Spurs 2 City 1 - Sunshiiiiiiiiiine in North London for the Lilywhites
Quintessential game of two halves this. First forty-five we were irresistible. Huddlestone in sublime form, pinging the ball around majestically, getting stuck in and giving us a subtle nod that selling him in the summer might be a regretful action. The formation (not the expected 3-5-2 that sort of worked for a point up at Everton) was working a treat at the Lane. Pav and JD upfront, Keane out ‘the wing’ as a Lennon understudy. Hudd and JJ in the middle of the park. No Bale and Hutton. A 4-4-2 that morphed into a 4-3-3 with Keane pushing forwards from the right.
Defoe had an effort smartly saved by Given. A Pav shot from the edge of the box came close. City had nothing in the way of a response as Huddlestone marshalled the midfield in that wonderful chest pumped out manner that he treats us to now and again. So no surprise that JD scored from a Tommy assist. Wonderful cross, exactly where Defoe wanted it, and he aptly finished with a cheeky back-heel. 1-0.
It was at this point I noticed a Liam Gallagher look-a-like in one of the executive boxes, offering out the Spurs fans in the Shelf-side, which turned out to be.....well, Liam Gallagher, obviously. Cue five minutes or so of some first class banter including a chorus of ‘Can we write a song for you’ and 'You’re just a shit Chas’n’Dave’. Liam took it well, laughing and applauding. I still think the moment, at the start of it all, where he stood there in a Jesus pose and signing to one fan ‘I’ll see you outside’ and then doing the same thing to around 10,000 Lilywhites was hilarious. Although he managed to piss off a fan in the exec box to the right of him and was told off in the second half when he re-appeared from inside the exec box to goad everyone when City made it 1-1.
Talking of which, what a disappointing second half.
I guess at 1-0, it’s not that much of a difficult task for Mark Hughes to bollock his players and have them start the second forty-five with a little more urgency and energy. When do we ever score a second killer goal at the Lane? There was a fine moment in the first half that saw the impressive Huddlestone dink the ball into the box for Keane to brilliantly control it, but then fail to connect. Something he did a few times in the course of the game. The “bloke who sits next to me with loads of sound-bites” noted that Robbie has the look of a player that can’t wait for the summer months to kick in. A player with a broken heart having seen his Anfield dream implode rather quietly. He does work hard, and it’s something many of us seem to miss or just ignore, because his final product isn’t the Keane of old. Re-energising is the name of the game for our Robbie. Defoe was lively, and Pav was...well, I’ll come back to Roman later.
The point is, we didn’t get a second goal which might have made things far more comfortable in the second half. Corluka took over at centre-back with Woodgate off, and Hutton coming on into the right-back position. Our shape was lost.
We were gradually over-run by City’s midfield and there was no great surprise when Benjani headed down for Bojinov to fire home the equaliser, sending the City fans and Liam wild.
Ominous stuff. Where was the tactical change from Redknapp? Why was it not enforced earlier in the game? Bugbear for many Spurs fans is that Harry doesn’t change things quickly, and lingers on for a bit. When the changes did happen (Zokora came on for JJ and Campbell on for Pav) things changed for the good.
Roman is a player I’ve defended on several occasions this season. He’s tired/not fully fit/struggling to settle in England is the usual commentary you’ll get from me and others. But sadly, maybe this is all wishful thinking that he will somehow improve next season. It has that air or Rebrovesque doom about it.
He scores goals. Not as many as Bent does, who is almost certainly on his way. But other than that, he’s a bit of a soft touch. Apologetic with his mannerisms. Falls over far too easily, has a worrying first touch and as illustrated by the easy chance he had in the second half (which then led to his substitution) which he fluffed wide, Roman seems to be more average than a player who is out of form. Maybe I’ve been infected by a knee-jerk virus, but I heard the name ‘Raziak’ mentioned half a dozen times on Saturday and have noticed other bloggers use the not so endearing term to describe our £14M striker.
Best move of the game was his sulk down the tunnel, which Harry joked about post-match. Bent and Pav out? Could see us make Campbell a permanent signing if he’s far cheaper than the £7M Wigan were set to pay. The fourth striker should be a young and hungry kid who is willing to sit on the bench. Which means, we just need another forward to come in to give us a more than decent trio (that will obviously include Keane and JD).
I’m sure it will all take shape in the next few months. Let’s not forget our young player of the year Jonathan Obika. It’s time academy players got their chance to shine for the first team.
Ok, side-tracked, back to the game. Campbell’s relentlessly running resulted with Micah Richards falling over him and bringing him down for a penalty that Robbie Keane had no problem slotting away to win it for us with around 4 minutes of normal time left. Liam nowhere to be seen. City fans heading for the exit, something that's a tradition in recent years when visiting the Lane for a league match.
No second goal from open play then, but who cares. We probably deserved all three points for that first half display.
Our home form has been stunning.
P22 W15 D6 L1 F41 A18
Sixteen games unbeaten in all competitions (Everton the last team to win at the Lane back in late November). And to add to that, the fewest league goals we’ve ever conceded at the Lane, in a season. Boring boring Tottenham.
It's not perfect, but credit to Harry and his management. White Hart Lane is no soft touch.
Fulham look set for the Europa League, which they might struggle with considering it’s an additional 17 games or so. We’ll have to concentrate on the Prem, which isn’t too bad of a priority. And leaves us with no room for excuses.
So that’s it. Players waved their goodbyes. Ledley King didn’t look too impressed when the home fans sang ‘If Ledley’s going clubbing, so am I....’ . Lennon won our player of the year award, which he is more than worthy for after a blistering return to form.
Will Gomes still be here next season? Can we swap Jenas for Ireland? Will Harry sign Barton? Why does Bentley never get a game for us even though he's fit and scoring goals for the reserves? Is the first-half Huddlestone worth keeping when compared to the second-half version? Where was Arsenal fan Noel? Questions, questions...
Onwards to Anfield now. Might stick a few bob on Keane scoring the winner in front of the Kop.