Spurs reserves lost their first game in yonks to Chelsea on a cold Monday night at Stevenage's Broadhall Stadium. But there were a few bright sparks in the gloom of the 0-1 defeat.
A cold Monday night in mid-January. What better way to spend the evening than hack up the A1 and see some of the new boys take on the Chelsea stiffs in a Southern League reserve game? Hopes of seeing Schevchenko line up for them proved unfounded, but it was a good chance to take a look at some of our new acquisitions.
Sadly Dorian Dervitte is out injured for the rest of the season, and Lee Barnard still hasn't got over his ankle problem, but Ben Alnwick, Tomas Pekhart and Adel Taarabt all started for Spurs. Add in established reserve teamers like Leigh Mills, Charlie Lee, Keiran McKenna, Jamie O'Hara, Mark Yeates and Andy Barcham, and we had a pretty reasonable set of players out there. And the full backs - Phil Ifil and Reto Zeigler - even had a number of first team games under their belts.
You can catch up with all the match action on the official site, so I'll stick to my impression of the players. Here are my thoughts on the new boys.
Ben Alnwick is our recent goalkeeping acquisition from Sunderland, in a part exchange deal for Marton Fulop. He's already played a couple of games for the reserves, and looked (mainly) comfortable behind a solid-looking defence.
He didn't have much to do, but showed good reactions in getting down to stop a couple of shots. When Chelsea threw over a couple of high corners, he punched one away and caught another two. Not something I'm used to seeing a Spurs 'keeper do!
There were a couple of less decisive moments, like his left-footed clearance that shot along the ground, and a strange scissor kick on the edge of the box in the second half. Overall, young Ben showed promise and it was easy to see why the club got him in to be developed as a long-term challenger to ENO.
Tomas Pekhart joined us from Slavia Prague on July 1 last year. He's a big lad. Seriously, he could look Tom Huddlestone in the eye, and towered over most of the other players. Unfortunately he didn't really put it to much good use, with barely a shot or header on target to his name.
He was up against a very competent Chelsea defence. Centre backs Harry Worley and Jack Cork both played well and kept Tomas in check. Worley in particular is a CB in the Robert Huth mould, and went about his business with no fuss and a lot of efficiency.
Pekhart got little change in the air from Worley, and his tapped-in goal in the second half was clearly offside. After reading about his goal ratio this season, I was disappointed in his performance, and there will be no calls from me for BMJ to get his Pecker out just yet.
Much fuss was made over the arrival of Adel Taarabt from Lens, especially when he said he was joining us because he'd been promised some first-team action rather than a season in the reserves. But he only played an hour before being substituted, and made little impact.
Although he showed plenty of enthusiasm, Taarabt made too many runs up blind alleys for my liking. What little possession he got was not used to great effect. As usual with reserves games, it was played at breakneck speed throughout, which may not have suited his style. Here's hoping he can settle in soon and show us his value.
So if not the new boys, who did stand out? For me, our two star players were Charlie Lee and Jamie O'Hara. Lee is a ball-playing CB who looks confident bringing the ball out of defence. He's not afraid to go past players, and play a simple pass along the deck. He's not particularly tall, but makes up for a lack of inches in the air with well-timed jumps and great determination.
O'Hara was one of the few players on show who managed to find himself some space and time. Neat little side steps and turns, a good first touch and plenty of controlled aggression from the young midfielder. He spent part of last season on loan at Chesterfield and turned in some decent performance s as well as getting a few goals.
He's already made the first team bench, and deserves another chance.
If you want to see the reserves in action, they're playing Arsenal away (at Barnet's ground Underhill, I think) on Monday 22 January, and back at Broadhall on Monday 12 February for Reading. It's a fun (and cheap) night out, and who knows, you might see a first team star in the making.