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Spurs v West Ham United, 19.03.11

(12.45 p.m.)

Attendance:- 36,010

Referee:- Mike Dean
Assistants:- Mr. S. Child & Mr. D. Bond
Fourth Official:- Mr. P. Crossley

Spurs (4-4-1-1):- Gomes; Corluka (sub Hutton, 77), Gallas, Dawson (Capt.), Ekotto; Lennon, Sandro, Modric, Bale; Van der Vaart (sub Pavlyuchenko, 71); Defoe

Subs not used:- Pletikosa; Bassong; Jenas, Kranjcar; Crouch

No Bookings

West Ham (4-5-1):- Green; Jacobsen, Da Costa, Upson (Capt.), Bridge; O’Neil, Noble, Parker, Hitzlsperger, Ba; Cole (sub Obinna, 78)

Subs not used:- Boffin; Gabbidon, Tomkins; Boa Morte; Sears, Hines

Booked:- Parker (foul on Van der Vaart), Noble (foul on Bale), Cole (foul on Sandro), Upson (foul on Defoe)

Spurs press but “Irons” don’t fold

When Spurs had failed to score after clearly dominating the opening 20 minutes of this game, we all knew that this could turn out to be another “one of those days”. So it turned out, despite Spurs having 26 chances against West Ham’s 11, and despite Spurs having the majority of the possession. Rob Green made one particularly good second half save, where somehow he and the woodwork kept out a Gareth Bale free kick, but generally Spurs’ failure to win was down to a lot of poor marksmanship, and some stout defending, where The Hammers got 9 men behind the ball every time Spurs were on the attack. That’s not to say the visitors did not have chances, as Carlton Cole fluffed his lines a couple of times in the first half, and then when the game did open up more after the break, Gomes had to make a decent save or two.

For West Ham, the point gained was a precious gem in their ongoing fight for Premier League survival, where the bottom 8 teams are separated by only three points, which means there will be a very exciting run-in for the race to avoid the drop. For Spurs, the solitary point is not likely to be enough to see them through to the top four, unless someone like Manchester City fold, which is not out of the question. Spurs though have managed only two points from their last three league games against embattled sides, and their next two league games come against similar teams.

On the face of it, the Spurs line-up was an attacking one, full of flair, with Lennon and Bale in tandem and Van der Vaart assisting Defoe. However, Van der Vaart, whilst not having one of his better days, consciously or sub-consciously was too often to be found too deep, even behind Modric, which meant that Spurs often seemed to be mimicking the “irons” line-up, where Demba Ba supported Cole from the left flank.

That Spurs flair was to the fore in the early attacks, with Bale and Modric working the left flank and inside track to good effect, but the first decent chance was not forged for three minutes, when Modric got to the line and cut the ball back for skipper Michael Dawson who had joined the fray, hitting a smashing rising shot that skimmed the bar. Bale looked to have the beating of right back Lars Jacobsen, but as the game progressed, Bale’s penetration became less convincing. Bale did beat him after 6 minutes, and Defoe took a glancing shot from the near post that passed just wide across the goal. Next up was a deep cross by Aaron Lennon, and two blocked shots, before Sandro had a pop at goal, and saw his effort deflected over for another corner, from which a header was glanced across the goal, and Lennon hit a rising shot over the bar.

Referee Mike Dean did not impress the Spurs fans with his lenience towards some pretty physical stuff, and also when he insisted on Gareth Bale leaving the pitch because a pair of his under-shorts were not the right colour. Gareth conducted a quick strip on the touch line and was quickly ready to return to the field of play, but Mr. Dean would not wave him on. Van der Vaart lost his rag, and kicked the ball out of play to get Bale on, when he really should have kept possession for Spurs as they were moving forward. Thereafter the award of a free kick for Spurs won ironic cheers, but as the game wore on, there were yellow cards for 4 West Ham players, and none for Spurs.

Sandro was playing up to his recent form again, and whilst Modric was industrious and probably our most creative player, he and Van der Vaart just could not get the moves going sometimes, with the Dutchman especially losing control of the ball too often. Corluka was out of sorts with his first half distribution too.

