Tottenham v Nottingham Forest PL2 Match Report: U21s fight back to reach the final

Spurs’ Academy side had suffered an eyebrow-raising, 5-0 loss to Crystal Palace, only the side’s second loss of the entire season. However, the defeat was easily excused as manager Wayne Burnett made wholesale changes to his side, testing players in different positions as well as handing out many U21 debuts to players for the team’s dead rubber game which was the final one of the PL2 league format.

It however quickly became a worry for fans that the U21s had dragged that poor form from their last game into this semi-final fixture against Nottingham Forest at the Lamex Stadium, the ‘home venue’ for many Spurs Academy games.

After a flurry of chances for the visitors, they drew first blood as Ateef Konate unpicked the Spurs lock, playing an impressive through ball in behind the Tottenham defence. Forest striker, Detlef Osong met the pass and slotted the ball past Luca Gunter with both Gunter and Dorrington being left helpless to deal with the quick attack.

Tottenham looked unsettled by the goal as Nile John was caught in possession allowing for another fast-paced Forest assault, which once again saw Ateef Konate and Detlef Osong combine for the visitors as Konate slid the ball across the penalty area for Osong to drive home and despite Luca Gunter’s valiant efforts to meet the ball, it wasn’t enough to prevent Forest doubling their lead only eight minutes after their initial breakthrough.

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Burnett’s side responded better to the second goal than the first as Lankshear, Kyerematen & Tyrese Hall all came close to getting a goal back. Nottingham Forest, however, did extend their lead to three with ten minutes of the first half remaining.

The Reds skipper, Jamie McDonnell, manufactured himself some space on the edge of the Spurs box, firing a superb strike into the bottom left corner to leave Tottenham with a mountain to climb in the second half.

It took Spurs until just before the hour mark to respond to their visitor’s three-goal lead and the breakthrough was a result of Tottenham’s persistence in the second half as Jamie Donley struck his freekick into the wall, allowing Rio Kyerematen to have a swing at it only for his effort to also be blocked, but centre-bac Dante Cassanova did eventually get the ball over the line with an impressive volley on the penalty spot.

Photo by @AlfieNicholsonJournalism

Spurs were starting to find joy when attacking down the flanks, especially on the left as Maeson King started to combine with Yago Santiago on the overlap, a combination which caused their team its second goal as King’s cross was blocked by the hand of Jimmy Sinclair, making referee, Farai Hallam, point to the spot.

Will Lankshear then routinely fired the ball into the bottom right corner, a penalty kick reminiscent of Harry Kane due to the signature quickstep run-up that Kane does being emulated by Lankshear.

Spurs then had a little under thirty minutes to draw level and Santiago was left frustrated after missing a one-on-one that felt key in the 70th minute, sliding his shot just wide of the post.

Luca Gunter in between the sticks for the Lilywhites ensured that his team could just focus on getting the next goal as he made a flurry of impressive saves across the second half that ensured that Spurs didn’t leak any more goals than they had in the first 45.

Photo by @AlfieNicholsonJournalism

Although a Tottenham breakthrough felt inevitable, it was starting to become a concern as the game neared the final seconds of normal time. Still, Damola Ajayi was on cue to address those doubts as he sent a floating ball towards the back post. This ball looped beyond the Forest defence and even eluded the Spurs attackers, eventually landing in the back of the net.

It was a goal that Ajayi was keen to tell his friends after the game that it was in fact his, and you felt as though the 18-year-old more than deserved it, having offered plenty since coming on.

Ajayi and Tottenham were keen to not rest on what they had done, seeking a complete comeback as he delivered another quick cross into the opposition box, a ball that was deflected into the air and headed goalwards by Santiago only to be nodded away.

But the Vigo-born winger was desperate to make amends for his earlier miss and slammed the rebound beyond the Forest defence and goalkeeper, causing wild celebrations as Santiago’s strike completed what is an incredible comeback.

The full-time whistle soon went after Santiago’s winning strike, ensuing further celebrations with teammates and family and friends who had loudly supported the team all night long.

Photo by @AlfieNicholsonJournalism

Tottenham are heading to the final!

Victory in this semi-final meant that Spurs had reached the final of the PL2’s new knockout stages, having already been crowned champions of the league phase, Spurs now have a massive opportunity to secure the double and prove that this is indeed one of Tottenham’s best young groups in recent years.

Tottenham will travel to Craven Cottage to face Fulham’s academy on the 9th of May at 7 pm in the final. Spurs beat Fulham, who finished 3rd in the league, 2-0 merely two weeks ago with Lankshear netting a brace.

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