FA PREMIER LEAGUE
SUNDAY 13th SEPTEMBER, 1998
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0) - MIDDLESBROUGH 3(2)
Middlesbrough scorers -
Referee:- Steve Dunn
Tottenham:- Baardsen; Carr, Calderwood, Campbell, Tramezzani; Fox, Nielsen, Berti, Clemence, Ginola; Ferdinand
Subs used:- Armstrong for Clemence (46), Saib for Nielsen (50), Sinton for Fox (55)
Subs not used:- Segers; Vega.
Middlesbrough:- Schwarzer; Festa, Cooper, Vickers, Pallister, Gordon; Mustoe, Gascoigne, Townsend; Ricard, Beck
Subs used:- Branca for Ricard (65), Kinder for Gascoigne (84), Campbell for Beck (89)
Subs not used:- Beresford(GK); Stockdale.
Going to White Hart Lane to watch Spurs is like opening a disappointing Christmas present. First there are all the happy memories of "family" gatherings, and the good times you've had before; then there's the anticipation and the excitement about the fun you are hoping to have, and the present you will be opening. Then there's the pretty gift wrapping. Applying this analogy to the Spurs, one needs to think about the stadium, the musical trip down memory lane on the Jumbotron; and the entrance of the stars in the glorious white shirts. Then comes the moment when the packaging is discarded, and you are left with reality. Oh no! You've already got one of those! Or - I can't stand that! In the case of the Tottenham team, too often the packaging reveals a bunch of spineless, gutless so called wonders...............Today was one of those days.
I have learnt too often in the past not to get too excited about the possibilities of a good result, and despite our win on Wednesday, I was cautious about this game. I am writing this report without reference to TV replays, analysis, or confirmation, but I suspect we are now in our rightful place in the bottom half of the table. Let there be no doubt regarding the transformation needed to put our precious club firmly in the upper echelons of the premier league. When we play Southampton next week, we may be able to assess our true level, because if we cannot get a result against this pointless crew, we will be truly in dire straits AGAIN.
Once again, conditions were blustery, and the chill of Autumn seems to have set in early this year. I arrived in time to see the players warming up, and the first mystery was that Ian Walker was not even on the bench. Perhaps he was away at Mel B's wedding. Who knows? It was pleasing to know that Vega had been relegated to the bench, and that Sol was fit to play. Hindsight makes me wonder if Sol was really fit, because even he did not seem to be "on his game" in the first half. I also noticed Chris Hughton taking full part in his coaching duties in the warm up, so I wonder if there was some misunderstanding of Theo Foley's role earlier in the week. "Chirpy the Cockerel" also made an appearance to try and boost morale.
Paul Gascoigne was very well received during the warm up, upon the entrance of the teams; when he came to take his first corner; and he got rapturous applause from the whole stadium when he was substituted towards the end of the game. On several occasions, he was greeted with chants of "Yiddo!".
There were still a considerable number of empty seats. Until what looks like another relegation battle comes round, it's hard to see the stadium being filled, apart from the clashes with ManU, West Ham, Chelsea, and (spit) Arsenal.
David Pleat started with the 4-5-1 formation that won on Wednesday. Middlesborough played 5 at the back, and only 3 in midfield. I suspect they came for a draw, and hoped to score on the break, in which case, they will be more than pleased with the fruits of their visit. The fact of the matter is that, although we might have out-numbered them in the middle of the park, they were usually first to the ball, more willing to fight for it, more accurate with their passing, and more cutting in attack. I believe Pallister played his first game of the season on Wednesday at Leicester. Today, he was dominant, and Boro' have now kept two consecutive clean sheets. Oh what a dream for us!
Spurs, in fact started quite well. Clemence seized on a defensive mistake as early as the first minute. He found himself on the edge of their area, and didn't have the confidence to go on, but instead passed the ball out to the wing. A minute later, Ginola passed to Tramezzzani whose cross found Fox in the area. Fox was unable to convert the opportunity. It's an old cliche now, and I'm not saying he had a particularly bad game, but, as usual - Fox failed to deliver. Middlesborough had 9 men behind the ball very quickly, and the time it takes Ruel to dilly dally into a threatening position allows any defence to compose itself. We all know Daveed can allow the same thing to happen, but he does consistently beat defenders.
By my reckoning Espen Baardsen did not get his first touch until the sixth minute, when taking a goal kick. Little did we suspect the thrashing that was to follow.
After 14 minutes, Espen made another top class save. Ricard reached the bye line, and put over a low cross; Beck dummied, and I think it was Mustoe whose close range shot was parried by our new hero. By this time, Middlesbrough were becoming more confident; enjoying more possession, whilst Spurs never really threatened their goal. I found Berti in particular disappointing in the first half. His passing was very poor. As is often the case, he improved in the second half, and did more box to box work.
The breakthrough came in the 24th minute, and seemed to come out of nothing. All of a sudden Ricard was cutting through our defence like a knife through butter, and found himself with only Espen to beat. He drove this one to Baardsen's right. Seven minutes later, he ran through again, and this time slotted home to Espen's left. I don't think the goalie had any chance with either of these shots. Until I see the TV, I wouldn't attribute blame to any particular defender. I think our main problem was the ineffectiveness of Nielsen, Berti, and Clemence. I don't think any of them gave sufficient support to defence, or attack. There was one exception in the 37th minute, when Berti fought for, and won a ball, which he sent to Ginola on the left. From this, Ginola forced a free kick on the edge of the area, but put the kick straight into the arms of Schwarzer.
Just before half time, even Pallister was able to break out of defence, supported by a swarm of red shirts, and facing only three defenders. He passed to Ricard, but this time the Colombian came up to his usual standards, and shot nearer the corner flag than the goal.
One by one, Pleat replaced Clemence, Nielsen, and Fox with Armstrong, Saib, and Sinton respectively. One of our better chances had fallen to Nielsen in the 48th minute, when he had a low shot well saved, after being set up by Fox ( for once ). Sadly, the replacements proved to be no more effective. Sinton was embarrassingly woeful on one occasion when a simple pass missed by miles and went out of play.
Baardsen was forced to save twice from Beck - once pushing a powerful 30 yard shot round the corner for a corner. Spurs had a couple of penalty appeals turned down. I think both the appeals came more from the desperate crowd. One was when Bert fell in the box. I thought he at least deserved an obstruction decision. The other appeal followed an alleged handball as Armstrong tried to pass a defender in the box. Berti nearly forced a Sinton corner into the goal, Ginola had a late cross shot fairly comfortably saved, and Armstrong hit the post with a header from a Saib cross. This was all too late though, because the final nail had already been struck home by Kinder (pronounced as in KIN) who fired a blistering shot low to Espen's right following a corner. Baardsen got a pretty firm touch on the ball, but it still made its way into the bottom right corner.
Apparently, Martin Peters has introduced a non profit making phone line "Monitor Line" on 0990-501133, which will be open every day from 11 am tomorrow to give the club's response to the morning press comments, and speculation. Whoever has to prepare the response should have a busy day tomorrow.
Ah well - roll on next Christmas! '
· Brian Judson's report
· Read the preview for this game
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