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Middlesbrough v Spurs, 30.03.02

FA BARCLAYCARD PREMIERSHIP
SATURDAY 30TH MARCH, 2002
MIDDLESBROUGH 1 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (1)

Middlesbrough scorer:-
Queudrue, 69

Spurs scorer:-
Iversen, 32

Referee:- P. Dowd

Attendance:- 31,258

Teams:-
Middlesbrough (4-4-2):- Crossley; Stockdale, Ehiogu, Southgate (Capt), Queudrue; Wilkshire (sub Murphy, 57), Mustoe, Greening, Carbone; Whelan (sub Windass, 90), Boksic

Subs not used:- Beresford; Gavin; Marinelli

No bookings

Spurs (4-4-2); Keller; King, Perry, Gardner, Thatcher; Anderton (sub Davies, 77), Sherwood (Capt), Poyet, Etherington; Rebrov (sub Sheringham, 71, Iversen

Subs not used:- Hirschfield; Richards; Clemence

Booked (all fouls):- Poyet, Thatcher, Perry

It was honours even in front of a pretty good crowd at The Riverside this evening, although I doubt if a non-partisan pay-per-viewer would have been too bothered about this match. The match warmed up in the second half, particularly after left back Franck Queudrue scored with a free kick that was harshly awarded against the excellent Anthony Gardner. To a man the Spurs back four deserves great credit for their performance, and yes, I include Ben Thatcher in that compliment, as he not only fulfilled the left back role, but would often chase and harry attackers all over the left side of the field - together with a few attacking duties, of course!

Glenn Hoddle sprung one or two surprises with his selections, as Sullivan was absent, and loan Canadian keeper Lars Hirschfield (who excelled in the midweek reserves game at Watford) was on the bench, with fellow North American, Kasey Keller between the posts. Christian Ziege was also unable to play, and Matthew Etherington got a welcome start. I understand that Etherington had slept last Saturday night in the knowledge that he was to start at Fulham, only to be disappointed in the morning by a change of plan. Hopefully this show of encouragement will persuade him to stay at the Lane, although the suggestions of a desire to leave (if true) are somewhat pretentious considering his stage in his career.

Teddy Sheringham was left on the bench, and to be honest, it was only when he and Simon Davies got on the field late in the game, that Spurs started to play some flowing football. Sergei Rebrov surely had his last chance with this start, and many more fans of his may have been convinced with his lack-lustre display today, that he is not for us. Too often, Sergei gets brushed off the ball, or turns into trouble, instead of away from it. Once again, Tim Sherwood played just in front of the back four, but the sacrifice was that the rest of the midfield struggled to get to grips with the wispy skills of Carbone, who weaved a lot of magic throughout the game. He and Whelan confused the defence a bit, with their switching, and at times the home side looked as if they were in a 4-3-3 formation. Some excellent tackles from Gardner and Perry in particular kept the danger at bay for much of the time.

Middlesbrough had their own absentees, notably Paul Ince, but of course, their peripheral players have a cup semi-final place to fight for, and the side needed three points today to almost ensure their Premiership place for next season. There was a touching show of affection all around the ground before the game for Colin and Julie Cooper, who tragically lost their young son recently. They were presented with a cheque for 3,000 by supporters clubs from Borough, and Cooper's previous club - Millwall, to be used for the charity of the recipients' choice.

As for the football, Gus Poyet got an early shot on target from a Ledley King ball, but this was easy meat for Crossley. Carbone soon started to exert his influence and rounded Perry, before Ben Thatcher deflected his shot for a corner.The pressure was all on Spurs in those early stages, although the defence kept danger away from their keeper. Greening and Whelan did find some space down the inside left channel, working the ball to Boksic on the left of the box. Keller was out well to his feet, but Boksic got a cross shot past Kasey, which was cleared comfortably by the defence.

Anthony Gardner found time to get forward on the half hour, and a throw from the right was worked to him. Anthony took a run and tried a 30 yard shot which dipped just over the bar. Then came the first goal for Spurs. Etherington had combined with Thatcher on the left, and sent a cross into the 6 yard box. Rebrov seemed to be one of the players in a melee around Crossley. Whether the ball was dummied or not, I could not tell from the south stand, but the ball reached Iversen at the back post for an easy sweeping finish.

Whilst he often found his own man with good long balls, Tim Sherwood was too often guilty of gifting the ball to the opposition, and so it was that he tried to back-heel against Boksic to win a goal kick, but the trick failed, and Boksic sent a deep cross for Carbone to hit the side netting with his shot. There was an exciting passage of play when Iversen was sent away, Crossley was exposed, and Steffen could have got an early shot on target, but was too easily blocked by Ehiogu. Boro' replied straight away with a fast attack down the left, winning a corner, from which Anderton headed down to Queudrue who fired over the bar.

Early in the second half Boksic received a long ball from the right, and the crowd were baying for a penalty for handball, but referee Dowd denied them. I understand that both managers agree that this should have been a penalty, but things were to be evened up with that free kick later on. Sherwood sent Iversen away with a chipped pass over the defence, and Steffen crossed for Poyet whose shot was blocked in front of goal by Queudrue for a corner. It was from the corner that Poyet's header hit the bar, although I thought Crossley had thwarted him again.

The equaliser came in the 69th minute although the free kick against Gardner had been awarded at least 90 seconds before. The referee took an age to set things up, Carbone dummied and Queudrue stepped up to hit a left foot shot to Keller's left corner. It was an unstoppable free kick, particularly as the ref did not spot Iversen being tugged out of the wall!

In the latter stages, there was some nice play down the right from Iversen and Davies, before Simon sent a cross to Teddy, whose shot was stopped by Crossley. Matthew Etherington had a chance to score with his follow-up, but his shot was blocked. Crossley could not hold a low drive from Thatcher, and well may Gus Poyet have thrown his arms up in the air, as he realised he should have followed up, and maybe scored! Thatcher nearly provided a winner for Sheringham who missed the cross by inches. I for one hope to see Sheringham and Davies start against Leeds, as there was a bit more flair and creativity when they were on the field.

Just before half time, I did receive a telephone message regarding the sad passing of the Queen Mother at her great age, and I would just like to say God Bless the Queen Mum!

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