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Wolves v Spurs, 10.02.10

BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
WEDNESDAY 10TH FEBRUARY, 2010
WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS 1 (1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0)

Scorer:-
Jones, 27

Attendance:- 27,992

Referee:- Mark Clattenburg
Assistants:- Mr. D. Richardson & Mr. D. Richards
Fourth Official:- Mr. N. Swarbrick

Teams:-
Wolves (4-2-3-1):- Hahnemann; Zubar, Craddock, Berra, Ward (sub Elokobi, 60); Guedioura (sub Mancienne, 72), Henry (Capt.); Foley, Jones, Jarvis (sub Milijas, 80); Doyle

Subs not used:- Hennessey; Mujangi-Bia, Ebanks-Blake, Vokes

Booked:- Doyle (Dissent), Elokobi (foul on Bentley)

Spurs (4-4-2):- Gomes; Kaboul, Dawson (Capt.), Bassong, Bale; Bentley, Huddlestone, Jenas (sub Palacios, 46), Kranjcar (sub Modric, 72); Defoe, Gudjohnsen (sub Crouch, 63)

Subs not used:- Alnwick; Corluka, Walker; Pavlyuchenko

Booked:- Palacios (foul)

Harry messed up big time

Those who saw me before the game will vouch for the fact that I questioned Harry Redknapp’s team selection when it was announced. Knowing that we had already lost to Wolves at White Hart Lane, and knowing that a win was vital to any remaining hopes of Champions League football, Harry fielded a weakened side with five changes from Saturday’s game. It’s as if he has decided that his priority is the FA Cup, and that he was saving Corluka, Palacios, Modric and Crouch for Sunday’s game at The Reebock. In what was a very poor game of football, Wolves scored once again in the first half, and adopted their game plan of getting men behind the ball to frustrate Spurs efforts to get back on terms. Wolves have gained six invaluable points from us, and completed their first league “double” over us since the 1953-54 season.

Younes Kaboul made his second debut for Spurs, after re-signing in January from beleaguered Portsmouth. Now forgive me if I am wrong, but isn’t Kaboul primarily a left sided centre-back or a left back, who favours his left foot? Why on earth was a) Corluka left out and b) Kyle Walker, who is a right back, not given a go in the absence of Corluka. As it was Kaboul was pretty decent in supporting the attack, but he did not give me confidence when challenging Matt Jarvis. Kaboul was often drawn into the centre of defence, and Jarvis did provide the lethal cross for the Wolves goal. Neither Dawson or Bassong were convincing against the lone Wolves striker – Kevin Doyle – who unlike his two Spurs counterparts did manage to win most balls sent in his direction, shield and hold the ball before laying off to his support.

Mind you, one of Spurs big problems was its powder-puff midfield, who were rarely anywhere near the strikers to receive a lay-off ball. Huddlestone’s creative spark was absent as most of his passes were backwards or sideways. Tom did win one or two midfield challenges and also hit a few wayward shots, so he did contribute overall. Now, here is a moment of truth for me. Down the years I have consistently been what you might call a Jenas sympathiser, but last night he was absolutely abysmal, and was the obvious choice to be replaced by Wilson Palacios at half-time. Jenas couldn’t hold the ball in the middle, missed passes and tackles and was generally sub-sub par. (Yes, there are two subs there)

Eidur Gudjohnsen made his debut, and shared rare clever touches with Defoe. The one moment he looked most effective was on an occasion when he fell back to the midfield in Huddlestone’s slot and linked in with a good pass or two. The absence of Luka Modric and either Crouch or Pavlyuchenko from the starting line-up was more evidence of Harry Redknapp’s poor selection and strategy for this game.

On the other hand Mick McCarthy once again got it dead right against Spurs. His players did demonstrate an excellent work ethic and desire for the ball and to win the game. McCarthy had three runners behind Doyle, each of whom threatened the Spurs defence with little or no resistance from the middle. Gareth Bale was the best of the Spurs team, particularly in the second half, but defensively he was struggling against Foley, who might have beaten a couple of offside flags, but who did have the beating of Bale.

