FA BARCLAYCARD PREMIERSHIP
SUNDAY 28TH DECEMBER, 2003
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0) CHARLTON ATHLETIC 1 (0)
Referee:- Paul Durkin
Spurs (4-4-2):- Keller (Capt.):- Kelly, Richards, Gardner, Taricco (sub Mabizela, 89); Ricketts (sub Zamora, 71), Poyet (sub Postiga, 80), King, Jackson; Keane, Kanoute
Subs not used:- Burch; Doherty
Charlton (4-4-2):- Kiely; Kishishev, Fish, Perry, Hreidarsson; Holland (Capt.), Parker, Euell, Konchesky; Di Canio, Johansson (sub Cole, 46)
Subs not used:- Royce; Powell, Fortune; Stuart
Spurs Christmas misery was complete today, as Charlton consigned them to the bottom three at the half-way stage of this Premiership season. Spurs had played so well and dominated the first half, but failed to capitalise. After the break, Charlton came out of the traps, and put Spurs on the back foot more and more. The winning goal came from a corner needlessly conceded by Captain for the day, Kasey Keller, and it was Chelsea loanee, Carlton Cole, who scored his first goal in Charlton's colours.
Spurs had been forced to give Stephen Kelly his Premiership debut, in place of the suspended Stephen Carr. Dalmat and Anderton were absent, and John Jackson had a starring home debut, whilst Rohan Ricketts took up a role on the right side of midfield. Paul Konchesky started for Charlton, playing in the same position, as he had for Spurs until just a week ago, up against Ricketts on the left side of the Charlton midfield.
The telling factor really for Spurs is the lack of quality on the pitch. Apart from long-term absentees such as Redknapp (Who?), Davies, and Ziege, it has to be said that Ledley King is not of the desired quality to be a dominating force in the middle. As the game wore on, his passes became more and more astray, but it is unfair to nominate him alone. Kanoute is a touch player. When it goes well, he looks marvellous, and he showed class at times today, but there were too many occasions when control and the ability to hold up the play for the team were impossibilities for him. Robbie tried and tried, but ran into a few blind alleys. Even Gus Poyet played well in the first half, but was then largely anonymous in the second, until being replaced at last by Postiga.
Mabizela's substitution came too late in the game, but neither Postiga or Zamora made an impression. At the back, Kelly made a few errors, and the psychological factor of the game is going to come into play now, as Richards and Gardner start to display nerves at crucial moments. One of the reasons for Spurs great success in the first half, was their tendency to attack down the left, but this became less prevalent in the second half, leaving Jackson out of the game for a lot of the time, when he had been so impressive earlier.
Jason Euell had sent Johansson away to provide the first threat for the visitors, and a corner followed. It was all Spurs for quite a while, as Taricco fed Jackson, passing to Robbie Keane, who had a good shot deflected for a corner. The kick was taken by Jackson (who is such a good dead ball kicker), and Kanoute headed just over. Taricco fed Jackson again, and his good delivery into the 6 yard box, enabled a Poyet effort which was blocked. Then Keane and Poyet combined to give Jackson a shot on goal. It was a shot from the left, at an angle, and went about a yard in front of the far post. The home fans were already singing Jacko's praises - justifiably so.
Stephen Kelly had been doing okay, and I got the impression that Spurs were playing down the left to protect him on his debut. He made his first mistake after 12 minutes, with a mis-placed pass to Parker, who sent Johansson away, tackled well by Gardner, clearing the danger. A minute later, Spurs had a free kick near the half way line, taken by Ledley. Keane and Kanoute exchanged well in close quarters, and Robbie hit a good shot saved well by Kiely.
On 20 minutes, Poyet (supporting the front two) threaded a good ball into the box for Taricco to advance. Tano went down as he ran into the defender, and despite the home appeals, Paul Durkin waved "Play On". Two minutes and Di Canio sent Johansson into the clear with a chip over the defence. Johansson was 1 on 1 against Keller who narrowed the angle superbly, and made a great save. Johansson had a second chance though, and it looked as if he must score. Thankfully the ball bounced across the goalmouth, and not into the net, as Keller was beaten on the ground.
Already, Robbie was with the ball on the right side of the Charlton area. He cut back to the left and hit a great left-foot shot, which was held at the second attempt by the ever-impressive Kiely. Kelly sent Ricketts down the line, and Kanoute met a great cross with a header that grazed the stanchion behind the bar. Gus Poyet was up to meet another Jackson corner, but his header had little power and Parker cleared off the line. Poyet then tried a scissor kick from a Ricketts cross but it went just over the bar. Jackson's delivery was consistent, and one ball ran just in front of Kanoute in the danger zone. Then, just before the break, Ricketts skied a marvellous opportunity in the area.
After the break, Carlton Cole replaced Johansson. Initially Spurs carried on where they left off. Robbie Keane dummied a Kelly cross, and John Jackson twisted his way into the Charlton area, but just could not get the shot on goal. The ball would not quite run for Kanoute either. Charlton then gained more possession, but their first effort came from a Holland shot that was nearer the corner flag than the goal. Spurs had a free kick half cleared and Taricco should have done better with time to spare to measure a shot, which he skewed high and wide. Another great delivery from a Jackson free kick was half cleared, and again Ricketts failed to control his shot.
Spurs were punished in the 69th minute. Firstly Keller flew to his left, past his post (knowing there was a defender covering the post) and in his efforts to needlessly try to save a header that was going out, he conceded the corner. Di Canio was the provider, and Cole hit a glancing header across the goalmouth and into the net. The home fans booed when Ricketts was taken off in favour of Zamora "You don't know what you're doing", but Rohan had not been effective in that second half. From here on in though, Spurs lost their composure and the visitors had the best chances. Firstly Di Canio fed Parker and his shot was palmed round the corner by Keller. From the corner, Parker hit a low cross/shot that escaped everyone a yard in front of goal. It was one-time Spurs target Parker again, who had a shot plucked out of the air by Keller in the closing stages.
Spurs started the year in 8th place, and as late as February had genuine chances of gaining a place in Europe. They end 2003 in the bottom 3, and in need of re-vitalisation. Once we might have seen Parker and Nicky Butt of Man Utd as realistic targets, but now we can only look forward to a Nationwide signing of Sheffield United's Michael Brown. The Spurs fans chanted to Fredi Kanoute during this game "You're French and you know you are" - a reference to his forthcoming absence due to the African Nations Cup, when he is likely to be representing Mali. Spurs are suffering a dearth of goals (1 in the last 4 league games), and have now lost their 4th consecutive league game. It does not look like being a Happy New Year at White Hart Lane.
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