerome Opoku mould. Strong, combative, but comfortable in possession, he is one to watch this season.
6. Luca Murphy – A spring signing from National League Hartlepool, Murphy partnered Odutayo well, forming a giant centre back pairing for Fulham. Worked well as part of the defensive unit to completely shut down Tottenham’s threat.
7. Ollie O’Neill – A 16 year old midfielder making his first appearance in over a year due to injury, O’Neill took the opportunity to get ninety minutes under his belt and got a goal to boot. His delight to be back on the pitch was obvious, and he took an important role as one of the midfield pivots between Page and the more attacking trio.
8. Adrion Pajaziti – Took on a similar role to O’Neill and was understated but effective in possession. Another 16 year old up against an energetic Tottenham midfield, Pajaziti was good at disrupting Spurs’ attempts to build through midfield.
9. Jay Stansfield – An impressive competitive debut for Fulham after his arrival from Exeter City, Stansfield put in an all-action performance. The youngster from Tiverton only arrived in West London last week, but has struck up a good rapport with Carvalho and Jasper, forming a dangerous attacking trio – also got a debut goal, which will be great for the confidence.
10. Fabio Carvalho – The livewire in midfield, Carvalho was probably just short of his intricate best, but was still a handful for Tottenham nonetheless. The Lisbon-born 16 year old is at his best when operating between the defence and midfield of the opposition, and when he has willing runners to find, such as…
11. Sylvester Jasper – The star man today, just as he was when I watched the U18s against Chelsea last season. Jasper turns 18 next month, and must surely be eyeing up a regular U23 spot this season. His pace and aggressive running are a nightmare for defenders, and he deserved his two goals.
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