LEICESTER CITY (Away)
Sunday 19th October 2003
With Leicester vulnerable at home and Spurs poor on the road, you might expect this match to be a stultifying stalemate.
However, with some of the players on display, I would think there will be goals a plenty, even thought Tottenham defence has slammed shut since David Pleat came in and introduced the 4-4-2 formation that seems to suit the team.
On a run of three successive defeats, Leicester could not be playing a better side to break losing runs. However, having beaten Leeds United 4-0 at home, that remains their only Premiership victory. The fact that both teams find themselves in the bottom eight means that it might be a tightly fought game with little to choose between the two sides.
With former Spur Ian Walker back in the England set-up, he must either be playing very well or there is a dearth of goalkeeping talent in the country. Walker was a confident shot-stopper and taker of crosses, until he was hit hard by Fashanu in a match against Wimbledon. Not that Spurs have anyone to do that to him, but he might have retained his good form at Spurs behind a defence of Matt Elliott, Alan Rogers, Frank Sinclair, Gerry Taggart or Steve Howey. With ex-Man. City centre half Howey, Taggart and Elliott getting on in years, Kanoute and Keane's movement might pose them plenty of problems. Sinclair has a chequered career in terms of disciplinary problems and anyone running at him might get some joy on the flank. Rogers is a tough tackling defender, who was harshly sent off against Chelsea, but he needs to reign his tackling in a little. John Curtis is another hard defender, who joined from Blackburn Rovers, but has been in and out the side with injury this season, while former Tottenham defender Ben Thatcher will not feature because he is just getting over pneumonia.
The midfield has a familiar look about it, with many of the players having knocked around the Premiership for a few years, before ending up at Leicester - mainly brought in during the summer on freebies to bolster the squad. Andy Impey plays wide and has caused Spurs problems in the past, but the ex-West Ham and QPR man might find the Spurs midfield more adept at dealing with him this time. Muzzy Izzet is a player who has always looked like he could move to one of the top sides, but he has chosen to be loyal to Leicester and has been a creative hub for the midfield. Brought in from France via Italy, Lilian Nalis is a bit of a mystery, who I don't know too much about, apart from he scored a cracking volley from distance against Leeds United. The defensive side of the midfield is covered by Ricardo Scimeca and Billy McKinlay, who has not been a first choice this season. Scimeca is a big lad, who was another sent off against Chelsea, but is a powerful presence between the boxes and at the opposite end of the spectrum Keith Gillespie is a flighty winger, who can produce good balls into the area for the forwards to attack, but can also fade from the scene and play on the edge of the action. A player known to manager Micky Adams at Brighton, Paul Brooker, was brought in during close-season with a view to the future, as was Craig Hignett, but the future for him is short-term, as he approaches veteran status. Still a terrier in the tackle and able to get forward and hit a sweet shot, Hignett was another ex-Ewood Park refugee. A Peter Taylor signing Junior Lewis has been out-cast and his rangy presence has been consigned mainly to the reserves
Lacking a big name striker, Adams went about bringing in a lot of experienced forwards to get the goals that would help the Foxes stay up. Ten goals have hit the opposition net so far, with four of those in the one game against Leeds United. Our former striker Les Ferdinand made an immediate impact in the first game with a goal against SCBC, but also produced another of his specialties ... getting knocked out in the process !! Les will be a threat in the air if he plays, but like last time out, Deano might shine in a physical aerial battle. Ex-Gooner Paul Dickov has scored regularly, although he is not that prolific, but never gives up a lost cause and will harrass the Spurs defenders if they dwell on the ball too long. Ipswich's Marcus Bent has joined on a season long loan and will be keen to impress Spurs, who were once linked with the former Palace forward and another Portman Road favourite, Jamie Scowcroft will add beef to the front line with a strength in the air and a fierce shot in his feet. Highly rated Jordan Stewart has been given an introduction to the Premier League and is bright, pacy and skillful, while old-timer Brian Deane can be called on to add nous to the attack as well as an aerial threat at set-pieces if required.
With Spurs on a reasonable run at the moment, it all has to end somewhere, but they look to have become more resilient under Pleat's tutelage. Happier with the structure of the side, the team can work within the formation to provide cover, but the midfield of Leicester works very hard and the legs of Anderton and Poyet will be tested. Ricketts could find some joy out wide, while Fredi and Robbie might find some joy against the Foxes back four, as they will drag them away from their positions, making space for each other.
In a match that should be tight, I reckon their will be goals for the Pay-Per-View audience and that Spurs might just edge it ...
PREDICTION : - Leicester City 2 Tottenham 3
For more information on the opponents and their history, including full result history of matches between the two teams, click here.
