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Spurs v Bolton, 14.02.10


Bolton scorer:-
K. Davies, 34

Spurs scorer:-
Defoe, 61

Attendance:- 13,596

Referee:- Mr. P. Dowd
Assistants:- Mr. A.S. Watts & Mr. M.S. Yerby
Fourth Official:- Mr. A. Taylor

Bolton (4-1-3-2):- Jaaskelainen; Steinsson, Knight (sub O’Brien, 63), Ricketts, Robinson; Muamba; Chung-Yong Lee (sub M. Davies, 74), Gardner, Taylor (sub Cohen, 88); K. Davies (Capt.), Elmander

Subs not used:- Al Habsi; Samuel, Holden, Riga

Booked:- Knight, Taylor

Spurs (4-4-2):- Gomes; Corluka, Dawson, King (Capt.), Bale; Bentley, Huddlestone, Palacios, Modric (sub Kranjcar, 63); Defoe, Crouch

Subs not used:- Alnwick; Bassong, Dervite; Rose; Pavlyuchenko, Gudjohnsen

Booked:- Huddlestone, Palacios, Defoe

Jekyll and Hyde Spurs

It was, as they say, a game of two halves. I was certainly not over the moon with Spurs first half performance in which they succumbed against the physical strength and efforts of a Bolton side, whose public could hardly be bothered to turn out, even for no more than £15. Spurs fans must have numbered some 4,500, which amounted to more than 50% of the numbers in the home section, where one complete upper tier was unoccupied, and another very nearly empty. Had Spurs been beaten, it would have irked me more than anything that a public that just does not deserve a Premier League football team could be represented in the FA Cup quarter-final.

That really is saying something, because despite the presence of as strong a side as Harry Redknapp could muster, the team performance was nearly as bad as that on Wednesday night at Molineux. They just didn’t seem to have the heart or inclination to challenge the home side to a sufficient degree. It was a performance that the loyal Spurs support did not deserve. You can bet your bottom dollar we will be paying more than £15 for the replay in 10 days time!

I did see a reference in this week’s press reports to Luka Modric having had an illness. Perhaps he was still suffering, because he was under par for much of this game, feeding Bale on the left a couple of times and threading a ball or two through to the forward runners. Despite Wilson Palacios’s presence, the midfield lacked strength, and Bolton always seemed to be able to find space. Kevin Davies put himself about as always, but one of his great skills is his strength coupled with shielding of the ball, which gave both Ledley King and Michael Dawson problems. Spurs were not helped by a referee who let a lot of Bolton’s strong challenges go, whereas Peter Crouch would be pulled up for putting his foot above knee high!

Once again, for most of the first half, the perception of the two team’s statuses would be reversed, as the bottom three side looked like a top half side, and Spurs looked like a club heading the wrong way. Bolton played with former gooner junior Muamba as the holding midfielder, whilst Chung-Yong Lee worked down the right flank and gave plenty of support to Elmander and Davies. Former Pompey player Matty Taylor played narrow down the left side of midfield, with Gardner in the central role.

After a slow start, Bolton looked dangerous after 8 minutes had passed. Lee got a cross in from the right and first Davies’ shot was blocked before Elmander’s shot was blocked by Corluka for a corner. Unlike Spurs, who favour short free kicks just to keep possession, Bolton are not afraid to put men in the box and treat many free kicks as bonuses. They took one long from the half-way line, which fell to the feet of Zat Knight, who fired straight down Gomes’ throat.

Spurs finally threatened goal after 13 minutes, when after a free kick, Palacios passed to Modric who sent Gareth Bale away on a run. Gareth cut inside and his right footed shot was only just over the bar. Elmander beat Spurs’ offside appeals and got into space down the left side, before hitting an awful shot. This was quite a theme of the first half, where Bolton were getting into dangerous positions, but thankfully their shooting was quite woeful.

Mid-way through the half Spurs were under pressure, conceding corners and too many free kicks around the box, sometimes being awarded harshly by the referee, who in the second half even helped to orchestrate the chant of “You’re too fat to referee” from the Spurs fans. Spurs were not even getting out of their own half. Gomes made a good save, diving to his left to push a Taylor free kick around the corner.

