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Match Reports
Bimringham v Spurs, 16.08.03

(at 12 noon)

Dunn (pen), 36

Attendance:- 29,398

Referee:- Rob Styles

Birmingham (4-4-2):- Taylor; Kenna (Capt), Purse, Cunningham, Clapham; Johnson, Savage (sub Tebilly, 90), Clemence, Dunn; Horsfield (sub John, 68), Dugarry (sub Devlin, 71)

Subs not used:- Bennett; Lazaridis

Booked:- Savage, Clemence, Dunn

Spurs (3-5-2):- Keller; Doherty, Bunjevcevic, Gardner; Carr, Davies, Redknapp (Capt), Ricketts, Taricco (sub Marney, 69); Keane, Postiga (sub Zamora, 56)

Subs not used:- Sullivan; Kelly; Acimovic

Booked:- Gardner, Carr, Davies, Ricketts, Marney

In any game between Spurs and a team featuring Robbie Savage, there is only going to be one villain of the piece in Spurs fans' eyes. Mr Savage (who in the summer admitted that he HAD cheated to get Justin Edinburgh sent off in the Worthington Cup Final four years ago) got himself booked as early as the 25th minute, when he scythed down Mauricio Taricco, as the Argentinian was making headway down the left by the touchline. It looked as if the blond haired minstrel would get an early bath, as he continued to play in the only way he knows. Savage though was eclipsed today by the referee, Rob Styles, who probably had the proverbial game of two halves, or should I say one third and two thirds.

For the first third of the game the home fans in the sold out St. Andrews Stadium got on Styles back, as they felt that nothing was going their way. Then came the transition. Perhaps it was some sort of internal switch mechanism, but when Savage and Anthony Gardner pushed and shoved each other in the Spurs area, giving each other as good as they got in a tussle for the ball, Mr. Styles pointed to the spot and booked Gardner as well. Home debut boy, David Dunn pushed the penalty kick to Keller's left, and although the Spurs keeper got a touch, it was not enough to prevent the goal. This was almost the only time that Keller was tested, and thereafter, Spurs had more and more of the possession, without giving Maik Taylor a really meaningful save to make.

Mr. Styles had even managed to act as an extra defender when Robbie Keane made an endless run from left to right, was about to tee up his shot, and the man in black got in his way. Damn! Robbie was not best pleased, and got no change out of the referee throughout the game for the very close attention of the Blues' defenders. Mr. Styles was able to miss with ease shirt tugging, and a blatant handball by substitute striker Stern John towards the end of the game in the Spurs area, and in front of the by now really riled away support.

Yes, this was Birmingham then, where we had to make a 12 noon kick-off by order of the local "old bill", who were there in great force to greet us as we tried to make our way through the dozen or so lined cordons of yellow-jacketed officers. Add to that the useless catering inside where you could be in a queue for half an hour only to be told that hot drinks had run out. 'ee, it's great to be back 't footie!

Despite the defeat, there were good things on show for the Spurs contingent. Rohan Ricketts got a deserved debut, and carried on where he left off against Sporting Lisbon; ball-winning, running, intercepting, penetrating. His was an all-action show that almost demanded he should not make way when any one of the army of injured players returns to the fold. Helder Postiga was perhaps half a yard off the pace today, and if anything may have been driven too hard during the pre-season campaign. He had opportunities, but just could not make that extra inch to get power on a shot, or reach a decent ball. His replacement, Bobby Zamora, had an excellent half-hour, and must have had at least four decent headed chances, one of which I was convinced was going in at the end of the game.

Spurs lined up in a 3-5-2, with Doherty and Bunjevcevic the make-weight defenders in the absence of Ledley King and Dean Richards. Carr and Taricco were the wing-backs, and Stephen Carr had one of the best games I have seen from him for a long time, being allowed plenty of licence to attack his ex-Spurs colleague, Jamie Clapham. Skipper Redknapp had Ricketts and Davies beside him, both of whom were more withdrawn that previous midfield formations, but they were both allowed plenty of forward runs. Redknapp had a good game, I thought, spraying great passes, only making occasional gaffs (which sadly could be all too costly during the season). There was too much of a gap between the midfield and our front two, I thought, on too many occasions, and neither Keane or Postiga were able to take advantage of the long punts up the field that came in their direction.

