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Match Reports
Spurs v Aston Villa, 21.01.06


Referee: - Graham Poll
Assistants: - M. Tingey and M. Yerby
Fourth Official: - Steve Bennett

Attendance: - 36,243

Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Kelly, Dawson, King (Capt.), Lee; Jenas (sub Lennon, 45), Carrick, Davids (sub Brown, 63), Tainio; Defoe (sub Rasiak, 76), Keane

Subs not used: - Cerny; Gardner

No Bookings

Aston Villa (4-4-2):- Sorensen; Hughes, Delaney, Mellberg (Capt.), Barry; Milner, McCann, Davis, Hendrie; Baros(sub Moore, 79) (sub Samuel, 84), Angel

Subs not used: - Taylor; Ridgewell, Gardner

Booked: - Angel, Barry

Sent off (Second Yellow):- Barry, 84

England’s Number One and Spurs’ favourite Paul Robinson was almost as much a spectator in this game as the 36,243 fans that filled the stadium, most of whom hoped to see Spurs extend their lead over Arsenal, who had already lost at Goodison Park. Robinson did not have one shot to save, but did see a series of good saves from his opponent – Thomas Sorensen – who will probably receive the “man of the match” plaudits. The truth is though that Sorensen was not tested enough. He had a couple of saves to make in the first half, then made three great saves in the latter stages, when Spurs finally put Villa under the cosh to the extent they should have achieved earlier. Had they played with the vigour demonstrated in the last quarter of the game throughout, then the score might have been closer to last year’s 5-1 thrashing.

Spurs’ man of the match was surely Robbie Keane, playing alongside Jermain Defoe from the start for the first time this season. Spurs were of course missing Mido, who starred for Egypt in last night’s first game of the African Cup of Nations Tournament, and Martin Jol decided that Rasiak should stay on the bench for this game. Keane was doing the work of two strikers, especially in the first half, as he popped up left and right of the field, and came back to his own half to assist his defence, when required. Jermaine Jenas was impressive too, making a couple of incisive runs down the right, but it was a real concern to see him stretchered off just before the break, after a clash of heads with Angel. Edgar Davids withdrew through injury after 63 minutes, and Spurs finished with only ten men, as Tainio too was crocked in stoppage time. Villa were down to ten for the last ten minutes, but more of that later.

Villa have impressive recent away form, but David O’Leary’s admission after the game that if he had been promised a point after 90 minutes, he would have been happy said it all, as they proved very unadventurous all afternoon. But, it was Spurs’ job to break them down, and sadly, Martin Jol’s men lack that cutting edge too often. Sometimes inexperience on the part of Stephen Kelly, or substitute Aaron Lennon would let them down. On other occasions stalwarts such as Edgar Davids failed with passes you would expect them to complete. Then there were Sorensen’s saves, and a few really unlucky attempts at threaded passes, and you had the ingredients for the scoreless draw.

One question that needed answering was how Paul Robinson would deal with the absence of a target man. Firstly he made a short ball to Ledley King, but within a minute he had sent Robbie Keane scampering away down the left with a great kick, from which Robbie won a corner. There were more short balls, but Keane and Defoe were also left to try and win out against Mellberg and Delaney in the central defensive positions. After 6 minutes, we saw a great move, started by Carrick who intercepted in defence, then passed forward to Tainio. The move continued through Keane who found Defoe on the left of the area. Jermain’s shot had no power as Sorensen picked up. A minute later, Robbie was on the left and passed back to Davids who hit a great curling left footed power drive that hit the side netting.

Then we waited a long time for excitement, but after 28 minutes, Carrick sent Tainio away with a ball down the right channel. Tainio advanced into the box, and tested Sorensen with a deft first time chip, which the keeper saved, conceding a corner. Four minutes later, Jenas made a good run through the middle and had players left and right of him. None of them could muster a decent effort on goal, when the space and time was there for them. Three minutes before the break, a typical long-winded Spurs build-up came to fruition when Davids switched the play from right to left, finding Lee, who passed inside for Robbie, testing the keeper with a good shot to his left, which was pushed round for yet another corner. Jenas was carried off after that clash of heads, and Aaron Lennon offered Spurs something extra for the second half. Even before the half-time whistle, Lennon sent Defoe away with a good through ball. Defoe was unselfish and just failed to set up Robbie Keane, then was fouled when the ball came back to him. Carrick took the kick, touching it to Edgar, whose effort was blocked.

I do vaguely recall one long range effort by Baros in the second half, and Tainio was injured in a desperate lunging tackle as Villa broke in stoppage time, but apart from that, it was Spurs all the way, although they didn’t get into top gear till too late. Carrick made a great pass to Davids down the left channel after 51 minutes, and Davids' cross was blocked for a corner, which was met by Tainio whose shot was also blocked. Tainio had been trying one or two clever chipped passes that didn’t quite come off, but he was very effective with robust assistance to the defence, but also combining with Lee, who made great efforts in the second half especially.

As the pressure built upon Villa, so they got more cynical, and Baros got a yellow card from the patient Graham Poll for a late challenge upon Davids, who soon had to be replaced by Michael Brown. That’s a bit like replacing a Rolls Royce with a Ford Anglia, as we all know! With 25 minutes left, Spurs at last put the visitors under real pressure. The crowd sensed a goal was coming, especially when Keane pierced the defensive wall with a pass to Lennon, whose shot was blocked for yet another corner. Defoe was replaced by Rasiak, and there were a few boos to greet this player, already perceived as incompetent by some home fans.

Lennon passed back to Carrick who hit a powerful low drive, saved well by Sorensen. Then Rasiak crossed from the left and Tainio’s close range effort was saved by the keeper too! In the space of 5 minutes O’Leary replaced Baros with Luke Moore, and then saw his left back Gareth Barry booked for one late challenge on Lennon, sent off for a similar foul within a minute, then replaced the unlucky Moore with Samuel to shore up the defence and preserve the point. That mission was accomplished, but not before Rasiak tried a close range shot that was blocked, and then in stoppage time, Brown hit a blistering drive that Sorensen saved with a dive to his right.

Spurs did extend their lead over fifth placed Arsenal, but only by one point (to make it a four point gap) and not the three we desired. Now we have a break till Tuesday 31st when we travel to Craven Cottage. Our neighbours will entertain West Ham on the following night. Next week is a Cup week-end, which we will sit out. I understand that Spurs have set a record for being the first Premiership club to have a 40 game season.

Finally, a unique piece of history was made this week at Tottenham Hotspur. No less than 11 members of the Buckle family attended today’s game, and earlier this week, Richard and Michael Mackman met Spurs skipper Ledley King. They are the grandchildren of Spurs first ever club Captain – the one and only Bobby Buckle, who was one of that band of souls who set up our beloved club having met under a lamp-post on Tottenham High Road in 1882. Bobby Buckle was the first ever club captain, and as Richard and Michael have said they must be the only people in the world who have met the first and most recent Captains of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. Bobby Buckle’s daughter, Nora celebrates her 90th birthday tomorrow (22nd January). Spurs Odyssey sends out warm greetings to Nora and all members of such an illustrious family. You can check out the early history of our great club by using the link on the left hand side of this page.

· Squad numbers,appearances,bookings & goalscorers
· Read the preview for this game.

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