FA CARLING PREMIERSHIP
MONDAY 3RD APRIL, 2000
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (1) MIDDLESBOROUGH 3 (1)
Carr (o.g) 39
Ricard, 64, 78
Referee:- Alan Wiley
Spurs (4-4-2);- Walker; Carr, Perry, Campbell (capt), Taricco; Ginola, Anderton, Freund, Korsten (sub Clemence, 68); Armstrong, Iversen
Subs not used:- Baardsen; Scales, Young; Etherington
Booked:- Ginola, Perry, Carr
Middlesborough (4-3-3):- Schwarzer; Ziege, Cooper, Vickers, Fleming; Summerbell, Ince (capt), Mustoe; Deane, Ricard, Campbell
Subs not used:- Beresford(GK); Maddison, Stockdale, Gavin, Juninho
Booked:- Fleming, Ricard
Just over 18 months ago, Spurs suffered an ignominious defeat at the hands of Middlesborough, and Hamilton Ricard was the scorer of two goals on that day. It was soon after that defeat that George Graham was appointed as manager, and his declared aim was to make Spurs a top six side within two years. Now that does give him room for manoeuvre, as the two calendar years are not up until this autumn, but the fans are starting to get on his back now, as his virtual first choice side surrendered a one goal lead, and allowed a side which until recently had been the poorest form side in the league to take the initiative and control the middle of the park. In fact, at times it was shades of Gerry Francis, with the non-existent midfield (too many Anderton passes went astray, and Freund was mainly flapping today), and the return of "We want our Tottenham back" chant, coupled with the first airing of "We want Graham out".
To give Bryan Robson his due, he adopted an attacking policy putting three up front, with Deane and Andy Campbell flanking Ricard. Ince was impressive in the middle, and once again, Spurs were spasmodic. Fleming lined up on the right at kick-off, but quickly switched to man-mark Ginola, who was played on the right to accommodate Korsten, making his full home debut. Korsten had a decent start, but soon faded from view, as he has so often in the reserves, and was justifiably replaced by Clemence midway through the second half. It was only then, when Ginola was given more licence to roam, as is his wont, that Spurs got going, and made a fight of the game towards the end.
The referee deserves a mention for being appalling. In my words he was worse than Andy D'Urso! Ginola was being scythed at will, and got booked for his first (and only) tackle on Ince. Fleming had to give up the marking job, after getting booked after half an hour for a foul on Ginola. I saw Wiley miss a blatant handball in front of him, and Graham was understandably angry that Ricard was allowed to get away with a foul on Chris Perry in the run up to the Carr own goal.
Anderton gave the impressive Mark Schwarzer an early test with a deflected dipping shot, after being laid up by Ginola with a deft flick. Ricard gave Perry a hard time throughout the game, and had two chances in quick succession. One was a long shot that was saved by Walker, and the second was a clever turn and flick after a good run by Andy Campbell to the left bye line. Soon after Ricard was causing havoc again, as he lobbed the ball over the area to the feet of the advancing Summerbell, who was unable to get a firm contact on the ball which rolled safely to Walker's arms.
With 16 minutes gone, Iversen came deep and passed to Korsten whose long shot curled away from the goal, and safely wide of the target. Chris Armstrong gave Spurs the lead after half an hour, when he started and finished an excellent move. Armstrong controlled a long ball with his head, turned and passed to Anderton, and then hared into the area, to be on hand when Anderton's cross was headed down by Iversen. Armstrong finished off for his sixth goal in six games. I would contend that Armstrong is one of very few players who could have performed this feat, as his pace was an integral part in the goal.
Sadly, Spurs gifted the equaliser, as Ricard put Carr under pressure. Carr hit the ball a little hard with his first touch to the left of Walker, who may have been wrong footed, and the ball went just inside the post. Just before half time, Spurs nearly regained the lead as a Ginola shot after a typical run across the area was blocked by Cooper, but fell to Anderton who hit a wicked curving shot, that had the goalkeeper beaten all ends up, but hit the outside of the post.
Into the second half, and a Taricco throw out from defence broke down, as Korsten failed to claim the ball. Ince was allowed too much space and hit a long range shot that Walker could only parry. Ginola responded, by giving Ziege the slip, and curling a real beauty around the defence, for Schwarzer to make a flying save to his right, as the ball would just have crept inside the post. Some good play on the hour from Ginola, Iversen, and Armstrong led to the latter forcing another good save from the visiting keeper.
Then came the second goal for the visitors, as Walker failed to make a Ziege corner his own, and could only push the ball to Ricard, who made no mistake firing the ball into the roof from close range. Walker was soon having to make another decent save from an Ince shot. Andy Campbell gave the ball away just inside his half, and some good passing from Anderton, Carr and Freund led to an Anderton shot going just wide of the mark.
Carr battled away, as always, and one cross was headed by Armstrong, but saved and another piece of excellent work by Carr led to a Freund cross that reached Ginola at the far post. With a little time to measure his shot, he rifled against the post, and the rebound caught Iversen unawares, allowing the ball to go out of play harmlessly.
Ricard then increased his personal tally, and the lead, as he was allowed by the defence to head home a Ziege long free kick, with Walker helpless just in front of his line. Walker took a lot of stick tonight over this error, but the defence as a whole has to share the blame. Fleming was then getting in on the act, as he was allowed a Ginola-like run and shot, before the man himself scored a typical solo goal, picking up a throw from the left, and finishing his run with a superb low right foot shot into the bottom corner.
So the game was on again, but it was too little too late, as the best effort was a long shot from Carr, after Ginola laid back a free kick just outside the area.
For the independent viewer, this was probably good, entertaining fare, but for the Spurs fan, it was just another frustrating night at the office, being our twelfth defeat in the league, and our fifth at home. When we lost that game in September 1998, we were 12th in the league. One more defeat at Anfield on Sunday could well put us down to 14th, and one is entitled to ask "Where is the progress, George?"
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