And yet Spurs came out of the blocks well, nearly scoring in the first minute, when Bentley got inside Ward and hit a shot that Hahnemann had to tip over. The referee in fact awarded a free kick in Bentley’s favour, taken by Bale, but hit past the far post. Bentley had a bright start, but as the game progressed and became more and more boring, I confess to counting the touches that David needed to take on the ball before disposing of a pass. The average was 3.5 by my reckoning, and I counted as many as six at times, by which time McCarthy’s men were fully assembled behind the ball.

After Spurs’ early chance, Wolves came back with efforts that were blocked by Bassong and punched clear by Gomes. Jenas got ahead of his strikers and tried to reach a ball chipped over the defence, but could not quite beat the bounce or the goalkeeper, failing to get a shot on goal. After 12 minutes, Bentley won a corner, which was taken by Bale. Dawson was up for it but failed to get enough contact on the ball which passed Hahnemann’s goal tamely. Spurs best move of the game came after 19 minutes, started by Kaboul inside the half-way line, touched on by Gudjohnsen to Defoe, who flicked it cleverly into the path of the advancing Kranjcar who forced a good save by the Wolves keeper.

Foley made one of those penetrating runs down the Spurs left flank, and Dawson made a good tackle before the ball passed across the area and Jenas cleared the ball for a corner in the face of Wolves pressure.

Referee Mark Clattenburg was already attracting cat calls from the home fans which were to get worse. Mr. Clattenburg settled for “words” with Ward over a foul on Jenas. After the free kick, Kaboul and Defoe combined before Bentley carried the ball forward and cut inside hitting a left foot shot over the bar.

Wolves took a decisive lead in the 27th minute, when they passed the ball right to left across the outside of the Spurs area to Jarvis on the left side of the box. Jarvis hit a devastating low ball inside where Jones converted low past Gomes. In no time at all, Wolves were back in the Spurs area and they wanted a penalty when Dawson made a dodgy tackle in the area. Wolves players and fans alike were denied, whilst Bale made a bee-line down the left wing before he was up-ended by Zubar. Doyle ran all the way back to the corner flag to protest with the referee over the penalty appeal, but got a yellow card for his trouble.

Wolves were on the attack again, and Bentley was offering no resistance to Jarvis who got in a cross, from which a Wolves corner was awarded. Spurs had one effort worthy of note before the interval, with Defoe and Gudjohnsen breaking out, before Gudjohnsen’s final ball to Kranjcar who hit a weak shot at Hahnemann.

There had been snow falling during the day and the night was getting colder. Perhaps the pitch was getting more slippery too, but of course the conditions were the same for both teams. Palacios was a welcome replacement for Jenas. Kaboul passed the ball down the line for Bentley who got his cross in after 4 touches on this occasion. The ball was touched on by Defoe, but Kranjcar’s shot was saved for a corner. Gomes didn’t have a meaningful save to make all game really, and I don’t recall a difficult one for Hahnemann in the second half either.

The pattern for the second half involved very few direct chances, but Spurs must have had most of the possession whilst never producing a cutting edge despite the insertion of Crouch and Modric, who surely would have been better choices to start this game. Gareth Bale was by far the biggest threat for Wolves with many incisive and penetrating runs down the line and into the box. All his crosses were cleared, or any shots Spurs did manage went wide. Huddlestone had one or two good opportunities but did not hit the target.

Wolves successfully played out the four minutes of added time for a victory which took them out of the bottom three, but still in the battle to come for survival. As for Spurs, they are now sixth, and on this form will be lucky to even manage a Europa League position. I think Harry has caught too much of the glint of FA Cup silverware, and hope for his sake the team does get a result on Sunday. The fans will be on his back sooner than he might think. This one is already.

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