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Match Reports
Coventry v Spurs, 24.09.03

CARLING CUP ROUND 2
WEDNESDAY 24TH SEPTEMBER, 2003
COVENTRY CITY 0 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 3 (2)

Scorers:-
Kanoute, 13
Keane, 23
Ricketts, 85

Attendance:- 15,474

Referee:- Mr. M. Jones

Teams:-
Coventry:- (4-3-1-2):- Shearer; Shaw, Konjic (Capt.), Staunton, Warnock; Mansouri, Safri, Doyle (sub Jorgensen, 46); Suffo (sub Barrett, 46); Adebola,Morrell

Subs not used:- Arphexad; Whing; Davenport

Booked:- Shaw

Spurs:- (4-1-3-2):- Keller; Carr (Capt), Richards, Gardner, Taricco; Bunjevcevic; Anderton, Poyet, Blondel (sub Ricketts, 62); Keane (sub Postiga, 79), Kanoute

Subs not used:- Burch; Doherty; Dalmat

Booked:- Carr, Gardner

At a time when several Premiership clubs were either knocked out or struggled against lesser opposition, and when the press must have been hovering in the hope of another night of "shame" for Spurs, the ailing Premiership outfit, led by caretaker manager David Pleat, comfortably negotiated their way past the Sky Blues, who love to reminisce about Gary Mabbutt's Knee and a famous day in 1987, when they beat another Spurs side managed by Mr. Pleat.

It wasn't an outstanding performance by Spurs, and indeed strikers Dele Adebola and Andy Morrell, both of whom are in good form at this time, gave Dean Richards and Anthony Gardner enough to worry about to make them look less than convincing for much of the game. Whilst Coventry had plenty of possession, they failed to capitalise, and Keller was not often troubled.

One of the shining lights for Spurs in their indifferent start to the season has been young Rohan Ricketts, who was rested for the start of the game, but replaced Jonathan Blondel making his first full appearance for the first team. Ricketts capped a marvellous cameo performance in the closing half hour with a cracking debut goal. It was one that he and the 3,800 visiting fans loved, as Ricketts raced to them kissing the Spurs crest several times.

David Pleat shook up the formation, and played Bunjevcevic in front of the back four, which featured new Captain, Stephen Carr. Perhaps the message here was "I want you son. Go out there and show the team what you can do". In front of Bunjee, were the old guard of Anderton and Gus Poyet, making his first appearance this season, and then Blondel, whose only showing to date was a 10 minute substitute appearance in last year's home game against Southampton. Keane and Kanoute were up front.

Coventry featured the veteran Steve Staunton as centre back beside skipper Muhamed Konjic, and to be honest, both of them looked quite rickety against the Spurs striker force. Safri, playing in front of the Coventry defence was impressive as were the front two as mentioned. Sadly, the home fans did not turn out in any force and there were plenty of vacant seats, some of which were probably taken by Spurs fans, such is our allegiance to our side, whatever their form.

Coventry brought the first save from a keeper and Keller was less than convincing punching out a corner that followed a deflected free kick from Suffo, who ably supported the front two, but was still replaced at half time. After 6 minutes, Robbie Keane put Poyet through from the inside right position, but Gus was caught on the wrong foot and could not get a forceful shot on goal. Richards was left behind by Adebola about 35 yards out in rather embarrassing style, and the ball was crossed from the left for Keller to catch.

Although Spurs had only threatened on the break so far, they went ahead through a cool and polished strike from Kanoute. Kanoute was to the right of Robbie Keane who slipped the ball to the Frenchman, who I admit looked offside. However, Kanoute advanced on goal, with only the keeper Scott Shearer to beat, which he did in accomplished style with a confident low shot from the edge of the box.

It was Gardner's turn to suffer against Adebola (who scored twice in the defeat of Spurs in the league cup for Birmingham in November 2000), as he chipped over the Spurs defender, and the ball was put out for a corner. Spurs responded with some lovely football after a patient build up on the right, sprung by Anderton, finding Keane, who passed inside to Poyet - unmarked - only to fire over the bar. Anderton was behind a number of good things tonight, but was also guilty of a couple of awful passes which could have led to disaster against better opposition.

Robbie Keane scored against his old team in typical solo fashion in the 23rd minutes, twisting left and right past defenders and heading for goal, putting Shearer out of his misery with a ruthless finish. On the half hour, there was a scramble in the Coventry goalmouth after a free kick won and taken by Anderton on the left, ending with a Kanoute shot being blocked. Then Carr and Anderton combined on the right putting Kanoute clear, but his cross was also cleared.

Much as we all wanted him to sparkle, Blondel only showed his real potential in the closing stages of the first half, racing down the left, but choosing the wrong option for Keane by trying to find Kanoute. Blondel thought he had conceded a free kick outside the Spurs area, but the referee waved play on, and Anderton underhit a pass which would have given Keane a marvellous opportunity to beat the one defender goalside of him, despite being in the Spurs half. Just before the break Gus Poyet somehow failed to score with two headers from another Anderton cross. One was saved at close range by the keeper, and the second rebounded off the post.

Coventry made a couple of half-time changes, and Spurs were content not to over-commit and let the opposition take them on, without causing too much of a problem. Indeed it was ten minutes into the second half before they had a meaningful effort through a good shot from substitute Jorgensen, which Keller held cleanly low near his right post. Rohan Ricketts replaced Blondel with just under half an hour to go, and was winning cheers from the visiting fans in no time with his determined tackles and runs.

Adebola headed down to his left for Morrel to shoot wide, then Anderton provoked another good attack by Spurs. His long ball found Keane on the right. The ball was passed inside to Kanoute who was adjudged to have handled the ball when going into the Coventry area. A poor free kick reached Anderton about 30 yards out, and he fed Ricketts on the left. Ricketts was one on one with the keeper on the left of the box, but it was Shearer who got the better of the situation with a good clearance for a throw-in. The Spurs contingent were soon chanting "One Rohan Ricketts" when he did some great defending on the left side to carry the ball away from danger. Next he was into the opposition area and chipping the ball onto the net (put through by Anderton again).

Postiga replaced Keane who of course got a great ovation from all parts of the ground. Postiga himself had a decent shot saved, but also put through Kanoute, who shot into the side netting. Then Ricketts crossed for Kanoute to head over, before we were rewarded with a truly great goal with five minutes to go. Ricketts picked up the ball on the left near the touch-line and raced all the way towards the edge of the area. I shouted "Go on Rohan, you deserve a goal!" and he obliged in style with a terrific right foot shot that Shearer got a hand to, but could not prevent the ball from crashing into the net. Ricketts ran all the way back to the sideline to salute the Spurs crowd and to receive their deserved adulation. It was a great moment in this young man's life, and capped a good night for all connected with Spurs.

Whether David Pleat retains the same formation and/or personnel for Sunday's game at the City of Manchester Stadium is up for debate, but Spurs will find the opposition tougher by far than that they encountered at Highfield Road tonight.

I should of course mention that there were several chants of Glenn Hoddle's name during the course of the game. I don't think this was in protest against the decision to sack Glenn, but to reassure all that his Legend status is untarnished by his managerial sufferings.

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

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