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Leicester City - Ben Thatcher (pneumonia), Callum Davidson (leg), Matt Jones (back)
Tottenham Hotspur - Christian Ziege (thigh), Kazuyuki Toda (calf), Helder Postiga (hamstring), Bobby Zamora (knee), Jamie Redknapp (knee), Simon Davies (hip), Anthony Gardner (suspended)
TV : Live on Premiership Plus (Pay-Per-View) Sky TV
Radio : TalkSport (London area only) 1089 Medium Wave; BBC Radio Five Live 909 and 693 Medium Wave (UK)
Internet : www.spurs.co.uk Live webcast
|Leicester City 1 Tottenham 2 (Half-time score : 1-0)|
|Sunday 19th October 2003|
|Venue : - Walker's Stadium|
|Kick Off : - 14.00 p.m.|
|Weather : - Dry, chilly wind|
|Crowd : - 31,521|
|Referee : - A. D'Urso (Billericay)|
|Teams : -
Leicester City : - Walker; Curtis, Sinclair, Taggart, Rogers; Gillespie, Izzet, Scimeca, Scowcroft; Ferdinand (Bent 64), Dickov (Hignett 87)
Unused subs: Coyne, Elliott
Tottenham : - Keller, Carr,
Richards, Doherty, Taricco; Anderton, Ricketts (Dalmat 46), Konchesky
(Zamora 66), Poyet (Mabizela 74); Keane, Kanoute
|Colours : - (kits
courtesy of http://www.colours-of-football.com)
|Scorers : -
Leicester City - Dickov 39
Tottenham - Mabizela 79, Kanoute 90
|Cards : -
Leicester City - Gillespie (foul) 45, Sinclair (foul) 51, Izzet (foul) 90
Tottenham - Anderton (foul) 21, Doherty (foul) 48, Mabizela (foul) 80
This game was not quite a game of two halves, but more of one half and about twelve minutes that saw Spurs turn from an over-run side to win it at the death.
Frankly, Leicester gave Spurs exactly what I expected. A run for their money. And that is what they do, run and run and run. They never give you a minute to settle and during the first half, they were all over us like a Premiership player over a teenager in a hotel room. That meant that players like Ricketts, Poyet and Anderton got hassled out of the game in the first 45 and looked like they didn't get a touch.
In the battle of the old club's goalkeepers, Walker had decidedly the quieter match of the two. In the first period, he only had to watch a Keane overhead kick sail over the top, while Keller was called into action in a number of attacks. He denied Izzet two minutes into the match with a stretching save and then caught efforts from Ferdinand and Dickov, before he dropped a clanger. A flick-on from Sir Les found Dickov out wide in the box (in an off-side position TV pictures proved later) in the 39th minute. The former Gooner hit a shot that lacked any great power, but Kasey managed to let the ball squirm through him and trickle over the line for an embarrassing gaffe.
With a number of efforts on goal, it was about the right score at half-time, as the home side had put in the greater determination and Spurs had looked like the bottom club not the Foxes.
However, as is always the way with Tottenham, they like to do things the heart-stopping way. Replacing the out-muscled Ricketts with Dalmat at the break proved a shrewd move by Pleat. While he will never be the best at chasing back to retrieve a lost ball, the French midfielder can smoothly cut through the opposition with a run or a pass and he did so quite often in the second half of this match.
Spurs tried to make headway into the Leicester penalty area and Robbie Keane hit an outrageous 25 yard volley over the top, but not too high and shortly after Gillespie made Walker hurriedly get back into his goal to tip his 35 yard volley away. Keller was being kept busy at the other end, but there was no serious threat and the American handled everything that was thrown at him easily. Perhaps the most difficulty he had was taking two goes to hold Dickov's shot and diving to stop Scowcroft's header from a free-kick. Kanoute failed to test Walker, when he headed Zamora's cross over the top.
When Konchesky, who had a quiet match, made way for Zamora and Poyet for Mbulelo Mabizela, the game got turned on it's head. A floated ball into the area from Anderton dropped between Keane and Zamora. The ex-Brighton striker got to it first and when he couldn't find a way to goal, looked up to lay a perfect ball into the path of OJ, who lashed it from fully 25 yards out, first time into the net, leaving Walker without a chance to move. It was a fierce drive that those who have watched him in the reserves are familiar with, but the goal will do him wonders as he settles at the club. However, his next intervention saw him booked for a foul on the edge of the area on Izzet.
Leicester City, being desperate for a win, tried to hit back and Rogers tried a quickly taken free-kick, but Keller was alive to it and caught it, while Scowcroft snatched at a volley that went high over the crossbar. When Dalmat took possession on the halfway line with the clock ticking down, there looked no danger. But, one tackle evaded and a 1-2 played with Taricco saw the loan midfielder running into the Foxes half and proceeding into their penalty area. As Walker came to narrow the angle, Dalmat side-footed his effort past the former Spurs keeper and was aghast to see it come off the post. So close to staling a victory at the death, but so far away ... except, Fredi Kanoute was alert to what had happened and seized on the rebound to shoot home from six yards out, the ball glancing off Walker's head as he tried in vain to stop it.
