Spurs v Bolton – we could have lost, should have won, and we’ll win the replay.
I doubt very much if there is a team in the League that is more frustrating to watch at the moment than our beloved Spurs. Capable of so much, we deliver so little at times. Used to asking the question pre-match, ‘which Tottenham team is going to turn up?’, after yesterday we now have to pose the same query at half-time as well because who knows what they are going to come up with? Problem is, I suspect they don’t have any idea either.
Players make mistakes and teams go through bad spells. Intensely irritating but after all these years I’m used to it. What really grates, what digs around deep down inside and contorts my innards into a tight aching throbbing mass of bile-filled fury that bubbles and froths until it is fit to burst open the lining of my stomach, shatter the rib cage and spew into the light drenching the room with rancorous acid, is when we don’t learn. And round about now, it feels like we never learn. Nine days ago our performance against Aston Villa was arguably the best of the season, albeit with a few too many long balls. We dominated the match by imposing ourselves on a quality team and by sustaining our effort and application for 90 minutes. Our centre midfield of Wilson Palacios and Tom Huddlestone ran the show. A few days later, we don’t bother to get off the coach at Wolves. Redknapp was severely at fault with a team selection that unnecessarily disrupted our continuity but no such excuses yesterday. Watching from the high television position at the Reebok, at times our team looked like Subbuteo figures on a giant pitch, spread out far and wide and just as mobile. I would have given them more than a flick to wake them, I can tell you. Memo to HR- at the next team talk make sure they understand that when you talk about making space, it’s not supposed to be space for the other team.
And while I’m at it – Wolves, remember, no graft, concentration or application and the pain of defeat. This all meant nothing as they carried on from where they left off up there. Maybe there is no pain in defeat after all, but there is for us fans.
Freed from the evil clutches of the ogre Megson, Bolton skipped and gamboled in the wide open meadows of our midfield. Hud and WP clearly enjoyed their pleasant passing game, watching from afar as they made several chances. Mind you, marking Elmander, sitting back was a perfectly reasonable option, just wait for him to blaze it wide. And high. Into touch. Goal kick or throw in, it was all the same to him, and we defended well enough in the box under the Bolton set-piece bombardment.
Then came their goal, well-worked and very well taken by Davies. We failed to put any pressure on the ball in the centre of the pitch. Then, Dawson chose to go with his man across the box. He could have passed him on to a left sided defender but his choice not to should not have been fatal. However, not one of the midfield opted to drop back and cover, so we had only our back four in or near the box when Elmander (oh the irony) crossed it.
Still we did not get the hint. Hud and WP consistently failed to come back to cover their back four, and as absolutely nothing was going on up front, I really don’t know how they accounted for their time. The TV angle means you can’t see so much off the ball and of course ITV kept it especially tight for fear of revealing the sparsely populated Reebok stands and thus giving the game away that actually the Cup was not quite the attraction that every commentator stated it was, every 5 minutes. However, there were two other occasions where these two were ambling back in the face of a Bolton attack, whereas they should have been hammering back at full speed and with total dedication. Wolves would have, Villa would have, so why can’t we?
Enough of the first half. It was a stinking measly effort on our part, reeking of apathy. Harry’s half time team talk had no effect whatsoever as the pattern continued as if the break had not happened. Then Crouch beat the keeper to a cross, hit the bar and everything changed. Without playing especially well we were on top for the rest of the game. Not much of a plan was apparent but at least we had a spring in our step. Kranjcar replaced the sorry-looking Modric, a player upon whom the future success of the club depends but who left the pitch looking forlorn and unloved, reflecting on what was a poor effort on his part. The ease with which we took over said much about the standard of the opposition. They are a decent team, much improved under Coyle but they were stretched under pressure, especially from Bale, our man of the match with his determination, pace and direct running from left back. His advances not only provided chances but also cut off the lingering threat from Lee Chung Yong on the Bolton right as he had to firstly drop back to cover then was substituted in favour of a defender.
Defoe’s goal when it came was a fine move out of place with the rest of our display. He’s been wasting chances of late but this time it was one touch, a perfect touch, one goal. Sadly we didn’t give him much else as the rest of the afternoon was spent in frustration as Crouch’s touches went, well, nowhere near him. More long balls and, from Bentley, poor crosses – it’s not the way forward and Crouch’s good performance against Villa became a distant memory.
Penalties are all in the mind and most Spurs fans winced when Big Tom stepped into the role abdicated by Defoe. He hasn’t got the head for this sort of pressure. For a moment or two I was optimistic as he calmly kept his eyes firmly on the ball while the referee sorted the rest out. Having seen JD miss several penalties after doing a cocky little oh-so-clever Strictly Come Dancing run-up, what else is the lad going to do but his own version of the poxy paso doble. How could it have conceivably crossed his mind that he should take a penalty in this way, especially as Tevez converted a spot kick on TV only a few days before. Didn’t someone tell him? Doesn’t he know he strikes a ball superbly? JUST HIT IT! And Harry’s quote this morning about how in training he just hits them is frankly not at this point reassuring in any way.
I don’t know why I’m making light of this – it was pathetic. More self-inflicted harm from the Marshmallow Men. So it’s back to the Lane where we will win the replay. It’s the long way round but we are two games from a semi-final and if we play to our potential then the Cup is still on. However, the attitude and effort from the players needs to be massively improved before we can think of scoring a goal, never mind win a trophy. Redknapp’s managerial skills are being seriously tested for the first time since we climbed clear of the relegation zone about this time last year.
Finally, thanks and good wishes to the Spurs fans up there, who could be heard loud and clear on TV. I’m not sure the club deserve you.