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Match Reports
Spurs v Middlesbrough, 26.10.03

FA BARCLAYCARD PREMIERSHIP
SUNDAY 26TH OCTOBER, 2003
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0) MIDDLESBROUGH 0 (0)

Referee:- M. Dean

Attendance:-
32, 643

Teams:-
Spurs (4-4-2):- Keller; Carr (Capt.), Richards, Gardner, Taricco; Dalmat, Poyet (sub King, 67), Anderton, Konchesky (sub Ricketts, 83); Zamora (sub Postiga, 64), Keane

Subs not used:- Burch; Mabizela

Booked:- Taricco, Gardner, Anderton

Middlesbrough (4-4-2):- Schwarzer; Davies, Cooper, Southgate (Capt.), Queudrue; Mendieta, Boateng, Doriva, Zenden (sub Greening, 90); Christie (sub Maccarone, 78), Nemeth (sub Junhinho, 78)

Subs not used:- Nash; Riggott

Booked:- Mendieta, Doriva

Middlesbrough grabbed a precious and deserved point from a Spurs side that was largely un-inspired, with the exception of Stephane Dalmat's first half show, to lift themselves out of the Premiership relegation zone. Even Dalmat tired noticeably as the game wore on (and wear on it did!), and Spurs struggled to make Mark Schwarzer make a meaningful save until quite late in the game. It was the visitors who had the most direct chances, although Middlesbrough were put under some pressure from Spurs in the first half, without the infliction of any real pain.

Whilst there was plenty of despondency amongst the home fans leaving tonight, it is important to note that this was the fifth unbeaten match under David Pleat's current reign, and remember Spurs have still only conceded one goal in that spell. That goal was of course Keller's error last week, but today he was more than secure making a couple of really solid saves.

It should go without saying then that the Spurs defence was solid, although Richards lack of pace, and Gardner's lack of discipline at times will cause concern as the season progresses. Gardner had just served a one-match ban for 5 bookings already, and now he has his sixth and is a third of the way towards his next enforced break. The real problem for Spurs (witnessed once again by SKY TV, and no doubt hordes of frustrated armchair Spurs fans) was their inability to string more than one or two passes together for too much of the game. Pleat decided to start again with the old hands of Poyet and Anderton, and whilst Poyet was occasionally involved in decent moves, both gave the ball away cheaply too often.

Spurs are also going to miss Fredi Kanoute badly, as neither Zamora or Postiga looked like breaking their Premiership ducks today, despite both having good chances to do so. Konchesky was tireless down the left,and with Taricco busily involved in something of a vendetta with Mendieta (they were both booked), it was left to the Charlton loan player to do most of the providing from the left flank. Sadly, most of his crosses were chicken-feed to big Mark Schwarzer, who was easily able to pluck all the high balls from the air. Dalmat was the source of most of Spurs excitement, carrying on where he left off at the Walkers Stadium last week.

Give credit to Middlesbrough though for their efforts. They did not come merely for what was a crucial point, and although they did get men behind the ball, they had plenty of pacy, penetrative attacks, and could easily have gone away with all three points, as they have done too often in recent years.

Spurs did have the visitors under pressure within 5 minutes, and after three successive corners, Anderton miscued a shot so badly that it turned into a great pass from the middle of the park to Konchesky on the left. His cross had Schwarzer at full stretch to reach the ball, and it was his defenders who did get the ball clear that time. There was a sign of danger though, as a swift counter attack left Richards struggling for pace against Christie, who thankfully hit his shot across goal harmlessly about 8 yards out and in front of Keller.

After 13 minutes, a quick ball from Dalmat put Keane into a good position 30 yards out. Keane thought about a shot, but fed Konchesky, who crossed and saw Gus Poyet in the middle challenging for the ball, which was cleared before he could get a shot in. Middlesbrough's useful Brazilian midfielder Doriva (who is keeping Junhinho out of first choice reckoning) had a useful long shot which had Keller diving down to his right hand post to save cleanly. Gus Poyet fed Zamora who had a left foot shot from 25 yards, which did force Schwarzer to get down to his left post.

The referee, who eventually did his best to let the game flow, caused home fans some consternation when he let go a two footed tackle from behind on Dalmat, but then punished and booked Taricco for a similar challenge outside the Spurs box. Just after the half hour mark, Spurs enjoyed more pressure, which started with one of few slick moves. This one came after quick passes from Poyet and Zamora sent Keane away to win the first of a number of corners, but from those no direct chance came for Spurs. There was worrying counter attack, as Gardner slipped and Spurs were out-numbered by red shirts as Zenden sent a cross from the left which Boateng fired well over the bar. As the half time whistle drew near, Keller had to tip over a Nemeth drive from fully 25 yards.

Initially after the break, Pleat switched Dalmat to the middle whilst Anderton tried his luck down the right. Within two minutes, Poyet did head down an Anderton corner, which Schwarzer saved on the line, but then Spurs were on the back foot for a while, as Dalmat was not comfortable in the central role (the decision was soon reversed). Poyet conceded possession in the middle and Mendieta sent Zenden away, hitting a powerful shot which Keller did well to parry firmly away for a corner. Zenden had another chance but fired wide as Carr over-committed about 30 yards out.

Over an hour had gone, and it was Middlesbrough who were looking more likely to score. Mendieta won a free kick against Taricco, and took the kick himself. Keller tipped the ball over the bar. Bobby Zamora had been replaced by Postiga, and Ledley King took Poyet's place in midfield. Sadly, Ledley did not look too comfortable on the ball, and may take some time to adjust if he is asked to play this role again. Spurs did have a shot to speak of with fifteen minutes remaining. Konchesky passed inside to Keane, and Postiga laid the ball up for Dalmat who hit a good low shot but just wide of the post.

Ricketts replaced Konchesky, who looked as if he will struggle to make Wednesday night's Carling Cup game, and Spurs did at last show a bit more vigour and desire to score. Carr advanced on goal after a 1-2 with Ricketts, but his shot was cleared and Anderton hit a right foot shot from 25 yards that was outside the target. As a long period of injury time commenced, Taricco was on the floor injured, but his team-mates attacked and Ricketts put Postiga clear on the left of the area. Postiga's shot was tame and easy meat for the keeper.

Taricco may be doubtful for Wednesday's game, and I would say the same about Konchesky too. Remembering that Jonathan Blondel got a game in the previous round at Coventry, maybe he will get a chance this week, and I would say that Ricketts will deserve a start too, whilst Christian Ziege may replace Taricco.

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

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