Looking Forward

 

BIRMINGHAM CITY (Home)

Premier League

Saturday 5th April 2003

Birmingham City have made a decent fist of their first season back in the top flight, despite currently occupying a lowly position in the table.  Steve Bruce has been given a substantial amount of money to bolster his squad and has spent it wisely, in bringing in players how can do a job for his team that will hopefully keep them afloat in the big time.

The club have been well run for a few years now and their ambition is to stay in the Premiership, but they have struggled to find the net this term, even with the likes of Clinton Morrison, Stern John, Geoff Horsfield and the addition of Christophe Dugarry from Bordeaux.  Some of the players have found Premier League defenders more attentive than the ones they left behind them in the First Division.  John is a powerful, but skillful striker, Horsfield an old style centre forward who has posed Spurs problems in the past, while Morrison and Dugarry are mobile and can finish well.  The Frenchman tends to play a little off the front man, meaning he can also create opportunities, but Tottenham will have to be aware and also cover if a defender comes out to face him.  Morrison will be missing with a dislocated shoulder for this match.  Jovan Kirovski could be on the bench and he has good skill for a big lad and also a powerful shot on him.  Pole Pietr Swierczeski has been vocal in his displeasure at not getting a game after joining on loan until the end of the season , so will be on the subs bench if he is lucky.

Midfield could be light with Aliou Cisse injured and every fan's favourite Robbie Savage suspended (hopefully by a sensitive part of his anatomy !!), but that could be evened up by Stephen Clemence's return to White Hart Lane, where he will want to impress his former manager.   Irishman Damien Johnson has a good dribble on him and has managed a few goals this campaign, while fellow midfielder and Aussie Stan Lazaridis likes to get wide on the left with Scot Paul Devlin bombing down the other flank.  I reckon Bruce will not risk two wingers to start the game, but might introduce Devlin from the bench if things need pepping up a bit.  Former Celt Oliver Tebily has also featured this season, but the chances are he will be out of the 16 for this match.

Martin Grainger, a dead ball expert and staunch defender, has a knee problem that rules him out of this match, but Jeff Kenna, who scored a rare goal against us at St. Andrews will cover.  Steve Vickers might not start, with freshly recovered from injury Darren Purse and ex-Gooner Matthew Upson will be most likely to begin the game in the middle of a four man back line.  Kenny Cunningham will be the other man in defence, which is big on experience, but a little light on younger legs on the flanks.  That might be an area Tottenham look at to get in balls from.  The inclusion of another former Spur - Jamie Clapham - might counter this, but he likes to get forward and has been started in midfield on occasion too.  Another option would be to begin with Ferdinand Coly, the Senegal defender at right back, although he has only featured once since he signed for Bruce.

Nico Vaesen will not play again this season after doing knee ligaments, so his place in goal is taken by Ian Bennett.  A short, but agile keeper, he can hold the ball well and isn't that bad in the air for a little keeper.  However, his positioning and kicking might let him down.

With Tottenham likely to be missing Richards, Thatcher and possibly Gardner for this game, the defence looks lightweight.  Perry should return and that will leave Ledley King to pick up the main forward (John or Horsfield).  they might try to rough him up, Horsfield more than John, but he will have to stand tall against the physical stuff that might come his way.  Perry is a good man marker and he might be the one to come out to take Dugarry.

Having won three of their last four games and Tottenham having lost three of the last four, this game might be closer than I originally thought.  Tottenham need to shut down the space wide of the middle, thus stopping the supply lines into their forwards.  With Clemence and Johnson in the middle, there will be a fair amount of fight in that area, but less niggle than if Savage played.  With Robbie Keane restored to the side, Spurs should create enough chances to win the day, but only just ...

PREDICTION : -   Tottenham  2    Birmingham City  1

For more information on the opponents and their history, including full result history of matches between the two teams, click here.

 

 

Tottenham   2    Birmingham City    1                     (Half-time score : 1-0)
Premier League
Saturday 5th April 2003
Venue : -  White Hart Lane
Kick Off : -  15.00 p.m.
Weather : -  Very warm, sunny
Referee : -  D. Elleray (Harrow)
Crowd : -  36,058
Teams : -  
Tottenham : - Keller; Taricco (Etherington 84), King, Perry; Carr, Bunjevcevic, Anderton, Davies, Poyet; Keane, Sheringham
Unused subs : - Sullivan, Doherty, Acimovic, Toda

Birmingham City : - Marriott; Kenna (Carter, 90), Upson, Cunningham, Clapham; Devlin, D. Johnson, Clemence, Dugarry (Kirovski 86); John (Lazaridis 56), Horsfield
Unused subs : - Davies, M. Johnson.

