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Spurs v Wolves, 18.09.10

BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 18TH SEPTEMBER, 2010
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 3 (0) WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS 1 (1)

Spurs Scorers:-
Van Der Vaart (pen.), 77
Pavlyuchenko, 87
Hutton, 90

Wolves scorer:-
Fletcher, 45

Attendance:- 35,940

Referee:- Mr. M. Jones
Assistants:- Mr. J. Flynn & Mr. R. Ganfield
Fourth Official:- Mr. P. Crossley

Teams:-
Spurs (4-4-2):- Cudicini; Kaboul (sub Hutton, 45), Gallas, King (Capt.), Ekotto; Van Der Vaart (sub Lennon, 86), Jenas, Huddlestone, Bale; Keane (sub Pavlyuchenko, 67), Crouch

Subs not used:- Pletikosa; Bassong; Palacios, Kranjcar

Booked:- Huddlestone, Van Der Vaart, Pavlyuchenko

Wolves (4-5-1):- Hahnemann; Foley, Craddock, Stearman, Ward; Jarvis (sub Van Damme, 54), Henry (Capt.), Jones, Mancienne (sub Bent, 90), Fletcher (sub Edwards, 58); Doyle

Subs not used:- Hennessy; Elokobi, Guedioura; Ebanks-Blake

Booked:- Foley, Van Damme, Hahnemann

Late, late show averts disaster.

Oh how Spurs so desperately needed an early goal! Wolves game plan worked perfectly, as they packed the midfield, wasted as much time as they could from the start (especially Hahnemann dawdling to the “wrong” side of goal to take all his kicks), and scored a goal against the run of play just before half-time to give the home crowd a severe attack of the jitters. We couldn’t lose a third consecutive league game to Wolves, could we? We couldn’t fail yet again to score a home goal, could we? We couldn’t lose a second consecutive home game to so called Premier League no-hopers, could we?

All these things were possible, especially after Hahnemann made two great first half saves from Van Der Vaart and Crouch, and Spurs seemed to run out of ideas. Let it be recorded then for future quiz questions, that Rafael Van Der Vaart scored Spurs’ first home league goal of the season, after substitute Alan Hutton’s run was rudely halted by the careless tackle of Stephen Ward. Aaron Lennon was a late replacement for Van Der Vaart, and his combination down the right wing with Tom Huddlestone led to Pavlyuchenko’s poached goal. Finally, Hutton himself was rewarded for another run into the box with a fortuitous goal scored on the rebound from Stearman’s attempted clearance. Spurs fans went home smiling after all.

Harry made several tweaks to the team after the mid-week exertions in Germany. There was no sign of Corluka, and Younes Kaboul was drafted in at right back, where he allegedly does not like to play, but where he was arguably Spurs’ best first half player, providing most of the width down that flank, defending well, and offering plenty of crosses with options for the strike force of Crouch and Keane. Van Der Vaart was nominally on the right of midfield, but did have the freedom to move and turned up anywhere between the right flank and the left side of the penalty area, from where he had that great left-footed shot after 29 minutes.

Gallas partnered skipper Ledley King, and was actually booed by some home fans when his name was announced. Nevertheless, he and King were an effective pairing. Jermaine Jenas got the nod again, beside Huddlestone, and had another good game, much to the dismay of the Jenas-haters around The Lane.

Wolves played Doyle on his own up front, with Jarvis, Jones and Fletcher the attacking midfielders, whilst skipper Karl Henry and Chelsea loanee Michael Mancienne holding the fort in front of the defence. There were a few empty seats around the ground and a lot of these would have been down the Jewish Holy Day of Yom Kippur, which kept Avram Grant away from West Ham’s game at Stoke.

