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Spurs v Norwich, 09.04.12

BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
MONDAY 9TH APRIL, 2012
(3 P.M.)
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (1) NORWICH CITY 2 (1)

Spurs scorer:-
Defoe, 33

Norwich scorers:-
Pilkington, 13
E. Bennett, 66

Attendance:- 36,126

Referee:- Mr. M. Oliver
Assistants:- Mr. R. Ganfield & Mr. A. Halliday
Fourth Official:- Mr. P. Dowd

Teams:-
Spurs (4-4-2):- Friedel; Walker, Kaboul (sub Nelsen, 45), King (Capt.), Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Livermore (sub Van der Vaart, 71), Modric, Bale; Saha (sub Adebayor, 46), Defoe

Subs not used:- Cudicini; Rose; Kranjcar, Sandro

Booked:- Walker (foul on Pilkington)

Norwich (4-4-2):- Ruddy; Martin, R. Bennett, Ward, Drury; E. Bennett, Howson, Johnson, Pilkington (sub Surman, 72); Wilbraham (sub Jackson, 79), Holt (Capt.) (sub Morison, 69)
(Armband to Drury)
Subs not used:- Steer; Barnett, Crofts, Hoolahan

Booked:- Johnson (foul on Lennon), E. Bennett (foul on Defoe)

Spurs in disarray

Many of us, including me, wanted an attacking 4-4-2 formation today, and we wanted Aaron Lennon to start. We got part of what we wanted, but we did not get the home win we so needed to maintain our position in the race for Champions League football next season. We didn’t get the performance we hoped for either, as Spurs played as if they had no authentic game plan, and no idea how to beat a Norwich side that out-played us, and played with style. Norwich also played a 4-4-2, and were much better at it too. Harry Redknapp seemed to be making excuses afterwards, stating that people had wanted a 4-4-2, but that he felt we had been too open.

We certainly were too open, from the outset. Yes, we sought to attack with some gusto, but at the back, we might just as well have had a bunch of schoolboys, as arms went up, and appeals went in the direction of the bench, asking who should be where, and who should be marking who. The preparation had clearly been lacking. Ledley King made an appearance, but sadly he could be on his last legs, as the powerful Grant Holt too easily got goal-side of the Spurs defence, supported by Wilbraham, and also Pilkington from the left flank. Paul Lambert might not have any recognised star names in his line-up, but they knew what to do, and how to do it, putting Spurs to the sword all too easily. It was all too painful to watch, and it was agony to record.

Spurs loanee Kyle Naughton had to be left out of course, and it wasn’t long before the sell-out vocal Norwich section were abusing Kyle Walker with “You’re just a sh*t Kyle Naughton”. Such catcalls came near the start of one of Walker’s most inept defensive displays, as Pilkington as good as ran him ragged. Walker of course has no direct deputy, and is one of the Spurs players who has so rarely been rested. Redknapp made five changes from the team that faced Sunderland, resting Parker completely, and leaving Sandro, Van der Vaart and Adebayor on the bench. Part of the reason for this of course was the forthcoming FA Cup semi-final, but on this form, Spurs are going to flop in that match, and in the remaining 5 league games left to try and stay in the top four.

What sort of statement would it be upon the management of Redknapp if we fail to make Champions League? He purposely fielded weak teams in the Europa League, but if we have to settle for that next term, what should our policy be? What should our policy have been? Are Spurs now paying for a distinct lack of a structured rotation policy over the hectic season? Walker, Kaboul, and Assou-Ekotto have had to play in virtually all our games. Maybe now we are paying the price.

Modric sent Bale away after only one minute. Bale was towards the centre and tried to make himself room for a shot, but failed. Despite the presence of Lennon on the right, Bale could often be found near Lennon on the same flank during the game. Assou-Ekotto sent a good ball down the left channel, which Saha chased, getting goalside of Ryan Bennett. However, the defender made a good recovery and cleared. After a Spurs throw on the left, Defoe took the ball to the bye-line and cut it back for Saha, whose shot was blocked.

Spurs had their first panic in defence after 10 minutes, but managed to clear and broke well through Modric. He fed Bale, whose cross was far too deep for Aaron Lennon. That Spurs panic in defence was then re-lived to painful effect, but the goal that Norwich scored was somewhat fortunate, as the ball seemed to rebound off several shins to the feet of Pilkington who was left with an easy finish past Friedel, making his 299th consecutive Premier League appearance.

Benoit Assou-Ekotto did some skilful defending after 23 minutes, and with a header cleared to Bale, who made a headlong run all the way to the opposition box, hitting a shot which was deflected for a corner. Livermore hit a good ball to walker, whose cross to the back post was also defended for a corner. Spurs again counter-attacked after a Norwich free kick just outside our area. Bale hit a powerful low cross that passed just in front of Defoe, out of his reach. Norwich then had a decent claim for a penalty by Ledley King against Holt, but the referee turned down their appeals. The Spurs response was to equalise, as a result of an excellent threaded ball by Livermore to Defoe, who chipped the ball delicately over the advancing Ruddy.

Norwich nearly went ahead again, following another free kick which ended up with Elliott Ward at the back post. Ward hit a powerfully driven shot that brought a reflex save from Friedel. The referee Mr. Oliver settled for “words” with Howson over his foul on Modric, who took the free kick, which was headed wide by Kaboul. Kaboul pulled up just before half-time and had to be replaced by Nelsen. Hopefully this will be just a precaution before Sunday’s semi-final.

At the half-time break, Harry Redknapp took off Saha in favour of Adebayor. Spurs started brightly, with Lennon trying to get the ball to Modric, succeeding at the second attempt. The ball was sent inside to Bale, whose shot was blocked. Spurs had a great chance after 52 minutes, after Assou-Ekotto hit a wall pass to Adebayor. “Benny” got into the Norwich area and tried to lift the ball over Ruddy, who managed to save with an outstretched hand. Bale had another chance after a Lennon ball, but it went for a corner. At the other end, “The Canaries” had a golden opportunity when the ball came from the right to Johnson at the back post, with the Spurs goal gaping. Johnson hit his shot two yards wide.

After 63 minutes, Modric carried the ball from the left, and passed to Bale in a central position towards the right of the area. Bale hit a rising shot that beat Ruddy, but bounced down off the underside of the bar, before being cleared. Out of the blue at the other end, Elliott Bennett beat Friedel all ends up with a screamer of a goal to the right of the keeper.

Van der Vaart replaced Livermore, as a last throw of the dice by Harry Redknapp, but in the last quarter of the game, the best chance that Spurs could muster was a Bale header wide of the post after an Assou-Ekotto cross. The Norwich fans sang their hearts out throughout the game, and could be heard a considerable while after the final whistle, celebrating their first win over a Premier League big team this season.

As I write, Newcastle have drawn level with us on points, whilst Chelsea dropped two points at Fulham and remain two points behind us. They have to play each other, and Chelsea have to play Arsenal, whilst Spurs’ next four league games are against relegation strugglers. The run-in will be exciting for the non-partisan, but tense and fraught for those of us with affiliations.

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