FA PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 15TH AUGUST, 1998
WIMBLEDON 3 (0) - TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (0)
Wimbledon:- Sullivan; Cunningham, Perry, Blackwell, Kimble; Earle, Roberts, Ardley ( sub Fear 81 ), M. Hughes ( sub Jupp 83 ); Ekoku, Euell ( sub Gayle 87 )
Subs not used:- Heald (GK); Kennedy
Spurs:- Walker; Carr, Vega, Campbell (capt ), Tramezzani; Berti (sub Nielsen 57 ), Anderton ( sub Saib 72 ), Fox, Ginola; Armstrong, Ferdinand
Subs not used:- Baardsen (GK); Calderwood, Allen
Referee Graham Poll.
It has to be said that this was a disastrous start for Spurs. It seemed to me that they remained in pre-season mode until they were two goals down, whereas Wimbledon were clearly "up for it" from the off. Although Joe Kinnear has made no summer signings, he was able to field his full strength side, and strength was the operative word. Add that quaity to determination, fitness, ability to pass, and penetrate, and you have the usual ingredients of a Kinnear side that as always is tipped to struggle, but seems to be able to pull the rabbit out of the hat. In my opinion, one of their big assets today was their ability to feed off their front men ( Ekoku, and Euell ), keep the ball, and dominate the midfield. Spurs had sporadic forays in the first half, with half chances for Ferdinand, Berti, and Ginola, but the Dons always looked more likely to score. Earle in particular forced a great one-on-one save from Walker, as a through ball lifted over the Spurs defence deceived the back four, but not Earle, who really should have slotted home. The home side also sent the ball whizzing across the Spurs goal a couple of times from corner and free kick situations, when a goal could easily have resulted.
Berti looked for me one of our better players ( Campbell, of course stands magnificently above all ) as he was responsible several times for cohesive clearances from defensive situations, and was involved in one box to box move where he latched onto a deflected pass, but just fired wide. Ginola and Armstrong had shots from outside the box. Overall, despite some tremendous play late in the game, I was very disappointed in Ginola. Does he suffer from start of season blues or something? He just didn't seem too interested in the first half. He got booked in the second half for making too much fuss of a foul that wasn't. He also had problems striking an understanding with Tramezzani, who it is too early to judge at the moment. Spurs fans must have numbered 15,000 of those in the ground, and the support in the first half was magnificent, with the slow renditions of "When the Spurs" being particularly memorable. However, everyone recognised that we were quite fortunate to be on level terms at the turn round.
Sadly, things took a serious turn for the worse only three minutes after the restart. It was Anderton who gave away a free kick on Wimbledon's left flank. Earle worked his way across the penalty area, tracked by the miscreant, and my trepidation about Anderton's ability to defend the situation was justified. The free kick was taken by Michael Hughes ( we could do worse than sign him ), and Earle easily overpowered Anderton to head home. At this point Anderton was our rearmost defender. How ridiculous. He certainly came in for some stick from the away fans after this, and his confidence, fitness, and passing were all questionable. I believe he has reported back to the camp particularly late, so may be lacking some fitness, but if this is the case, why play him? I think most of this (Spurs) list is agreed that he should play a similar role to the one he does for England. Although he got our goal, Fox was really his usual frustrating self.
Ferdinand was very anonymous in this game, and whilst Armstrong saw a bit of the ball, there was no cohesion between our attack, and midfield.
Surprisingly, Berti was the first to be substituted, and I believe he stomped off within minutes of being replaced by Nielsen, as a reaction to the second goal which soon followed. Michael Hughes was the provider again, as he hood-winked Stevie Carr on the left wing. Carr was left standing forlorn, and truly beaten, as Hughes sent a cross along that line which causes goalies ( ours in particular ) to have doubts about whether or not to go for the ball. Ian Walker stayed on his line, and Ekoku headed powerfully home. Vega came in for some stick over this on the radio afterwards, but poor Carr must carry the can for his mistake.
By this time Spurs fans were baying for Saib to be introduced. It's amazing how many people still mistake this sound for booing. On Capital Gold, one caller said the crowd was booing tremendously when Anderton was substituted, but it was the welcome for Saib who came on after 72 minutes. The effect was almost immediate. In the 75th minute Saib carried the ball forward to the right edge of their box, and made a delicate probing pass for Fox to run onto and shoot round Sullivan. I believe I detected a touch of hesitation ( or was it amazement ) from Fox, but it was a good finish.
Suddenly we had a game of football, and Spurs became fired up. Ginola had several runs at this stage, and finished one with a powerful shot that beat the goalie, and hit the underside of the bar, bounced down, but somehow stayed out of the goal. In the latter stages we even played 3-3-4 with Vega going into attack alongside Ferdinand, Armstrong, and Ginola. It didn't work out though. If anything he was only getting in the way.
And so it was that our hopes of an equaliser from this late rally were dashed by another disastrous piece of defensive play. Another cross from the left following a free kick ( I thought Gayle was offside ) found Walker, and (particularly) Tramezzani undecided. Ekoku was easily able to shoot home.
Tramezzani looks a strong and powerful player, and he showed some attacking qualities late in the game. He looks a bit suspect in the middle of defence ( as demonstrated by the goal ), and he is not too fast, but I cannot remember too much in the way of opposition attacks down his flank. I believe he will make, and score a few goals for us this season.
So - we didn't get the start we wanted, and I got my predicted score-line right, but to the wrong teams. Officially, we are bottom of the league. Christian Gross was asked when we should judge the team, and he said not until after 4,5 or 6 games. I would say after 10 games, myself. My biggest fear is that Sol will see the light before Christmas, and become subject of an offer the club will not refuse before too long.
Supporting, and watching Spurs is like a disease. Let's hope Mr. Gross can remedy the malaise quickly.
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