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.