BIRMINGHAM CITY (Away)
Saturday 16th August 2003
to St. Andrews on opening day at Noon. What a way to kick off the
new season !!
Anyone visiting the Birmingham City ground will have a tough task ahead of them, as Steve Bruce has beefed up his midfield area further with the acquisition of David Dunn from Blackburn. The England Under-21 midfielder is a skillful player with a good engine and combined with Stephen Clemence (with a sweet left foot) and Robbie Savage (who isn't sweet in any way), means they have a good heart to their side. Damien Johnson is a tricky Irishman, but lightweight, while Stan Lazaridis was a flying winger in his West Ham days, but has now attained veteran status and the accompanying slowing of his darts down the line. One midfielder tipped to make thee breakthrough this season is Darren Carter, who has played for the England Under-19s and could be used to hold the middle of the pitch with his strength and tenacity.
The problems Birmingham might have this season is up front, where they are not prolific scorers. Even with the permanent addition of Dugarry, they only have Stern John, Geoff Horsfield, Jovan Kirovski and Clinton Morrison, none of whom terrorised the Premiership defences last season. Morrison spent much of last term injured and has perhaps not yet shown the pace and finishing technique he possesses, while Kirovski is a strapping chap, who might throw his weight around causing problems for our less than sturdy back three (well, at least until Mabizela signs). one who might be interesting to see is Luciano Figueroa, who Spurs were linked with and signed for the Blues from Argentina. He looks the part - flowing blond locks and pin-up looks - but can he do the business on the pitch ?? We will see.
In defence, Matthew Upson has impressed so much that he has earned a place in the last two England matches, but they have lost defensively minded Michael Johnson and that leaves a choice of Jeff Kenna, Martin Grainger, Jamie Clapham, Darren Purse, Aliou Cisse, Kenny Cunningham and Oliver Tebily for the other three spots in the back four. Cunningham has made light of his lack of pace to keep going after signing from Wimbledon and Kenna also trundles on, even managing to score against us at St. Andrews last season !! However, Bruce might opt for the more mobile Clapham, who can overlap and is good with a dead ball. Whether Cisse will play after his going AWOL when he was supposed to have returned to training, we will have to wait and see. When he played last season, he looked solid, but too often he went missing through injury or through not being bothered and being left out.
Playing in goal behind the defence could be Fulham's on-loan keeper Maik Taylor or Ian Bennett. Either has good handling skills, but they are prone to being caught out of position at times, which might unsettle the defence. Nico Vaesen has been out with an badly injured knee for some time and will not feature, with October his comeback target.
There have been relatively few comings and goings at Birmingham, so they should have an understanding in the team, that Tottenham might still be searching for with a number of new faces coming in and other old ones leaving. Though there have been no goal sin the last two friendlies, Spurs have got them in their locker, but need the bullets to be supplied to fire at the opposition. The key will be the midfield, as always, with Tottenham's youngsters - Davies and Ricketts - alongside Redknapp and Bunjy, up against a determined Brum side.
Despite the home side perhaps having the midfield edge, I still reckon that there will be enough for Keano and Helder to feed off and a narrow opening day win will start the season off satisfactorily for Spurs.
PREDICTION : - Birmingham City 1 Tottenham 2
For more information on the opponents and their history, including full result history of matches between the two teams, click here.
No preview from a Birmingham City website was able to be provided
Birmingham City - Nico Vaesen (knee), Martin Grainger (knee), Matthew Upson (suspended)
Tottenham Hotspur - Frederic Kanoute (groin), Ledley King (ankle), Darren Anderton (hamstring), Dean Richards (Achilles), Christian Ziege (thigh), Kazuyuki Toda (calf), Gus Poyet (Suspended), Chris Perry (Suspended), Jonathan Blondel (finger)
TV : No live coverage in the UK
Radio : TalkSport (1089 Medium Wave) - live commentary
Internet : www.spurs.co.uk Live webcast
|Birmingham City 1 Tottenham 0 (Half-time score : 1-0)|
|Saturday 16th August 2003|
|Venue : - St. Andrews|
|Kick Off : - 12.00 Noon|
|Weather : - Warm, dry|
|Referee : - R. Styles (Hants)|
|Crowd : - 29,358|
|Teams : -
Birmingham City : - Taylor; Kenna, Purse, Cunningham, Clapham; Johnson, Savage (Tebilly 89), Clemence, Dunn; Dugarry (Devlin 71), Horsfield (John 68)
Unused Subs : - Lazaridis, Bennett.