Spurs made a good start with Bale and Kaboul providing the width, and plenty of balls getting to the middle, without challenging Hahnemann significantly. Kaboul made a good run down towards the corner flag to claim a decent long ball out by Gallas. After 9 minutes, on the break, Matt Jarvis got round Assou-Ekotto who was defending the right side of the area, and got a cross in, which fell to Spurs feet. Keane had a good opportunity after 24 minutes, when Jenas had sent Bale away on a typical run. Keane needed two touches for the cross, and his eventual shot was cleared for a corner. Five minutes later Hahnemann did have to make a save, and it was a good one as Van Der Vaart received the ball from the left and hit a rising shot that the keeper tipped over the bar. Three minutes later the keeper was in action again as Spurs attacked on a break led by Keane and Van Der Vaart. Bale’s final ball was headed goalward by Crouch, but the keeper was happy to concede a corner.

Bale took a free kick after Crouch had been fouled but the ball went tamely into Hahnemann’s arms. Then Ledley ran forward and fed Bale who crossed to the middle of the goal area, where Robbie Keane should have scored but actually got too much on the header which passed wide across the goal. Then just before half-time came the sucker punch. Ekotto was caught without support from his colleagues and Foley got around him to cross, where Fletcher had too much space and had an easy job to fire home in front of the despairing Paxton Road Stand. Younes Kaboul was replaced by Hutton before the half-time whistle, due to injury.

As always, the team came out for the second half to the tune of “McNamara’s Band”. The announcer made specific mention of Bobby Smith, who was ill in hospital. Sadly, we have since learnt of Bobby’s passing to become the fourth member of the legendary double team to pass away. (See - http://www.spursodyssey.com/1011/bobby.html)

Three minutes after the break, Gallas sent Hutton away, and Hutton cut inside to his left, hitting a left footed shot fractionally outside the post. Robbie Keane actually let the ball go past him, thinking it was in the net. A touch would have ensured a goal. Goal-scorer Fletcher was replaced by Jelle Van Damme, and after a Spurs move broke down the Belgian full back was in space and launched a shot that passed just over the stanchion on Cudicini’s right.

Ledley was getting forward again to try and provoke effective attack, as Spurs struggled to break down the Wolves resistance. Their players had the fitness and energy to challenge us all over the park, whereas we too often fell back rather than offer a challenge in Wolves’ territory. Ledley exchanged a pass with Hutton then fed Van Der Vaart, whose shot was just outside the far post. Bale crossed from the other side and Keane’s scissor kick went just wide. Keane was soon to be replaced by Pavlyuchenko.

Just when we might have thought it was never going to happen for Spurs, Hutton ran and ran and carried the ball just inside the edge of the area, where Ward made that reckless tackle and left the referee an easy decision. Van Der Vaart was cool as the referee cleared the area, and sent Hahnemann the wrong way, planting the ball in the keeper’s right corner. A minute later, Bale actually turned up on the right and passed to Huddlestone, whose shot was held by the keeper.

Cudicini started a good move with a roll out to Ekotto, who found Jenas. Jenas passed inside to Van Der Vaart, whose shot was wide. Good play by Crouch and Van Der Vaart led to a short ball to give Bale a run, but Hahnemann was first to the ball. Van Der Vaart was replaced by Lennon, who had an effect within a minute. Aaron and Tom Huddlestone worked their way down the right flank, with Hudd on the inside. Lennon’s final ball was only partially cleared. Bale and Huddlestone got a touch, and the ball squeezed through the defence to offer Pavlyuchenko a good chance which he did not spurn. “Super Pav” raced off to the corner flag to hoist his shirt high on the flag. He got the inevitable booking, but he and all Spurs connections were of course very happy! Hahnemann’s booking for dissent also got applause from the crowd who had been much irritated by his time-wasting strategy. The win was capped by a comedy moment as Hutton made yet another run into the box, tried a shot which simply rebounded off the legs of Stearman, then looped over the keeper into the net off the involuntary touch of Hutton, who nonetheless got credited with his first official goal in English football.

Whilst Wolves had managed to put Spurs under a little pressure at 1-1, the game had opened up, which just illustrates how an early goal would have made it easier for Spurs. Wolves fans will feel hard done by, and the scoreline might flatter Spurs a little. The win puts them in fourth place before Sunday’s games, and back on track for a defence of that top four status. Next up it’s the gooners then in the Carling Cup. Bobby Smith would have loved that. God Bless him.

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