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Spurs v Blackburn, 08.05.04

FA BARCLAYCARD PREMIERSHIP
SATURDAY 8TH MAY, 2004
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (1) BLACKBURN ROVERS 0 (0)
Scorer:-
Defoe, 18

Referee:- Andy D'Urso

Attendance:- 35, 689

Teams:-
Spurs (4-4-2):- Keller; Kelly, King, Gardner, Taricco (sub Ziege, 11); Davies, Brown, Redknapp (Capt.) (sub Poyet, 87), Ricketts (sub Kanoute, 63); Defoe, Keane

Subs not used:- Hirschfeld; Doherty

No bookings

Blackburn (4-4-2):- Enckleman; Neill (sub Reid, 60), Short, Johansson, Gray; Flitcroft (Capt..), Tugay, Andresen (sub Emerton, 63), Douglas; Cole, Stead

Subs not used:- Yelldell; Babbel; Gallagher

Booked:- Neill, Andresen

Jermain Defoe justifiably won the Spurs (((on!))) man of the match award, with a cracking winning goal, and some scintillating, lightning speed play that at least brought a little pride into the tail end of what we all know has been a disastrous season.Whether it was by design or not, there were several elements to today's proceedings that tended to take away some of the sting from what could have been a bitter end of season affair.

Firstly, Chairman Daniel Levy went on record as admitting that "an appalling finish to the season ....saw us unforgiveable close to relegation............this poor level of performance is not acceptable to me, and I know it is not acceptable to you". Before the game, Martin Chivers accepted a "National Football Museum" Hall of Fame award on behalf Bill Nicholson, and at half time, the one and only Ricky Villa was interviewed on pitch by Chivers, receiving a tumultuous reception and indeed generous applause from some of the visiting fans. Villa is here for next Thursday's Hall of Fame induction of Keith Burkinshaw. Ricky's presence served to remind us all of the past glories of the club we do so much adore, and wonder who of the present line-up might one day induce such wonderful memories.

Even the starting line-up showed promise and balance, as Rohan Ricketts was given his first start this year, and a traditional 4-4-2 was deployed, sacrificing Fredi Kanoute to the bench. Stephen Carr didn't make it today, but Ledley was back beside Gardner,and there was no sign whatsoever of Richards! It wasn't long before Taricco was lost to a knock and Christian Ziege had a fine game in his place, no doubt hoping to fight his way back into the German Euro 2004 set-up, but I suspect too late to salvage a contract at Tottenham.

Stephen Kelly (who has had a fine run in the side) had one of his better games, managing to get forward to good effect in both halves. Michael Brown gave his all, and was possibly the one member of the side that gave the example to never give up, and get a foot in to try and hold up or rob the opposition. Let us remember though, that this was an end of season affair, with both sides having nothing to play for, apart from a few bob for league placing!

Blackburn did not have the look of a side that had won it's last 4 games, and beaten last year's Champions, but then they were missing one or two key players such as the injured Friedel, and centre-back Amoruso. The assembled men (playing in an orange Wolves-type away kit) did give Spurs a few worries though, not least because of Spurs ability to make a number of presentations that better sides might have punished. For example, Douglas had an early shot over the bar, after a bit of nervous defending by Ledley King, who soon became composed and left it to Gardner to make the occasional error.

Spurs first chance came after 5 minutes, when Robbie exchanged with Ricketts on the left, and advanced upon the area, hitting a good low shot that Enckleman pushed round for a corner. Taricco departed to mighty cheers from the home side and expected boos from the opposition, before Spurs started a good move with some close play down the right involving Davies and Redknapp. It was Stephen Kelly who delivered a telling cross and Michael Brown headed wide from 12 yards out.

Spurs' goal came after a great ball over the defence from Ledley King, just inside his half. Jermain Defoe left Johansson trailing in his wake as he advanced on Enckleman's goal, and scored with a great left foot shot from the edge of the area. Souness's great signing from Huddersfield nearly got a quick equaliser, when Ledley was hesitant as a long ball reached Stead with only Keller left between him and the goal. Keller raced out to the edge of his box to block Stead's effort, then carried the ball heroically to the midfield before disposing of it, getting a knock in the process.

It was a while before we got any more significant action, but it was Stead again, who worried Keller with a good low drive on the turn from fully 30 yards, just outside Keller's left post. A few minutes later, Andy Cole got above Kelly at the back post to head down a right wing cross outside the goal. Then just before the break, Keane excited us with a fine run, getting away with a handball after receiving Ricketts' pass, hitting a great shot from the left of the area, which Enckleman tipped over the bar.

Three minutes after the break, Anthony Gardner made a shocking error inside his penalty area, when he was surprised by Cole's late challenge. Gardner gifted the ball to Stead, who should have scored from inside the box, but pushed his shot wide across Keller and outside the target. Within two minutes, Gardner was confronted with Stead again, receiving a ball from the right. Stead's shot might have got a bit of a Gardner deflection, but Keller still had to make a sharp save and concede a corner. Stead puts you in mind of Peter Crouch to some degree, but he is not as tall, and much faster and more physical on the ball. His goalscoring record tells the story really, but he does look a great find.

Now Spurs started to dominate proceedings, and Defoe might have scored a sensational goal, if only he had connected with Ziege's superb inswinging cross. Ricketts was replaced by Kanoute, and Keane moved out to the left. Davies didn't exactly take up station on the right wing, but inside the flank, with Kelly taking up attacking duties to good effect. Ricketts got a terrific ovation as he left, and might have been unfortunate to have been chosen rather than Davies, although Davies did get involved in several decent moves that followed.

After 69 minutes, Defoe got through the defence on the right of the box, and chipped a cross beyond the goal, which Robbie Keane headed goalward. His header was almost parried into the net by Enckleman, but the ball rebounded into play off the bar. Four minutes later, Robbie started an attack from his own half, sending Defoe away down the left. Defoe cut in with great speed, making his way to the edge of the box, and sliding a great ball for Davies, who failed to react quickly enough to the opportunity, which passed. Keane took a corner, which Ziege met at the back post, only to see his effort blocked on the line, and then put the rebound out of play.

Jamie Redknapp looked like he was going to lose control in the middle, but won applause for winning out, passing to Davies, who hit a low shot straight at the keeper. 12 minutes before the end, Defoe brought another great save from Enckleman, as he turned swiftly onto a long ball and saw his powerful shot tipped over again. Kanoute had a good effort when he had a 1-2 with Davies, then seeing his shot deflected by a defender, and held by the Blackburn keeper. Just before the end Jamie Redknapp made way for Poyet, who also took over the Captain's armband, for what was surely his farewell appearance. Indeed, after the final whistle, Poyet's and Ziege's waves to the fans looked distinctly like Goodbyes.

Having had mixed feelings about staying behind (for the second consecutive season), I did see the team off, and they passed round the perimeter fairly swiftly, displaying a number of banners thanking the fans for their support. Ricketts was the star again, as he gave his shirt to the crowd. There is still one more game to be played, at Molineaux, which Spurs need to win to beat their previous worst Premiership tally.

After the game, I heard David Pleat talking about the team in the third person (plural), and I got the distinct impression that he knows he is on the way out. There was a point in the match when the "Stand up if you love Tottenham" was superceded by "Stand Up if you want Pleat out", and a significant number of fans remained on their feet.

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