FA BARCLAYCARD PREMIERSHIP
SATURDAY 3RD MAY, 2003
MIDDLESBROUGH 5 (3) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (0)
Maccarone, 51, 75
Referee:- Uriah Rennie
Middlesbrough (4-4-2):- Schwarzer; Stockdale, Ehiogu (sub Riggott, 10), Southgate (Capt), Queudrue; Wilkshire (sub Downing, 77), Boateng, Junhino, Greening; Christie (sub Maccarone, 46), Nemeth
Subs not used:- Jones (GK); Doriva
Spurs (3-5-2):- Keller; King, Perry, Gardner; Carr, Davies, Bunjevcevic, Poyet (sub Redknapp, 46), Taricco; Sheringham (Capt) (sub Etherington, 46), Keane
Subs not used:- Burch (GK); Acimovic, Yeates
Booked:- Poyet, Bunjevcevic
Sent off:- Perry (Professional foul)
Welcome to what is possibly the penultimate ever report from this writer. Glenn Hoddle's Spurs were ripped apart today by a side that had failed to score in its previous four games. Glenn Hoddle's Spurs have now conceded 58 league goals so far this season. Only relegated West Bromwich Albion and Sunderland have worse defensive records than Glenn Hoddle's Spurs. Glenn Hoddle's Spurs today succumbed to their biggest defeat of the season (not in margin, but in goals conceded). Glenn Hoddle's Spurs have lost at home and away to Middlesbrough by an aggregate of 8 goals to 1.
Glenn Hoddle has already complained that the sending off of Chris Perry for an alleged professional foul one minute after we went one down was not justified and was the turning point of the game. The official web site reports that Middlesbrough scored against the run of play, and that we had been in control for the first 22 minutes. Rubbish! Yes, we had some decent possession and Sheringham had a couple of good chances, but when Middlesbrough scored they came at us like a knife through butter, and the all too familiar omens were there for all to see.
Glenn Hoddle's Spurs have already been overtaken by Manchester City (who won today at Anfield), and when they lose at home to Blackburn next week (as they surely will), Glenn Hoddle's Spurs are likely to drop into the bottom half of the table on the last day, and for the first time in the season. I say once again - thank heavens for those early season lucky breaks at home to Aston Villa, Southampton, and West Ham!
It was pleasing to see youngsters Mark Yeates and Rob Burch on the bench in recognition of their fine recent performances at Youth and Reserve level. Yeates is a spiky lightweight who has scored in almost every game he has played in recently, and Burch has put in some fine goalkeeping shows for the reserves. Sadly, neither got on the pitch, but I am told that Yeates is likely to get on the field next week.
It was a 3-5-2 for Spurs today, with Perry between King on the right and Gardner on the left. Davies, Bunjevcevic and Poyet were right to left inside the wing-backs, but of course, Poyet was there to support the attack as well. Middlesbrough played a traditional 4-4-2, with Junhino outstanding in the middle leaving any Spurs player in his wake. To be honest he seemed to have the freedom of the park, and too much space to play with.
Despite the unimportant nature of the game, there was a good turn-out, and few vacant seats for home and away fans. Sky's Claire Tomlinson was seated behind me, but no doubt she was glad to leave early, as did a number of the away fans. It was Junhino who had first strike at goal, but it was easily handled by Keller. Ugo Ehiogu lasted no more than 10 minutes, hobbling back after a corner, and had to be replaced by Chris Riggott.
Sheringham's first attempt on goal came after 18 minutes. He received a cross from Keane on the right and fed the ball to Taricco on the left. Taricco returned the ball swiftly, and Teddy tried a first-time shot, which was just wide. Two minutes later, Gardner got forward to assist Taricco and the cross reached Sheringham who beat Riggott, but shot just outside the post.
Then came the response from the home side. Firstly Junhino sent a free kick just wide of Keller's left post, then, in the 23rd minute, Perry slipped over and allowed Nemeth through to shoot. Keller parried the shot, but it fell to Christie who made no mistake. Disaster befell Tottenham within a minute of the re-start, as Nemeth advanced towards the Spurs area, and stumbled under Perry's challenge. It did look to me like a foul, with Perry barging in the back and not the shoulder, but it may have been just outside the box. Mr Rennie had no doubt it was a penalty, and a goal-scoring chance, and in his eyes, Perry had to go. Up stepped Junhino to take the penalty. Keller dived to his left and saved, but the ball rolled along the line. Junhino, following up (no Spurs player bothered) had time to tease the defence before tapping the ball in.
The onslaught continued, as Keller tipped over another shot from Junhino. Then in the 28th minute, Nemeth got on the scoresheet as the ball reached him from the left, and he was able to fire home un-challenged. Middlesbrough could have had double figures today. After 34 minutes, the little Brazilian raced down the inside right channel. passed to Christie, whose shot was saved by Keller. Spurs did have a good penalty shout when Teddy sent Robbie Keane away in the box. Robbie went down, but the ref waved play on. The ball ran to Sheringham, whose shot was smothered.
Middlesbrough then broke well from a defensive position, with Southgate sending Nemeth away down the left. He found Junhino in space and Keller saved again. When Perry had been sent off, Spurs reverted to the two central defenders, both of whom have looked fragile in recent games. The trouble is they have had very little protection in front of them, with Bunjevcevic not effective enough as a defensive midfielder, and Poyet too often absent without leave. Thus at half time, Poyet was replaced by Jamie Redknapp, making his first appearance since December, whilst Matthew Etherington took Sheringham's place. Redknapp brought some semblance of order, but Matty did not see enough of the ball. If one looks on the bright side, we only lost the second half 2-1!
Middlesbrough's fourth goal was a gift from Ledley. He lost his balance and gifted the ball to Nemeth just outside the Spurs area. Substitute Maccarone was grateful to receive the pass, and only too pleased to fire low past Keller. Three minutes later Luke Wilkshire beat the wall with his free kick, and Keller was going full stretch to push it round the post for a corner. Greening had a good rising shot just over the bar, before Spurs got off the mark on the hour. Jamie Redknapp had been fouled about 25 yards out. Robbie Keane ran over the ball, and Jamie curled the ball over the wall and just inside Shwarzer's right post.
Jamie was then lifting a ball over the Middlesbrough defence for Simon Davies who raced into the box, but just failed to make contact with the ball. Then it was one-way traffic again. Spurs were caught on the break, and Carr lost out to Nemeth in the middle. Junhino took up the race and passed back to Nemeth, whose shot across the goal hit Keller's right post. Keller then had to save again from Junhino, before Wilkshire was in front of goal with only Keller to beat, but managed to sky his shot. A minute later, Wilkshire caused more chaos in the Spurs defence with a shot across goal from the right, which firstly hit the bottom of the post to the right of Keller, went across goal, hit the other post and came out!
With fifteen minutes to go, that man Junhino was provider again, as he found Maccarone on the left of the Spurs area. Keller got a touch to the shot, but it still beat him. On 86 minutes, Maccarone was the provider for Boateng, who scooped a shot well over the bar. There was still time for a Queudrue free kick to be deflected for a corner, and for Maccarone to win a race for a ball sent from the half way line, before sending his shot wide.
So, it was a happy last home match of the season at The Riverside. Next week, we have our last game at home to Blackburn, who will be chasing a European place that Glenn Hoddle's Spurs once coveted. In my view, the board of THFC has to act very quickly at the end of the season to instil confidence, and to encourage fans to re-invest in the football. This fan's season ticket renewal remains on hold.
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