FA BARCLAYCARD PREMIERSHIP
SATURDAY 27TH MARCH, 2004
SOUTHAMPTON 1 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0)
Referee:- Mr. Chris Foy
Southampton (4-4-2):- Niemi; Dodd (Capt.), Lundekvam, Higginbottom, Telfer; Fernandes (sub Ormerod, 75), Folly, Delap, Prutton; Phillips (sub Svensson, 75), Beattie
Subs not used:- Smith; Hall, Pahars
Spurs (4-3-3):- Keller; Carr (Capt.), Doherty, Gardner, Ziege (sub Kelly, 48); King, Brown (sub Dalmat, 75), Jackson (sub Redknapp, 46); Kanoute, Defoe, Keane
Subs not used:- Hirschfeld; Postiga
Booked:- Doherty, Ziege
Anyone who still harboured thoughts about Spurs qualifying for Europe can surely forget them now. To be honest, I cannot see where our next point is going to come from, as we face Chelsea next week, and every team we have to play has more passion and fight about them than this lack-lustre Spurs side. We still need 6 more points to be in the comfort zone, and that is all there is to play for in the remaining 8 games of the season.
I have seen Spurs lose half of their 30 league games of the season, and once again, am becoming sick of the experience. If only the team would play with half the passion shown by their fans, and a little more application, then we would have seen more wins in another transient, disappointing season. The major blame lies with the board who sacked the manager after 6 games, then put their faith in a man who had not handled a team on a full-time basis for too many years.
What I want to know, and I want to know it soon, is just who will be the next manager of Tottenham Hotspur, one of the finest football clubs in the world, a club that has been allowed to decay and decline for far too long. Mr. Pleat once again tinkered with formation and style today, and as under Hoddle, I think the players were struggling to understand their role today, and certainly lacked the understanding of where they might find their colleagues on the pitch.
Now, I have no coaching qualifications, and am only a layman in football terms, but if I was in charge of this Spurs team, I would make sure of these things:-
1. Players should play to the whistle (and not assume the referee will blow for a foul flagged by the linesman, of which more later).
2. Passes should be firm and directed to their team-mate's feet, in a manner in which the receiver will be able to control and quickly deal with the ball.
3. When clearing from defence their should be less panic, and more composure which would surely assist in passing or heading to a colleague, especially when given the luxury of a little time to play the ball.
4. What's the use of passing back to the keeper from the half-way line, when his distribution is CRAP, and generally falls to the opposition?
I think the only Spurs player I haven't a bad word for today is Jermain Defoe, who battled away, in both halves, and tested Niemi with a number of good shots. I could go on ad infinitum, but I'll get to the report.
Some will say that Spurs have been unlucky to meet two teams in the last week who have been "stung" by their embarrassing losses in Derby matches. Funny how Spurs rarely seem to respond after such a set-back, isn't it? Once again, a bit of jiggery-pokery was played and Spurs started with a 4-3-3 formation of sorts. Now, I thought that perhaps Robbie would play behind Defoe and Kanoute, but no, Kanoute was placed out on the right, and the attacking three tended towards the right side, whereas the midfield three tended to the left, with Jackson on the left and King and Brown in the middle. That left a big space behind Kanoute, which if not exploited to the full by Southampton, was certainly utilised a lot.
Southampton gave a debut to French 19 year old midfielder Yoann Folly, and Danny Higginbottom filled in at the back for the injured Michael Svensson. I will state here and now that I was in the crowd, and was not the Saints' unused sub goalkeeper, Paul Smith!
There was confusion in the Spurs defence when no-one claimed a long throw taken on the right by Rory Delap, but thankfully David Prutton at the back post, dollied his shot. Robbie Keane then gave Niemi the first of a number of tests, when he turned in the midfield and ran goalward, hitting a shot that Niemi had to stretch to his left to save. After 3 minutes, Beattie took a free kick just outside the area. The wall did not look too convincing, but I suppose Kasey had the situation covered as the shot curled just wide. There was a similar effort in the second half, which went straight to the Spurs keeper.
