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Match Reports
Sunderland v Spurs, 10.11.02


Phillips, 60
Flo, 62

Attendance:- 40,024

Referee:- Uriah Rennie

Sunderland (4-4-2):- Macho; Wright, Babb, Craddock, McCartney ; Proctor (sub Thirlwell, 74), McCann, Kilbane, Gray (Capt); Phillips (sub Kyle, 87), Flo

Subs not used:- Ingham; Bjorklund; Stewart

No bookings

Spurs (4-4-2):- Keller; Carr, Perry, Richards, Thatcher (sub Iversen, 89); Davies, Freund (sub Acimovic, 78), Anderton, Poyet (sub Bunjevcevic, 64); Sheringham (Capt), Keane

Subs not used:- Hirschfeld; Doherty

Booked:- Perry, Davies

Earlier in the season, when we were suffering "an injury crisis" and getting results that put us on top of the league, I said it was a blessing in disguise that Gus Poyet was not available. We all know that he can pop up now and again and score a crucial goal, but since he returned to action at Anfield (having made a substitute appearance in the home win against Bolton) we have not won a game, and in fact these last two games have seen our worse performances of the season, barring that 3-0 debacle at home to Middlesbrough. Now, I don't want to put the blame for today's abysmal defeat at Sunderland on one man, but the point I am making is that Gus is one of Hoddle's favourites, and if fit will always be selected. Today, the ineffective Poyet was replaced after 64 minutes. We had no width again on the left, and lacked fitness and mobility in the midfield, allowing the fired up and fitter Sunderland side to crowd us out, and dominate this game. The form book was turned upside down, and if Glenn Hoddle is not careful, Spurs downward slide will continue.

Today we were missing Jamie Redknapp, who had not recovered from his calf injury, and Matthew Etherington is still absent. We all tend to complain about Matty's failure to deliver a telling final ball, but he does worry defences with his pace, and also holds the ball for a while enabling support to arrive up front. A semi-fit Anderton took Redknapp's place, and singularly failed to impress, and mysteriously, Ben Thatcher made a return to replace Bunjevcevic, without so much as a warm-up game in the reserves since his absence. Thatcher was often exposed today to the pace of young Proctor on the Black Cats' right wing. Teddy Sheringham always tried to do the clever thing, instead of occasionally making a simple pass, but Spurs generally failed to control and pass the ball to the standard expected of a Premiership side. On this form, we can expect nothing in the way of success this season.

Sky's viewers must have wished they could all have seen the earlier Pay per view offering which featured seven goals and defeat for West Ham, rather than have to witness this dismal first half, where the action was rare and is easy to recall. Sunderland had the better of the chances, and could have scored through Flo, when he beat Perry through his legs, then shot wide, and then through Perry himself who scooped a back pass that Keller just managed to save and then dropped just in front of his line. It was half an hour before Spurs had a half decent effort. This came when Teddy sent Simon Davies away. His cross was blocked and then Anderton's follow-up shot was deflected for a corner. Even from the corner, Spurs allowed Sunderland to break out in a threatening manner. The Black Cats always seemed to have a man spare, whereas Spurs looked stretched for too much of the game.

Another chance for the hosts came through a poor cross field ball from Carr, picked up by Proctor, whose cross might have been converted by Kevin Phillips, but for a brave Kasey Keller. The home fans were only too happy to boo Robbie Keane due to his turning down of a transfer before he came to Spurs, and naturally wanted Phillips to succeed. They were to get their reward. Chris Perry did very well against Phillips when he received another ball from Proctor. Perry did enough to take the sting out of Phillips shot and Keller had an easy task to pick up.

Spurs looked to have an opportunity when Simon Davies raced away, and threaded the ball to Robbie Keane who seemed to take the ball too far to the right, and then had no-one to cross to. The "Old Codgers" could not keep up the pace! Sheringham did make a simple mistake in his own half five minutes before the break. The ball was sent to Phillips who rounded Keller, but then found a heroic Perry in the way.

During the interval Niall Quinn announced his retirement from playing football, and got a richly deserved ovation. Yes, I know his antecedents, but I think he has been one of the game's honourable men, particularly when he recently donated the profits from his testimonial game to charity.

Simon Davies frittered away a great chance to give Spurs the lead, when Teddy put him through on the right of goal. Macho raced to Davies' feet and narrowed his angle, but Simon's shot across the goal was wide when it should have stretched the net. We were punished on the hour, when Phillips got his first goal of the season, after Spurs failed to clear a Gray corner. Gray, still on the right, sent a cross back, and Phillips headed home from close in. Only two minutes later, Spurs were two down, as Flo raced away from the half way line, with Perry in pursuit and seeming to be favourite to win the ball. Somehow Flo managed to score past Perry and Keller from a narrow angle right of goal.

The game was already lost. Thatcher had a deflected free kick held by the keeper, before Bunjevcevic replaced Poyet and Hoddle switched to a 3-5-2, with Carr at right wing back, and Thatcher joining Perry and Richards in the back three. Only now, did Spurs start to get a bit of possession. A Keane cross from the left was knocked on by Anderton and Carr at the back post lifted his shot wide. Then Teddy had Carr, Davies and Keane to choose from, as they were stretched out across the 18 yard line. Teddy chose Carr, but he again shot over.

Thatcher started to give the ball away cheaply, and one such mistake led to a Keller save from Phillips. Despite the changes, the only real chance for Spurs after this came, when Teddy had an on target shot deflected for a corner from an Acimovic cross.

One of the ironies of today's trip for me was the fact that Sunderland were displaying banners supporting the campaign to keep racism out of football, whilst their cheery fans chanted to the Spurs crowd, "Where were you on Schindler's List?" It's a great game, at times, isn't it?

I have travelled some 950 miles in the last five days to see two away defeats and two of the worse performances of the season. I do not hold any hope of a result next week, when I go down the road to Highbury.

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