Looking Forward



Premier League

Sunday 14th March 2004

Having turned around a 0-1 deficit in their UEFA Cup tie against Real Mallorca, Newcastle battled back to win 4-1 in the end, showing the way the team have played all season in the space of one ninety minute match.  Sometimes unstoppable, sometimes dreadful, the Toon are almost in the same boat as Tottenham in terms of consistency.  But the Magpies have the benefit of a few more points on the board, which leaves them in fourth place chasing the final Champions League place.

With the goalkeeping position taken as Given, it is unlikely Steve Harper will get the chance to play on his 29th birthday, but the Irishman in possession of the gloves is a good keeper for his height, but this might not help Spurs without a big forward in the line-up, unless Kanoute is introduced to challenge in the air.  However, Newcastle's defence has had it's problems this season and Titus Bramble has struggled since his move from Ipswich Town to come to terms with the Premiership,  Still young, the strapping central defender might be given a tough time by the lively Defoe and Keano might relish the opportunity to give fellow countryman Andy O'Brien the run-around, as he lacks pace, although dominates in the air.  Jonathan Woodgate is regarded by many as a player who ought to be an England international, but because of his off-field misdemeanours, he has dropped behind other candidates for the central defender's role in the national side.  And quite rightly, although, I am of the opinion that he does not match up to some of them in the quality of his performances.  On the left, Olivier Bernard provides an attacking option from defence, with the overlapping runs to give a wider option than the midfield, which sometimes plays a bit narrow.  The Frenchman also carries a fearsome shot.

Andy Griffin and Aaron Hughes are other defensive options for Bobby Robson to utilise, but they will only come into the side should injury prevent one of the above playing their part.

Kieron Dyer limped off in the UEFA Cup match with a hamstring pull, so he might not play, which will at least mean there is one less player to consider bursting forward from midfield, like he did last season to grab the winner at the Lane.  His look-a-like stand-in or sometimes colleague in the team, Jermaine Jenas will fill Dyer's boots, if he can't turn out.  Both are blessed with pace and for midfielders with slight frames, they both have the ability to keep going for the full ninety, covering the box-to-box parts of the pitch.  In the middle of midfield, will be Gary Speed, who has racked up more Premier League appearances than anyone else.  He is very experienced, but is now losing some of his surname, but can be dangerous from set-pieces and can pick out a pass to the two up front.  Darren Ambrose is in the same mould as Dyer and Jenas, coming from Ipswich as a 19 year old, but he has stepped up to play more of a part in the first team this season and has scored a vital goal to rescue a point for the club against Leicester. 

Although he has not played much this season, Lee Bowyer is still at the club and having been left off the UEFA Cup squad list, is still serving a six match ban (halfway through now) for stamping on the head of a Spanish player when turning out for Leeds.  He is supposedly almost back to full fitness after being out for nearly a year, starting when he was at West Ham after Leeds unloaded him.  We know what to expect from him ,as he usually has it in for Spurs when he plays against us.  The other likely starter in midfield will be Lauren Robert, who struck two stunning goals past Keller at St. James' Park earlier this season.  Sometimes, he fades out of the game, but from free-kicks and anywhere within 35 yards, he can be a threat if the ball falls to him.  He might need to be closed down quickly and pushed out wide, to lessen the chances of him being allowed a shot on goal.  Hugo Viana has been finding it very different in England after arriving from Sporting Lisbon (for 8.5 million), as has Postiga.  Technically, a very skilled player, he has yet to accustom himself with the physical aspect of the English game and this is what Helder is finding hard to come to terms with too.