In the early stages the referee (unknown to me) seemed too fussy, and particularly anti-Spurs, but as the game progressed he let it flow, and merged into the background as referees should. Spurs were attacking on the break, but never putting Saints under real pressure. Michael Brown hit some good piercing passes and did have a few shots himself, but he also disappointed at times with his under-strength passes. In the 7th minute, he sent Defoe away, and Jermain hit a good right foot shot just inside the post - again saved by that man Niemi. Kanoute was next to have a shot, at least on target, without really threatening the Finnish keeper.
After 23 minutes, Delap shot into the box, from outside the area, and Beattie looked several yards offside. There was no flag or whistle, and it was just as well that Keller made a great close-range save. After 34 minutes, Brown threaded a great ball through the middle from right to left for Defoe, who was one on one against the keeper who made a great save from Jermain's left foot effort, pushing the ball round for a corner.
After 37 minutes, Anthony Gardner was drawn towards Delap, leaving Phillips space to collect a pass and race goalward. Gardner recovered some ground, but Phillips still got a shot across goal from near the bye-line that Keller held. Two minutes later the home crowd got really excited for the first time, as Fernandes, having switched to the left side (probably to exploit that space), chipped the ball to Phillips, whose chipped shot beat Keller but went the wrong side of the post (from a Saints' perspective, of course).
A great tackle in the Saints' half by Defoe led to a useful attack for Spurs, with Brown feeding Keane, whose shot curled outside the post. Telfer had switched to the right (perhaps to allow Dodd to deal with Kanoute), and crossed for Beattie, who in the middle of the area, tried an aerial scissor kick volley, which went over the bar. This effort may have been the model for Delap's sensational goal later. Spurs had a couple of chances before the break. First from Brown, bringing a comfortable save after a Keane cross, then Brown provided for Defoe, whose left foot shot was just wide.
There is no doubt that Spurs had plenty of chances, but they failed to capitalise, and my point is that with that extra bit of effort, passion and application, they should have had a result today (and on other days). John Jackson was replaced by Jamie Redknapp at half-time, and he took the armband off Carr. Spurs at least looked more balanced, with King, then Brown taking station on the left; Redknapp spraying the ball from the centre (occasionally finding the target!), and Kanoute now more central behind Keane and Defoe. In not time, Ziege was also withdrawn (due to injury) and replaced by Stephen Kelly, whose preference is for right or centre back. On the whole, Kelly gave a good account of himself, but there was one slip, against Beattie.
Spurs could have been heartily embarrassed when Gardner and Beattie clashed down the left touchline. The linesman flagged for a foul on Beattie, and Gardner stopped in his tracks, expecting the referee's whistle. Mr. Foy surprised all by waving "play-on" and Beattie was away on his won to the bye-line to cross to the back post, where thankfully Fernandes scooped wide. Spurs had another escape as Beattie got a cross in from the right, again despite the attentions of Gardner. Doherty totally fluffed his attempted clearance, but Spurs did break and were awarded a free kick outside the area, after a defensive handball against a Keane-Defoe attack. Carr passed back to Redknapp who whacked a shot just outside the top corner stanchion.
Then came the killer goal. Once again, Spurs had failed to clear properly from a series of corners, and I think it was a poor ball from Redknapp that allowed Southampton to return the ball to the right of the box, for a header into the area, where Delap sensationally scored with an overhead volley. After 71 minutes, Redknapp did force a good save from a powerful shot, from which he chipped over the defence to set up Keane for what should have been an equaliser. Robbie was behind the defence with only the keeper to beat, but he tried to hit the ball as it came down, rather than control it. As a result he missed woefully and held his head in his hands in front of the away support.
Dalmat replaced Brown, but didn't make any impact, as the Saints had the remaining chances, with Beattie breaking from that Spurs corner, and leaving Kelly in his wake, before Keller did well to save on the edge of the box. Keller had to make a good save from a free kick by Higginbottom in the closing minutes.
So, the Saints achieved their fourth consecutive win against Spurs; a "double" this season; and climbed above us in the table. Spurs are slip sliding away, and hardly likely to finish more than a couple of places higher than today's 12th spot. Already, I find myself looking forward to the end of the season. At least that will bring us closer to the promised new manager "who will excite the fans".
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