It was nearly a quarter of an hour before there was any meaningful action, although no doubt Mr. Styles' whistle had a lot to do with the lack of flow in the game. A Bunjevcevic free kick was taken from the right, and was partially cleared before reaching Bunjee again. He floated in another ball, and Anthony Gardner got the better of Taylor in the six-yard box, but was adjudged to have fouled. The ball ran out of play anyway, chased by Keane. A minute later, Clemence took a free kick out on the right touchline, cleared the defence, and Horsfield was at the back to head goal-ward, only to be thwarted by the bottom of the post. Gary Doherty made the relieving clearance.

A great run through the middle by Ricketts led to a good chance, when he received a quick lay-off by Postiga, and sliced his shot wide of the post. It was a great opportunity and Postiga pulled his shorts up tight in frustration (Don't ask me why - I only report what I see. It's probably a Portuguese Masonry ritual!). Savage had a particularly niggly spell, when he had a go at Gardner, then the referee had to have words with him and Jamie Redknapp after another forceful midfield challenge. Then came his booking after the referee had prevented Keane's shot at goal.

Bunjee and Doherty were to be a worry for Spurs fans at times. First, Bunjee lost a ball 30 yards out and this gave Horsfield the chance to twist and turn his way towards the box, but gratefully to shoot wide of Keller's right post. Then Bunjee left alone a long ball, which gave Dugarry the chance to attack goal. Keller raced out, and Dugarry panicked and hit the ball way outside the target. After the penalty, Spurs started to play some good possession football. One such move ended with Robbie Keane exchanging with Carr on the right, before Keane hit a good right foot shot, deflected away by Damien Johnson. Then Doherty was much too slow to reach a ball that should have been fodder for him. Dugarry was away, but this time his half-hit shot was saved by Keller.

Spurs started the second half well, but there was a spell around 55 minutes when the Blues were pressing Spurs hard inside their half, without threatening goal. Jamie Redknapp tried to play his way out of trouble, but hit a short pass to Dugarry, who hit the ball high and wide. Robbie Keane had a great chance to level the scores after 57 minutes, when the Birmingham defence was static to a long ball. Robbie was one-on-one against Taylor and probably just a little too casually dinked the ball round the keeper, only to see it roll back from against the right hand post.

Zamora's first header came from a Redknapp cross, and the ball landed on top of the net. Then Redknapp led a good attack down the middle as he advanced, fed Davies, who passed to Zamora. Bobby teed up his skipper and Redknapp's low shot was just outside the post. It was great to see Dean Marney get his first team debut, replacing Taricco in a straight swap as left wing-back. In a somewhat alien position, Dean did well. His booking in the dying stages was a little unfortunate, as he dived in to retrieve the ball for a Spurs throw-in, but too forcefully.

Ricketts fed Zamora another chance, again on target, and then Ricketts was felled on the edge of the box after another great little run. Carr ran over the ball, Redknapp shot into the wall, and the rebound fell to the wrong person - Bunjevcevic, who hit it miles high. Dean Marney had a good low shot saved after good football from Keane, Davies and Ricketts, carrying the ball from right to left across the outside of the Birmingham area.

Rohan Ricketts got a great cheer from the away support for his challenge on Savage, who had to be replaced. This brought another yellow from Mr. Styles, who waved his card 8 times to maintain his form as the third harshest disciplinarian in the Premiership. It was the last minute header from Zamora, from Carr's cross, that went over Taylor, but also over the goal, ending Spurs chances of a deserved equaliser.

The home fans gleefully sang "We are top of the league", but on this form, with a full strength side, they are going to find their season just as hard as the last. Spurs have now lost 4 consecutive league games, scoring just 1 in those games, and it is frustrating to report that today, Les Ferdinand, Teddy Sheringham and Steffen Iversen all scored for their new clubs. I can also share with you that one John Sutton (former Spurs youth) scored a hat-trick for Raith today!

Let's hope for returning players (especially defenders), and a Leeds team in disarray next week.

Spurs have paid the penalty too often

Squad numbers,appearances,bookings & goalscorers
Brian Judson's Preview for this game can still be read here

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