‘The gap is closing,’ says Tottenham’s Grace Clinton after Arsenal clinch North London Derby

For Tottenham’s Grace Clinton, the last fortnight has been nothing short of a whirlwind. Called up to the Lionesses squad by Sarina Wiegman for friendlies against Austria and Italy, the 20-year-old netted on her senior England debut – but the young star joked that she ‘just feels like a bit of a robot’ as the games continue to come.

Having signed for Tottenham on loan from Manchester United, Clinton’s game has developed rapidly under the expert eye of Robert Vilahamn. The Liverpool-born midfielder, who has also been deployed on the flanks by her manager this season, told The Halfway Line after Sunday’s North London Derby that ‘Robert’s given me a lot of freedom to go wherever I want, which for a player like me is fun and it’s what I want to do. The girls trust me and that’s nice.’

‘It’s been a big two weeks and I’m grateful for every opportunity I’ve had, with Sarina and Robert believing in me to give me the confidence to go and play my football,’ she added. Vilahamn piled on the praise for the loanee in his pre-Arsenal press conference, insisting that she will become ‘the case study’ for youth talent seeking game time in the future.

Spurs clinched the North London Derby bragging rights in December, with Martha Thomas completing a stunning passage of play to see out a 1-0 win at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. In front of a 60,050-strong crowd at Emirates Stadium on Sunday, the Lilywhites fell just short of completing the double for the first time in their history.

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Alessia Russo’s goal, which was shrouded in controversy amidst calls for an apparent offside in the buildup, was the difference in N5 – but despite the loss, Clinton insisted that ‘[there are] positives, you know. The gap’s closing between the two teams, we had chances ourselves and we defended with our lives again. It’s a tough one to take.’

Such is her reputation for being a livewire in the heart of this threatening Spurs side, Clinton found herself accompanied by Arsenal’s Katie McCabe for prolonged periods of Sunday’s showdown.

Displaying maturity beyond her years, the youngster told The Halfway Line that ‘I’ve just not got to give her [Katie McCabe] much; not get in that fight with her, which is what she wants! She’s a good player so to be up against her is nice.’

Clinton will likely be called upon again by Robert Vilahamn this weekend, as the Lilywhites welcome Manchester City to Brisbane Road in the quarterfinals of the Adobe Women’s FA Cup. It will be the fourth time that the two sides have clashed this season, with Spurs yet to emerge on the winning side.