Pompey v Spurs. Wouldn’t Have Happened Last Season

Three points, some nice attacking football, a good game to watch and third in the table. Put it like that, not a bad Saturday afternoon, but in truth, we got away with it. Emotions at the finish were a mixture of pleasure and relief. Saved by a couple of comedy misses.

Like the Bolton game, our midfield did not shield the back four sufficiently and as a result it was too simple too often for Portsmouth to pierce the heart of our defence. The back four were stretched too easily in both matches. We have to sort this out if we are to remain so high in the league and it could have been different if Pompey had decided in the window to purchase strikers who could actually score from three yards. However, once ahead we looked composed and comfortable for extended periods, despite the efforts of hard working opponents, and we always look capable of creating chances. Down to ten men, we showed the organisation and resilience that will serve us well in the future. Wilson’s value, even off form as he is, was demonstrated in his positional play. Hud and JJ tend to drift back and then find a position, whereas when we lose the ball, Wilson assesses the situation quickly and dashes back straight into a gap.

Defoe was utterly stupid to get himself sent off. Doesn’t he realise Spurs will now lose our place in the top three of the Fair Play League? Where is his sense of responsibility? The Fair Play League is ridiculous – in the categories ‘Respect Towards Referee’ and ‘Behaviour of Officials’  Manchester United are among the highest points scorers – but JD gave Portsmouth the initiative at a crucial point in the match and it also sent a message ringing loud and clear around the Premier League that he can be wound up. He’s banned for three games and we need him. Watching as I was on a stream, he didn’t appear to be getting overwhelming stick from players or the crowd (I’d be interested to hear from people who were there), apart from Brown who was nipping at ankles and offering opponents the benefit of his footballing wisdom throughout, just like he did for us, bless him. Even if he were, surely he doesn’t care that much about Portsmouth. It can’t be any worse that what he hears at West Ham. However, playing on his mind was the court appearance of the person accused of killing his brother. Maybe his resolve was weakened.

Corluka and Lennon worked well together for the most part. Defensive protection on the flanks is about combination play, with the wide midfielder dropping back to cover his full back. Any opponent has to therefore get round the midfielder and then still has to face the defender. Lennon will never be a formidable defensive force but his increasing willingness to filter back helps out enormously, whilst his developing stamina ensures he can still be a counter attacking force deep into the game to relieve pressure on a weary defence, just as he did yesterday. Coming forward, Corluka constantly slipped him in, mostly with little sliders inside the desperate full back Ben Haim.

Harry saw that weakness and made certain it was exploited throughout the game. I suspect he felt the whole back four were cumbersome, hence his decision to partner Defoe with Keane as against Burnley, which surprised at kick off but yielded five goals. However, the game passed Keano by for the most part and Crouch was the right man to have on the pitch after the sending off.

Gomes was fantastic; the saves from the deflected free kick and the volley in the second half were outstanding. Also, he was solid enough on the crosses, with his punches gaining decent distance. Performances like these for a player where confidence is clearly an issue can be a turning point. He’s ready to become one of the top keepers in the League. In fact, we defended set pieces well for the most part, so another plus point there.

Another fine game from King. For someone who is so injured, his leap for the goal was remarkable and although he never appears to be sprinting, he is seldom outpaced. It is one of the great injustices of the contemporary game that King is not lauded as one of the finest centre halves of the modern era. Not only is he one of the best I have ever seen at Spurs, right up there alongside England and Gough, by now he should have had 60 or 70 England caps. All this fuss about Rio, Rio should be a reserve if Ledley were not injured. In this world of hyperbole and bombast, Ledley doesn’t fit in, hence the lack of media attention.Thank goodness – he just gets on with his job quietly, with dedication, a one club man so no transfer scandals, unassuming, determined, brilliant. A master – I love the man.

Nice of Harry to take that call for Kevin Bond. Judging by Bond’s expression, it was his wife ringing to say that the builder hadn’t arrived and could he stop at the garage for a pint of milk on the way home. See, they are just like the rest of us really….

There were mixed views about Bolton, as in the comments on my piece. A point won or more evidence of our lack of strength and inability to protect the defence? Four points from these two away games when in recent years we would have come away with none, so I’m not complaining too much. Yesterday our determination in defence when a man short showed resilience and for extended passages we held possession, another big problem for us in the past. Probably both perceptions have merit. We have made huge strides under Harry, and really, lest this blog gives the wrong impression, I’m delighted. Progress is tangible and creativity, leading to chances, is not a problem any longer. In other senses we remain a work in progress, with the defensive midfield standing between us and the Great Leap Forward.

