FA CARLING PREMIERSHIP
SATURDAY 6th FEBRUARY, 1999
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0) COVENTRY CITY 0 (0)
Referee:- Stephen Lodge
Spurs (4-4-2):- Walker; Carr, Young, Campbell, Taricco ( sub Sherwood, 86 ); Anderton, Freund, Nielsen, Sinton; Ferdinand, Iversen ( sub Armstrong, 70 )
Subs not used:- Baardsen; Vega; Fox
Coventry(4-4-2):- Hedman; Nilsson, Shaw, Williams ( sub Konjic, 52), Breen sub Aloisi, 90 ); Telfer, McAllister, Soltvedt ( sub Brightwell, 70), Froggatt; Huckerby, Whelan
Subs not used:- Ogrizovic (GK); Edworthy
Booked:- Telfer, McAllister, Breen, Whelan
George Graham brought back Luke Young in place of Ramon Vega to cope with the pace of Darren Huckerby, and he gave Mauricio Taricco his full debut. Tim Sherwood ( number 24 ) sat out most of the match, entering the arena with minutes to go, to a terrific reception. Spurs dominated this match, having at least twenty chances on goal. Ferdinand, Nielsen, and chiefly Iversen were guilty of squandering the best scoring chances. Anderton, and Sinton hit the woodwork, but it was one of those days for Tottenham, and most frustrating for their fans, who nevertheless, were entertained.
There being so many attacks, it is difficult to log the afternoon's events fully, but as early as the fourth minute, Young was showing his confidence , by bringing the ball out of defence, and leading to the first strong attack. He passed to Taricco, whose pass to Ferdinand led to a good run by Sinton, and a corner. Soon after that, a Nielsen throw was headed on by Ferdinand, for Sol Campbell to head just wide. Nielsen followed this with a good shot, after Ferdinand headed down. With such a strong line up on the bench, and a good start, there was a real flavour of optimism in the air, and hope of several goals to come.
After 11 minutes, the ball was cleared as far as Anderton lurking outside the area, and he teed himself up for a cracking right foot drive, that hit the outside of the right post.
The decision to put Young on Huckerby was a good one, and he managed to control the little striker for most of the afternoon. However, there were occasions when Young was left behind, and a little panic was caused for the Spurs defence. Walker had to be quick off the mark after 18 minutes to save at Huckerby's feet. Spurs responded positively, and an Anderton free kick was met by Campbell, whose glanced header across goal went just wide. Coventry then caught the home side on the hop, and Whelan passed the ball to McAllister who had a powerful shot blocked. There were further chances for Ferdinand, Nielsen, and Campbell, before a Whelan and Huckerby combination culminated in a Whelan shot going well wide of the mark.
The most threatening moment for Spurs came after 36 minutes, when McAllister pierced the defence laying on an opportunity for Huckerby. Between them, Walker and Young managed to prevent a goal, although Walker had to make two saves from close range.
Spurs picked up the baton, and built up the pressure towards half time. Anderton and Carr worked well down the right flank, and Carr's cross was met by Ferdinand, whose header went across the goalmouth. Shortly after that Nielsen had his head in his hands after just failing to meet an Anderton free kick. This head in hands pose was to be repeated several times by Ferdinand, and Iversen in the second half. Freund had an impressive game today, tackling, passing, and shooting well. He had one shot before half time, before some lovely work by Carr, who took the ball to the line, but his cross was not converted. Sinton hit the woodwork with a shot just before the half time whistle.
Almost as soon as they re-started, Nielsen passed to Ferdinand, who ran at the defender, twisted one way, then the other, and beat his man. There he was with the goal at his mercy, but you know what happened! The best chance of the game for Spurs came after 51 minutes, when Freund put a cross from the right into the danger zone. the ball reached Iversen at the far post, and he somehow contrived to miss from very close range.
There was some pressure from Coventry early in the second period, but little in the way of goal threats. Just over an hour had gone, when Freund had his best shot of the match saved, but there was no Spurs player following up, when a poacher would have been present to mop up. Anderton had an in and out game today. He must be playing to instructions, but he seems to drift into the middle of the park too often, leaving no-one on the flank. With Sinton being generally well marked , Spurs missed the wing play on many occasions. Having said that, Anderton did create many chances today, with his dead ball situations, and crossing ability. Both Ferdinand, and Nielsen failed to make contact with another of his crosses after 66 minutes. By this time, one sensed that Spurs just were not going to score, despite the introduction of Armstrong for Iversen with 20 minutes to go. He had one shot on target, after resisting a strong challenge by Shaw, but, if anything, in the latter stages, there was a real risk of Coventry snatching an undeserved winner.
George Graham declared himself pleased with the performance, despite the failure to take the chance to leap up the table, saying "We dominated, but didn't kill them off"
I find it galling that we are still below a very poor West ham side who lost 4-0 at home today. Whilst we have not been beaten for 10 games now, we are guilty of too many draws again. I was most impressed with Freund, Carr, and Young, in that order today Taricco made a good debut, and also demonstrated confidence in playing the ball out of his own area in a composed manner, rather than the hoof into Row Z.
Graham demonstrated today that he is going to pick "horses for courses" when he can. The quality on the bench, and the absence of Ginola illustrates the increasing strength of the Tottenham squad, and I suspect that whilst "Stroller" set no targets for himself this season, he really has his eye on some early success
· Brian Judson's preview
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