Carlton Cole got a definite chance when receiving a ball over the top of the Spurs defence, but managed to scoop his shot well over the target. After 15 minutes and a short corner, a clever ball was put inside to Modric who turned and fired a left foot shot across Green, beating the keeper, but passing just outside the post. Modric then played another corner directly to Van der Vaart on the left of the area. Rafa hit a powerful shot that stayed about two feet off the ground, and was only two feet wide. Gomes had to react quickly though at the other end as Cole again got goalside of the defence, but Heurelho took the ball off his feet.

After 23 minutes, Van der Vaart and Modric collected the ball around the half way line and worked it forward. Van der Vaart lost control, but the ball ran for Modric who fed it to Corluka, who crossed from the deep to the near post, where Jermain Defoe just could not get decent contact on the ball, which trickled to the post, where Green saved comfortably. Noble fouled Defoe just outside the box, and Van der Vaart fed the ball to Corluka, whose attempt at a threaded pass for Lennon was a complete failure. Ba had a half chance at the other end but listed his shot well off target.

Modric had a right footed shot that beat Green, but again passed the wrong side of the post. By now Bale and Lennon had switched flanks, and this pattern occurred a couple more times in the game. Modric fed Lennon when he was on the left, and Aaron cut inside before hitting a right footed shot that again beat Green, but rebounded off the post to the feet of Defoe. However, the ball could only rebound off Defoe for goal-kick. Scott Parker saw yellow for a foul on Van der Vaart, who took the kick himself, but it was too easy for Green. Van der Vaart had the last chance of the half with another shot that passed wide.

Carlton Cole forced another save from Gomes from the kick off, with a low shot from the left channel, which Gomes parried away with both hands. Parker’s follow-up attempt came to nought. Now Noble went into Mr. Dean’s book too, for a foul on Bale near the left corner flag, but Spurs made no use of the free kick. Corluka had now found his form and found Modric on the right. Luka passed inside to Defoe, whose shot was saved by the feet of Green. Lennon tried to lift the ball back into the mix and Modric tried to keep it in play, but failed. More frustration was yet to come. Modric and Van der Vaart worked the ball to the box, and Defoe had a shot blocked, before Gareth Bale’s shot might have been handled, but it was probably ball to hand. Bale was managing to ride tackles to get the ball to Jermain Defoe, but the striker was unable to ride tackles as he tried to find space for a shot. You have to give credit to the defenders, and Da Costa in particular did a good job today.

Lennon got the ball to Modric after 63 minutes, but his shot carried no power and was easy for Green again. At the other end, Demba Ba hit a good shot that Gomes pushed around the corner. Van der Vaart laid up a ball for Sandro, who was getting forward more and more, but his shot was wide. Now West Ham’s captain Upson got a yellow for a cynical foul on Defoe as he was breaking just inside the half-way line.

The game was now opening up more, and West ham were finding some space, as Spurs went on the hunt for the decisive goal. Noble hit a shot wide. Van der Vaart was replaced by Pavlyuchenko, and I understand has not impressed Harry Redknapp with a march straight down the tunnel. Corluka was later replaced by Hutton, who does give Spurs a little more on the attack. It has to be said that Pavlyuchenko did look more like scoring than had Defoe or any other Spurs player. Sandro back headed after a Spurs throw and Pav’s effort was cleared, then he had two further decent shots well saved by Green, with Sandro again the provider on one occasion.

Upson, having already been booked brought down Modric just outside the box, but there was no punishment other than the free kick. Bale stepped up to take the kick, and curled it towards the top left corner. Green flung himself at the ball, and got a touch which was enough to push it onto the woodwork, which somehow kept the ball out of the net. I think that’s when we knew we were not going to score. Defoe had a couple more chances. One was from a pass by Pavlyuchenko, where the shot went over, and the other came after a good run by Ekotto and a touch by Pavlyuchenko, but Da Costa blocked Defoe’s effort.

There was to be no breakthrough, and West Ham celebrated their point like a win. It’s no fun having four points taken off us by this outfit, and now we have to wait for two more weeks before a trip to another struggling “W” team – Wigan. See you there!

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