Yesterday there was a job to be done and Spurs did what they had to do. Not in a straightforward manner, of course, why break the habit of my lifetime? After conceding the most pathetic set-piece I have ever seen, which is an accolade in itself given our recent sorry history at corners, Tottenham applied themselves fully and properly. Spurs were well on top even before Adam obligingly got himself sent off, then eventually the pressure paid off.
In many ways this was an unremarkable win in a match where little of note took place. However, this is our Spurs and we don’t confront these must-win games very well. This time, we kept the ball, kept going and came home with a deserved victory.
Possession won this game. All the time we had the ball, Stoke were under pressure. Their regimented defence kept us at bay for a long time but we kept coming. Much of it was ordinary, a game played sideways as we shuttled back and forth across the field in search of an opening. The tempo could have been brighter but mostly it was played in Huddtime, where the clocks seem to run just that little bit slower than the rest of the universe.
But we kept going and the chances came our way. Bale came close two or three times, once from a delicious through-ball from the otherwise ineffective Parker, Dempsey’s reaction miss from a corner, then Vertonghen. In the end, patience found its virtue with Manu alone at the far post to touch in Dempsey’s low, late cross. The American had a good game. Ignore Adebayor’s silly rehearsed jig, as the ball hit the net Deuce turned and raced to our grateful fans in that corner. He has a feel for this club.
Another goal in the last ten minutes. Is that the seventh match running? Villas-Boas has passed on the message that you keep going until the end. They are certainly fit enough to do so. His substitutions were effective too, Dembele coming off the bench fresh when we had to keep up the pressure and pace a better sight than his sorry figure limping off, finished after an hour. That time when we were worried about conceding late on feels like a bygone age. Yesterday we played out the last ten minutes without incident.
Our Andre deserves the credit for this and other aspects of the performance, including Manu’s drifting into good positions from out wide and for standing dutifully in the pouring with a mac that may be smart but clearly isn’t waterproof. However, he hasn’t sorted out the set-pieces. Our pitiful record had Pulis salivating in anticipation. First free-kick, we went zonal in response. It worked. Everyone stayed dutifully within those zones, it was damned unfair of the Stoke players to actually move. We stood still, they didn’t and we were one down in a couple of minutes. It was irredeemably stupid, utterly pathetic defending. We can laugh about it now but at the time the dark clouds blotted out the sun above my house…. And let’s not forget Dempsey needlessly gave away the free-kick in the first place.
Dempsey however found redemption in our equalizer, sharply reacting to a poor clearance and lobbing the ball into an unguarded net from 35 yards. An assist too, a good game indeed.
Charlie Adam helped the cause. Determined to carry on his record of maiming as many Spurs players as possible, he challenged Vertonghen with no hope of winning the ball then stretched too far after the restart and was gone, second bookable offence. He’s a man out of sorts with his game, capable of so much more. I’m not a bitter or vindictive man but had to chuckle at the indignant reaction of many Stoke fans to the referee’s performance, which the TV showed was spot on throughout. Stoke had a rota to foul Bale as he ran at them. Pulis must surely understand why most supporters of Premier League teams have little sympathy for his oft-repeated line that his team don’t get the breaks.
Finally, a reminder of who really runs the game. Last week we kicked off thirty minutes late because of traffic problems. Yesterday, train-loads of Spurs supporters were delayed in or near Rugby because of an incident that closed the line but the match is on Sky so kick-off goes ahead on time. It stinks.