Challenge Spurs™ - Bolton 2 Spurs 2
Worst ever start to a home campaign by Bolton. We’ve never won at the Reebok. Granted most of those miserable days were thanks to Big Sam’s anti-football. However, three minutes into this game I felt that unnerving sense of déjà vu that has left me empty at the final whistle so many times in the past. How bad was that first half? Very bad. There was nothing in the way of anything from us which resulted with Bolton playing delightful pressing football, knocking it around with confidence and style. You’d think it was Spurs playing in white. Neat build up play with one-touch football. Welcome to Bizarro World.
So, 1-0 after three minutes. Gardner unmarked in the box. Easy peasy. Wilson Palacios (the apparent iron fist in Tottenham’s velvet glove) was more like a motionless King Kong at the foot of the Empire State Building. Balls hoofed up field by Huddlestone in desperation, very little creativity and practically no chemistry in defence, with the back four a light year away from being cohesive.
Opening twenty minutes, we were non-existent. One passage of play (Palacios to Keane, Keane’s first touch disappointing) the only moment of offensive fortitude. Five minutes later, Niko turns and shoots, deflected for a corner. First effort on goal. Down at the other end Gardner decides to place a shot which hits JJ. He could have done better had he hit it with power. Thankfully he didn’t, but Bolton pressed. Helped on by us, giving away free-kicks in dangerous positions (dangerous being any position tbh).
Face in palm when we countered, Keane losing a tussle in the middle of the field to Gardner (him again) who had initially lost the ball but showed commitment in running back to make up for his mistake. It's depressing when we know we (in the present day) have players who can match their level of grit/spirit and tempo. But yet somehow manage not to. Wakey wakey.
Still no inventiveness in midfield. It was all very reactive play from JJ and Wilson who seemed comfortable with sitting back and dealing with Bolton pushing forward. No pro-active play, like running forwards into space. Keane struggled with his first touch and the defence remained shaky.
Can’t say I expected the equaliser, but hardly complained about it. Niko with his first from a Crouch nod down to the Croat who smacked his shot into the ground. Back of the net. Obviously my outlook on the reminder of the match changed dramatically at this point. We’ve done nothing for 34 mins and with only our second effort we score. So, going on simple mathematics, endeavour to do more and we might just score again. Aided by the basics, like some Boltonesque pressing on Bolton's midfield with the added bonus of some silky skillz from our vastly superior footballers.
What we got was more home pressure. And very little pressing or skills from our lot. The git Davies chesting down the ball and losing balance at the key moment. Phew. Cohen with a half chance. Phew.
Cometh half time and it’s all a bit of a mess of a performance. Slow reactions at the back. Constant invitations for them to bomb us with aerial attacks and getting out played with the stuff on the ground too.
Second half started better. But still the same errors reoccurred. Fouls outside the box, Wilson guilty of some clumsy tackles. We survived. Lennon cut had a decent shot and Hudd managed to hit a free kick at the goal without hitting the wall in front of him. Sadly went over the bar. Crouch also got in on the act. Shot rising over the bar. Better from us. In fact the opening 15 mins of the second half was infinitely better than the whole of the first 45.
Game was now more balanced, more end to end. So cue a second Bolton goal. Davies sneaking in at the far post to head the ball in. CC well beaten and BAE asleep. It was a decent goal which included some showboating from Chung-Yong Lee who back heeled the ball to Cohen who chipped the ball to the far post. Seriously, are Spurs the team in the white or the navy blue?
Defoe (on for Keane) has a shot which Jasskelainen didn't hold and Crouch shot through this legs. It bounced up and onto the underside of the bar and out. Out. Out! I contemplated another facepalm moment but found myself punching the air instead. Charlie with a headed goal. 2-2. All from a set-piece. Role reversal. It will have to do.
That goal meant that every outfield player for Spurs has now scored this season. Total football innit.
Next goal wins it. Except there was no next goal. Taylor effort for the home side (CC pushing it around the post). Crouch who took one touch too many. First touch then shot could have won it for us.
Not a great day. Awful first 45. Better second 45. One point is better than no points and one point at the Reebok almost feels like a victory, which sums up our recent history and the general frustration I feel about this fixture.
No King, Woodgate or Modric. Makes a massive difference to our balance. We are struggling a little bit at the moment because if things aren’t quite right at the back it makes no difference how we line-up elsewhere. Although it would help the side if Palacios reclaimed some of his Panther Powers as he appears to have dropped a level in recent weeks. Also would like to see Gomes return to the number 1 spot.
International break time. So we might be welcoming back Modric in two weeks time. Dawson should also slot in at the back for the Pompey game (I hope he does and allows Hudd to go back to central mid). We might start to look more structured again from back to front.
3rd in table (at time of writing). 16 fat points. Not a single complaint. We know our weakness. We know we have key players out. If it means playing shit and still earning an away point, I’ll take that for now. But the quality was still there for us to assert ourselves more on the game and take it to a side that lacked any sort of form at home so far this season. All in all, disappointing but not disastrous. We are not the first to struggle up there and we've always struggled up there. Harry's new look Spurs had shades of old look Spurs, but only shades. Old look Spurs would have comfortably lost this game. I guess the disappointment is, this Bolton team had more qualities associated with us than they do with Big Sam's anti-footballing side of recent years. Still, like I said. We played shit and we still got a point.
16 points. 8 games.
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