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West Brom v Spurs, 28.12.08

BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SUNDAY 28TH DECEMBER, 2008
WEST BROMWICH ALBION 2 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0)

Scorers:-
Bednar, 83
Beattie, 90

Referee: - Mr. S. Tanner

Attendance: - 26,344

Teams:-
West Brom (4-4-2):- Carson; Zuiverloon (sub Hoefkens, 72), Barnett, Olsson, Cech; Morrison, Valero (sub Beattie, 80), Greening (Capt.), Brunt (sub Dorrans, 65); Bednar, Moore

Subs not used: - Kiely; Kim, MacDonald, Donk

Booked: - Morrison, Brunt, Zuiverloon

Spurs (4-4-1-1):- Gomes; Corluka, Dawson, Woodgate (Capt.), Ekotto; Lennon, Jenas, Zokora (sub Campbell, 86), Bentley (sub O’Hara, 69); Modric (sub Bale, 75); Bent

Subs not used: - Cesar; Gunter; Taarabt; Obika

Booked: - Dawson, Jenas

Sent off: - Ekotto, 35 (Serious Foul Play)

Relegation Battle Looms

A real relegation battle looms for Spurs now, after a dour return from the three matches of Christmas of one solitary point, when surely a minimum of four points was the target. It was a case of déjà vu yesterday, as three years to the day West Brom beat us 2-0. Spurs might have the so-called quality and the star names in their side, but it is fighting quality that wins relegation struggles, and on current showing, Spurs do not have the level of fight and application that was demonstrated by the home side yesterday.

Once again we had to carry the burden of Ledley King’s absence, and this is a situation that must surely be resolved for good in the New Year. As good as he is, when fit, Ledley can no longer be carried by Spurs, can he? We also missed the skills of Roman Pavlyuchenko yesterday through illness, and he surely would have ma nagged more in the way of efforts on goal than did the hapless Darren Bent. Mind you, once again, the midfield failed to deliver a killer pass, and when Luka Modric and Aaron Lennon did provide the cutting edge, there were not enough options in the middle to receive a pass. It is sad to report that David Bentley did not provide the cutting edge we hope for, and he was substituted after 69 minutes, not before time. It was his replacement, Jamie O’Hara, who had the only meaningful shot on target that I can recall in added time. The trouble is that with Spurs over-committed to an equaliser, the home side broke forward and got the killer goal to secure the points that take them within two points of Spurs, who somehow remain in 16th place, despite their recent results.

The forthcoming distraction of Cup games before our next Premier League game at Wigan will not be enough to take my mind of the struggle to come. It is paramount that Spurs get some points out of their next few games, because the more difficult opposition will come around soon, and our run-in with three away games at Man Utd, Everton and Liverpool does not augur well for a late survival push. I am really worried again now, but of course the transfer window is in sight and Harry Redknapp’s priorities must be a striker or two, and a cutting edge midfielder.

In my view Luka Modric is one of our best players, and must be accommodated, but it is time to play him behind two strikers, and in front of a midfield three with at least two thirds having gritty defensive qualities. Harry might have some re-thinking to do here, as what we have is not working well enough, although I also think that Lennon is vital to our future success.

As for the game, it was played once again in bitterly cold conditions, and rarely excited. Tony Mowbray played his front two of the Czech International Roman Bednar and Luke Moore. They might not have many recognised stars, but the midfield of Morrison, Valero, Greening and Brunt gave Spurs plenty of trouble, supported by their full backs. The left back, Cech raced forward after 7 minutes and passed inside to Morrison who fired a shot from the right side of the area wide across the goal mouth. Spurs had had a warning and it was to get worse when Michael Dawson got an early booking for a foul on the edge of the box. Gomes made a good save from Valero’s free kick.

Ekotto got forward after 21 minutes and passed inside to Modric. His ball to Darren Bent was fired tamely at Scott Carson who was taunted throughout by Spurs chants of “You let your country down”. Bent appeared to be brought down on the left flank by Zuiverloon, but there was no foul and no card awarded by the referee, who simply gave a throw-in. The signs did not look good for Spurs regarding the referee, and things got markedly worse when Ekotto got a straight red for serious foul play when he apparently stamped on Zuiverloon. I haven’t seen the TV replays, and this action was at the other end from my position. The fact is that Spurs were left with the task of adjusting to this loss, which they did by moving Zokora to left back, and retaining their shape otherwise, although Modric was forced deeper in the set-up. Thus Spurs became more defensive, although they were rarely threatened too badly by the home side who sniffed blood.

Gomes held a header by Olsson, and Spurs did have a good break through Lennon, whose low cross was blocked and fell to Bentley, who fired wide. Lennon drew a cynical foul from Brunt, who got a yellow card for his trouble.

Gomes was in action again soon after the break, saving from Brunt, before Bentley won a free kick but hit the ball straight at Carson. The round of substitutions included O’Hara for Bentley, and Gareth Bale for Luka Modric. Bale went to the left side of midfield, as Spurs tried to take the game to the opposition despite their one-man deficit. It was Gomes making saves again though, as he had to fend off a shot that was deflected then dipped just under his bar.

It was Bednar who broke the deadlock in the 83rd minute, but in doing so he seemed to push Michael Dawson away before heading the ball into Gomes’ left corner. The West Brom crowd chanted “We’ve done it before, we’ll do it again”, referring to their dramatic relegation escape of the 2004-05 season, and of course with 6 points from their three festive games, they have given themselves a great chance. Zokora was replaced by Fraizer Campbell, as Spurs desperately hunted an equaliser, which nearly came after a Bale throw, which led to O’Hara’s deflected shot being well saved by Carson inside his right post. However, The Baggies put the final nail in Spurs’ Christmas coffin with a goal on the break, as substitute Beattie was left with a simple finish as Gomes had been left exposed by the absent defence.

Despite our poor return over the last week, results have kept us out of the bottom three, and we are only three points away from 11th place. It does mean an exciting relegation battle for all the teams and their supporters in that bottom section, but I’d rather not be involved, thank you very much. Come on Harry! Do your transfer magic – quickly!

Remember though, it is only a game, and I do sincerely wish all readers a happy, healthy and prosperous 2009.

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