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Spurs v Newcastle, 30.03.08


Spurs scorer:-
Bent, 25

Newcastle scorers:-
Butt, 45
Geremi, 52
Owen, 65
Martins, 82

Referee:- Steve Bennett

Attendance:- 36,067

Spurs (4-3-1-2):- Robinson; Hutton, Dawson, Woodgate, O’Hara; Huddlestone, Zokora (sub Tainio, 69), Malbranque (sub Lennon, 59); Berbatov; Keane (Capt.) (sub Taarabt, 59), Bent (Armband to Robinson)

Subs not used:- Cerny; Chimbonda

Booked:- O’Hara

Newcastle (4-3-1-2):- Harper; Beye, Taylor, Faye, Enrique; Geremi (sub Edgar, 90), Butt, Barton; Owen (Capt.) (sub Carroll, 85); Viduka (sub Smith, 79), Martins

Subs not used:- Forster; Duff

Booked:- Butt

Diamonds are NOT forever.

Spurs fell to a quite disgraceful defeat making Newcastle look as good as they have since, well, they last beat us in October this season. Newcastle won their fifth consecutive game against us and scored 4 goals for the first time this season. It was the fifth time Spurs have conceded 4 this season, but the first time they have lost at home in doing so. White Hart Lane was quite deserted of home fans by the final whistle.

Goals were guaranteed in this game, and Juande Ramos’s team selection looked quite exciting, as he started with all three of his strikers, and was clearly aiming to match the Newcastle formation. Keegan might have been brave or foolish, but to start an away game with three front men (Owen, Martins and Viduka) is quite audacious to say the least. In the case of Spurs, the midfield was a diamond formation, with Zokora the (alleged) protector of the defence, and Berbatov at the head supplying Keane and Bent. Malbranque did successfully give width on the left and worked his socks off up and down the line, often rescuing left back Jamie O’Hara with some well-timed tackles. Malbranque also provided the cross for Bent’s goal, and made several other promising passes. Yet those around me severely castigated Malbranque and welcomed his substitution, whilst Huddlestone had been unable to provide the same sort of service on the right flank, where there was space galore for Beye, and Geremi to exploit. Huddlestone is a great passer, but left too much space for my liking today.

Not that Tom should be picked out, as hardly a good word can be offered for any of the Spurs contingent. Hutton was the pick of the bunch in my opinion, as he worked hard and most effectively, providing the width down the right, particularly in the second half. Even Woodgate looked below par today. Berbatov was subdued, and Spurs’ diamond was easily conquered by Keegan’s midfield, where the three behind Owen played in a flat line across the field.

Juande Ramos clearly intends to conduct one or two experiments in the remainder of the season, and this one clearly did not work. For once Senor Ramos’s tactical use of his substitutes was also ineffective and he has to carry the can as much as his players, but more of that later.

It was an uncharacteristic mistake by Jonathan Woodgate after 4 minutes that allowed Beye a shot on goal, and with Robinson stock still, Beye hit the underside of the bar with his effort, which rebounded into play. Newcastle had another chance five minutes later, following a throw on the right. The ball was only half cleared to Joey Barton lurking outside the area, hitting a good low shot that Robinson saved well. Spurs at last showed a touch of class through Robbie Keane who hit a great long ball from the right flank, just inside the opposition half, which found Bent, who took just too long to shoot then hit the ball straight at Harper. Another minute later, Woodgate rose to O’Hara’s corner and when Harper saved, Keane’s instinctive attempt went outside the post from close range. After those two early scares, Spurs gained control, and Keane had another shot that went wide, after good work by Berbatov on the left flank.

The Spurs goal was no surprise on the balance of play, and Darren Bent rose well to meet Malbranque’s cross, looping a header into Harper’s top left corner. Bent made a good run across the area after 28 minutes, and the ball was cleared to Berbatov who fired well over the bar.

Referee Steve Bennett was certainly not a “homer” as he turned down a decent penalty appeal by Robbie Keane, and then only had “words” for Nicky Butt after a crunching challenge on Malbranque. Butt had more reason to smile in added time, as Geremi was afforded too much room on the right side, who slipped the ball back to Butt, whose shot from outside the area beat Robinson’s right hand.

Despite the disappointment of the late first half equaliser, we had no inkling of the disastrous second period ahead of us. Spurs were just not defending at all convincingly, and following a foul by Hutton on Owen, Newcastle’s attack ended in a good effort by Barton that passed just outside the post. Dawson conceded a reckless free kick on the edge of the box, and Robinson did not look at all commanding in his set up of the wall and his own positioning. Viduka was on the end of the wall, and moved aside for Geremi’s shot, which beat the static Robinson, still on the wall side of his goal.

Ramos did not take too long to respond, replacing Malbranque with Lennon, and skipper Keane with Taarabt. Mysteriously, Lennon played down the left flank, with Taarabt just inside him. The right flank was left to Hutton to fill. Sadly neither Lennon or Taarabt were effective, and in Taarabt’s case it was quite a disastrous cameo, as he relentlessly failed to pass the ball, and repeatedly got caught in possession. Robinson had to make a great save from Viduka’s curling shot, but was then beaten when Martins passed inside from the right, Viduka touched the ball on, and Michael Owen scored with a well placed chip to Robinson’s left corner.

Butt finally did get a yellow for a foul on Hutton, but it was almost one-way traffic, with Owen getting another chance after Dawson’s error. Spurs did have a chance from another O’Hara corner, with Berbatov’s header cleared in front of goal, then Bent getting a touch for Huddlestone, whose effort inside the 6 yard box was cleared.

Taarabt was caught in possession once too often in the 82nd minute by Barton, who hit a quick long pass to Martins. Martins gave substitute Tainio the slip, and made no mistake in front of the exuberant 1800-strong away support. No doubt those Newcastle fans who could not be bothered to make this trip regret their decision, whilst for Spurs fans the match is one to quickly forget. We can only hope that some Spanish arse-kicking, and more successful experiments will lead to better times in the last 6 games of the season.

· Squad numbers,appearances,bookings & goalscorers
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