Saturday 31st July, 1999 at Molineux
WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS 1 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (0)
Referee:- Alan Wiley
Wolves (4-4-2):- Stowell; Bazeley, Muscat, Emblen, Naylor; Sinton, Robinson, Osborn, Simpson; Corica, Flo
( Many substitutes were used by Wolves during the second half, including Robbie Keane, and Keith Curle. I have not accurately recorded them )
Spurs (4-4-1-1):- Walker; Carr, Perry, Campbell,Taricco ( sub Edinburgh 46 ); Anderton, Sherwood, Nielsen ( sub Fox, 75 ), Gower; Ginola ( sub Korsten, 46 ); Iversen
Subs not used:- Baardsen; King, Scales, Young
George Graham is said to claim that Robbie Keane will not be coming to Tottenham, and that David Pleat had made one enquiry, but that was as far as Spurs interest went. The lad himself was held back until Steffen Iversen had put Spurs in the lead after 52 minutes, with his tenth pre-season goal, but when Keane did enter the field of play, he was welcomed by both sets of fans, with chants of either "Keano" or "Yiddo". Young Keane certainly brought a spark to the Wolves efforts; could have scored himself, and indirectly led to the home side's equaliser with a darting run from the midfield.
On a day when just sitting down brought me out in a sweat, the players are really to be commended for their efforts. The first half was quite lively and entertaining, with the class of Spurs coming through, but honours were shared as the visitors relaxed in the second half. Ex-Spurs man Sinton played throughout, and spent the first half on the right flank, no doubt to assist Bazeley in the handling of Ginola. Sinton still found time in the early stages to put in several telling crosses, for Corica and Harvard Flo. Simpson on the left flank was also active.
Spurs withstood the early forays, and once again, Perry in particular excelled, making just one uncharacteristic mistake in the second half, which allowed Keane a run and shot on goal. Stephen Carr made his usual strong contribution to the game. He won an early free kick on the right; Anderton took, and Iversen headed just wide. Carr, Anderton, and Nielsen combined well on the right with some neat passing play, and Anderton reached Nielsen inside the box, with space, but the Dane lost his footing on the heavily watered pitch.
Carr deserved to score after 20 minutes, after Sherwood touched free kick back to the running full back. Carr's cracking shot from 35 yards dipped and rebounded off the underside of the crossbar. Iversen nearly scored from the follow-up, but long-serving Wolves goalie Stowell was on hand to smother the chance.
Spurs played with Iversen acting as the lone striker, but supported by most of his midfield. Sherwood tended to take the most defensive midfield role. For Wolves, I felt that Osborn (ex-QPR) played well, and that the defence as a whole battled well.
Ginola and Anderton were regularly spraying long cross-field passes, and on one such occasion, Anderton had a scoring opportunity thwarted because left-back Naylor was too strong for him. In very difficult conditions though, Anderton did play the full 90 minutes, and displayed plenty of energy till the end. With very few exceptions, I was impressed with his performance today.
The home support was a little sparse in comparison to that of the visitors, but they were excited by a run by Simpson, whose shot tested Ian Walker, diving to the right. On the half-hour, an Anderton cross was headed by Iversen, and led to a corner, from which Sherwood headed against the bar. Perry then won just as many cheers for some stout defending against Corica. Ginola ( possibly knowing that he would only have another 10 minutes to last out, made one of his solo runs that led to a low 25 yard shot. Harvard Flo at the other end forced another good save from Walker.
Spurs had several more piercing attacks towards the interval, with Gower getting into forward positions. He should have done better with an Anderton cross, which he headed back into the penalty area, when he had a chance to score himself.
The rhythm of the play in the second half was upset by numerous substitutions. Korsten replaced Ginola, and displayed plenty of reasons for his acquisition. He is a strong pacy runner ( although he sometimes slackened today ); physically strong; tall, and a decent header of the ball. His strength in carrying the ball into a shooting position led to a clearance that was quickly returned into the danger area by Allan Nielsen, for Steffen Iversen to latch onto the ball, and shoot past the goalie. Iversen nearly scored a second soon after this, as Gower gave him a close range chance.
The substitution of Keane ( amongst others ) followed, and Perry's one mistake enabled the teenager to run unchallenged and shoot from a narrow angle across the goal. Walker was beaten, but Sol scooped the ball just wide for a corner.
Darren Bazeley was a member of the Watford side that was thrashed 5-2 at White Hart Lane in January, and has joined Wolves on a free transfer. No doubt he drew great satisfaction from scoring the equaliser today, as he was unmarked on the right of the area ( where was Justin ?) to fire a right foot shot into the top corner.
Carr had another shot on goal, before Sol Campbell failed in his appeal for offside against substitute Niestroj, whose shot was held safely by Walker.
And now the season proper looms upon us. Ferdinand says he will be fit for the West Ham game, and there is no doubt that Iversen is going to need some support in the scoring department. Is the answer Robbie Keane? I don't know. After all, he has no Premiership experience, and he may be over-priced. His strength seems to be running from the deep, and in this way he is similar to Michael Owen. He certainly put the Spurs defence on the back foot, once he appeared, and, on balance, I would be inclined to pay over the odds for his potential in the current market.
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