My thanks go to Jonathan Adelman for this excellent report.
SUNDAY 20TH JULY, 2003
OXFORD UNITED 0 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 3 (2)
Zamora (2), 21, 44
Kassam Stadium, Oxford
Att: unknown, est 4,000
Oxford: Cox; McNiven, Robinson, Hunt (Townsley 58), Crosby, Bound (Brooks 86), Hackett (Basham 62), Widderington, Whitehead (Lovegrove 89), Brown, Alsop (Blackstock 75). (Unused Subs: Omoyimni, Oldfield, Louis, Rawle)
Spurs (3-4-2-1): Burch; Henry, Perry, Taricco; Hughes (Carr 46), Anderton, Blondel, Jackson (Galbraith 65); Poyet, Etherington (Yeates 79); Zamora (Keane 46). (Unused Subs: Jalal, Foster, Slabber)
This entertaining friendly, featuring Bobby Zamora's Tottenham debut just 48 hours after his £1.5m signing from Brighton, and the return to action of Irish due Robbie Keane and Stephen Carr enabled Glenn Hoddle to give a run out to the majority of his first team squad who did not feature in the previous days' game vs. Wycombe. The notable absentees were Steffen Iversen (who continues to be linked with a move to Wolves), Gary Doherty (whose future at the club is also the subject of speculation), Ledley King (who suffered a slight ankle injury in training) and of course Kasey Keller who continues to feature in the USA's Gold Cup campaign.
The absence of Keller and the fact that Neil Sullivan played against Wycombe gave the 2,000 or so Spurs fans the chance to run the rule over England youth 'keeper Rob Burch who performed reasonably well on an afternoon when he was tested only rarely. Spurs lined up in what now appears to be Glenn Hoddle's favoured formation of 3-4-2-1. Perry operating in the centre of a 3 man defence with Taricco on his left and Ronnie Henry on his right. Henry in particular gave an impressive display and seems more advanced in his progress than for example Stephen Kelly who played in the opening pre-season fixture against Stevenage. The four man midfield featured Mark Hughes, another product of the youth team, on the right with Jonnie Jackson raiding down the left. Darren Anderton (who was given a rousing welcome from the Spurs fans) and Jonathon Blondel made up the central midfield pairing with Gus Poyet and Matty Etherington operating just behind debutant Zamora who ploughed a lone furrow up front.
This "son of Christmas tree" formation seems well suited to pre-season work outs but the acres of space where our full backs should be allows the opposition (even opposition of Oxford's standard) too much time and space in dangerous areas. However, with Oxford thoroughly outplayed there was no danger of an "upset" and with better finishing in the first half the scoreline would have been even more emphatic.
Spurs started brightly and quickly slotted in to the type of one touch pass and move football that we'd all love to see in a competitive fixture, in particular the running off the ball from Blondel, Hughes and particularly Jackson opened up a square and static Oxford defence. In the very first minute Taricco sent Jackson away down the left and his cross was met by Poyet who sent his header well over. The resulting goal kick from Cox was returned to Blondel who dribbled through a couple of lunging challenges from yellow shirted defenders before playing in Etherington, but Matty had been slow to read the situation and failed to reach the ball before the onrushing 'keeper. Matty was in the action minutes later when Poyet stabbed the ball in to his path and despite working himself in to a useful position Matty could only knock his effort wide.
Oxford's first effort of note came after 7 minutes when Hackett's shot from the edge of the box dribbled through to Burch. Spurs however were dominant in every sense and Poyet fed Zamora who used his physical strength and pace in the inside right channel to work a shooting opportunity only to see Cox make a sharp save. Tottenham's first corner came after 13 minutes, Anderton swung the ball in, the defensive clearance fell to Jackson whose powerful shot from the edge of the box beat Cox but was scrambled away by a defender. Spurs were beginning to really apply the pressure with Zamora and Poyet forming an early understanding of each other's play with neat one two's one of which set up a Poyet effort which thumped in to the advertising hoardings a foot wide of the Oxford goal.
Shortly after that effort a handful of Spurs fans unfurled a large flag in the Oxford Mail (East) Stand, the stand, occupied by home fans behind the goal which Spurs were attacking. Although stewards moved in quickly to relocate the Spurs fans they taunted the home support who reacted violently and a small mêlée ensued which ended with 20 or so fans brawling pitch side as Anderton prepared to take a free kick. The stewards and a handful of police calmed the situation and managed to prevent the 30 or so "fans" who made their way towards the flashpoint from amongst the Spurs fans in the Acland Hospital (North) Stand.
This unseemly incident was quickly forgotten by most fans within minutes as a 21st minute Etherington pass in to the path of Poyet just inside the box fell to Zamora who nipped in sharply to flash a first time effort past Cox to the delight of his new fans. Some reports suggest that Poyet passed the ball to Zamora but first impressions were certainly that the big Uruguayan had simply miscontrolled Matty's pass and that it fell rather fortuitously to the former Brighton striker! Nonetheless the finish was excellent and prompted a host of Zamora songs from the Spurs contingent which will need some pre-season work from the fans before they are relased to the Premiership public in mid-August!