Colours : -  
Tottenham  -  White shirts, navy blue shorts, white socks with navy blue turnover

Birmingham City  -  Blue shirts, white shorts, blue socks

Scorers : -  
Tottenham  -  Keane 8, Poyet 88

Birmingham City  -  Devlin (pen.) 78

Cards : -  
Tottenham  -  Bunjevcevic (not retreating 10 yards at a free-kick) 2

Birmingham City -  John (diving) 40

It was left to a route one goal that Gus Poyet got on the end of to give Tottenham all three points against a resourceful Birmingham City side, who looked to have grabbed a draw.  It was a bitter sweet goal by the Uruguayan, who had earlier conceded the penalty that gave Brum their equaliser and it gave him a chance to put a better ending to the game than he had at the start.

A couple of good situations had been created down the left for him to cross, but neither attempt got past the first man and he also had a header that got knocked off the line by a defender, when perhaps he should have made more of the Anderton corner that provided the opportunity.  His contribution had not been great, but in the second half, he pushed forward more and had a volley go a yard wide, when he took the shot early.

It had all started so strangely.  Bunjy booked in the first minute when not retreating 10 yards from a free-kick and then the dead ball being delivered to the far post for Dugarry.  His header fell to Horsfield, who turned Perry, but could only drag the ball across the goal.  Despite this early setback, Chris then went on to have a very good game against the more physically built Birmingham striker.

On five minutes, things got even stranger, with Keano cashing in on the sort of crazy goal that we would normally concede.  The ball had ended up in the grasp of loan keeper Marriott and he put it down to clear upfield.  Unfortunately, he had not seen Robbie stray off the pitch behind him and Keane gleefully nipped the ball away from him and walked it into an empty net.

Darren Anderton almost added to the score, when he drove Davies' pass flashing across the face of the goal, before the game got bogged down in midfield for a while.  The fingertips of Keller stopped an equaliser by Dugarry, who hit Clemence's low corner hard towards goal, but the American keeper did enough to divert it onto the post.  Spurs were under some pressure with the defence having to hurriedly clear anything in the box, but when Stern John (the Birmingham player, not the Tottenham coach) flipped the ball over the defence and ran onto it past King and Perry, he ended up in a heap in the area.  David Elleray brandished the yellow card at him, but I had the feeling his fall might have been exaggerated, but with some grounds for a penalty.

That saw the end of the action for the first half, with Spurs one up without having made the keeper make a save !!  The second half saw the Bluenoses come out and try for a goal.  Horsfield put a header onto the top of the net from a Clem corner and the former Spurs man certainly seemed up for it.  Luckily for Tottenham, he seemed intent on trying to make every pass a killer 40 yard ball, which eluded the thinking of the forwards and often went too long into touch.

Spurs gradually eased their way back into the game and the key to opening the defence appeared to be down the right, where Davies and Carr were the only two making runs.  The amount of possession we had that ended with the ball being presented to the opposition because of lack of movement was embarrassing.  Perry had a free header from a Dazza corner, but put it a foot over the bar and shortly after Bunjy finally hit a shot, after having had a few opportunities, but failed to accept the invitation.  This time, he unleashed a 25 yard drive that was swerving, but Marriott just managed to tip over the crossbar.  From the resulting corner, Anderton again placed the ball on Perry's head and again, he was very close, but not close enough. 

Teddy had been quiet, apart from a few fancy touches that had rarely threatened Brum's defence, but he had two shots around the hour mark.  The first swerved away from the goal, but the second looked fairly harmless as he looped a shot from 25 yards, but it kept the keeper concerned as it missed the left hand post by about two feet.  When the play switched to the other end, a Clemence corner caused all sorts of problems.  The ball was glanced towards goal and cleared off the line by Taricco, but that wasn't the half of it.  The ball was played back into the six yard box, where panic ensued with Spurs players trying to clear the ball, but only succeeding in hitting other white shirted players.  Eventually, the ball went off for a corner, when it could have gone anywhere.  All the time this was going on, Kasey Keller was laying prostrate on the floor.  The Tottenham players were furious at Elleray and he seemed unconcerned until the ball was out of play.  If a goal had come from this incident, then a riot could have followed.

