Monday, 10th March 2008
The journey to N17 is always amusing for some reason. This year’s was no exception as I did my bit for charity at Northumberland Park by helping out the poor social inadequate who appeared baffled by the two buttons on the train door. I thought about trying to explain the difference between “Open” and “Close” but I was worried he might not understand by time the train reached its ultimate destination at Cambridge.
Clearly sliding doors are akin to witchcraft to the average Tottenham supporter judging by the look on his face as the doors opened to let us off. Less amusing was the heavy shower that followed me from the station to ground that promptly disappeared as soon as I’d got under cover. And why exactly is it that White Hart Lane smells of rotten cabbage?
I’m thinking of putting together a template for the team news section of the report to save me time in typing in future. It would simply read “injuries meant that (insert player names here) were out” This weekend’s lucky recipient of a day off was Matthew Upson whose calf injury had failed to respond to treatment. More welcome was the return Scott Parker for the first time in eons.
Noble and Cole dropped to the bench as we returned to the much called-for 4-4-2 formation, leaving us with a line-up of Green, Neill, McCartney, Ferdinand Spector, Boa-Morte, Mullins, Parker, Ljungberg, Ashton, Zamora.
For a game that we ended up losing so heavily it was a bright start. Mullins had the first shot from distance within the minute and, unlike the previous two matches, we showed a fair bit of enterprise going forward. We should have taken the lead on four minutes. Robinson, who the home support hilariously consider to be worthy of a place in the national squad, made a right mess of an on target but hardly venomous shot from Ljungberg. A couple of panicky blocks later saw Zamora’s effort blocked for a corner. From another corner shortly after Ashton shot over from 18 yards.
So, with Spurs barely getting the ball out of their half we then went 1-0 down and it was a goal that had “stupid” written all the way through it. Berbatov backed in and backed in on Spector then threw himself forward in the way that everyone knows he does with the exception it seems of premiership referees. Just for once I must agree with Fergie and ask exactly what it is that Keith Hackett does for his money. Ferdinand fell asleep as Huddlestone’s cross found Berbatov’s run – from an offside position - unchecked and the header gave Green no chance.
Things went from bad to worse a couple of minutes later. Ljungberg gave away a foul on the right and once more Ferdinand was napping as Berbatov placed an identical header past Green. There we were, all the good work of the first few minutes undone by naivety and lax defending.
The rest of the half was dismal. The heads were down and we made a side as mediocre as Spurs look almost average. Then there was Luis Boa Morte. Now he can’t tackle. You know it. I know it. It appears that the only person in the world who knows it is the man himself. To be fair to him it looked like he’d actually won the ball for the challenge that gave him his initial yellow card.
However, even if that were the case, you’d think he’d have the nous to figure that if he was going to pick up a card for a challenge that had won the ball, the ref sure as hell wasn’t going to worry too much about issuing a second.
It certainly occurred to Spurs who started targeting him at corners. They needn’t have bothered. The ref allowed play to continue after one reckless slide failed to connect with anyone but a late and pointless lunge at Lennon was the final straw and out popped the second yellow and off went LBM. A few seconds before the red card I had proffered the opinion that LBM wouldn’t be on for the second half. I was, unfortunately, right – though I had a substitution more in mind if I’m honest.
At half time light relief was provided by Martin Peters who some may remember much in the way of many players over the years was sent out to pasture at White Hart Lane to see out the autumn years of his career. Interviewed on the pitch he reminded all and sundry where he had been playing during his finest hour. Then there was the matter of the £4,000 book that Tottenham are flogging at the moment. You have to admire the optimism of marketing a book to a support with such a low literacy rate – then charging £4,000 for it! Then there was the tragic news that the Spurs club shop would be closed after the match, presumably because they had sold out of shell suits.
The second half saw us hold our own for all but the last few minutes. Indeed we managed to have a few efforts and there were periods where we kept the ball rather well. There were scares along the way. Berbatov broke the record for “furthest away from an opposition player when diving but still winning a free kick” when losing the ball and throwing himself up in the air when only just in the same postcode as the nearest defender. Such “skills” will be a major asset when he eventually disappears to a bigger club in the summer. Thankfully the free-kick in dangerous territory was placed well over.
