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Millwall v Spurs , 04.08.2001

Another detailed report, exclusively for Spurs Odyssey, comes from Jonathan Adelman. Thanks very much Jon!

SATURDAY 4TH AUGUST, 2001
FRIENDLY FIXTURE
MILLWALL 1 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (1)

Millwall scorer:-
Nethercott

Spurs scorers:-
Rebrov
Ferdinand

Attendance: 16,744

Spurs (3-5-2):-1 Sullivan,2 Perry,3 Taricco,4 King,5 Bunjevcevic,6 Clemence,7 Leonhardsen,8 Sherwood,9 Davies,10 Iversen,11 Rebrov (Ferdinand 46)

Millwall:-1 Warner,2 Neill,3 Ryan,4 Cahill,5 Nethercott,6 Dyche,7 Ifill,8 Livermore,9 Sadlier,10 Reid,11 Bull
(Keith "Rhino" Stevens, whose testimonial it was played the first couple of minutes as No. 6 - other subs were used but I do not know who came on for who!)

Attendance: 16,744

This may have been billed as a pre-season friendly and although it was certainly a pre-season game there was nothing friendly about it either on or off the pitch. For those that have not had the misfortune of travelling to the New Den before, it is located in the midst of train tracks and scrap yards and a nice neat stadium like the New Den does not deserve either its surroundings or its disgusting "fans".

It was interesting to see the shape and make up of what was ostensibly our 2nd XI. Only Sullivan, Bunjevcevic, King and Rebrov were retained from the team that whipped Reading on Wednesday. We kept a 3-5-2 formation although Rebrov played much further up with his partner, this time Iversen. Leo played as the right wing back with Taricco on the left. They generally did okay but as the game wore on Leo was out of position too often and Taricco was skinned once and another time had to blatantly hack down a striker from behind with a tackle which may well have earned a red card in a "competitive" fixture. Having said that Morry was on the receiving end of some of the more agricultural challenges dished out by the Millwall team.

Generally I felt that Bunjee had a good game, I had worried from previous games that he would struggle against physical opponents but he proved adept at that side of things although as a unit we did not deal with the aerial threat of Millwall as well as we should have. The lack of Doherty, Ziege, Poyet and Teddy exposed a weakness to crosses and I suspect that any defender we do sign will be one who is dominant in the air.

My man of the match was Davies, he was at the heart of everything good that we produced and he was always so lively and creative. What a talent we have on our hands. As early as the 10th minute he engineered a move which at one stage saw us with a 3 on 1 break but the final ball to Rebrov was misplaced and Sergei could only skew his effort over the bar. Ten minutes later Davies again spun away from his marker carried the ball at pace and released Leonhardsen down the right, his cross looked too deep but Iversen strained his neck beyond the far post to divert the ball back to the danger area where Rebrov seemed to turn and volley in one movement and the ball was buried beyond Warner to make it 1-0.

Spurs at this stage had all the quality possession and only a couple of too laid back moments from King gave any hint that Millwall were able to do anything other than hack away at their more skillful opponents. Iversen missed a good opportunity when Rebrov put him clean through and Millwall's best chance of the half was a decent 30 yard free kick that went over the bar with Sully having it well covered.

Rebrov, who had been the victim of some truly nasty challenges from Nethercott in particular and who had lengthy treatment from one such "tackle" was replaced at half time by Les Ferdinand who looked very sharp. The combination with Iversen worked reasonably well. To my knowledge it was the first time we have played the two "front men" together during pre-season, although in truth Iversen was a peripheral figure most of the game. He seems so reactive as opposed to proactive and so is hardly ever alive to possible passes from team mates. He rarely attacks the ball when it is played to him and is therefore dispossessed easily by his markers. He needs to sharpen up his act or face the season on the bench.

The same could be said for Sherwood who was poor, and responsible for the majority of our misplaced passes. Anyway Les made an almost immediate impact when Davies played a super through ball between two defenders and Les raced on to it drew the keeper and very calmly rolled the ball inside the near post - a quality finish.

For the next 20 minutes we played almost exhibition football with Millwall rarely touching the ball, we were perhaps guilty of over elaboration and we tried neat flicks and one-twos as we approached the Millwall area. Davies and Les were involved in a neat move from which Davies set Iversen free but his chip over Warner was cleared off the line. This seemed to spark Millwall in to action and the appearance of their sub Savarese was a catalyst for a succession of long balls into the Spurs box. Sullivan had claimed these with ease until the 64th minute when he tried to claim a catch beyond the far post and seemed to me to be shoved by Sadlier and Nethercott pounced on the ball when it came loose from Sully's grasp to pull one back for the Lions.

Millwall then penned us back with lots of shots and crosses and although there were some scares with Savarese heading a corner wide from deep inside the box and Sully forced in to a great save from Neill. From the resulting corner Cahill hit the bar with another header.

Spurs weathered the storm and broke with regularity but without the required penetration and one move involved Bunjee storming forward and playing a great one-two with Les who shot straight at Harper. Millwall responded with more pressure and Cahill probably should have scored with a free header from 15 yards which Leo scrambled away and our Norseman repeated the trick a few moments later from Nethercott.

I mentioned before our weakness in the air without several of our taller players but it was noticeable that even under pressure the response was not to belt the ball aimlessly but to try and pass our way out of defence and retain possession which for the most part we did. I wouldn't let a difficult 20 minute spell at the end of a game which we dominated cloud another decent performance against a team who will be no less physical than any we come up against in Premier League action. It was a good work out and I believe a deserved win, quality outshone endeavor on Saturday, maybe George Graham should have been there to see it.

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