FA BARCLAYS PREMIERSHIP
SATURDAY 4TH DECEMBER, 2004
BLACKBURN ROVERS 0 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (0)
Referee:- Mike Dean
Blackburn (4-4-2):- Friedel; Neill, Todd, Short (sub Matteo, 84), Johansson; Reid, Ferguson (Capt.), Tugay (sub Thompson, 64), Emerton; Dickov, Gallagher (sub Bothroyd, 56)
Subs not used:- Enckleman; Flitcroft
Booked:- Dickov, Tugay, Thompson
Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Kelly, Naybet, King (Capt.), Atouba; Mendes, Carrick, Brown, Ziegler (sub Redknapp, 72); Keane (sub Gardner, 77), Defoe (sub Kanoute, 87)
Subs not used:- Fulop; Pamarot
Spurs' midfielder Michael Brown has yet to win over a good proportion of Spurs fans, who complain that he is a Nationwide and not a Premiership player, but he went a long way to win hearts and minds, as he went on a terrific 70-yard run from deep in his own half to lay on Robbie Keane's decisive goal. Thus Spurs won their third away game of the season, and achieved their first back to back wins of the campaign to lift themselves back to 12th place, putting that horrible 6 game run of defeats to the back of their minds.
Those watching on TV may not have been over-impressed, and certainly the first half was fairly lack-lustre all round, but both sides came out of the blocks in the second half, with Spurs weathering a mini-storm by the home side, scoring their goal in the 56th minute, then being content to get men behind the ball and hold onto their lead, reminding spectators of the early season successes at Newcastle and Everton. Blackburn themselves were desperate for a win, having been unbeaten in their last five games, but are still teetering on the brink of the relegation zone. This outfit is a far cry from the one which finished as runners-up and winners of the Premiership, when they had the late Jack Walker as their benefactor. Home fans have lost their enthusiasm for their team, and cannot even manage to fill their main stand, let alone the upper tier of the stand where once again a good number of Spurs fans had travelled to show their loyalty for their own under-achieving team.
Stephen Kelly returned to the first team, relegating Pamarot to the bench. Noe may well have been nursing a knock from Wednesday night's game, but his replacement gave a very good account of himself, negating the effect of Steven Reid by and large. Thimothee Atouba entertained us again at left back, and at times displayed great skills before making clearances. Atouba also supported Ziegler when he could, doing a pretty good job against Emerton too. Pedro Mendes continues to pose that question about his deployment on the right-side, whilst Carrick was allowed to ghost around in the middle, with little impact upon the game, in my view. I would prefer to have Mendes in the middle. Carrick too often pulled out of challenges for my liking.
Keane and Defoe were the strike partners, whilst Kanoute sat out most of the game, no doubt pondering Wednesday night's gaffe. When he did get on, Spurs were trying to hold out with minutes to go, and it was a great worry to see him going to help out in our area!
Keane and Defoe looked lively, but too often their first touch seems to roll too far in front of them giving the defenders too much chance to clear. Robbie fed Defoe from an inside right position after 7 minutes, but Jermain's shot was straight to Friedel. Mendes got the ball to Keane in the area soon after, but his shot was well blocked. Reid seemed to over-react to an innocuous challenge and dived theatrically, convincing the referee of the need for a free kick, and creating animosity from the visiting fans for his future touches. More animosity was reserved though for Paul Dickov, who went in late on Ledley King as he shepherded a ball out for a goal-kick. I've never seen Ledley get so angry as he did with Dickov, having to be restrained by his colleagues. Nice to see a bit of passion though! Dickov soon got booked for another challenge on Naybet.
Blackburn got a good chance in the 36th minute. Brown felt he was harshly treated by the referee for his challenge on Dickov to the left of the area. The kick was taken quickly, headed back to Todd by Short, but fired wide. Spurs then had a couple of good chances before the break, with Brown hitting a left foot shot on the turn that Friedel parried then held, then Keane fed Defoe, whose left footed angled shot was saved by Friedel's legs, and landed on the net.
The home side had their best chance immediately after the break, when Dickov made a run down the left, crossed to the near post, and Gallagher hit a good shot on the turn, which Robinson saved with a quite spectacular dive to his right, conceding a corner. Spurs responded firstly with a Mendes effort on target, after Atouba's throw led to a defensive clearance, then it was time for that run from Brown, who left Tugay in his wake inside the Spurs half. Tugay had been booked and had to be careful, but the referee played a good advantage anyway, as Brown was impeded. Brown made his way through the middle then across to the left side of the area followed by left-back Johansson. I feared that Brown was going to mess it up at the crunch, and Johansson did get a slight touch on the ball, but Brown had successfully picked out Robbie Keane, who fired home from 12 yards for a great goal.
Gallagher was replaced by another ex-Arsenal youngster, Jay Bothroyd, who headed wide in the 58th minute. He had another effort late on that went way off target to the joy of the away fans, most of whom were unaware of his previous allegiance. Bothroyd is currently on loan from Perugia, having moved from Coventry. Before pulling back the troops, Spurs did have one more great move, involving Mendes and Keane, before Kelly laid the ball up for Defoe, whose shot was pushed out by Friedel. Keane had a shot blocked after a penetrating Atouba run.
In the closing period, Thompson had a couple of long range efforts go over the bar, but Spurs played 5-4-1, with Gardner replacing the disappointed Keane, There was a nervous injury time, when Brown was punished for a challenge outside the area, Naybet kicked the ball away, and got booked, allowing the kick to be brought forward to the very edge. Rovers took so long over the kick which eventually was fired into the Spurs wall, that almost all the stoppage time was lost, and Spurs went home with three points in the bag.
Spurs are on tour in the North-west again next week, at the City of Manchester Stadium. Before that though, we have the chance to see a winning Reserve team take on Arsenal at Barnet (Monday night 7 p.m.) and the Under 18s take on Nottingham Forest youngsters on Tuesday night (7 p.m) at White Hart Lane. Spurs Odyssey intends to report on all these events!
· Squad numbers,appearances,bookings & goalscorers
· Read the preview for this game.
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