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Harry Hotspur's valiant campaign goes on!

Match Reports

Spurs v Birmingham, 05.04.03

FA BARCLAYCARD PREMIERSHIP
SATURDAY 5TH APRIL, 2003
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (1) BIRMINGHAM CITY 1 (0)

Spurs scorers:-
Keane, 6
Poyet, 87

Birmingham scorer:-
Devlin (pen), 76

Referee:- David Elleray

Attendance:- 36, 058

Teams:-
Spurs (4-4-2):- Keller; Carr, Perry, King, Taricco (sub Etherington, 83); Davies, Bunjevcevic, Poyet, Anderton; Sheringham (Capt), Keane

Subs not used:- Sullivan; Doherty; Toda, Acimovic

Booked:- Bunjevcevic

Birmingham (4-4-2):- Marriott; Kenna (Capt) (sub Carter, 90), Cunningham, Upson, Clapham; Devlin, Clemence, D. Johnson, Dugarry (sub Kirovski, 83); John (sub Lazarides, 55), Horsfield

Subs not used:- Davies(GK); M. Johnson

Booked:- John

Gus Poyet just about stole the headlines from debut Birmingham keeper Andy Marriott, as Spurs struggled to secure a much-needed three points to end a dismal run of three consecutive defeats. Marriott was the sad victim of a cheeky Robbie Keane snatch and grab goal in the sixth minute, but Poyet gave away a penalty to allow a fair equaliser for the Blues, before firing home a rocket half-volley with three minutes to go to claim the victory.

Poyet of course, is one of the ancien regime in the Spurs side that many fans would love to see replaced by someone with pace and more presence throughout the game, not just those cameos that he gives to us, and so often gave to Chelsea. In fairness to Gus, he did pop up a few more times today than of late, having a header from a corner cleared off the line, and a couple of other chances at goal. Most Spurs fans would have loved Etherington's pace to have been used before the 83rd minute, and perhaps some of them (me included), would have elected Poyet to be replaced, but, not for the first time, the Uruguyan, whose enthusiasm for the game cannot be faulted, made his presence count in quite spectacular fashion.

Bearing in mind Spurs' mediocrity, and, dare I say, the quality of the opposition, it is somewhat surprising that White Hart Lane is consistently packed to the rafters, as it was yesterday on a beautiful April afternoon. Maybe the fact that this was our fifth and last Saturday home game of the season had something to do with it. The quality of the football, rarely gave cause for excitement, as Spurs had a lot of possession in the first half, but after taking that early lead, seemed to lack the degree of urgency that would bring thrills to the stadium. Keane spent a lot of time out on the flanks, and it was almost as if, when he did get the ball, he was under orders not to go too fast, to allow his aged colleagues time to catch up! In the second half, Birmingham put the Spurs goal under a bit of pressure at times, testing Ledley King and Chris Perry to the full, but being repelled effectively by and large. Geoff Horsfield is a tough customer, after all, and his partner, Stern John gave them a bit to think about before getting booked for diving in the area late in the first half.

Spurs welcomed two ex-players back to the lane. Jamie Clapham played at left back, and not wing-back, when he looks more comfortable. There were times when he looked vulnerable against Simon Davies. Stephen Clemence got a good reception from the crowd, but he upset me when he had the audacity to hit a powerful RIGHT foot shot at goal, when I never saw him do that in our colours!

Spurs midfield four was fronted by Poyet, settling behind Sheringham and Keane. Anderton started on the left, but ranged across the territory, whilst Bunjee's job was to hold the fort. Bunjevcevic drew a yellow card from Mr Elleray after only 1 minute, when he argued too vehemently against a free kick on the half way line. The free kick from the left was headed to Horsfield at the near post, who rounded Perry, but then shot tamely in front of goal, when he should have scored.

Then came the cheeky pantomine goal for Keane. Birmingham know all about goalkeeping errors, as they were the beneficiaries in September, when Villa keeper Peter Enckleman let a throw in slip under his feet. Andy Marriott was only playing due to injuries to both Vaesen and second choice Bennett, but he failed to heed the first rule of goalkeeping, when dealing with easy clearances - to make sure no opponent is on your shoulder. Robbie Keane had come round the back of the net, as Marriott rolled the ball in front of him. Needless to say, the Spurs contingent behind the goal (at the South Stand end) did not shout "He's behind you!", as Robbie stole the ball from in front of the keeper, and simply rolled it into the net! No doubt Marriott wanted the ground to open up beneath him, but he dealt well with the rest of the game, taunted gently for the rest of the first half by the home fans.

After 15 minutes, Gus Poyet rose to an Anderton corner, but Blue's skipper Jeff Kenna (who scored in the game at St Andrews in November) cleared off the line. Three minutes later, Keane sent Simon Davies away with a ball down the middle. Davies got the better of Clapham, and passed to Anderton on the right, who hit a powerful low drive that whistled past the post. Horsfield had an effort go wide before we saw two "Sheringham" corners. The first came from the Spurs skipper, and was way off target, but Birmingham did better when Dugarry met Clapham's corner, bringing a good diving save from Keller and another corner. Dugarry, who has yet to score for Birmingham, had another shot cleared, before Upson also had an effort blocked in front of the goal.

Gus Poyet was one of the Spurs players giving John close attention in the box after 37 minutes, but when John went down, David Elleray had no hesitation waving the yellow card at him for being theatrical, which is a euphemism for cheating! There were more theatrics from Dugarry, who had fouled Carr near the corner flag, but then made a great play of holding his face as if Carr had struck him a blow. Dugarry got no award for his acting from the official.

We were treated to a viewing of the Grand National at half time, and I was pleased that "Supreme Glory" came in second to make it a rewarding day for one punter at least! Oh for some footballing glory from Spurs!

We did get an early thrill from the Davies-Carr combination, as Carr got ahead of the winger to receive a threaded ball. Carr's powerful cross/shot was deflected for a corner. Another chance came when Teddy headed down a long ball for Poyet, who took a swing, but fired wide. Bunjevcevic nearly broke his scoring duck for Spurs with a cracking left foot shot that was tipped over by Marriott, as it headed just under the centre of the bar, and then Perry rose at the back post to an Anderton corner, but headed over the target. Poyet, Keane and Sheringham shared a triangular passing movement, before Ted hit a 25 yard shot wide to the right of the goalkeeper. Davies sent Carr away again, and Carr seemed to be tipped over outside the box, but the appeals were waved away by Elleray. Keane had an effort blocked in the area, and Sheringham was just wide from 20 yards, before Birmingham picked up the baton, and caused some pressure in the Spurs area.

One effort was cleared in front of goal, and Keller was down on the ground as Birmingham sought to take advantage to no avail. With 15 minutes left, Poyet was climbing all over Dugarry's back for an easy penalty decision, and Devlin made no mistake from the spot. Sheringham got behind Upson to reach a long ball from Carr, but could only head down to the keeper. Although Etherington had joined the fray, it was the long ball that paid off for the home side, as Keller's long clearance was allowed to reach Poyet waiting to the left of the defence. Gus scored with a cracking un-stoppable half-volley to send the home fans into raptures.

Birmingham know only too well that they are very much involved in a relegation fight, whilst next up for Spurs is a trip to Leeds, who returned to form in spectacular style with their 6-1 victory at The Valley. Spurs should also know very well that they will need to up their tempo dramatically to get a result next week!

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