The Spurs fans were ecstatic and the players didn't seem to mind the fact that we had gone 2-1 up in the last minute either !! As the ball was hurriedly pumped forward in an attempt to get a lat, late equaliser, Spurs got a free-kick and then decided to try and hold the ball up in the corner at the Leicester City end of the pitch. This upset Izzet, who swung a kick at Kanoute after he had played the ball away, earning him a booking, but leaving Fredi leaving the pitch on a stretcher. We hope he is not badly injured and that it was a precaution, but it left Spurs with ten men for a minute or so, until D'Urso blew the final whistle.
While other players fulfilled the full 90 minutes, I was impressed by Dalmat's contribution and it is players like him that will win Spurs games this season, with his imagination and vision. Whether we will sign him permanently, who knows. But I hope that he gets to like it at Spurs and that the new manager (or even the current caretaker one) will see the value of money spent on him as money well spent.
MEHSTG TOP MAN : - STEPHANE DALMAT
|Just as well this wasn't a home
match ... or most of the Spurs supporters there would have missed
Kanoute's goal; if they hadn't gone before Mabizela's equaliser in the
first place !!
The late show was most unlike Spurs, but showed they can turn it on, even if only for short spells during a match to turn the game around.
Having been trampled all over in the first half, the best move we had was one fed through the midfield to Konchesky, who refused to hit the ball first time, but crossed into an area packed with blue shirts. Keller had already dived to his right to keep out a shot from Izzet, who only managed one other thing on target all match and that was his foot on Kanoute's ankle.
While City had loads of shots, they were all from distance and Keller fared OK with most of what was thrown at him, but when Ferdie glanced a header in the direction of Dickov, it all started to go wrong. Firstly, he was standing offside when he got it and then managed to tee himself up for a volley in our penalty area without anyone tackling him. When he did make contact, it was a weak effort, but Keller seemingly took his mind off the ball and let his old club take the lead by performing a Mark Kendall (ask your Dads kids) style faux pas to allow the ball to pass through his legs and into the net.
The problem for Tottenham was that Ricketts could not cover enough ground to make up for Poyet's and Anderton's off days and Konchesky had a bit of a stinker. This resulted in the Charlton man and Gus being replaced in the second half, with Ricketts being subbed at the break. The changes did beef up the midfield, but Leicester will be kicking themselves, while we will be thankful that Dickov refused to put in Marcus Bent when he was through and when he tried to engineer some space, it was clamped shut and the ball was cleared.
The equaliser came when the long ball upfield dropped towards the edge of the Foxes box. It bounced off Kanoute, Keano picked it up and played it wide left to Zamora. Bobby tried to cut inside his marker to get a shot in, slipped and laid the ball back as the best option. It found OJ running onto it from outside the box and he hit the ball first time, ripping his shot into the back of the net, with Walker having no chance. His unbridled joy in running to the Spurs fans will prove an enduring image (isn't it ??) as this young man settles with Tottenham and I am sure he will be a fixture in the side for a long time.
When Leicester pressed for a winner that their first half domination might have deserved, another move broke down with Doherty blocking the ball and it bouncing out to Dalmat. He has the flat-footed running style of a Beckham or Ronaldo and he was off before anyone could get near him. He played a give-and-go on the halfway line, ran up the left side and cut into the area, side-footing a shot past Walker and against the post. When it bounced out, Fredi had read the trajectory of the ball and steered it back from whence it came, but this time in off Walker's despairing grab for the ball.
Prior to the goals, the closest Spurs had come was a Gillespie back-pass that caused Walker to move faster than I ever recall him doing at Tottenham to stop the effort ending up in the back of his net. As it turned out, he was only delaying the inevitable ... not that anything is inevitable in a Spurs performance !!
Smash and Grab ... maybe, but Leicester's problem was summed up by their own manager. They needed 30 shots to score once, while Spurs had two shots on target and two goals. That is the way it is going for both clubs at the moment. How long it will last for Tottenham depends on how long the players keep putting in the effort when things aren't going to plan. Some didn't today and it nearly cost us the points.
I think that as a result of today's outcome, we might see some changes in the team. After the match, all the talk was of the fact that Poyet and Anderton cannot play together. They simply need to be used from the bench, while some of the younger legs take the field at the start. It seems widely thought that Ricketts, Dalmat, Konchesky and Mabizela could form the midfield against Boro and it would allow a number of options for the side, both in attack and defence. How that side would fare, we might just find out soon !!
|Other scores this weekend/week :|
|Birmingham City||0||Aston Villa||0||Sunday|
|Blackburn Rovers||0||Charlton Athletic||1||Monday|
|Leeds United||0||Manchester United||1||Saturday|
|Manchester City||6||Bolton Wanderers||2||Saturday|
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