FA BARCLAYS PREMIERSHIP
TUESDAY 31ST JANUARY, 2006
FULHAM 1 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0)
Referee: - Howard Webb
Attendance: - 21,081
Fulham (4-4-2):- Niemi; Rosenior, Knight, Bocanegra, Bridge; Legwinski (sub Radzinski, 22), Malbranque, Elliott, Boa Morte (Capt,); Helguson, McBride (sub John, 72)
Subs not used: - Warner; Goma, Jensen
Booked: - Helguson
Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Stalteri, Dawson, King (Capt.), Kelly; Lennon (sub Gardner, 72), Jenas, Carrick, Reid (sub Huddlestone, 25); Rasiak (sub Defoe, 70), Keane
Subs not used: - Cerny; Jackson
Booked: - Rasiak, Dawson, Jenas
Sent off (2nd Yellow):- Dawson
Here’s an emotional report for you. I hold Daniel Levy, Chairman of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club culpable for his failure to grasp the opportunity that was there for all to see and secure fourth place in the Premiership and what would be a treasured Champions League slot.
Once again, Levy has utilised brinkmanship with the transfer window, and in my view failed. Yes he has signed two midfielders on the last day of the window, but please tell me how that has strengthened Spurs squad and their ability to pursue the challenge that is open to us. These deals followed the offloading of three players to Portsmouth, and one to our opponents tonight – Michael Brown. Add to that the various loan moves, including that of Wayne Routledge, and the unavoidable absences tonight of Tainio and Davids through injury, Mido because of Africa, and Young-Pyo Lee because of family tragedy, and you had a Spurs starting line up that was not of the quality necessary for a realistic challenge upon the Champions League.
I know that Martin Jol has always maintained the line that we are not good enough for the top four, and I know that we do still hold fourth place tonight, but after the showing I saw, I cannot believe that we have a hope in hell of staying in the top four. Stephen Kelly, Andy Reid and Grzegorz Rasiak are simply not good enough to be in the starting line up of any team making a serious challenge. And that is the nub of my point. If Daniel Levy had really stuck his neck out, laid out a bit more cash, he could have really strengthened the squad (a top class striker would have been ideal!) and we might have gone on to keep our enemy beneath us. Sadly, I have to confess now, that I feel such an event is unlikely. I hope I am proved wrong (I would be ecstatic!), and I welcome suggestions of a suitable forfeit, should I have to eat my words.
It looked like a full house at Fulham tonight, and the away stand was packed with noisy and enthusiastic Spurs supporters, ready to be entertained. They got a couple of half-chances early on, including a dipping shot from Reid that landed behind the goal, but they got little else in the way of dangerous attack in the first half at least. Stout defending was required, and after Rasiak collected an early booking for a foul, Boa Morte’s free kick was flicked on by Bocanegra, leading to a McBride touch, saved by Paul Robinson. Bocanegra headed wide from an Elliott corner after 20 minutes, and whilst there was plenty of huffing and puffing, there was little of quality to satiate the gathered throng. Legwinski and Reid fell foul to early injuries, and in Spurs case this led to a debut for Tom Huddlestone, who played with panache next to Carrick. However, it was the home side who had the only other chance in the first half, when Knight touched down a free kick for McBride, who hit a good shot, quite spectacularly saved by Robinson.
Spurs had adjusted for the loss of Reid by switching Lennon to the left, where he carried on pressing away. Dawson got an early yellow card for a foul on Helguson near the half way line, which was to prove expensive. After 64 minutes, those of us close to the action saw Jenas beat Boa Morte in the Fulham box with a neat trick, and then saw the Fulham captain bring down his conqueror with a challenge from behind. In my view it was stone-bonker penalty, but referee Howard Webb waved away the appeals, as he did a later challenge upon substitute Jermain Defoe, who had replaced the ineffective Rasiak.
Dawson had been unlucky with his first booking, but could not argue with the second after 71 minutes, when he tugged down Helguson just outside the Spurs area. The wall looked as if it had been set up too far to the left, and Paul Robinson did have to make a great dive to his right to keep the ball out. Spurs at last managed to put Fulham under some pressure, and this with 10 men. Keane crossed from the left. Carrick passed to Jenas who fed Defoe, whose shot was saved by Niemi. The ball seemed to roll agonisingly over Niemi’s body, but the keeper held it at the second time of asking. Keane teed up Kelly who had a good shot held by the recently signed Niemi
Once again, Spurs paid the ultimate price for a lack of concentration at the back of the area (Gardner and Kelly’s territory), when Bocanegra was allowed to head home in the last minute from a free kick, conceded by the unlucky Huddlestone. Carrick had a half chance saved, but it was all too late for Spurs.
Mr Webb was roundly booed off the park by the Spurs crowd, who felt cheated by his decisions tonight. Despite Mr Webb’s inadequacies, the hurtful truth is that we just aren’t good enough, and for that I blame the Chairman, who has had the chance this January to head a concerted challenge upon the elite route to Europe.
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