Poyet was in the thick of the action sending one shot straight at Cox and another acrobatic effort just wide. Oxford's first serious attack came from one of a number of misplaced Anderton passes, Taricco having to nip in and clear the ball for a corner just as Bound seemed set to knock in a deep cross from Alsop. Alsop is one of Oxford's summer signings and at 6"4 he threatened to give the rather short Spurs defence a tough time, but Perry and Taricco used their considerable experience to overcome their height disadvantage and Ronnie Henry also coped surprisingly well, defending without blemish and showing both good temperament when hacked from behind and good distribution skills, no doubt his grandfather will be suitably proud!
Poyet was continuing to make a nuisance of himself and was at the heart of most Spurs attacks combining impressively with Zamora whose movement and hold up play will be significant assets for the club in the coming season. His first touch appears variable but once he has the ball under control he has cute balls skills and we may find that the £1.5m fee is something of a bargain, naturally bigger tests that Oxford's defence await him but the signs are promising. Another player who will be pleased with his afternoon's work will be Blondel - the diminutive Belgium showed great appetite for this game, always looking and asking for the ball, not afraid of a tough tackle and always moving. Despite suffering what appeared at first to be a broken hand after 25 minutes Blondel returned to the pitch after a few minutes treatment and nearly added to the score with a thunderous 25 yard shot which Cox saved well.
As the half drew to a close Zamora was put through by a delightful ball from Jackson, the England U21 star raced to the bye line, looked up and picked out who else but Poyet but once again the big man could not find the target with his fierce volley. Alsop then had a tame downward header gathered by Burch after Taricco has conceded another needless free kick on the edge of the Spurs penalty area. Taricco's performance was marred by a series of these niggling incidents and he must cut them out before the season starts as the team will no doubt be punished by sides more adept than Oxford.
An incident packed and entertaining first half ended when the otherwise disappointing Etherington exploited space on the left flank and delivered a tempting cross between 'keeper and defence, with the onrushing Zamora causing confusion the ball broke loose for Bobby to blaze the ball home from a couple of yards out.
Thus ended Zamora's debut, replaced by crowd favourite Robbie Keane after the break. Bobby can be pleased with is first run out in a Spurs shirt, 2 goals from 3 chances is the kind of ratio any striker would be proud of and whilst Oxford did not provide a stern examination of his talents, his confidence will surely have been boosted.
The second half saw a drop in the pace of the game on a warm afternoon but Keane showed his summer break has not affected his penchant for neat flicks and tricks and the Irish star combined with Anderton and Poyet in a nice move which once again saw Gus shoot over. Rob Burch who had so little to do all game displayed both agility and good handling to not only save but hold on to a rasping 30 yard shot from Widderington after 53 minutes. Minutes later Widderington stumbled and miscontrolled a deep cross from Alsop when better balance and control would have left him with a simple tap in.
Cox saved well from Keane after good work from Poyet and Carr, and Robbie drew generous applause from the crowd on the hour after slipping past three Oxford players with some neat footwork. Keane was a class above any other player on show despite being played as the lone striker. Hoddle will surely note, as the fans did, that Keane loves to drop deep and too often Spurs players had no forward passing options in the second period as Keane unlike Zamora did not play off the shoulder of the last defender. Keane is perhaps being earmarked to play in the "Teddy role" just off the main striker and after 64 minutes he showed just how devastating he can be when given time and space, turning on to a short Anderton pass and ramming an unstoppable 22 yard shot over Cox and in to the roof of the net. Keane nearly added a fourth a minute later when a perfect deep Jackson cross was met by Poyet at the far post, Gus' volley skimmed across goal, just inches away from the far post and although Keane raced in he just failed to reach the ball in time to poke it home.
That was Jackson's last involvement as he was replaced by David Galbraith who entertained and impressed the Spurs following with his skills and shooting in the pre match warm up. Galbraith's first contribution was however to give the ball away to Alsop and the big striker tried his luck from 25 yards only to see the ball sail harmlessly over the bar. The young left sided Spurs player had replaced Ziege in the Wycombe friendly 24 hours before and with the exception of that first misplaced pass he will have enjoyed his 25 minutes of first team action today, using his pace to good effect. One deep cross from Galbraith was met by a low volley at the far post from Carr but Stephen just failed to get the ball the right side of the post.
With eleven minutes to go Mark Yeates, another who featured at Wycombe, replaced the disappointing Etherington and the last action of note in the game was when the youngster latched on to a flick from Keane only to see Cox save his low shot down to his right.
Spurs will be content with the manner of this performance and of course the goalscoring form of both Keane and Zamora. The truth however is that with Scott Parker signing a new long term deal to remain at Charlton Spurs will need to look elsewhere for the much needed added strength in the centre of midfield, as even against Oxford it was plain that the club lacks a driving force in the centre of the park.
Ed:- Tomorrow night's game at Carrow Road is a sell-out. Spurs Odyssey WILL be at this game, and reporting in full on Wednesday. Look out also for exclusive material from the mini-tour of South Africa. Why not make Spurs Odyssey your first port of call for detailed and subjective reports this season? We will cover many Reserve and Youth games as well as those of the first team.
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