Tottenham : - Keller;
Taricco (Marney 71), Gardner, Doherty; Carr, Redknapp,
Bunjevcevic, Ricketts, Davies, Postiga (Zamora 57), Keane
|Colours : -
Birmingham City - Blue shirts with white trim, white shorts, blue socks
Tottenham - White shirts, navy blue shorts, white socks with navy blue turnover
|Scorers : -
Birmingham City - Dunn (pen) 37
Tottenham - None
|Cards : -
Birmingham City - Savage (foul 26), Clemence (foul 32), Dunn (dissent 39)
Tottenham - Gardner (foul 36), Redknapp (dissent 36), Carr (dissent 38), Davies (foul 47), Ricketts (foul 90), Marney (foul 90)
With Rob Styles having a day when he exercised his right arm to the extreme and one when Spurs chose to only start playing properly after half-time, it was no surprise that we went down 0-1 in the end.
For all the talk of the signing of the forwards, it was the midfield area that Tottenham lost out in during the first 45 minutes to allow Brum to take the initiative. They didn't fully seize that, but did enough to eek a goal out of it and that proved enough despite Tottenham's storming second half.
Luckily, Dugarry was about as on target as the MEHSTG prediction !! He missed a lob when Keller rushed out of his goal, twice pushed his shots wide of the mark and when he finally did get on the end of one of the balls into the box by Clapham, he managed to knock it on to the post. Horsfield had the only other shot worth mentioning for the home side, but they got their goal courtesy of a massive cock-up on the defensive front. Treacle threw-in to Gardner, but the ball was not easy for him to do much with and as he tried to control it, it bobbled and Savage was on him, like a Welshman on a sheep. Nicking the ball away from him, there was some nudging going on, which could have gone wither way, until the ex-Leicester faker got a case of the Brian Phelps (there's one for the kiddies). Going down like he had been hit by a truck, he earned full marks from the ref, who pointed to the spot and Dunn stepped up to put the penalty away, despite Kasey getting a firm hand to it.
In truth, Birmingham never really looked like scoring after that. Spurs finished the first half with some neat short passing, but like much of the first half, it was not penetrative and the Bluenoses soaked up the pressure until the whistle. The only chance of note was a 'home-made' volley by Keane, which tried to catch Taylor off his line, but failed, thanks to a deflection off a defender.
Dugarry started the second as he ended the first, with a shot on goal. At the end of the first 45, he produced a weak shot when he had made some space in the box, but after the break, he tried to be clever and curl the ball around Keller, with the resultant shot going wide. Hoddle must have shaken the side up, because they started playing in the second half, with Robbie finding a way into the box and faced with Maik Taylor, slid the ball past him with the whole goal to aim at, but his shot came back off the inside of the post. Postiga had a good chance with a header, but he glanced the ball just wide of the goal.
The key to the turnaround in Tottenham's play appeared to be the introduction of Zamora for the patently disappointing Postiga. He was not getting good service and his efforts were getting increasingly more peripheral and he was getting more frustrated, so the change made good sense. As well as that, it provided a target for Spurs to hit and Zamora played that role well. Twice he managed to get headers to the ball, but twice missed the target, when he should have made the keeper work. When he did, it wasn't the toughest task for Taylor to grab the header straight at him.