The arrival of Michael Bridges from Leeds United on loan until the end of the season is a strange move.  No doubt brought in as cover for Shearer and Bellamy, should they pick up an injury, the player is no stranger to the treatment room himself !!  Having just returned from nearly three years out, he must be itching to get playing regularly again and the move might be made permanent in the summer, with Shearer not getting any younger.  But that still doesn't stop the Newcastle captain knocking them in, as he did twice against us at their place.  Always knows where to be and still has the desire to focus solely on goal when he gets the ball, Shearer has recently been the subject of discussion about a return to England duty.  Powerful on the ground and in the air, it might be time to give Deano a rest, as Shearer will make his life hell for ninety minutes.  Stick Ledley in at the back, alongside Gardner and the front two might find it a bit more difficult to give Keller work to do.  Gardner has the pace to cope with Bellamy should he be passed fit to start.  His darting runs and dribbling skills are troublesome, but the ability to drift into scoring positions means that defenders can't switch off for a moment.

With young striker Michael Chopra on loan at Nottingham Forest and Lomana Tresor LuaLua at Pompey, the only other option up front is the gangly Shola Ameobi, who is being tipped to take over from Shearer when he hangs up his boots.  Good in the air, but better on the floor, Ameobi has been impressive at Under-21 level for England and has scored at a good rate for Newcastle, when he has got on the pitch.

With most of the side fit and raring to go, Spurs have competition for places all over the field, except in goal and in the battling midfield position.  The strike force are particularly potent, but there are still worries about the ability of the midfield and defence to go 90 minutes without incident.  At St. James' Park, Keller and Richards nearly came to blows and after Deano's gaffs at Boro in midweek, it might be sensible to give him a break, as his old legs won't take too many game sin a short period of time.  Brown's presence in midfield will be necessary to hassle Newcastle out of their stride and it might be handy to have Ricketts back in the side to give some young legs the chance to chase down the Magpies players, with a view to stopping them progressing towards our goal.

There will be goals, although probably not as many as we have been sued to at White Hart Lane recently.  Spurs have been good at home, while United's travels have yielded more draws than anything else.  For that reason and the fact that they have had a hard European game, I will see the result going Tottenham's way, but only just ...

PREDICTION : -   Tottenham  2     Newcastle United   1

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


It was not possible to obtain an alternative view of the match.


TOTTENHAM : -  Jamie Redknapp (not match fit); Rob Burch (ankle); Simon Davies (shin)

NEWCASTLE : -   ()

TV :  No live coverage in UK
Radio :  No live coverage in UK
Internet :  www.spurs.co.uk   Live webcast  (subscription only)



Tottenham   1      Newcastle United   0     (Half-time score : 0-0)
Premier League
Sunday 14th March 2004
Venue : -  White Hart Lane
Kick Off : -  15.00 p.m.
Weather : -  Persistent rain, cold
Referee : -  H. Webb (Rotherham)
Crowd : -  36,083
Teams : -  
Tottenham : -  
Keller; Carr, Gardner, Doherty, Taricco; King, Brown, Ziege (Dalmat 81), Keane; Kanoute (Redknapp 70), Defoe
Unused Subs : - 
Hirschfeld, Postiga, Kelly

Newcastle United : -  Given; Bernard, O'Brien, Woodgate, Hughes (Ameobi 89); Speed, Bowyer (Ambrose 75), Robert  Jenas; Shearer, Bellamy
Unused Subs : - 
Elliott, Harper, Viana

Colours : -  
Tottenham Newcastle United


Scorers : -  
Tottenham  -  O'Brien (own goal)  86

Newcastle United -  None

Cards : -  
Tottenham  -  None

Newcastle United -  None

With weather more suited to next week's trip to Manchester than London, we faced Newcastle and gained revenge for the last minute winner they stole last season.

The potential for sending-offs were obvious, when the team line-ups were announced.  Bowyer's continued fouling throughout the game failed to rile Taricco, who got annoyed with Bellamy on one occasion, but ended up cuddling him.  I thought I was going to be sick !!  One time in midfield, Bowyer was so slow, he failed to kick Keane by some considerable margin !!