As it was, Birmingham fans didn't have to wait too long for their equaliser, as a Clemence ball into the box found Dugarry clear on goal in the box.  Gus must have been watching Gary Doherty too closely recently, as he fell over the back of the Frenchman, who had showed earlier that he had the ability to make an accidental clash look like a mortal injury.  Surprisingly, Elleray took no action against Poyet (having sent off Doherty for making a fair tackle in a similar position last season, I feared the worst).  He seemed happy to allow Devlin step up and smash the spot-kick straight down the middle, where Keller had just dived from.

The groans were almost audible, as Tottenham had fallen into a pattern of letting the visitors have space and presenting the ball too them.  However, Teddy should have put Spurs back in the lead when a Carr cross eluded Upson and fell to the Spurs striker's head, but he could not direct it wide of the keeper or with enough power to beat him.  Spurs were reduced to playing through the middle, although Etherington was introduced for the last few minutes and looked like he could beat the man marking him for pace, but the quality of cross let him down.

The Tottenham winner came from the boot of Poyet, after Keller cleared long and Sheringham had failed to get a head onto the punt.  It fell to Gus, who struck it sweetly with his right foot and sent it into the corner of the net past Marriott and it was just enough to win the match.  Such a late winner was reminiscent of early in the season, when we got an injury time victory over SCBC and this might be just as notable in the long run.  The main focus was on winning against a team near the foot of the table, something we have failed to do in recent weeks.  The points were secured, but the performance left an emptiness.  Too many players not pulling their weight and too little effort to move about to provide options for the man on the ball.  All basic things that you would have thought that Hoddle would have instilled in his players to ensure this passing game that he wants to play is successful.

The win prolongs our season, with the coming days filled with talk of Europe by the manager and staff on the Club website, but the real test will be facing a trip to Elland Road to play Leeds United; 1-6 winners away at Charlton today !!  Seeing as how we have an appalling recent record there, it will be interesting to see how Hoddle approaches this one.

MEHSTG TOP MAN : - CHRIS PERRY

Kirk Hammarton 

 

MAKE AND MEND

 

So, we beat Birmingham.  Big deal.  Doesn't everyone ??  The feeling of relief was evident at the end of the match, but one day when we look back on our Spurs supporting career, who will remember this match ??  Certainly not the number of people who intimated that they would not be renewing their season ticket when the renewal forms get sent out in the next few weeks.

When Brum come to White Hart Lane and can be unlucky to leave with nothing, then we do have problems.  The management seem unable to respond to things that happen on the field, other than injuries.  Any tactical change is often left until the last five minutes and not even Superman could save some of the situations out substitutes find themselves in.  It's not that Hoddle can't have been in these positions before.  

The fans knew it was going to be a foot battle to start with.  Birmingham have one main tactic and that is to run until they drop.  Today, they can feel justifiably hard done by, as they also showed some good passing in creating some decent chances.  But the need to match the industry of the Midlanders was met by our midfield of Poyet, Anderton, Carr, Taricco and Davies.  Simon was the only one who might be classed as a ball winner.  Anderton did chase back, mainly in giving away free-kicks when attempting to tackle, but he made an important far post interception as Devlin closed in.  Taricco is good going forward, but lacks the concentration to defend to the quality required at the top level, while Gus lacks the youthful exuberance he used to possess a couple of years ago.  As for Carr, well, his white boots and socks rolled up over his knees made him look like an Arsenal player in waiting.

Birmingham enjoyed spells of the game in the ascendancy, because Spurs were unable to shut them down and keep them at bay.  They did create chances, but none too challenging for the brave Keller.  Risking life and limb going into an aerial clash with Horsfield, he lay on the turf, while the game continued on around him.  He also risked injury, when he dived full length to touch Dugarry's shot onto the post after Clemence had pulled it back to him.  King did well, having to battle against the physical approach of John and Horsfield, but he was well supported by Chris Perry, who showed he can still do a job for the team.  Just don't expect him to be able to spray 40 yard pin-point passes around !!  He gets in front of his opponent and makes life difficult for them to function as they would like.  The difference between him and Horsfield was obvious, but he made light of that to stop him being a much as a thorn in our side as he has done in the past.

