SATURDAY MARCH 17TH, 2001
FA CARLING PREMIERSHIP
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 3 (2) COVENTRY CITY 0 (0)
Referee:- Graham Poll (replaced by fourth official Mr P. Taylor at half-time)
Spurs (3-5-2):- Sullivan; Perry, Campbell (Capt.), Doherty; Iversen, Freund, Clemence, King, Young; Rebrov, Ferdinand
Subs not used:- Walker; Gardner; Davies, Etherington; Korsten
Coventry (4-4-2):- Kirkland; Quinn, Shaw, Breen, Hall; Thompson (sub Telfer, 63), Carsley, Eustace (sub Chippo, 63, sub Edworthy, 76), Bellamy; Hadji (Capt.), Hartson
Subs not used:- Hedman; Aloisi
Booked:- Carsley (Foul on Rebrov)
There was no hangover displayed by the players today, following the surprise departure of George Graham yesterday. David Pleat took charge, and fielded the side that won at West Ham last week, and which in fairness, had no doubt been picked and drilled by the ex-manager. Stewart Houston took his usual place in the set-up, and this was a comfortable win. So, was there any perceivable difference in playing style? Maybe it is me, but I felt that the midfield were encouraged to take more risks and to try and play a passing game, coupled with use of skilful flicks and touches. In doing so, mistakes were made, but we always recovered. However, there will be a need for more sharpness against the forthcoming opposition in the next two games. (Arsenal away in the league, and at Old Trafford for the semi-final).
There were threats from Coventry in the first half - mainly due to the pace of Bellamy down the left flank, where Iversen and Perry struggled at times. Iversen played a scoring and leading part in the first two goals, and was noticeably more defence-minded in the second period, by which time any sting had been drawn from the relegation-battling visitors. Apart from this area, Spurs had little problem containing Hartson & Co, and were able to play with confidence, some skill and excitement!
As you know, I am one of those who was ecstatic at yesterday's dismissal of Graham, but it was obvious that there are a lot of mixed feelings at the Lane. At half-time, Martin Chivers introduced two season ticket holders who had been invited to view the match from the director's box. He announced this scheme as the brainchild of Mr Levy and Mr Buchler, which led to considerable booing of Buchler's name. Ah well, you can't please all the people all the time! (Two season ticket holders will be chosen at random to view the game from the director's box, till the end of the season)
Spurs had an early attack from the right led by Ferdinand and Iversen. Les's cross reached Ledley King, who headed onto the top of the bar. King had another excellent game today, and must surely be a fixture in the side now. Clemence too was influential, despite making more than the average number of mistakes pro rata, as compared to his colleagues. Freund was Freund! - getting forward at every opportunity, NEARLY SCORING! (more later), and harrying away at Bellamy as the game progressed. The likes of Messrs Sherwood and Anderton are surely going to have to fight their way back into the side.
Coventry's early threats began with a free kick that reached Hartson on the right of the area. He crossed to Hadji, who was unattended, and fired wide. Bellamy then raced away from the trailing Iversen on a counter-attack, and shot across goal past Sullivan, but mercifully wide of the target. Eustace too had a couple of good efforts, firstly after a Thompson free kick on the right, and then a long shot following a corner. It began to look like Coventry might steal something from the game.
However, Les Ferdinand was always putting himself about, and little Sergei Rebrov continues to gain in confidence. They combined at the other end, when Gary Doherty got into the box, fed by Rebrov, only to see his shot go across Kirkland, but somehow fail to find a team-mate. With 15 minutes gone, Perry failed to reach Freund with an attempted pass and found himself struggling against Bellamy who picked up the returned ball. Bellamy cleverly cut inside Perry, and shot across Sullivan's goal. The Spurs keeper was equal to the effort, as he dived to his left to flick the ball round for a corner.
Les Ferdinand then headed down a long ball, for Stephen Clemence to drive with his RIGHT foot, forcing a desperate dive by Kirkland to his left. The pace of the game did not dwindle, as Rebrov passed to Sol from the left. Sol's attempted shot was going miles wide, and Les (in an offside position) hit the ball wide of the mark. Clemence had another excellent drive saved. This time the shot was hit with his left foot.
Spurs took the lead from a dead ball situation, although the corner had been well-won after Ledley King passed to Iversen whose sharp shot was blocked. Clemence took the corner, and Steffen Iversen stepped up to head home for his first goal since September. Spurs increased their lead 5 minutes later. Young was fouled by Thompson after a neat counter attack led by Clemence and King. Clemence took the kick, and Iversen's header was saved by Kirkland, but he could only parry into the path of Les Ferdinand who headed home.
Thompson tried to redeem himself with a thunderbolt shot that whistled past the post, and Sullivan made one of his occasional lapses when a poor thrown clearance was hit back, and then deflected over the bar by Sol Campbell.
The second half was less eventful, as Spurs tamed Bellamy, restricting Coventry to occasional long range efforts handled easily by Neil Sullivan. Clemence did lose out badly in the middle, but Perry covered well, depriving the surging Bellamy of the ball, with one of many good tackles.
The game was secured after 59 minutes. Ferdinand did excellent work on the right flank, before sending a long low pass to Ledley King, who threaded through to Rebrov. Rebrov looked suspiciously offside, but he coolly slotted the ball under Kirkland in front of the Paxton Road stand. A couple of minutes later the ever-elusive Freund goal almost occurred. Clemence received along clearance in the middle, and sent Freund racing away down the right. Steffen tried to slide the ball past the keeper. He achieved phase one, but the ball curved agonisingly past the post. Never mind - he'll just have to do it at Old Trafford!
Clemence had another excellent goal attempt. when he ran onto a Ledley King chip, following good work by Ferdinand and Rebrov. Clemence's header was only just wide. The game fizzled out somewhat, as the Coventry heads dropped, and Spurs maintained their control, successfully defending any attacks. An excellent week (for me!) drew to a conclusion, although bigger tests are of course to follow.
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