FA BARCLAYS PREMIERSHIP
SATURDAY 23RD DECEMBER, 2006
NEWCASTLE UNITED 3 (3) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (1)
Referee:- Alan Wiley
Newcastle (4-4-2):- Given (sub Srnicek, 87); Solano, Taylor, Ramage, Huntingdon; Milner, Parker, Butt, Emre (sub Sibierski, 66); Martins, Dyer (sub Rossi, 77)
Subs not used:- Edgar; Luque
Spurs (4-5-1):- Robinson; Chimbonda, Dawson, King (Capt.), Lee; Ghaly, Malbranque, Zokora (sub Mido, 66), Huddlestone, Murphy; Berbatov
Subs not used:- Cerny; Davenport, Ekotto; O’Hara
To be honest, it is very difficult for me to give anything but a brief perspective on this game. Although I am an away season ticket holder, and usually get a seat near the front of the Spurs allocation at St. James Park, I was placed about 8 rows down from the very rafters of the stadium. From there it is impossible to identify Toon players, whose numbers are camouflaged by their black and white stripes.
Perhaps my distance from the playing area was a merciful release, as the game was over as a competition after only 6 minutes, by which time the home team were two up, thanks to a bit of a gift for Dyer from Ledley King of all people, and a header by Martins that came from an offside player.
I also pay Spurs (((Mobile))) some £80 per annum to be informed of team news, and the like. After being told that Jermain Defoe was to start in a 4-4-2, I had just about worked out that in fact Danny Murphy had been promoted off the bench, due to Defoe getting injured in the warm-up. Spurs (((Mobile))) told me about ten minutes into the game. Perhaps they had only then noticed that Spurs did have eleven players on the park. We must hope that Defoe is fit for Boxing Day, as our resources are getting drained, evidenced by the fact that Jamie O’Hara had a place on the bench at late notice.
Murphy got a slightly fortuitous 15th minute goal that put Spurs back in the match, but it wasn’t long before they were making a Christmas present of the three points, as Paul Robinson failed to hold a free kick that ultimately ended in the net. Like last season “The Toon” were 3-1 up after little more than half an hour, and in the end, Spurs fans were grateful the score was no worse than 3-1.
Spurs can make no excuses of their absentees, as Newcastle are top of the Premier League injury list with a catalogue of players missing. Perhaps Spurs were keyed up for the game plan to include Defoe, and that is why they were not at the races, when Martin Jol switched to a 4-5-1, rather than putting Mido next to Berbatov.
Spurs conceded the first goal, after being caught out after over-committing to an early attack. Despite the five-man midfield, Pascal Chimbonda was still given the responsibility of providing width on the right, and he received a ball from Ghaly, crossing to Malbranque whose header was blocked. Thus Chimbonda was stranded in the Newcastle half, as the ball was sent quickly into the Spurs half, where only Ledley King stood in the way of the pacy Dyer, playing beside Obafemi Martins. King stood too far off Dyer, who was able to place a right foot shot to the left of Robinson just inside the post, in front of the ecstatic Gallowgate End. Soon after Emre was in space on the left of goal, and tested Robinson with his shot.
In no time Newcastle were two up, as Milner’s ball reached Parker in an offside position. Parker’s cross was headed home all too easily by Martins, who now has 9 goals to his name in his first season at Newcastle, six of which have come in the last six games. Understandably, the home crowd were ecstatic, and spent the rest of the day crowing and lording it over the dejected Spurs army, facing the realisation of a wasted 500 mile+ return trip to see more dross from their own men.
Berbatov did hit the side netting after 9 minutes, and when Murphy received a ball from the right, mis-kicked it and saw it go into the net, even he didn’t seem to believe what had happened. Murphy soon became just another one of the Spurs villains, when Huddlestone put him through to a shooting position, but Murphy denied responsibility and in trying to pass back to a team mate, simply gave the ball away. Chimbonda again got into the Newcastle area and cut the ball back for Huddlestone, whose shot was way off-beam. Huddlestone then became the provider for Chimbonda, with a free kick, which the full back headed into Given’s arms.
Newcastle were then generously awarded a free kick about 25 yards out, taken by Milner and only parried by Robinson. In the ensuing melee the ball was blocked two or three times before Parker got the touch to put the ball into the net and make Spurs fans consider an early departure.
After the break, Berbatov got goalside of the defence and beat Given with his shot, but the ball went wide. There was a golden opportunity for Michael Dawson up for a Huddlestone free kick. The ball reached Dawson towards the right of the area, and with a clear shot on goal. Dawson tried a low effort but pushed it outside the post. At the other end, Dawson had a man to man struggle with Martins, who did manage to get his shot on target, held by Robinson. Despite Mido’s replacement of Zokora after 66 minutes, Spurs made no headway, and we couldn’t get out of Newcastle quick enough.
I wanted at least 8 points from our 4-game Christmas programme, and that now looks an impossibility, considering the strength of our opponents, and the current ineptitude of our boys. Prepare yourselves for a bleak Christmas, Spurs fans! But please remember, it is only a game. I hope that you and your loved ones can have a really festive time at home.
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