A new playing system and a lack of response to an injured goalkeeper
helped Tottenham keep Wigan at bay and then let them in for a winner in
added on time at the JJB stadium today for their first victory against
Spurs in their history.
Tottenham lining up with five at the back, it seemed a system set to
invite the home side onto the Spurs defence, with only three in
midfield, but the actual line-up put Ledley King just in front of the
back four. it was a move which kept Wigan away from goal, but
failed to help Spurs mount any meaningful attacks, as the captain was
caught on the ball too often and Modric seemed fettered in his usual
roving game. But then it almost came off.
Wigan may be the form team in the Premier
League, but they were poor and Tottenham were set up in a formation
which was unable to take advantage of it. The tempo Spurs started
at hinted that there may be something in Redknapp's tactical switch, but
after that the game was fragmented with little time on the ball for the
home team until Tottenham switched back to a more traditional 4-4-2.
The returning Chris Kirkland could easily
have been picking the ball out of his net within a minute of the start.
A free-kick conceded by Valencia on the left wing was swept in by O'Hara
and King got his head to it, but it was a regulation stop for Kirkland,
except it wasn't. The Wigan keeper fumbled it a la Carroll and as
Michael Dawson came ion to try and snaffle a headed goal, Kirkland just
got a punch on the ball before it went wronger than he had already made
Ten minutes in another free-kick from
roughly the same position was played low into the box for O'Hara to have
a shot, but he scuffed it and even then, if someone had been alert at
the far post, they could have stuck it away. Zaki got into a good
position after Zokora had been robbed of the ball in midfield, but as he
shot, Michael Dawson came out of nowhere to throw himself in front of
the ball and blocked it for a corner. O'Hara then floated a ball
over the head of the last man, but as it dropped beyond him on the edge
of the penalty area, Jermain Defoe was unable to bring it down and it
ran through to Kirkland. Then with 15 minutes gone, Jamie O'Hara
got away on the left again and crossed to the far post, where Dawson was
now in attack and his header was at a good height for Kirkland to grab
on the dive.
It was about halfway through the first
half that Tottenham seemed to stop playing at a tempo and style to
trouble the home team. Wigan had a couple of efforts off target,
the closest being Taylor's free kick, but Bale got booked as he went for
a ball between him and Valencia, which hindered him for the rest of the
game, with the free-kick for the foul swung in and Zaki headed it, but
across goal and past the far post by a foot, rather than in.
Palacios tried an ambitious overhead kick, but the best chance of the
half came in the 38th minute and it went to Wigan. Zaki got away
on the left and put in a cross that flicked off Woodgate's head to take
it to the far post. Bale went to sleep and Heskey drifted in
behind him, leaving Gomes to come out to close him down and block out
his shot for a corner.
Spurs had an opening five minutes before
half time, when Defoe won the ball in the Wigan half and he fed the ball
out to the right where Didier Zokora was coming up in support.
Unfortunately, it couldn't have fallen to a worse player in that
position, as he elected to shoot and it went straight in front of him,
which wasn't great considering he was just inside the wide line of the
penalty box. A ball back across the area might have proved more
fruitful. There was still time for Heskey to crumple under
challenge from O'Hara and Taylor tried once more to hit the target with
a free-kick and once more failed.
The half-time interval brought no
substitutions, so Spurs lined up with the 5-3-2 formation, which had
worked OK up until then, but within eight minutes, Harry had made his
usual substitution of Bent for Pavlyuchenko. While the link-up
play with Defoe wasn't working great, Roman was chasing back into
midfield to help out and I think it was possibly worth persevering with
a bit longer. The substitution proved even more rash when Gomes
raced out to clear as Heskey threatened to go through in the 54th
minute. He was left wincing as he pulled a groin in kicking the
ball away and it was therefore a bit surprising when Harry brought on
Lennon for Modric within five minutes of the keeper's injury.
With the little winger's introduction,
Spurs move back to 4-4-2 and immediately, it seemed to give the
advantage to Wigan. Valencia started to get room to attack Bale
and form one run, he pulled a cross back low into the area, but
Tottenham cleared it easily. Then came a rash of yellow cards, as
the ref realised he had brought them along after all and should use
them. Valencia elbowed Bale in the head and got a yellow for it
and Palacios got on for his umpteenth foul, including one which the
official didn't see, when he hauled back Defoe as he was set to race
up-field after a corner was cleared. Then Zokora and Woodgate were
booked for their first fouls, with Scharner following them for a crude
scythe at Bent as he raced away from him just outside the box.
In between all this, Dawson had to be
replaced by Jenas, following his third knock to the head in the match,
leaving Spurs with King and Woodgate in the middle of defence and no
chance of bringing on a replacement for Gomes, having used all their
As the game went on the ref started
giving soft free-kicks to the Latics, with Heskey backing into King on
the edge of the box and being given a foul when King jumped for the ball
with Heskey going underneath him. Luckily it came to nothing, but
as time went on, it became obvious what was going to happen.
Wigan began flinging in high balls,
knowing Gomes couldn't come for them now. Zaki got to the first
one at the far post and could not get his head around it enough, while
Heskey got the second from a free-kick by Scharner, but again, he was
wide with his effort. With the next one, Spurs were sunk.
Bale got caught with a ball inside him to
find Valencia and it was headed out for a corner as added time began to
tick in. From Taylor's corner, the ball went to the near post and
Jermaine Jenas left Figueroa, who powered home a header with Gomes
beaten stuck to his line. It was a sucker punch and a move which
Wigan often use, but once more one moment of lax defending had cost us a
Maybe it wouldn't have been deserved, as
for two thirds of the game, Wigan took the initiative and Spurs must
learn that we cannot defend for 90 minutes (of 72.5 minutes come to
that). The system was a nice try and it foxed the home side for a
while, but in the end, Spurs reverted to type and suffered the
consequences. I cannot quite understand why Gomes didn't come off,
as Redknapp will have to trust Sanchez to replace him when needed or he
needs to get Alnwick on the bench or bring someone else in.
With three losses and two draws in the
last five league games, we are suffering relegation form. Others
are too, namely Middlesbrough, Bolton and Hull, but they all have the
points in the bag and we need to pull away as far as possible, so that
we don't keep getting dragged back into the bottom three. The away
form must improve too if we are to stay up, as we fritter away too many
points on the road. And we need to start scoring goals in the
league again. Seven in the last two cup games, but none again
today. Goals win matches; defensive lapses lose them, but if you
have goals in the net, you can afford the odd slip.