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Match Reports
Spurs v Bolton, 30.04.06


Lennon, 60

Attendance: - 36,179

Referee: - Alan Wiley
Assistants: - Mr. M. Cairns & Mr. D.G Kellett
4th Official: - Mr. P. Crossley

Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Stalteri, Dawson, Gardner, Lee; Lennon, Tainio, Carrick, Murphy (sub Davenport, 86); Defoe (sub Reid, 77), Keane (Capt.) (sub Barnard, 46) (Robinson took over as Captain)

Subs not used: - Cerny; Huddlestone

Booked: - Barnard

Bolton (4-1-2-3):- Jaaskelainen; Hunt, Ben Haim, Faye, Gardner (Capt.); Campo; Nakata (sub Okocha, 61), Speed (sub Pedersen, 82); Davies, Borgetti (sub Vaz Te, 51), Stelios

Subs not used: - Walker; Jaidi

Booked: - Ben Haim, Davies, Hunt, Gardner, Campo

It was a great day at The Lane today, but Spurs were kept waiting by an entertaining and enterprising Bolton side for one hour, before the celebrations could begin following an excellent team goal converted by Aaron Lennon, who is being spoken of as a possible England World Cup player following yet another exhilarating bit of wing-play. Whilst Spurs had already qualified for Europe before kick-off today, they will remain in limbo even if they win at West Ham next Sunday, as we await the fateful Champions’ League Final on May 17th. Spurs have put the greatest pressure possible upon their near-rivals with this win, securing a seven-point gap, and the knowledge that they will go into the last game of the season holding fourth place. There were plenty of Barcelona colours on display today, and the Tottenham Hotspur Barcelona Supporters Club has formally been declared open!

Spurs deserve extra credit for their late run of form, in the face of potentially crippling absentees. King, Mido and Jenas were injured of course, and Edgar Davids was suspended for this game. Incidentally, I did not spot Edgar amongst the players in the post-match parade, whilst Mido was present, and in good spirits. Danny Murphy got a rare start, playing on the “inside left” side of midfield, with Tainio partnering Carrick.

Bolton had won the previous six Premiership meetings of these two sides, and ironically today was probably their best footballing display of those games. Sam Allardyce knew that he had to pull out all the stops of course to try and regain Bolton’s hope of UEFA Cup qualification. Thus he abandoned his usual 4-1-4-1 formation, and whilst Ivan Campo was the anchor man in front of the back four, Nakata and Speed played just in front of him, with Davies, Borgetti and Stelios forming a three-pronged attack, which inter-changed positions with fluidity.

Spurs looked surprised by the tactics in the first half, and Carrick and Tainio struggled to get out of their half a lot of the time, and certainly found it hard to create many openings for the home side. Jaaskelainen was almost unemployed for the first half, whilst Paul Robinson was kept very busy throughout the game. Bolton played with a no-holds barred approach, and the first of five bookings came as early as the 4th minute, when Carrick was brought down by Ben Haim just outside the area.

Bolton clearly had the edge, and nearly took a 9th minute lead when Nakata’s shot beat Robinson but rebounded off the post, much to Spurs’ relief. Almost the only high-spot for Spurs in this half came from a quick free kick taken by Carrick, sending Lennon away beyond Gardner. Aaron’s cross was met by Jaaskelainen, and that stifled the Spurs attack. Borgetti then hit a shot over the bar, after a long-throw by Speed, with Anthony Gardner losing his man, and marking space only. After that, it should be said that Gardner and Dawson were heroes in defence. It was Dawson who got the vital saving touch on a Stelios shot after 39 minutes, ending a move involving Borgetti and Davies.

At half-time, the crowd were treated to the presence of Argentinean legends Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa, who had attended the 1981 Cup Final Reunion during the week.

There was more worry for Spurs, as they emerged for the second half without skipper Robbie Keane, who has suffered an ankle injury and must be a doubt for next week’s game at Upton Park. Lee Barnard was entrusted with 45 minutes, and did not let the side down, winning the hearts of the crowd with his gutsy performance, not only getting a stuck in, but chasing down the keeper and defenders in possession in their own half. A couple of times, Lee’s determination paid off and Spurs were able to bring the ball away for an attack. Attack is certainly what Spurs did in the second half, putting the visitors well and truly under the cosh. Both Gardner and Dawson went for an early corner, and it was Dawson’s prodded shot that bounced out off the foot of the post. From a second corner, Lennon passed back to Murphy, who hit a fine dipping shot on the volley, just over the bar. Lennon had a great chance himself after a typical run, but sadly his final touch let him down, with a shot heading for the North Upper Tier.

Lennon got a just reward on the hour, at the end of a great team goal. Murphy had started it with a great long ball won by Lennon down the right flank. Aaron passed inside to Carrick, who rounded a couple of defenders before returning the compliment and passing to Lennon, who had now run inside Carrick. Receiving the ball just outside the box, Lennon raced in, and beat two Bolton players, before firing a shot across Jaaskelainen’s bows and into the net for his second goal of the season. It was Lennon’s first home goal, as his only other goal was scored at St. Andrews last month.

Spurs might have increased their lead soon after when Jermain Defoe’s shot was deflected wide for a corner. Sven Goran Eriksson was watching, but in my view, Defoe comes nowhere near matching the injured Wayne Rooney, much as I would love to see the Spurs man break through in the England set-up. By this time Okocha had replaced Nakata, and Vaz Te replaced Borgetti, as Bolton had no choice but throw everything at Spurs, who had to defend desperately at times. Post match comments suggest that Stelios should have had a penalty following Michael Dawson’s tackle after 73 minutes, but perhaps this was the one piece of good fortune we had today from Cup-Final referee Alan Wiley, who didn’t give much else in Spurs favour.

Okocha took a free kick with fifteen minutes to go, hitting the wall first time, but then curling a shot round it second time, which was held by Robinson with a flying dive to his left. Defoe was replaced by Andy Reid making a first team appearance for the first time since the January defeat at Fulham. Reid actually did very well, combining with Lee, who had been given a more advanced role in the second half, as Gardner covered more territory at the back. Lee and Reid worked together to get the ball down the left flank, before a cross reached Lennon at the back post. Lennon tried returning the ball across the danger zone, but it got to Lee, who this time fired the ball high out of play.

Lennon was involved in another great Spurs move, again started by Murphy’s cross-field pass. Stalteri picked up and he and Lennon penetrated the right side until Stalteri hit a good effort over the bar. Murphy too got a knock before full-time, and Calum Davenport was called in to shore up at the back. This he did, but there was time for one more worry for Spurs, as a high ball from the left could only be flapped out by an impeded Paul Robinson. The ball fell to Campo who fired wide.

Once again, the nerves of Spurs fans’ were frayed, but full-time brought welcome relief, and an end of season party, as Lennon and Keane were presented with their Player of the Year awards (Lennon getting the Young Player vote). Ledley King appeared on crutches, and Martin Jol was interviewed on the field as well. Both went to great pains to make clear how grateful the team have been for the terrific home and away support. As the banners said (carried by the players party), we are going on a European Tour, but there is still work to be done next Sunday against West Ham. Of course, the gooners might lose points at Sunderland and/or Man City before then but:-



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