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Match Reports
Portsmouth v Spurs, 26.12.03


Berger, 52, 68

Referee:- Steve Dunn

Attendance:- 20,078

Portsmouth (4-4-2):- Wapenaar; Primus, de Zeeuw, Stefanovic, Zivkovic; Stone, Smertin (sub Taylor, 90), Sherwood (sub Hughes, 77), Berger; Sheringham (Capt.), Yakubu (sub Roberts, 83

Subs not used:- Srnicek; Schemmel

Booked:- Sherwood

Spurs (4-4-2):- Keller; Carr (Capt.), Richards, Gardner, Taricco; Dalmat (sub Ricketts, 68), King, Poyet (sub Postiga, 61), Jackson; Kanoute (sub Zamora, 85), Keane

Subs not used:- Burch; Doherty

Booked:- Taricco

Davey Jones' relegation locker opened wide for Spurs today, with a performance feared and anticipated by Spurs fans around the globe. Many such fans have been sharpening their Christmas carving knives, and a bleak Dickensian Christmas beckons for all concerned with the once mighty, but still famous Tottenham Hotspur.

Those of us who sacrificed family Boxing Day comforts, for the M25 (once again in car park mode), a 1940s football stadium with no cover and pathetic facilities for the visiting support, were given no reward such as at least a fighting performance from our beloved Lilywhites.

Give credit to Pompey. They welcomed back to their team such as Steve Stone on the right wing, Patrick Berger on the left, and of course they had Spurs' old hands, Teddy Sheringham and Tim Sherwood to guide them round the Tottenham tactics. Add to that the "number 12" (according to the programme) - the marvellous home fans, and Spurs had an upward task on their hands. Spurs fans had little to shout about, apart from trying to bait Sherwood, who only went on to inspire those around him with a passion.

John Jackson, who had been recalled at the last minute from his loan at Coventry, was rewarded with a debut for Spurs, and overall made a good impression on those seeing him for the first time. David Pleat says he can expect more games in the next few weeks, which is no surprise with Carr and Taricco having to serve suspensions, Konchesky recalled to Charlton, and Ziege absent for the forseeable future.

There was some invention for Spurs in the first half, and most of this came down the right side through Dalmat, Keane and Carr. Indeed, just as I made it inside, Dalmat was putting a shot wide of the post, before Yakubu was skying a close range effort for the home side. A steward standing beside me described Yakubu as a "could miss a barn door merchant", but the striker was to have a heavy influence upon the result, thanks to his considerable acting skills, "winning" the decisive free kicks in the second half.

John Jackson brought a good save from Wapenaar after 8 minutes, before Robbie Keane cut in from the right, only to put his shot outside the target. Taricco became the enemy of the (home) people, and got an early booking. They wanted his blood when he was later penalised for a high kick (going legitimately for the ball), but the referee settled for advice. Sherwood was the other entrant into Steve Dunn's book, as he maliciously halted Jackson in his tracks, as he got goalside of the defence just inside the Portsmouth half. It was Taricco's challenge on Sherwood late in the game that caused the ex-Spur to be stretchered off with a suspected broken leg. This again was a legitimate challenge that brought no advice from the referee.

After Taricco's high kick, Sheringham teed up Berger for a shot that was not far wide. Portsmouth were now starting to dominate possession, and Spurs only attacks were on the break, as they struggled to put two passes together. Poyet was a passenger, and often shied away from the ball, rather than face up to a challenge. Too often the midfield, such as it was, was by-passed by aimless punts down the field. On the half hour there was scramble in the Spurs box from a corner, and Keller eventually was down to pick up the last effort aimed his way.

Jackson did send Kanoute away with a good ball, but the striker was off song today, and fired over. Five minutes before the break, Poyet fed Dalmat, who threaded a ball for Robbie, but his low shot was straight to the keeper. That was Spurs last noteworthy effort, as Smertin brought a great save from Keller with a 25 yard shot tipped over for a corner.

The first of a number of dodgy referring decisions came early in the second half, when Carr was penalised for an innocuous challenge as the ball was run from left to right outside the area. Sherwood was trying to get between the wall and duck to create a gap, but Berger's shot by-passed the wall, going just wide. Referee Dunn had failed to reward Spurs in the first half, when Jackson and Kanoute had been subject to blatant fouls.

Pompey's lead came in the 52nd minute, as Gardner was adjudged to have pushed Yakubu about 35 yards out. Up stepped Berger, and though we could see where the ball was going from our position behind Keller, Kasey couldn't, and he was beaten to his right by a great powered drive. Poyet was replaced by Postiga, but it was all to no avail, as Spurs were on the back foot for most of the time.

The second piece of charity from Dunn came when Yakubu threw himself to the floor just outside the box (again Gardner was the victim). This time Berger's kick took a wicked deflection off the unlucky Jackson, and Keller was wrong-footed. Yakubu nearly gave Pompey a third goal, when Gardner fell asleep after Jackson failed to reach his pass. Yakubu was away, chased by Gardner, but thwarted by Keller racing out to block the shot.

So, there you have it. Not one piece of Spurs attacking play worthy of mention in the second half, and no signs of hope and optimism that this assembly of players has the stomach for the battle ahead. There is not much hope either that we can beat Charlton in Sunday's game after their great win against Chelsea. What Spurs are lacking is grit and creativity in the midfield, and in particular the leadership off and on the field to lead us out of the mire.

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