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Sheffield United v Spurs, 10.02.07

FA BARCLAYS PREMIERSHIP
SATURDAY 10TH FEBRUARY, 2007
SHEFFIELD UNITED 2 (1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (1)

Sheff. Utd scorers:-
Hulse, 27
Jagielka (pen), 62

Spurs scorer:-
Jenas, 2

Referee: - Mr. M. Atkinson

Attendance: - 32,144

Teams:-
Sheff Utd (4-4-2):- Kenny; Geary, Jagielka (Capt.), Luckett, Armstrong; Kazim-Richards (sub Fathi, 72), Montgomery, Tonge, Quinn; Stead, Hulse (sub Bromby, 90)

Subs not used: - Gerrard; Webber, Nade

Booked: - Montgomery, Tonge, Bromby

Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Chimbonda, Dawson, Rocha, Ekotto; Tainio (sub Defoe, 63), Jenas, Zokora, Malbranque (sub Mido, 73); Berbatov, Keane (Capt.)

Subs not used: - Cerny; Stalteri; O’Hara

Booked: - Rocha, Defoe, Chimbonda, Jenas, Keane

I take no pleasure in the fact that I predicted this score precisely. Once again, I took no pleasure from the company of some Spurs fans present today, who from an early stage chose to abuse Sheffield United manager Neil Warnock (“Warnock, Warnock, you’re a c**t”), and who, once Spurs fell behind, sought comfort in the chant “Going down with the West Ham”, directed at our opponents. Of the two sides on display here, Spurs were the only ones who looked like relegation fodder; such is the trough of despair into which the team and the fans have dropped. Many fans around me started deploying gallows humour and chanted the names of Graham Roberts and Gary Mabbutt. The message was clear. The legendary names mentioned bore passion for their team, whenever they played, and will always be able to hold their heads up high and say “I did my best for Spurs”. Perhaps those legendary names should attend a forthcoming training session or two, because the team are not being briefed too well by Martin Jol and his team at present.

On the subject of Neil Warnock, I know he is not everyone’s cup of tea, but here is a man managing the team he has supported since boyhood; who has led United up from the Championship, after several years of effort; and who now has dragged a team of so called journeymen out of the bottom three and now ten points clear of West Ham, who head the bottom three. On form, United are destined for survival. On form, Spurs could struggle, but thankfully they probably have sufficient points in the bank. How depressing it is to reflect upon what was such a promising season before Christmas that has turned into one where I fear each and every game.

The rumours we’d heard that Lennon and Huddlestone had not travelled were confirmed, with Lennon still suffering from a bug, and now Huddlestone having fallen to illness. There was still no room for Murphy though, with up and coming reserve midfielder, Jamie O’Hara getting the call to the bench. Rocha got the nod over Gardner, and having been impressed with his debut against Southend (yes, I know, a lowly team), I begin to question the judgement of the management team, who allowed Davenport’s exit to West Ham. Davenport had clearly been third in the Spurs pecking order at centre-back, and in my view, never let us down this season. Rocha did not enjoy the experience of the cow-pat pitch at Bramall Lane today. Yes, I know it was the same for both sides, but it was quite an introduction for the Portuguese defender, who may already be hankering for his native sun. Rocha struggled at times today, and between them the Spurs defence managed to make Jonathan Stead look top class. This is the lad who was rejected by Blackburn, and bought by Warnock from Sunderland this January. Stead has already scored two goals in five games for Warnock, and he and Hulse gave the Spurs defence plenty to think about.

Having survived initial pressure, Spurs in fact got off to a dream start, when Robbie Keane flicked the ball to Jenas, who had run ahead of the strikers, and beat Kenny with a beautiful chipped shot from the right side of the area. Spurs might have gone two up after 9 minutes, when Tainio won the ball and sent Keane away down the right channel. The Spurs striker hit his shot wide across the goal. That very nearly summarises the Spurs efforts on goal, but there were one or two to come. However, the “Blades” came back with purpose, and Robinson had to make a number of saves. First there was a save from Luckett’s header from a corner that should never have been given in favour of the home side. Spurs were guilty of giving away too many cheap corners. Look, I could see that! I also saw that when United were defending similar situations, they were managing to clear for throws. Why can’t the coaching staff see that?

Berbatov did have a header go wide from a Keane corner, but then Hulse was allowed a free header from a free kick, and his header seemed to hit the post and the bar, before being cleared. Robinson did well to dive to his left and save and significantly hold a glanced header by Tonge from another cross from the left. It came as no surprise when Hulse headed the equaliser, from a corner (a clear handball by Kazim-Richards had been ignored by the officials in the build up to this one). Hulse’s header bounced down and then up through the pack of players, leaving Robinson beaten.

Rocha hit an attempted headed clearance the wrong way into the path of Stead, whose shot passed just outside the right hand post. Stead again tested Robinson with a shot that the keeper held. Spurs were not helping themselves; failing to clear effectively; failing to win second balls; and failing to string passé together. They did manage one more decent move, when Berbatov picked out Keane on the left, whose pass into the path of Jenas was subject to a good shot that went just outside the target. We thought that Rocha had scored by getting on the end of a Jenas free kick just before the break, but the referee had spotted an infringement somewhere.

In the 58th minute, a header by Hulse from another corner seemed to skim along Robinson’s bar, and then within minutes, United got the chance they wanted, when Tainio was deemed to have fouled Quinn, right on the inside edge of the box. Jagielka made no mistake with a confident spot kick. Tainio was immediately replaced by Defoe, who got a quick booking as tempers became frayed (not just on the pitch, I can tell you) Mido also replaced Malbranque, and Spurs tried the 4-2-4 approach, with little effect. There was one moment, when Berbatov got a pass through to Defoe, but Jagielka made a great challenge to win the ball, before Defoe could pull the trigger.

Some platitudes have already been fired in the direction of Spurs fans, with the excuse that there was a fine line between success and failure, claiming the injustice of several decisions, including the penalty. However, it is a fact that Spurs players never looked comfortable on the ball, and through being hurried, rarely failed to make headway against the constant terrier-like challenge from Warnock’s battlers. Spurs could do with some of their qualities.

· Spurs need a "P" - for Passion!

· Squad numbers,appearances,bookings & goalscorers
· Read the preview for this game.

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