Spurs won their first corners after 26 minutes, and from the second of these Huddlestone did get a shot, which he fired yards wide from outside the box. Bentley was at least a trier, and did well to head back a deep Bale cross into the 6 yard area, where the goalie picked up. Then Bentley was found on the left side by Modric, and hit a right footed shot, which Jaaskelainen saved. The referee then spotted a blood injury to the Spurs number five and ordered him off the pitch for treatment. Bentley had been treated and was eager to get back onto the field of play, but the referee delayed permission, presumably because the ball was too close to where Bentley was waiting to re-enter. In the meantime, Bolton forged forward against the ten men. Bentley would not have been on Spurs’ left side, where Lee and Elmander worked their way to the bye-line inside the area, before Elmander cut the ball back to Davies. Once again, Corluka was found wanting in this area, and Kevin Davies had time and space to take a touch just 12 yards out, before hitting a low shot past Gomes.

All Spurs could muster before the break was a Bale cross/shot which was deflected for a corner. Gomes had work to do immediately after the break, as he plucked an Elmander powerful cross out of the air. Then Kevin Davies had a shot on goal, which Gomes had committed to, moving to his right. Dawson got a touch on the ball, which passed just outside the post. It could so easily have gone inside and Gomes would have been wrong-footed. Elmander had another shot from the right, which hit the side netting.

That was probably the last of the threats from the home side, as Spurs suddenly found some tempo, largely thanks to the lightning speed runs of Gareth Bale down the left wing. Crouch was fouled outside the area and I swear that the referee was going for his book for Muamba, but he got distracted and changed his mind. On another occasion, Bale made the extra effort we would have loved to see from some of his colleagues, but Crouch could not control the cross, which I am afraid was the story of much of Crouch’s game today. Bolton did break, allowing a shot by Muamba – thankfully miles wide.

Defoe and Crouch acted as providers for Palacios down the left channel, but his effort was blocked onto the bar and out for a corner. Spurs were now on top, and pressing for that much needed equaliser. The travelling fans were still getting frustrated though, as their team played head tennis in and around the Bolton area, culminating in a weak looping header by Corluka into Jaaskelainen’s arms. At last Spurs did score, and it was made by Bale, and converted by Defoe, with a shot to the top corner.

Bolton’s new manager Owen Coyle (at least his previous team had ardent and passionate supporters) switched Andy O’Brien for Zat Knight, whilst Luka Modric was replaced by Kranjcar. Bale made a great run ahead of Kranjcar’s ball, but his cross was pulled back too far into space. Palacios ran into that area, and his shot went just over the bar. Defoe fed Kranjcar, as the chances started to flow for Spurs, but Jaaskelainen tipped over the shot for a corner.

Spurs were awarded a penalty after possibly Crouch’s best piece of work all day. Peter received and controlled the ball, played keepy-uppy two or three times before it was handled by Ricketts. The new Spurs’ penalty taker was Tom Huddlestone, who surely could have hit one of his thunderbolts which would have carried the keeper over the line even if he made the save. However, Tom went for the old stop-start routine and failed dismally with his shot which Jaaskelainen saved with a dive to his right.

Spurs hit the woodwork again when Crouch challenged for a header, and Jaaskelainen saved from Defoe, with a dive to his right. There was a moment of comedy when the Bolton defence should have let an over-long Spurs ball run to the keeper, but O’Brien needlessly cleared for a Spurs throw. In the closing stages there was only likely to be one winner, as Crouch and Defoe again teed up Kranjcar, whose shot was saved, and in added time, Jermain hit a great shot from the left of the area, just over the far corner of the Bolton goal.

So, we have to fight it out again in ten days’ time for the honour of travelling to Craven Cottage for the FA Cup quarter-final. We beat Fulham away 4-0 three years ago, but we’ll need to see the Dr. Jekyll version of our Spurs in the replay and at Craven Cottage for our Cup Dream to continue.

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