FA BARCLAYCARD PREMIERSHIP
SATURDAY 17TH APRIL, 2004
BOLTON WANDERERS 2 (1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0)
Referee:- Jeff Winter
Bolton (4-1-3-2):- Jaaskelainen; Hunt (sub Barness, 76), N'Gotty, Thome, Charlton; Campo; Djorkaeff (sub Stelios, 86), Okocha (Capt.) (sub Frandsen, 85), Nolan; Davies, Pedersen
Subs not used:- Poole; Moreno
Spurs (4-4-2):- Keller; Kelly, Doherty, Gardner, King; Brown, Poyet (sub Taricco, 46), Redknapp (Capt.) (sub Keane, 60), Davies (sub Ricketts, 82); Defoe, Kanoute
Subs not used:- Hirschfeld; Bunjevcevic
Booked:- Davies, Taricco
In a special Spurs (((on!))) message to subscribers last night, Chairman Daniel Levy tried to respond to mounting press criticism, and closed with a "Let's hope we can start a good run in the last 5 games starting at Bolton". Fat chance! I only hope that Levy bothered to attend the Reebock Stadium today to witness another dire performance by those currently representing the club. It matched that of the first half at Goodison Park, and is almost as bad as I can recall from Spurs over the last 10 years.
Who do we blame for the sad fact that Spurs are now involved in "a dogfight" as finally admitted today by Pleat? Most blame Pleat himself as the Director of Football, and the Acting manager. Personally I blame the man at the very top for the well-documented lack of a manager since September, and the ongoing mystery regarding any replacement. However, one also has to consider the Team Coach, Chris Hughton, who seems to have escaped the venomous comments of the fans, but who does, after all, have day to day charge of matters that should surely affect the playing tactics, and individual development in players, including the coaching out of basic errors, like passing to team-mates, playing to the whistle, putting in sufficient effort, playing with the heart and passion to match that and the loyalty of the fans. And then there are the players themselves, who some people blame more than anyone. Why could they not find the desire to gain revenge last Monday against Man City, who shamed us in the FA Cup? Why are they not fired up to put to rights the fact that Bolton (once relegation regulars) have now beaten us in three consecutive league matches? Bolton are 6 points above us now for heaven's sake! There is so much wrong with Tottenham that it really is hard to believe that Spurs have a top-line manager up their sleeve, who approved of the transfer activity in January. He may yet have to manage a Nationwide outfit.
Team selection is down to Pleat we assume, and on paper the only change to Monday's starting line-up was Ledley King for the suspended Stephen Carr. However, Ledley played at left back, and Stephen Kelly moved to his favoured right back position. The "Old Codgers" of Poyet and Redknapp featured in the middle, and I hope they enjoyed their stroll in the park today, while it lasted, as Bolton's midfield certainly enjoyed it, and once again the game passed by Redknapp, from whom I can only remember one successful switch pass from left to right in the first half. Poyet had even less involvement that I can recall. Both Brown and Davies were played out of position, although they did switch wings after about 15 minutes.
Then there is the matter of Robbie Keane being left on the bench. Alright, Robbie has not been at his best recently, but he had his rest last week, is our top goalscorer and a proven match winner. Can Spurs really afford to leave him out? Kanoute, whilst having the height, appears lazy at times, giving up on chasing balls too early, too often, for my liking. All the failures in Spurs set-up meant that Kanoute and Defoe got precious little service again.
Bolton were made to look like Champions' League contenders, and the Spurs crowd was soon off the boil, whilst the home crowd were noisier than I can remember them. This is the team we beat 6-0 in the Worthington Cup and 4-0 in the FA Cup a couple of years ago, but the Spurs midfield was empty, and the defence was being pierced with ease by the likes of Djorkaeff, Nolan, Pedersen and Davies. In the first minute, Nolan chipped a ball over the defence, and Pedersen was behind Doherty with ease, before hitting his shot across the goal and wide. Then Nolan again, Djorkaeff and finally Pedersen threatened the goal again, culminating in a back-header by Doherty which Keller picked up.
It was no surprise when The Trotters took a seventh minute lead. Pedersen got down the left side, then sent a cross over the defence. Okocha had time at the back of the area to put the ball back to Campo, who was not closed down, and given ages to measure a shot which bounced in front of the hapless Keller before going over his body into the net.
Two minutes later, Nolan had a shot following a corner which was saved well by Keller, diving to his left. Spurs had shown little so far, except for one or two runs by Kanoute down the flanks. They did have a chance, at last, after 19 minutes, when Davies picked out Defoe on the left, whose shot was just outside the post. Michael Brown had been trying, but sadly was failing to make decent passes, looking very much a Nationwide player.
Davies won a header against Doherty, setting up Pedersen for a good chance, but thankfully another shot went wide across the goal. Doherty then managed a bit of skill retaining the ball in the middle, before then gifting the ball to Charlton, who promptly clipped the ball to Pedersen who claimed he was pushed in the area by Gardner, but to no avail. Simon Davies did manage a decent left foot shot from a position on the right, but Jaaskelainen was not troubled. Spurs survived a scare after a Djorkaeff free kick which was only half cleared to Kevin Davies, whose shot was blocked. The Spurs counter-attack collapsed through Brown.
On came Taricco for Poyet, and at least Spurs showed some fight in the second half, but first they had to survive a Campo shot following a blocked Bolton free kick in that suicidal area just on the edge of the box, where Spurs love to concede. Brown had a shot on target after 50 minutes, before another close range free kick, taken by Okocha and saved well by Keller, throwing himself to this right.
Taricco's example was being followed by good runs by Kelly from defence, and Kanoute through the middle. In the 58th minute, with Taricco on the floor after being fouled, Doherty got forward and fed the ball to Davies, who had a good shooting chance from a sharp angle on the right, but chose to pass back, sadly to a defender. Redknapp trotted off prettily to be replaced by Robbie Keane, who adopted a central position, and also inherited the armband. However, Bolton then had another good opportunity, spurned by Kevin Davies, unmarked at the back post, hitting a low drive wide across the goalmouth.
Bolton's second goal came as a result of not one, but two cardinal errors by Gardner. Once Sven Goran Eriksson gets to hear about it, there is no way on earth that he can take Gardner to Portugal. Firstly, Gardner headed the ball straight to an opponent, when he had time to find a Spurs shirt. The ball was sent to Djorkaeff who crossed from the left, and then Gardner tried to challenger Pedersen, but simply gifted the ball for him, to give him an easy finish.
For all their effort, Spurs only chance to come came after another probe by Taricco, who threaded a ball for Defoe, who was just over-stretched for his shot, which ran safely into the keeper's hands. Taricco was certainly in the thick of things, and got in a spat with Djorkaeff, rolling in feigned agony after an alleged kick across his face by the Bolton player as he got up from a challenge.
I have no faith in the ability of the Spurs team to motivate themselves into a performance next Sunday against Arsenal, who could clinch the title on our territory, depending on Chelsea's result. The next game where we can realistically hope for a point or two, will be on May 8th, when we host Blackburn. By then, we could be perilously close to the bottom three. It IS going to be a nervous end to the season.
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