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Match Reports
Spurs v Norwich, 12.09.04

FA BARCLAYS PREMIERSHIP
SUNDAY 12TH SEPTEMBER, 2004
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0) NORWICH CITY 0 (0)

Referee:- Howard Webb

Attendance:- 36,095

Teams:-
Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Pamarot, Naybet, King, Edman; Brown (sub Davies, 65), Redknapp (Capt.), Mendes, Atouba (sub Jackson, 81); Kanoute (sub Keane, 71), Defoe

Subs not used:- Keller; Gardner

Booked:- Mendes, Redknapp

Norwich(4-3-1-2):- Green; Edworthy, Fleming, Charlton, Drury (Capt.); Francis, Safri (sub McVeigh, 75), Holt; Bentley (sub Helveg, 90); Huckerby, Doherty (sub McKenzie, 81)

Subs not used:- Ward; Svensson

Booked:- Charlton, Safri

Most Spurs fans will have gone to this game expecting the three points, and a win by a quite convincing margin. I confess to having expected a two-goal victory. Many of us know all too well that Spurs find banana skins in the least likely places, and whilst the overall feeling has to be that this was two points lost, the fact is that Norwich did have several very good opportunities to score in the second half, when the game became stretched, and but for some marvellous defending by Ledley King, and a decent save from Paul Robinson, the Canaries could even have gone away with all three points. The fact is that as the end of the game approached, I was feeling glad to be unbeaten, and to have one point.

Spurs had had enough good chances in the first half to put the game beyond Norwich's reach, with Jermain Defoe hitting the post, and having another good effort well saved by Sky's man of the match, Robert Green, and such chances don't come a second time, which often leads to the sort of disappointment felt today. Spurs had more scoring chances after the break, and it did look like being one of those days when the ball just would not go in the net.

So, the press will probably reflect upon the performances of Sven Goran Eriksson's young England Lions, with the focus naturally falling upon the keepers, both of whom were proclaimed by their fans as "England's Number One". Ledley certainly covered himself with glory with some great work, apart from that saving block against Huckerby, when Robinson had been beaten, and Defoe looked as sharp as ever, without actually collecting a goal bonus. Sven was at The Lane today, and his Spurs "spine" was given a rapturous reception, as you would expect.

Opposition striker Gary Doherty was given a very warm welcome, and was similarly applauded when he was substituted late in the second half. The other ex-Spur, Paul McVeigh was left on the bench, but did make an entrance to more polite applause. Norwich didn't venture far out of their half in the opening period, when Spurs had loads of possession, but failed to create anything exciting. Mendes was very industrious, and covers so much ground, supporting everywhere. Edman and Atouba looked effective in the first half going forward too, and both did their fair share covering the left flank for Spurs. Michael Brown took up the right midfield slot, but Spurs penetrated more in that area, when Kanoute drifted that way. Sadly, Kanoute was rarely effective in the middle. Jamie Redknapp played the 90 minutes today, in the middle, and was not found wanting, in my view.

Norwich featured Arsenal loanee David Bentley, playing behind the strikers, and it took a while for the home crowd to realise they should have been booing this young man from the wrong end of the Seven Sisters Road. As it happened, things did not go too well for Bentley in the first half, with passes astray, or overhit, but maybe he found the wind difficult on a fairly blustery day.

The first piece of real excitement came after 17 minutes, when Mendes made a good pick up in midfield and sent Defoe away. Jermain headed for the only place he knows - goal - and hit a great right foot shot low to Green's right. The ball hit the foot of the post, and bounced back safely into play. Two minutes later, Spurs broke well, and Kanoute passed to Defoe from just inside the Norwich half. Defoe set up Kanoute in the middle of the goalmouth, only 8 yards out, and he managed to fluff his shot into Green's arms. There was a suggestion of a penalty, but no real appeal for it from the players. Referee Howard Webb was doing his best to let the game flow anyway, and won applause in the first half for having words with Mendes, rather than book him for a second late challenge. He had to be carded later though!