The main fun was to be had partly at our own expense – “you’re sh*t ‘cos it’s not 4-0” and at the at the expense of one of the stewards – who was eventually told to disappear in the general direction of all the acne and dandruff by his superiors. I suspect that he’ll have to pay for his next match ticket.
Ljungberg picked up a yellow for protesting that a cross that had only taken a right-angled deflection off a defender hadn’t been given as a corner. To be fair to the linesman the deflection must have been difficult to see through all the dandruff that you inevitably get at Spurs matches. It was Ljungberg’s last contribution to the game as he was replaced by Paintsil. This was shortly followed by further changes as Ashton – who had worked damned hard with little support front – was replaced by Cole and Noble came on from Parker who had had an impressive return to the team. However the paucity of resources was highlighted by the sight of Linda taking corners.
The third goal came late on as Mullins failed to get in close to Gilberto who had all the time in the world to score from close range. If 3-0 was flattering to Spurs the inevitable 4th was akin to telling them that acne is fashionable, Bent – who still isn’t worth £17 let alone £17m – falling over in front of the hapless Spector to score with virtually the last touch of the match.
This result was depressing insofar as once more defensive lapses let us down. However there was for once the odd ray of light and if we’d taken our early chances it might have been a different game. Those that could be bothered to stay on the pitch without getting sent off worked hard during the second half and there were some good spells of possession.
There were also signs that the 4-4-2 might just be the way forward – though that rather obviously depends on you having eleven players on the park at any one time. The defence is something we need to sort out though, because if we’re shipping goals like that against Spurs who knows what a decent side would do to us.
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Left woefully exposed for the goals. Kicking left a lot to be desired.
Another shaky one. The right back position is becoming of some concern to me at the moment.
Stuck to his task despite the lack of help from in front of him at times.
It’s all very well playing ok ish for 20-30 minute spells but if you fall asleep and cost two goals to start with you haven’t done your job.
This was not a Premiership display by any stretch of the imagination. The fact that it took injuries to three potential first choice centre backs to get him a start should tell you all you need to know.
Stuck to it as much as possible but then undid any good work by cching the defensive malaise for the third goal.
The pick of the side today, a return that gives us a bit of hope for the next few games.
Too much running into blind-alley territory for my liking
Luis Boa Morte
No meaningful contribution to the match. If he’d kept his head until half-time we could have smuggled him off and, with eleven on the pitch, we might still have been in with a shout. Given that he was on a yellow already – whether earned or not – running around like the proverbial headless chicken was just plain daft.
Given that he spent the second half out on the left this wasn’t a bad run-out. Hopefully we’ll keep eleven on the pitch long enough to give him a full 90 some time soon.
Playing one up is a thankless task when you are down to ten men. To his credit he worked harder than we have seen from him of late.
(replaced Ljungberg, 71) So-so-ish spell in the second half. The ironic cult hero thing is wearing a bit thin now though.
(replaced Parker, 76) Not as dominant as Parker had been but got a couple of good feet in.
(replaced Zamora, 77) Failed to make much of an impression.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Man of the Match: Scott Parker.
West Ham United
Robert Green, Lucas Neill, George McCartney, Anton Ferdinand, Jonathan Spector, Hayden Mullins, Scott Parker, Freddie Ljungberg, Luis Boa Morte, Bobby Zamora, Dean Ashton.
Sent off: None.
Robinson, Hutton, Chimbonda, Woodgate, Dawson, Zokora, Huddlestone, Lennon, Malbranque, Keane, Berbatov.
Substitutes: Gilberto (Malbranque 58), Bent (Keane 69), Tainio (Woodgate 77).
Subs not used: Cerny, Boateng.
Goals: Berbatov (8, 10), Gilberto (85), Bent (90+3).
Booked: None booked..
Sent Off: None sent off..