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Spurs v Blackburn, 23.11.08


Pavlyuchenko, 10

Referee: - Howard Webb

Attendance: - 35,903

Spurs (4-4-2):- Gomes; Corluka, Woodgate, King (Capt.), Ekotto; Lennon, Jenas, Huddlestone, Bentley (sub O’Hara, 86); Pavlyuchenko (sub Campbell, 73), Bent

Subs not used: - Cesar; Gunter, Dawson, Bale; Zokora

Booked: - Bentley (simulation), Jenas (Unsporting behaviour)

Blackburn (4-4-2):- Robinson; Ooijer, Samba, Nelsen (Capt.), Olsson; Emerton (sub Derbyshire, 70), Mokoena, Andrews, Pedersen (sub Treacy, 80); Santa Cruz, McCarthy (sub Simpson, 460

Subs not used: - Brown; Kerimoglu; Roberts, Fowler

Booked: - Olsson (late on Lennon), Ooijer (foul on Bentley), Andrews (clash with Jenas)

Sent off (38), Olsson – second bookable offence – late on Lennon again!

Can we please say goodbye to the bottom three now?

Yesterday’s game at White Hart Lane was memorable for a number of reasons. Firstly there was Aaron Lennon’s match-winning scintillating performance down the right wing, where he tormented Swedish left back Martin Olsson so much that the Blackburn player got a second yellow in the 38th minute for chopping Lennon in full flight. Secondly there was the rapturous and emotional reception for Paul Robinson who fully acknowledged the Spurs fans, and rewarded a lucky fan or two in the Park Lane stand with his gloves at the end of the game. Thirdly, of course, there was the vital win that took Spurs out of the bottom three at last, and up to their highest position of the season so far – 15th!

Despite Lennon’s performance, the game was not memorable for the football, which, despite the situation, where both teams were fighting to escape the drop zone, seemed to gradually fizzle out. Spurs had enough chances to have Rovers dead and buried before half-time, and a couple more decent chances in the second which should have been converted. As for Paul Ince’s Blackburn side, they had to adjust for the loss of Olsson. It was Benni McCarthy who was sacrificed at the interval for Manchester United loanee Danny Simpson to face Lennon, but it was as if Rovers wanted to keep the goal difference down, rather than going for a vital goal. They were obviously hoping for a goal on a break, but Gomes, after a nervous start, was rarely tested.

The whole of the Spurs back four looked comfortable, I’d say. Corluka is Mister Cool, wherever he plays, and Jonathan Woodgate edged the other members of the defensive unit, with some vital clearances, not least when Gomes came out, mis-judged and was beaten by Emerton’s first half chip.

David Bentley would have been desperate for a great game against his old club, but apart from several good deliveries from the wing or a dead ball, he was too often beaten for pace, or just deprived of the ball when he should have kept possession. Bentley was only just worse than Jermaine Jenas, who was hesitant too often, and had the ball stolen from his feet many times. In his favour, Jenas did make valuable interceptions, and after one such win, made a great box to box run with the ball only to disappoint with his end product. Tom Huddlestone has definitely gained in confidence. Being labelled “The new Hoddle” in yesterday’s Telegraph must have helped, but he has some way to go to earn that title. Tom made some good passes to the wings, and chased more in the middle, which was pleasing to see.

The attendance figure must be inflated by absent season ticket holders happy to watch the game on TV, but there were more empty seats than the figures indicate. Blackburn’s attendance was paltry, and some of their absentees must have been counted too, as I suspect that Rovers had to pay for their allocation.

Huddlestone got things going with an early cross which was touched on beyond the back post by Pavlyuchenko. On this occasion, Lennon’s high returned ball was not good. McCarthy hit a long ball from the right flank towards Santa Cruz, who tried to handle, failed, and saw Gomes collect. Gomes then suffered that early pressure due to three Blackburn corners. He flapped at the first, which was cleared by his defence, but Gomes managed a good punch of the third corner. After 7 minutes, Gomes held a strong shot by Morten Ganst Pedersen, after the winger had a wall pass off Santa Cruz.

Spurs took a vital early lead after a Robinson kick was returned towards Olsson near his half way line. Lennon nicked the ball off him and set off on a run into the box, where he cut the ball back for Roman Pavlyuchenko to sweep home for his third league goal, and sixth in all for Spurs this season. He nearly got a second too, when he headed on a Bentley free kick, only to see the ball rebound off the post. A Spurs attempt to follow up was halted by an offside flag. A minute later and Gomes was mis-judging the situation, when he ran out to challenge Emerton, who chipped but saw Woodgate make the vital header for a corner.

After 23 minutes, Pedersen’s cross from the left got a first time poke from McCarthy, but the shot went over the bar. This move began when Jenas lost possession just outside the left side of the Spurs box. Olsson got that first yellow card for stopping Lennon in full flow, but then Rovers had another chance when Samba got behind the defence to try and reach a free kick. Gomes was in position, and in control. One of Spurs’ faults in the game was to have conceded so many free kicks in dangerous areas, putting themselves under too much pressure.

Olsson’s second yellow card came after 38 minutes, and Paul Ince made no immediate adjustment, other than to pull Pedersen back to try and prevent Lennon’s advances. Bentley took the free kick from the foul on Lennon, and after it was half cleared, Lennon hit a cracking shot with his weak foot. Somehow it was stopped from getting in, thanks to a defender’s deflection, and Robinson’s involuntary save with his legs. Bentley got a yellow card for a dive just outside the Blackburn penalty area as half-time approached.

It was a while before the game got going again after the break. Perhaps Spurs were happy to consolidate rather than going for the kill. Spurs won a corner after Samba got in the way of a Huddlestone shot, and from the corner, Huddlestone had a good effort from distance on the left side. The shot passed just above the top corner of the far post. Huddlestone picked out Lennon with a long ball, and Robinson held Lennon’s cross/shot. Ooijer got a booking for a foul on Bentley, and had received an early warning from Howard Webb after a series of tackles in the first half. Bentley took this free kick, and somehow Woodgate managed to head over from beneath the bar.

Pavlyuchenko had taken a knock and was replaced by the ever-lively Fraizer Campbell, who made his presence known with a determined run down the left side, trying but just failing to find target man Darren Bent. Lennon had a shot on goal after a short pass from Huddlestone, which was held, and then after a short corner, Bentley’s cross was somehow headed wide by Campbell, who had the goal at his mercy. Bentley was replaced by Jamie O’Hara, and Spurs saw out the three minutes added time to secure the three points.

I just hope we can now say goodbye to the bottom three, and that next Sunday we can put paid to Everton, who have won on their last two visits to The Lane.

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