FA BARCLAYCARD PREMIERSHIP
WEDNESDAY 7TH JANUARY, 2004
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 4 (3) BIRMINGHAM 1 (0)
Dalmat 10, 24
Savage (pen), 68
Referee:- Barry Knight
Spurs (4-4-2):- Keller; Carr (Capt.), Doherty, King, Jackson; Dalmat (sub Ricketts, 79), Poyet, Anderton (sub Kelly, 86), Davies; Keane, Kanoute (sub Postiga, 79)
Subs not used:- Hirschfeld; Bunjevcevic
Birmingham (4-4-2):- Taylor; Kenna, Purse, Cunningham (Capt.), Carter (sub Tebily, 46); Johnson, Clemence (sub Hughes, 79), Savage, Dunn; Forsell (sub Kirovski, 82), Morrison
Subs not used:- Bennett; John
Stephane Dalmat dazzled White Hart Lane for his second man of the match performance in 5 days, flooring Birmingham with some marvellous skills, and two goals to set Spurs on their way to their second consecutive 3-goal win, and to lift them out of the bottom three to start the second half of the season in great style. Birmingham had come with a side weakened by the injury to Matthew Upson, and missing the likes of Clapham, Dugarry and Lazarides, but Spurs had to make adjustments too. Taricco was suspended for this game, and replaced competently by John Jackson. Gary Doherty performed a sterling task as Richards' replacement, and it was a surprise to see Anthony Gardner missing, admirably replaced by Ledley King.
Darren Anderton returned to the midfield with another great performance, and Simon Davies played in front of Jackson, protecting the youngster, but also doing a great job in the creativity department, getting a goal on his first start since September to cap a great night for him. I have to say that Gus Poyet was not too visible all night, but surprisingly stayed the 90 minutes.
There were too many empty seats tonight, as the crowd just edged over the 30,000 mark, but they were to be treated with an exciting game, particularly in the first half, as Spurs put the Brummies on the back foot. The visitors had given us a couple of early scares though, as skipper Kenny Cunningham had a long shot blocked, then Morrison headed over a cross from the left.
Robbie Keane did have the ball in the net as early as the third minute, but it was offside. Kanoute had made a run down the middle, sending Dalmat away on the right, before his cross was converted by Keane. Robbie was to miss several good chances before finally hitting the net legitimately in the closing stages. After 7 minutes, left back Darren Carter sent David Dunn away for a jinking run from left to right, before hitting a curling right foot shot well saved by Keller.
That was the best of Birmingham though, and Spurs hit top gear, mainly thanks to the purring Dalmat. Firstly Stephane cut in from the right to cleverly place his left foot shot inside the keeper's right post to give Spurs the lead in the tenth minute. Forsell did have a close range effort picked up by Keller at the other end, before Dalmat and Carr combined well on the right, before Carr's cross was met by Simon Davies on the far side of the box. Taylor saved the shot well.
Spurs went two up in the 24th minute. Keane had done well to get to the bye line on the right of the area, and his low cross was put in from close range by that man Dalmat, after Taylor parried the cross. Three minutes later, Anderton sent Keane away with a great chipped ball from his own half. Robbie was on his own, but the keeper parried his left footed shot, and no-one was available for the follow-up. After 33 minutes, Savage was penalised for a foul on Robbie Keane just outside the area. Anderton took the kick and Kanoute put the ball back for Dalmat, who chipped over the defence, and somehow Robbie managed to miss from close range with his trailing foot. That free kick may have been the last decision in Spurs' favour before a massive cheer around the ground in the 75th minute, when referee Knight awarded Spurs a free kick! Nothing seemed to go our way decision-wise, but in fairness there were no bookings on the night.
Spurs capped a fine first half show, with a third goal from Simon Davies. Keane passed to Jackson on the left. Jacko sent in a good low cross, and Simon was on hand to beat Taylor from close range. Dalmat had a chance of a first-half hat-trick, set up by Kanoute, but he skied his shot.
Birmingham replaced Carter with Tebily at half time, switching Kenna to the left, with Tebily on the right. Understandably, Spurs took the foot off the pedal, with occasional flashes of skill from Dalmat. In the 51st minute he sent Keane into the box, and Robbie got deeper and deeper into the box against two defenders, but hit his shot high above the stanchion from 6 yards. The Blues got another free kick outside the box from Mr. Knight, floated by Savage, but headed over by Forsell.
On 65 minutes, Dalmat set the stadium alight again with a great roll back through two defenders, then sending Darren Anderton away. Anderton could have picked his spot really from the left side, with only the keeper to beat, but he chose to give Kanoute a more difficult task. Fredi hit a great rasping shot that bounced off the top of the bar and behind the goal.
Birmingham's penalty arose in dubious circumstances, as Anderton lost out in the middle, and instead of playing to the whistle, tried to argue his case with the referee. Experience should have told him he stood no chance on this night. Poyet missed a tackle and Dunn raced into the area, ultimately to crumple and convince the ref that he had been fouled. Savage converted the kick. Spurs responded with more skill from Dalmat on the right, crossing for Keane who went down in the box, but his appeals were to no avail. There was a scare at the Spurs end, when they allowed Morrison through almost to a 1 on 1, but Keller and King did enough to clear the danger.
Then, with just over 10 minutes to go, Robbie finally got on the scoresheet. He received the ball from Poyet, and pushed it out to Kanoute on the right, whose low cross was fired home by Keane from close range. So, it was a great night for Spurs, moving up to 16th, and in great shape for Saturday's crunch game at Elland Road. The big question is - can Spurs do a Villa and climb dramatically up the table with two or three more good results? On this form, I fancy them to beat Leeds and even Liverpool the week after, although by then, Kanoute will probably be in Africa.
· Ray Lo's second eye report
· Squad numbers,appearances,bookings & goalscorers
· The Preview for this game can still be read here
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