Having started to threaten Norwich, Spurs suddenly found that the visitors had a little bit of bite in them, as Doherty fed Huckerby for a run, and Ledley did well to challenge and win a goal kick from such a defensive position. Mid-way through the half, Norwich (playing in green today) were at sixes and sevens after a Spurs throw. Defoe had already had one shot blocked before the ball was kicked back into the danger zone by one of Norwich's own men. This time Defoe got hold of his shot better, only to see Youssef Safri clear off the line. Safri is a fellow countryman of our own Noureddine Naybet.

Doherty won a header from a Norwich free kick, and Paul Robinson was on hand to pick up the harmless effort. After 34 minutes, Atouba collected a Robinson kick, and headed into the area, where Jamie Redknapp just beat Defoe to the touch, but his prodded effort went wide of the goal. A Norwich attack broke down (through Bentley) in the 41st minute, and Mendes sent a long ball for Kanoute, who hit a great rising shot across the goal, with the keeper stretching, and beaten, but again the ball went wide. It would have been a great goal, and a much-needed one for Fredi Kanoute, who has not scored for Spurs since his hat-trick against Crystal Palace in January in the FA Cup. You have to go back to December 6th 2003 for his last Premiership goal. There were half chances before the break, for Bentley, who fired over Doherty's chest down, and then Defoe glanced a header wide from Brown's cross.

It took a while before real chances arrived in the second half, and the first followed good work on the right from Brown and Noe Pamarot, being allowed forward for a change. Redknapp was at the near post to make a stab at Pamarot's cross, but prodded the ball wide. 58 minutes had gone, before Atouba's good work on the left gave Jermain a shot on goal, the first of which was blocked and the second was well saved by Green, conceding a corner.

It was around this time that danger started to arrive for Spurs. Green's distribution from goal was swift and accurate, and a number of times, Huckerby was able to expose Naybet's lack of pace. Having left Naybet behind in the 62nd minute, Huckerby was frustrated by Robinson's close range save, as the striker entered the left side of the area.

Simon Davies made a welcome return to action, replacing Michael Brown, giving us some real attacking options down the right. However, Norwich threatened again, with Drury, and Huckerby setting up Damien Francis who shot way over the target. Davies made his mark after 67 minutes, with a lovely deep cross that Atouba collared with a great powerful driven shot low to the right of Green, who somehow managed to get down and smother the ball. By now, it really was looking like one of those days, when the ball would never go in, and so it proved. Robbie Keane replaced Kanoute, but Norwich broke again, and Huckerby was thwarted by a great save from Robinson, who could not hold the well struck shot, and parried it several yards, before a clearance was made.

There were 74 minutes on the clock, and Spurs were caught on the hop, when no foul was awarded when Robbie Keane seemed to be unfairly challenged. Huckerby was through to a one on one with Robinson who had come out to meet him. Huckerby rounded the keeper but did not count on the magnificent recovery of Ledley King, who came goal-side of the attacker, and blocked his shot superbly to demonstrate to Sven that he has a real challenge on his hands for the centre-back slots in the England camp.

In the run-in, it was Spurs who had the scoring chances. Keane really should have scored after Atouba headed to Defoe, who had his back to goal, and fed Robbie, who hit the ball straight at Green in the middle of goal, from 12 yards. Then Green held Simon Davies shot with his hands stretched high above him to the lifting ball. Finally, substitute John Jackson got the ball to Defoe, who went to the left of the three defenders that challenged him, then hit a great shot across the goalmouth, which had Green stretching and beaten, but the ball was safely passing in front of the post.

Spurs remain in sixth place after the week-end fixtures, and still go to Stamford Bridge next week in good heart, being unbeaten. Perhaps one or two of our players were a little jaded after their International exertions this week. (Atouba particularly seemed to tire late in the game) Chelsea will be playing mid-week of course, whilst Spurs should arrive fresh next week, to face their biggest test of the season so far, before entertaining a certain Manchester United the week after. In the context of those tough matches to come, this was two points dropped, but for Norwich it was a precious point that just lifts them out of the bottom three for the moment.

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