Spurs failed to click with the three forwards in the team, but some of that must be put down to the poor supply they received from the midfield.  Ziege slid some low crosses into the box in the first half and the ball was worked wide, but the crossing from Fredi was poor to Defoe, who was never going to win balls ten feet over his head (or into the crowd).

Ziege produced the opening action in the third minute, with a right wing free-kick that Given had to grab under the bar, as it swung into him.  Ledley seemed happy to get forward and try his luck, with one first half shot going a yard wide and one in the second causing Given to dive full-length to ensure it flew wide of the post.

Newcastle surged forward as they were passing the ball slightly better on the wet turf and it took some last-ditch heroics to stem the attacks on goal.  Doherty was throwing himself in the way, Keller made an ungainly save with his legs from a 30 yard drive by Bernard that skidded off the grass with pace and Keller and Doc combined to deny Shearer after Bellamy had caused Kasey to spill a through ball.  Keller tried to make a grab for the ball, even though he was outside his area and Doherty made a well-timed intervention to stop Shearer having a straight line to goal.  Either challenge could have resulted in a penalty, as could have Taricco's challenge on Hughes, as he broke into the box and crumpled to the ground, but the ref waved the appeals away.  It was sad to see Shearer, Bellamy and others chasing after the ref begging for a spot-kick and hassling him at half-time, when he was also accosted by an old codger who had been hanging around the bench all match.

The ref had a decent match, except he failed to bring his cards with him, as he could have used them on the Toon players who seemed intent on getting maximum benefit from the official's leniency.

Spurs had perhaps the best chance of breaking the deadlock in the 35th minute, when Ziege hit a shot across the box and it was going well wide, but fell to Doherty's feet and he swung at it and hit the ball wide.  It looked like he was standing offside, but the lino didn't flag. 

While we all got wet during the break watching the deckchair tackle the Geordie fan in the holiday shoot-out and seeing Jamie Redknapp warm up, the teams must have been told to keep things the same, as little happened once they came out again.

It took about 20 minutes of the half before a decent chance was created and then it looked impossible to miss.  But miss was what Keano did, after Jermain lifted the ball over his head into the goalmouth and with the ball inches from the line and at head height, Robbie Keane failed to convert it.  Woodgate appeared from nowhere and knocked it away with an outstretched leg.  It might have been interesting to see what the referee would have given if the Newcastle defender had made contact with Keane's head, as it would be a free-kick anywhere else on the pitch.

The introduction of Redknapp and later Dalmat changed the pattern of the play and made Spurs a better looking outfit.  Not in terms of glamour, but in providing the quality ball from midfield.  When Ambrose came on for Newcastle, he had some joy on their right wing, but the balls into the box were crowded out by Spurs defenders and Keller made a couple of important punches (none on the head of Shearer unfortunately).

Dalmat had his shooting boots on, with one fired in at Given from a narrow angle and another rising over the bar from 20 yards.  However, when the French midfielder took the ball away from Woodgate and raced forward to the by-line, he pulled a dangerous ball back into the six yard box and with the pace off the pitch beating Given, Robbie Keane was poised to net the low pass.  Unluckily for him, Andy O'Brien slid in to deny him ... by putting it into his own net.  Cue celebration from the Spurs fans as a late winner was just what we needed.

The side was driven on by a [performance from Michael Brown which was gritty and full of un-noticed short passes and tackles.  Gardner and Doherty stood up well to the pairing of Shearer and Bellamy, while King looked solid in midfield.  Even Taricco had a relatively uneventful game ... and he looks to have made a friend in Bellamy (sic) !!


The Polyphant




Two games and two goals.  And a clean sheet in one of them !!  What has gone wrong ?

Tottenham approached the match off the back of a 0-1 loss at Boro, while Newcastle will have been buoyed by their 4-1 midweek victory over Mallorca.  However, the exclusion of Richards made it a tighter Tottenham back-line that faced the Magpies and the team worked very hard all afternoon.

