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Stevenage v Spurs - 07.07.07

SATURDAY 7TH JULY, 2007
FRIENDLY MATCH
STEVENAGE BOROUGH 1 (1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 3 (1)

Stevenage scorer:-
Allen, 43

Spurs scorers:-
Keane (pen), 18
Bent, 47
Taarabt, 68

Attendance:- Est. 5,000

Referee:- Paul Taylor

Teams:-
Stevenage (1st half) (4-4-2):- Julian; Fuller, Henry (Capt.), Gaia, Nutter; Lawson, Lewis, Miller, Cole; Allen, Hakim

(2nd Half):- Ketteridge; Batt (Subs Hadge, 87), Oliver, Arber, Bradshaw; Eames, Molesley, Dobson, Cruise; Sealey, McMahon

Spurs (4-3-1-2):- Cerny; Ifil (sub Riley, 86), Rocha (sub Mills, 62), Gardner, Daniels (sub Hughton, 88); Malbranque, Murphy (sub Livermore, 80), O’Hara (sub Maghoma, 74); Taarabt; Keane (Capt.), Bent (sub Barcham, 68)

Anyone expecting more than a very gentle and low key warm-up friendly from this game could have been sorely disappointed. Many present might have been disappointed to see the Spurs side lacking recent signings Gareth Bale and Younes Kaboul, but we were told this week that they started training a little later than those that did travel to Stevenage. Kaboul and Chimbonda were seen in the main stand, and Chimbonda himself re-assured a questioner that he was going nowhere. (There have been rumours about a transfer to Chelsea again during this week)

I know a couple who travelled some 200 miles to see this game, and perhaps they will have been pleased to have seen Darren Bent make his first Spurs appearance, and also to have seen our record signing open his scoring account with the best goal of the game. By my reckoning, 9 of those wearing the shirt today can be expected to make the trip to South Africa. After next Thursday’s friendly in Dublin, many on view today will be the core of the Spurs XI for other friendly matches.

Stevenage fielded two different sides, and in the first half their team did resemble the one which won the FA Trophy at Wembley in May. (The trophy was paraded during half-time today) Borough were captained by former Spur, Ronnie Henry, and also included Stuart Lewis, who left Spurs Reserves last season, arriving at Stevenage via Barnet. Midfielder Miller and left winger Mitchell Cole were prominent for the home side, who gave a very good account of themselves in the first half, during which they gave the Spurs defence some scary moments, and of course got a late equaliser.

The Stevenage second half team included another former Spurs Junior – Mark Arber, who has been signed from Peterborough, and who played at centre-back beside big Luke Oliver. Other than Dobson (who won the man of the match award in that Wembley game) in midfield, the Stevenage second half side featured a lot of their reserves and juniors, so it is no surprise that Spurs did dominate the second half completely.

There are few pointers that can be drawn from this game. I have heard that Martin Jol might seek to play Robbie Keane behind a front two of Berbatov and Bent, when the real business commences, and today, he did try that formation in the first half at least, with Adel Taarabt behind skipper Keane and Bent. By the end of the game, Taarabt had the Spurs fans eating out of his hand, as he displayed plenty of tricks, worked harder as the game wore on, and learnt to pass the ball quicker than he had early on.

Robbie Keane worked very hard throughout, and apart from scoring Bent had everything to do with the penalty which gave Spurs the opening goal. Jamie O’Hara looked more impressive in the second half, when he came inside off the flank, and played in a three man formation in front of Murphy, who didn’t win the favour of the Spurs fans, but who handled the area in front of the defence well. Malbranque also worked as hard as you expect, but I won’t say too much about the central defenders, who I suspect will be fourth and fifth choice when the season starts for real – although of course we will be missing Ledley for the first two months at least.

As for the action, I think the generous crowd will have been pleased with what they saw on the whole. Robbie had an early effort that was neither a cross or a shot, and then Malbranque fed Bent, whose shot was wayward, but reached Keane who scooped the ball over the bar. Bent had an 8th minute header go wide from a corner, and ten minutes later went down in the box under Henry’s challenge, after a quick one-two with Robbie. Robbie stepped up, paused in his approach and fired home.

Nutter’s free kick from just outside the area tested Radek Cerny, and then Taarabt tried a low drive, deflected by a defender and also held by goalkeeper Julian. Julian made an excellent save from a Keane free kick, which was pushed over the bar, and a similar save from Taarabt, whose shot came at the end of a run through the middle.

Two minutes before the break, Stevenage equalised after a free kick taken 25 yards out. The ball was retrieved near the bye-line by Mitchell Cole, who left Ifil standing. Cole’s cross was missed by Rocha, but not by Ollie Allen (son of our Clive), who spun and shot low past Cerny.

Spurs quickly regained their lead, when Bent ran onto Rocha’s through ball, dummied by Malbranque, and from the edge of the box, he lifted his shot above the advancing keeper. May we see many more of these in anger in the season to come! Taarabt hit a nice effort from the left side of the area, beyond the far post, and after being put through by Keane, Bent hooked his shot wide across the keeper’s right hand post. Bent was on the end of a move involving Keane and Malbranque, but Ketteridge saved well. The second-half keeper did well to push Keane’s shot round the post, when the shot was deflected in front of the away fans in the Buildbase Stand.

O’Hara made a powerful run from half-way and passed to the industrious Keane, whose shot rebounded off the keeper into safety. The play was becoming almost processional for Spurs, with Malbranque having the best of three efforts – the others being a wide shot by Taarabt, and one over the top from Murphy. Taarabt found the net in the 68th minute with a soft goal, due to Ketteridge’s fumble, but the 18 year old deserved a goal, and will surely feature in the first team squad on many occasions this season.

The series of Spurs substitutions ensured that by the end of the game only three first team regulars (Gardner, Malbranque and Keane) were on the field. One item of note was the fact that Chris Hughton gave his son instructions as Cian replaced Charlie Daniels for the conclusion of the game.

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