With the clear-out behind the scenes, it was a breath of fresh air on
the pitch as the Tottenham players at last applied themselves to their
task and took three points for the first time this season with a 2-0 win
over Bolton Wanderers.
seemingly no real difference in the look of the players, but there was
obviously some difference in their attitude, as even Aaron Lennon, who
had been dropped to the bench for the match, had a big grin on his face
while warming up.
One forward looked a bit cautious for a
home game that was a "must win" match, but Modric fitted in behind him
and had his best game for Spurs so far, with a 90 minutes of effort and
skill that backed up the front man. Unusually playing towards the
Paxton Road in the first half, it took five minutes to get an effort on
goal, with O'Hara's shot squirting off McCann and looped wide and from
the corner, Bentley's dipping ball to the far post was well defended as
O'Brien headed the ball away from Pavlyuchenko and even though it went
towards the middle of the penalty area, it was hacked away.
Then on 17 minutes, the moment came that
Tottenham fans had been waiting a long time for. For the first
time this season Spurs took the lead and it was a forward who had
previously looked at odds with the pace of the Premier League who did
it. An acre of space allowed Bentley to produce his best cross of
the season so far and Roman Pavlyuchenko did it justice with a flicked
header that hit the net going inside the post and wide of Jaaskelainen.
The way the team celebrated, it was obvious the team spirit had taken a
leap up and the team all went to the Russian, who looked overjoyed.
But the ability to shoot ourselves in the
foot returned as Assou-Ekotto headed back to Gomes, but it dropped
behind King and in front of the keeper, leaving the two to collide in
trying to stop Taylor reaching it, but the ball went out to the left and
Davies tried to squeeze the ball in over Corluka's head, but it luckily
drifted wide. Then a couple of minutes after the half hour,
Taylor's free-kick saw a header by Hutton hit the back of a Bolton
player and drop past Gomes, but the Brazilian managed to get a hand to
it. It only fell to Elmander, who managed to hit a low shot on
target, where King stuck out a leg to stop it at the near post.
There was some dodgy keeping at the other
end, where the usually reliable Jaaskelainen fumbled Bentley's free-kick
and Tom Huddlestone seized on it, but being very close to the goal and
with the Finn up and in his face, he could only hit it over the bar.
Then a minute later, Tom drove a powerful shot just wide, but it was a
shame that three minutes after that he could not get a good contact on
his shot, as he topped it with the goal in front of him and even
then, it did not reach Jenas and Pav, who were in the area.
Nolan had been booked before Gavin McCann
dragged down Bentley to get a yellow, which only stopped Samuel also
being cautioned for hacking down Hutton straight afterwards. The
referee seemed a bit lenient compared to recent officials Tottenham have
encountered and Michael Dawson might feel aggrieved after seeing some of
the challenges that went on in this match.
Spurs had been knocking the ball around
quite well, but you always felt that 1-0 was a fragile lead and luckily
all the chances that fell to Bolton were poorly executed. Things
changed a bit in Tottenham's favour, when Nolan went for a bouncing bal
and studded Jenas down his lower shin, which he got away with receiving
a second yellow card, but straight afterwards, McCann was not quite so
lucky when he caught Hud with a late tackle that saw him take the Spurs
player's ankle after the ball had gone. He didn't even wait for
the red to be shown as he was on his way down the tunnel.
Spurs often struggle against ten men and
while Bolton did have the odd chance, it was a more measured performance
by Tottenham, who passed the ball well, but must still develop a killer
instinct to finish the job at hand. Modric was played in on the
left by a fine pass from Huddlestone, but he tried to beat the keeper at
his near post and the effort was saved well, then Assou-Ekotto took a
long, over-hit cross just inside the line and played it back to O'Hara,
who blazed over after cutting back onto his favoured left foot.
A long throw into the Tottenham area saw
Gomes flapping at it and as the ball dropped, Nolan hit it over the top
and then a similar build up saw Davies head the bal into the area and
Gomes again failed to get sufficient length on his punch, leaving Muamba
to volley it back at goal from just outside the box. As Ledley
King tracked back, he was relieved to see it drop onto the roof of the
In the 67th minute, Roman was subbed by
Bent as he stretched to reach a ball going out of play and looked in
pain. With almost his first touch, Darren took Modric's pass,
after the Croatian cleverly tricked it over two Bolton players in the
centre circle, but his first touch took it a little too far left and his
resulting shot flew over off Jasskelainen's head.
More chances came Tottenham's way with
Modric getting hot under the collar and striking a shot into the
side-netting instead of pulling the ball across the box and Huddlestone
also failed to hit a shot cleanly, as he dragged it wide. With 73
minutes on the clock, Spurs made a good opening when Huddlestone
controlled the ball on the edge of the area and poked it out right to
Hutton, who then played it back into Tom's path and his shot was pushed
aside by the keeper. With Lennon looking suspiciously offside, but
not flagged for it, he ran onto the loose ball and from ten yards out
fired it well over the top, when all he had to do was hit the target.
But then a minute later, Modric flicked
the ball up to make his own volley and the ball sped off Jaaskelainen's
hands to his right and as he got up to retain the ball, Bent rushed in
front of him and was brought down to earth by the contact from behind.
The ref pointed to the penalty spot and the goalie raged, earning
himself a yellow card, but after a long delay with Marriner getting
people outside the penalty area, Bent kept his cool to sweep the ball
low into the bottom right hand corner of the net past Jaaskelainen's
dive. The relief was even more palpable than with the first goal.
With Bolton making changes to try and
force something out of the match, Spurs hit on the break and should
really have added to their goal tally. Bent should have played in
Lennon, but shot wide, Modric forced the goalie to a diving save low to
his left, then Jenas struck a fierce drive that the keeper could only
get his chest in the way of and the ball bounced out to safety.
When Lennon broke with Bentley and Bent, he should have let the pass go
and Bentley then choose to go on his own instead of putting Modric in to
his right, with the result that his shot was blocked and easily saved as
it ballooned up into Jaaskelainaen's arms.
The final whistle was greeted quite
heartily. Three points and the feeling of greeting such a result
was quite a novel one after so long.
Redknapp took the crowd's applause and I
am sure he will enjoy his time at the club. It was interesting to
hear Paul Miller comment at half-time that he was glad we had a real
manager back in charge. I am not sure if that was deemed implied
criticism of Levy's choices in the recent past, but perhaps Redknapp is
what Tottenham need at this moment in time.
THE HEATHROW SPUR