A neat move between Davies, Keane, Ricketts and Marney left the defender racing onto the ball and producing a shot that Taylor was pleased to push aside for a corner. Then it was back to the Spurs area, where Gary Doherty threw a block to stop a Stern John shot that could have wrapped the match up for the Blues. It was Tottenham who finished the match pushing for an equaliser with Stephen Carr lifting a cross into the area, where Zamora rose to get his head to it, but loft it over.
Birmingham might just have edged the match by not cracking under the pressure that Spurs impressed upon them, but the draw would have been a fairer result. Zamora showed he can torment defences and Ricketts' display gave heart that there is some depth in midfield, something that Marney backed up when he was brought on for Taricco.
It was a case of one mistake being too many for Spurs and they must pick up points form the likes of Birmingham if they seriously want to get a high finishing place in the league. It makes the home match against Leeds a more important one that it was already, so let's hope that there are some of the injured players back and that those who do play get into the game more quickly.
MEHSTG TOP MAN : - ROHAN RICKETTS
Well, my reaction to our defeat against Birmingham City ?
How did we lose to this bunch of well-travelled and well-heeled journeymen ? That's my reaction.
The referee had a lot to do with it. How could he book nine players in a match that only had a couple of bad fouls and a couple of incidents of handbags ?? Anyone would have thought it was a right royal kicking match. And his persistent whistling meant that there was no flow to the game, especially in the second half when Spurs were trying to keep the pressure on Brum.
The first half started well, with Ricketts getting into a good position, but then slicing his shot wide. That did come after Dugarry had slid in to hit the post from a low cross, but the Frenchman had been the thorn in Tottenham's side during the first half. He neatly turned and fooled defenders before unleashing shots of lesser accuracy, especially when Keller ran out to close him down and he got there first, but looped the ball over the keeper, but wide.
Spurs began to settle down a bit and played the ball around nicely, but that was the problem, Birmingham were never threatened by our incessant passing. That changed in the second half, when after a shot by Robbie Keane has bounced off the woodwork and Hoddle gave Postiga a rest (not that he had done too much anyway) to bring on Zamora.
Now, Bobby is a tall lad and that could add a new dimension to Tottenham's attack as the crosses that cleared Helder's head were being met by Zamora's forehead. He might need a bit more training ground practice to get them on target, but at least he was getting there and causing Brum's defence trouble. Funnily enough, the way Spurs played in the first half was asking Keane and Postiga to chase long balls, while when Booby arrived, they knocked the ball around shorter and whipped in crosses. Maybe, if the service had been better in the first half, who knows ?
Marney for Taricco was a good substitution and he looked much more adept at getting forward, ending with a fine drive after some neat interplay, forcing Taylor to make a good save. But as for Bunjy, what does he actually do ? I have failed to see such a player who has as little effect on the game as he does. If Hoddle can't see this, I give up hope. We need a ball-winner in there as it is, without him strolling around without tackling, getting goal-side or producing at least a defence splitting pass to announce his presence on the field. None of the efforts Tottenham made produced a goal and even though the movement was good and the passing clipped and accurate, Birmingham worked hard to close Spurs down and shut them out. When we did get near the goal, the post stopped Keane scoring and the wall stopped Jamie's drive getting through from a free kick.
One worrying aspect that was displayed last season was when Redknapp loses the ball in the middle of the park and the other side get away it, there is nobody to run back after them. It happened at Highbury and happened today, but luckily, Birmingham couldn't finish it. Ricketts did really well and Zamora shook them up on his entry. Hopefully, with a few players coming back from injury (quickly) and Hoddle bringing in a much needed striker, the team can start performing more solidly for the whole ninety minutes.
|Other scores this weekend :|
|Blackburn Rovers||5||Wolverhampton Wanderers||1||Saturday|
|Charlton Athletic||0||Manchester City||3||Monday|
|Leeds United||2||Newcastle United||2||Sunday|
|Manchester United||4||Bolton Wanderers||0||Saturday|
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