WEDNESDAY 16TH JULY, 2003
STEVENAGE BOROUGH 0 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (1)
Referee:- Paul Taylor
Spurs (3-4-2-1):- (First Half) - Sullivan; King, Bunjevcevic, Gardner; Marney, Anderton, Redknapp (Capt.), Ziege; Acimovic, Blondel; Slabber
(Second Half) - Sullivan; Kelly, Perry, Taricco (Capt.); Ricketts, Davies, Toda, Jackson; Poyet, Etherington; Postiga
Subs not used:- Jalal; Henry; Hughes; Barnard
Stevenage (4-4-2) (First Half) - Burch, Warner, Flynn, Goodliffe, Laker, Wormull, Battersby, Cook, Carroll, Holloway, Elding.
(2nd half:) Burch, Travis, Gould, Langston, Costello, Watson, Richards, Forinton, Baptiste, Laker, Flynn.
Once again, Spurs opened their friendly campaign with a game at Broadhall Way, Stevenage, where the Premiership side's reserve games are hosted. After the heatwave, the rain fell before the game, but it was still a warm and humid night. There were Spurs fans scattered in all quarters of the ground, filled by a healthy 6,449 crowd. Many of them would have attended in the hope of seeing new signing Helder Postiga. They had to be patient, as he only played in the second half team, but their patience was recorded with a goal after 5 minutes of that half, and some fine speed and skills to boot.
Stevenage featured our own Rob Burch as a guest in goal, but they have several new players, who will have kept their own fans happy, with an adventurous team performance that always kept the top class boys on their toes.
Glenn Hoddle was seemingly absent tonight, but both halves were played by Spurs in his favoured 3-4-2-1 formation. In the absence of possible strikers Robbie Keane, Steffen Iversen and Gary Doherty (who have only just returned to training), perhaps Spurs were forced to play each half with a lone striker supported by attacking midfielders. In both halves there was a lack of grit in the middle, and with attacking tendencies, Spurs were often caught on the hop to some degree, and struggling to block attacks through the middle. Bring on Scott Parker, please!
Darren Anderton featured, and played well alongside Jamie Redknapp, who hit the post in the first two minutes, after an exchange with Slabber. Christian Ziege won generous applause wherever he trod, and he did indeed tread in many parts of the ground, being given a freedom to attack through the middle, and being the corner taker on both sides. Ziege displayed good skill inside his own half when chesting down a cross-field ball, then moving forward he fed Acimovic, who curled the ball just outside the post after 9 minutes. Jamie Slabber (having had a decent run from the left earlier) was then fed by Ziege (again in the middle), but Jamie hit his shot across Burch and wide, when he should have hit the target.
Two minutes later, Spurs took the lead, when Acimovic won a through ball from Bunjevcevic, despite being fouled by Laker, then slotted the ball low inside Burch's left post. Stevenage had their moments in both halves, and Neil Sullivan (who played the full game) was kept quite active throughout. Gardner came off worse in a challenge 35 yards out and Holloway raced away, crossing to Battersby, who scuffed his shot to Sullivan. Spurs responded with a quick free kick in the opponent's half, leading to a nice threaded pass from Anderton for Dean Marney, racing in from the right. Marney fed Slabber, who tried a chip shot, that went over the bar.
For Stevenage, Anthony Elding miscued in front of goal, and Holloway followed up with a low hard shot into Sullivan's grasp. Jamie Cook was then allowed to race through the middle, only to have the ball snatched from his feet at the last moment by Bunjevcevic, playing between King and Gardner. In the dying seconds of the first half, Ziege collected a long clearance, and had his shot tipped round the corner by Burch.
Rohan Ricketts had an unfamiliar right wing-back role in the second half, with John Jackson playing that part on the left. Second-half skipper Mauricio Taricco played on the left side of a back three made up by Perry and Stephen Kelly, who had such a successful loan period at the end of last season for QPR. Toda and Davies played inside the wing-backs with Poyet and Etherington getting the job of supporting Postiga, who showed a lot more zip than Sheringham from the outset! Within five minutes of the re-start, Helder was off the mark for Spurs, and was he proud of it! Jackson took the ball down the inside left position almost to the bye line and sent a powerful low cross to the back post, where Postiga slid in bravely, and fired home with his outstretched right foot. We loved it, and so did he, as he saluted the Spurs fans in the Buildbase Stand.
Jackson consistently delivered to that dangerous "no-man's land" in front of goal, and it really is to be hoped that he gets a chance to establish himself this season. Etherington was allowed to wander, and on the hour, he was down the inside right channel, delivering the ball to Poyet (perhaps snubbed in view of not being Captain for the half), who fed Postiga, who hit a powerful right foot curling shot from 25 yards that was just outside the post. Soon after that Postiga showed another bit of artistry, as he won a header just inside the Stevenage half, sent it down the left flank, turned, chased after and reached the ball, before sending a glorious pinpoint long ball to Rohan Ricketts, which led to a shot for Stephen Kelly.
Stevenage had some good long shots, not least of which was a free kick from Costello. New signing Baptiste looked powerful and impressive too. Stevenage will be in the challenging places in this season's Conference, in my view. Toda had a shot wide from 25 yards as he picked up the scraps of an Etherington attack, and in the closing stages, both Poyet and Davies had clear misses. Poyet managed to scoop way over from 12 yards, and Simon Davies, being put in the clear by Poyet dollied a shot out of play.
Next up is Wycombe on Saturday. Spurs Odyssey will be there. I also hope to have one or two exclusive video clips on the site tomorrow.
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