The visitors were restricted in their direct efforts on goal to very few that Keller had to deal with directly.  He sprawled to stop a low skidding drive from Bernard and made a hash of a catch over the top of Shearer that let the ball drop loose, leaving Doherty to make life difficult for the ex-England striker and to do enough to make him let the opportunity slip by.

Meanwhile Spurs had a few chances; two from Ziege from long range and the best falling to the Doc, when Ziege's cross-cum-shot dropped at his feet and the central defender managed to snatch at it and pull it wide.  Robson got all aerated when Hughes fell under challenge by Taricco, but it looked as though he made a lot of any contact there might have been.

While Gardner and Doherty did a good job on Bellamy and Shearer, the midfield had difficulty playing around the massed ranks of the Newcastle engine room and the Toon players had recognised the fact that Taricco does not have a left foot to deliver balls into the box from the left wing, so he had to continually cut inside onto his right.  With the midfield unable to supply Defoe with little service, he was limited in openings on goal, but his overhead kick almost set up Keano in the second half and it was amazing how he missed.  It was then revealed on the big screen that Woodgate had stuck a foot up to knock the ball away from Robbie, as he was poised to head it in.  In fact, I think he thought the ball was going in on it's own and if he had followed it in, there would definitely have been a goal.

For long periods, the game looked poor with both teams struggling to string passes together on the greasy surface.  The highlight looked like being a ball boy slipping over on his back when retrieving a ball, much to Stephen Carr's disgust as he wanted to get on with the game.  After Redknapp made his comeback and Dalmat played a cameo that sparked Tottenham into life, the goal came just four minutes from the end.  Stephane slid a precision ball along the floor and into the six yard box, where Given couldn't reach it and O'Brien did, but only managed to get it into his own net, with Keane well placed behind him to knock the ball in if the defender missed it.

Three points gratefully received and we have probably earned them in such a low key manner for losing some points earlier in the season when we didn't deserve to.  Just six points behind Newcastle now and still time to catch them.  Europe would be great, but a good run into the end of the season is more important.

The Heathrow Spur


Other scores this weekend :
Birmingham City 0 Leicester City  1 Saturday

Blackburn Rovers

0 Arsenal 2 Saturday
Bolton Wanderers 0 Chelsea 2 Saturday
Charlton Athletic 1 Middlesbrough 0 Saturday


1 Portsmouth 0 Saturday
Fulham 2 Leeds United 0 Saturday
Manchester City 4 Manchester United 1 Sunday
SCBC 2 Liverpool  0 Sunday
Wolverhampton Wanderers 0 Aston Villa 4 Sunday
Mid week result :


3 Portsmouth 0 Wednesday


League Table
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Arsenal 28 21 7 0 55 18 70 +37
2 Chelsea 28 19 4 5 50 21 61 +29
3 Manchester United 28 18 4 6 52 29 58 +23
4 Charlton Athletic 28 12 7 9 39 34 43 +5
5 Liverpool 28 11 9 8 41 31 42 +10
6 Newcastle United 28 10 12 6 38 29 42 +9
7 Birmingham City 28 11 9 8 30 30 42 0
8 Aston Villa 28 11 7 10 36 32 40 +4
9 Fulham 28 11 6 10 41 38 40 +3
10 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 28 11 4 13 40 43 37 -3
11 SCBC 28 9 9 10 29 27 36 +2
12 Middlesbrough 28 9 7 12 29 35 34 -6
13 Bolton Wanderers 28 8 10 10 32 44 34 -12
14 Everton 28 8 8 12 34 39 32 -5
15 Manchester City 28 7 9 12 40 40 30 0
16 Blackburn Rovers 28 7 7 14 39 46 28 -7
17 Leicester City 28 5 11 12 38 51 26 -13
18 Portsmouth 28 6 6 16 29 44 24 -15
19 Wolverhampton Wanderers 28 5 9 14 24 56 24 -32
20 Leeds United 28 5 7 16 26 55 22 -29

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