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Derby v Spurs, 02.02.02

FA BARCLAYCARD PREMIERSHIP
SATURDAY 2ND FEBRUARY, 2002
DERBY COUNTY 1 (1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0)

Derby scorer:-
Morris, 43

Attendance:- 27,721

Referee:- U. Rennie

Teams:-
Derby (4-4-2):- Oakes; Barton, Riggott, Higginbottom, Zavagno; Valakari (sub O'Neil, 81), Ducrocq, Powell, Morris (sub Boertien, 73); Christie, Ravanelli (Capt)

Subs not used:- Grant; Kinkladze; Burton

Booked:- Christie (Dissent), Ravanelli, (Foul), Powell (Handball)

Spurs (3-5-2):- Sullivan; Perry, Richards, King; Davies (sub Anderton, 64), Leonhardsen, Sherwood (sub Rebrov, 79), Poyet, Taricco (sub Etherington, 46); Sheringham (Capt), Iversen

Subs not used:- Kelly; Thelwell

Booked:- Sherwood, Taricco (both fouls)

The magic of beating Chelsea seems to have long disappeared, as Spurs slumped to their eleventh defeat of the season against a Derby side, obviously inspired by their new manager John Gregory, who was received rapturously by the home fans at the conclusion of this match. Spurs have now managed just 5 points from their last 8 starts, and 1 point from their last five away games. The form tables do not lie - Spurs are playing relegation football, and yet they have still kept that eighth place in the league.

It's no use thinking only of cups (Darren Anderton did not start today, in anticipation of Tuesday night's fourth round tie with Bolton) when you cannot manage to beat any side in the league. Gregory's Derby side showed some of the Villa style, with Morris re-instated and playing a Merson type role, probing, twisting, and feeding the speedy Malcolm Christie, who seemed to make every long ball fed into space his own. Ravanelli was too wily for the back three, and it really is difficult to find a good word to say for any of the Spurs team. I understand that Simon Davies was a doubt before the game, and that Anderton had 'flu', but I can only commend Matthew Etherington who came on for Taricco after the break, and who at least got the ball into dangerous positions a few times. Spurs did not manage a shot on target in the second half, and no-one seemed to want to take responsibility and have a pot at goal.

Spurs performance lacked in all areas, including effort, which is usually not to be faulted. So-called relegation fodder Derby looked like the top half side and vice versa in our worst performance of the season. Referee Uriah Rennie looked on target to send someone off, as he got Sherwood's name in the book very early on, and added Taricco to his collection before 20 minutes had passed. As for the football, Derby were on top from the start, and Perry seemed to be struggling holding the right flank without Davies in support. Whilst Spurs did play 3-5-2, Davies seemed more committed to attack, which left Perry somewhat exposed to wing play from Morris and Zavagno.

Perry had already given one ball away needlessly before Simon lost out in the midfield and the ball was fed through quickly to Ravanelli who gave Christie a chance, but Sullivan was down quickly to save at the attacker's feet. Spurs' first chance came after a quarter of an hour, when Poyet crossed from the left, but Teddy, with time to set himself up, still managed to fire wide of the post. Zavagno beat Davies, crossed and luckily, Christie headed into Sullivan's hands. On the half hour Spurs broke out and Leonhardsen found Iversen on the right channel. Steffen sent a deep cross, which Taricco headed straight to the keeper. Two minutes later, Spurs managed another good build-up, switching the play left and right, before Iversen (this time on the left flank) crossed but Leo headed to the keeper from close range.

Spurs managed one more decent attack, when Taricco won a free kick on the bye line for obstruction. Sherwood took the kick, and Leo glanced a header over from the near post. We were punished when the ball reached Ravanelli inside the area on the right; his cross was missed by Powell but struck by Morris from 12 yards. Sullivan got a touch, but let the ball under his body. Richards pounced and cleared, but the goal was given, as the ball had crossed the line. I was livid at the time, as I was sitting with the ball boys in the front row (so much for the benefits of being an away season ticket holder), and I was convinced the ball had not crossed the line. So was Dean Richards, as he had to be prevented from approaching the linesman. I do wonder how the linesman managed to give the goal, when Richards was between him and the ball, but I have been told the TV replays confirm the goal was good.

Etherington had some good possession down the left early in the second half, but all his efforts came to nought, as Derby continued to threaten. They beat us because they put more effort in, had more pace, and made more space than we did. Ledley King's poor headed clearance was collected by Christie, who ran into the box, but fortunately his shot was blocked. Sullivan had to make a super save from Morris, before the ball was cleared from danger on the hour. Sherwood joined the charity club when he gifted the ball to Ducrocq, putting Christie into the box. Sullivan raced out to save, but was down injured for a while to cause us more concern.

Anderton replaced Davies, but Spurs did not manage one shot on target in the second half. Pathetic! The excitement increased towards the end, and I can report that Rebrov got 11 minutes on the field this time, but the only decent chance we got was in injury time when Poyet got a head to Etherington's cross, but put the ball over. Poyet's presence was hardly to be detected today, and he lost too many balls. I would have kept Sherwood on, and replaced Gus with Darren, but what do I know? Sheringham too has hit one of those frustrating periods, when his deft flicks and touches fall into the opponents possession.

So it was Derby who won the day, and live in hope. Their next two fixtures are home to Sunderland and away to Leicester, before they have to face any big guns. On current form they must fancy their chances of 6 points. If it were Spurs, one could not say the same, although we do have Leicester at home next Saturday.

Brian Judson's Preview for this game can still be read here
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