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19 thoughts on “Pompey v Spurs. Wouldn’t Have Happened Last Season

  1. Sounds about right to me even if you are being a little bit generous to the team. We rode our luck big time yesterday and we do need to tighten up the midfield when we arnt in possession.

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  2. The Portsmouth player who Defoe stamped on should be charged with play acting as he started to get up, saw the ref and went back down holding the knee of the leg that was not touched

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    • Thanks for commenting. I wrote about this a few weeks ago – agree, play-acting like kids in a primary school Christmas show should be punished by using video evidence. In this case, the ref had made his mind up before the ludicrously faking.

      Regards,

      Al

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  3. Quite simply, this is not a game that the Spurs of old would have won. We are a very different team since Harry Redknapp took over, which means that on those days when we’re not playing our best (like yesterday at Fratton Park), we can still grind-out a result.
    Oh… and Gomes is a far superior goalkeeper to Cudicini., even with his occasional lapses of concentration.

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    • Although Cudicini has done better than many have suggested, for me Gomes is and always was our number one. This is his moment. There were rumours that although he was on the bench, he wasn’t quite fit, water on the kneee.

      Now everyone should go and visit your fabulous site.

      Regards,

      Al

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  4. Very well written article,let us hope that we are still in or around the top three come January,as this will make us a more appealing prospect to any would be powerhouse midfielders,the likes of which I am positive will make us even harder to beat,if only we could find a hybrid of Wilson and his bite and positional sense,Tom’s passing along with Jenas’s energy reserves,now that would be a player.

    Actually if I’m correct I believe we have just taken a combative midfielder on trial for two weeks,his name though escapes me,perhaps you could use your investigative journalistic skills to uncover his name and skills for your readers,I’m pretty sure it was on Glory Glory that I read about it.

    D you think it could also betime for Bentley to be given a run out as Aaron seemed a little out of sorts to me.

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    • Thanks for commenting, Craig. investigative journalist skills, now that is funny.

      Ta for the tip about the trialist, I hadn’t picked that up and I look forward to seeing how he gets on. I think Lennon is doing fine but i would find a way to give Bentley some playing time. I reckon Harry feels that he can’t rely on Bentley in a pressure situation, so he warms the bench. There’s a strong rumour that if he makes another start, it triggers another instalment of his fee, therefore we won’t play him until January, when he’s sold.

      Regards,

      Al

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  5. I have just had a look for this player,and his name is Melvin Valladares,and he’s a striker,take a look on you tube not half bad,(by the way they were talking about him on Vital Spurs not Glory Glory sorry,)

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  6. Good article on the match, I sometimes wonder when I read press match reports if the reporter was at the same match as me. I have supported \Spurs for 45 years and we are perennieal under achievers, this seasons team looks like it could actually finish in the top four. Saying that we still look fragile when defending and as’Arry said yesterday we rode our luck but, as you mentioned last season we would have lost both this and the Bolton game.

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  7. I’ve just put up my post and am now looking around at others fearing I will get attacked for being a bit critical when we have won. I think your report sums up my own feelings – though you saw the whole match I saw only a fraction. What do you think the side will be when everyone is back and fit? Jenas or Tommy, Woody and King?

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  8. Mac is from Macnamara’s band, kids, look in on them. Good people over there.

    I reckon Woody and King is Harry’s first choice pair. And mine too, for what it’s worth. I’d play JJ, but it may be that different midfields may suit different opponents. maybe teams that pressure us less will suit Tom’s passing from deep. Al

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  9. I was at the match and I must say that you are deluded. For a team that cost at least 10 times what Pompey cost, it really didn’t show. If Pompey had been able to afford just one half decent striker in the transfer window, they would have spanked you at least 6-2 minimum. Its good news for Pompey tho. If they can limp through to January and get a decent striker plus one other, they will make a rapid recovery – it seems the gap between third place and bottom really isn’t that wide.

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  10. Strange game. Could have been three up in the first ten mins, we looked in control when it was 11 vs 11, but had to rely on three blinding saves and two comedy misses. Still can’t decide whether to file it as a lucky win by the skin of our teeth, or another battling performance etc. Either way, I think your title sums it up – we’d have lost it last season (we did in fact, vs Blackburn when Palacios was sent off).
    Another good read.

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  11. The last time we were third after nine games we came third in the league (1984/5)
    We rode our luck defensively but remember Defoe hit the inside of the post with James beaten and Lennon should have scored late on.

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