Teddy Sheringham once more showed that he can last 90 minutes, but only with limited effectiveness.  When you want him to keep it simple, he'll try a chest trap or outrageous bit of skill.  Sometimes, he would be more of a threat to put his tricks back in the bag and employ the credo of the great Bill Nick ... "Make it simple ... make it accurate ... make it quick".  That would keep the other side chasing the ball and shadows, but would not end with us handing the ball over to the opponents on a regular basis.  Alongside him, Robbie Keane runs his heart out.  And he reaped the benefits of that, when he couldn't believe his luck after five minutes.  Coming back onto the pitch after an attack, he saw the keeper drop the ball to clear it upfield, but before he could effect the clearance, Robbie took the ball from in front of him (a la Dion Dublin for Coventry against Newcastle United a few years back) and was unimpeded in his open path to goal.

Poyet was able to make amends for an earlier aberration, when he flattened Dugarry by falling on him from behind and conceded a penalty.  Devlin scored to give Birmingham parity, but the old midfielder did keep going.  Geeing others up at the re-start, he might have been trying to get the error out of his system, but when the ball dropped outside the box from Kasey's Hail Mary, he hit it with precision and power past the goalie and into the net.  

The play-acting of Dugarry and the spectacular dive by John left a sour taste in the mouth, which would have been bilious had Savage been able to take part.  But there are some players in the Brum side that give them hope for the future ... two of them former Tottenham employees.  Clapham was more withdrawn than usual and played a defensive role, without pushing too far forward (obviously under instruction), while Clemence showed that he has a place in the Premiership and can hold his own in midfield.  I wasn't as impressed with Upson as I should have been if I had listened to the radio commentary.  They seemed to think he had a great game and although he won most balls in the air, he wasn't up against a great deal.  Away from the simulation action, Dugarry did show some nice touches on the ball, but his work off it leaves others covering the ground he leaves open.

The Route One ending to the match was not the way that Hoddle would have wanted to win a match marking his second anniversary in the post of Spurs manager, but at the moment any win is welcome.  As the pressures of returning to his spiritual footballing home are closing in on him, the nature of the win will not be remembered in time, but against teams like Birmingham, you have to fight for anything you get.  There could have been more fight, but the outcome was the main point (or three points) of interest today.

Like Hoddle, Spurs live to fight another day.

Jack Itting

 

 

Other scores this weekend :

Aston Villa

1 Arsenal 1 Saturday
Bolton Wanderers 2 Manchester City 0 Saturday
Charlton Athletic 1 Leeds United 6 Saturday
Everton 2 Newcastle United 1 Sunday
Fulham 0 Blackburn Rovers 4 Monday
Manchester United 4 Liverpool 0 Saturday
Middlesbrough 3 WBA 0 Saturday
SCBC 1 West Ham United 1 Saturday
Sunderland 1 Chelsea 2 Saturday

 

League Table
 
  P W D L F A Pts
1 Arsenal 32 20 7 5 67 34 67
2 Manchester United 32 20 7 5 55 27 67
3 Newcastle United 32 19 4 9 55 37 61
4 Chelsea 32 16 9 7 59 32 57
5 Everton 32 15 8 9 41 37 53
6 Liverpool 32 14 10 8 47 35 52
7 Blackburn Rovers 32 13 10 9 42 37 49
8 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 32 13 7 12 45 45 46
9 Charlton Athletic 32 13 7 12 41 45 46
10 Middlesbrough 32 12 9 11 42 35 45
11 SCBC 32 11 12 9 35 33 45
12 Manchester City 32 12 5 15 40 51 41
13 Fulham 32 10 8 14 35 44 38
14 Leeds United 32 11 4 17 44 46 37
15 Aston Villa 32 10 7 15 34 38 37
16 Bolton Wanderers 32 8 11 13 36 47 35
17 Birmingham City 32 9 8 15 29 44 35
18 West Ham United 32 7 10 15 35 54 31
19 WBA 32 5 6 21 21 50 21
20 Sunderland 32 4 7 21 20 52 19

 

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