BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 31ST JANUARY, 2009
BOLTON WANDERERS 3 (1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (0)
K. Davies, 64, 87
Bent, 73, 75
Referee: - Phil Dowd
Attendance: - 21,575
Bolton (4-3-2-1):- Jaaskelainen; Steinsson, Cahill, Puygrenier (sub O’Brien, 79), Samuel; M. Davies, Muamba, Gardner; K. Davies (Capt.), Taylor; Makukula (sub Smolarek, 61)
Subs not used: - Al Habsi; Riga, Shittu; Basham, Obadeyi
Spurs (4-4-1-1):- Cudicini; Corluka (sub Chimbonda, 67), Dawson, Woodgate (Capt.), Ekotto; Bentley, Palacios, Zokora (sub Jenas, 46), Lennon; Modric (sub Bent, 46); Pavlyuchenko
Subs not used: - Alnwick; Bale; Huddlestone; Campbell
Booked: - Dawson
First half mentality was wrong
In the absence of Jermain Defoe (whose injury has yet to be officially admitted by THFC media See The Truth about Defoe's Injury), the personnel and formation for this game was to be expected, with Wilson Palacios making his debut beside Didier Zokora, and Luka Modric playing “in the hole” behind Pavlyuchenko. It was to be hoped that Spurs would continue in the winning mentality and form they found in the first half on Tuesday night at home to Stoke, but sadly a lack of adventure and tentative play in the first half led me to believe that Harry Redknapp had set out for a point, rather than the crucial three we needed.
After going one down before the break, a double substitution led to a change of style and more attacking play, which ultimately led to a come-back from two down. The late concession of Bolton’s winner was true to Spurs’ form book, but if they had played with more adventure in the first half, a result was surely achievable. However, once again we fans were to traipse away from The Reebock without a league win. We were those same paying and loyal fans who witnessed some lackadaisical play by one or two individuals who do not have to worry where their next few thousands pounds is coming from, and who probably don’t really care if their current team stays in the Premier League or not.
My prime target has to be David Bentley, who did have a bright start, but soon fell into the form he has shown for too much of this season. There was one incident, when Spurs were two down, and had an attacking throw near the corner flag when Bentley and Ekotto strolled about as if they were winning, not losing. On another occasion, Bentley fell on his backside when attempting to bring the ball out of his half. And on another occasion he managed to intercept a decent pass from Jenas aimed at Ekotto. Bentley ensured the move came to a dead end. There were tired performances from Modric and Corluka, too many stray passes from Zokora, and a nervous debut for Palacios, who did manage an assist for Spurs’ equalising goal.
On the credit side, Chimbonda was inspirational and had everything to do (with Lennon) with the Spurs goals, and Darren Bent made a very positive statement, asserting his status as Spurs’ top scorer of the season so far.
As for Bolton, they made a statement about not missing the former club captain Kevin Nolan, still listed in the programme, but transferred this week to Newcastle. His replacement as skipper Kevin Davies scored a brace, and his replacement in midfield, Mark Davies, filled that gap admirably. New man Sebastien Puygrenier made a scoring home debut, allowing the home fans gloating rights, and their team a three point lead over Spurs, who somehow still have six teams below them in the league table.
That bright start from Bentley included a third minute shot that Jaaskelainen had to touch out of play for a corner. After a Bolton free kick taken by Matty Taylor and headed over by Kevin Davies, Bentley won one just outside the Bolton area. He took the kick and Pavlyuchenko had a finely glanced header that passed well wide of the target. An errant header by Michael Dawson gave another Bolton new boy – Makukula – a chance, but his shot was way off the mark. A sharp break by Bolton down the Spurs left flank led to a cross by Steinsson, deflected by Lennon into the path of Mark Davies, who fired wide.
A long ball by Corluka reached Aaron Lennon playing down the left and he passed back to Bentley who was floating across the midfield. Bentley hit a good shot, which was well saved. At the other end Cudicini held Taylor’s shot after Kevin Davies had laid off the pass. Palacios committed a regular Spurs sin of conceding a free kick in dangerous territory, and Bolton punished us with Mark Davies’ kick headed in by the centre back Puygrenier.
Five minutes before the break, Pavlyuchenko managed to stay onside for Zokora’s ball, and did hit a shot on target which Jaaskelainen held.
Redknapp’s intentions were clear at half-time, as Jermaine Jenas and Darren Bent warmed up. Jenas replaced Zokora, and Spurs reverted to a traditional 4-4-2 with Bent replacing Luke Modric, who had made no impact. It took a while for Spurs to make any impression, but they were making regular efforts down the right flank with Jenas, Chimbonda and Lennon involved. Before being replaced, Corluka had sent a good ball down the line over the defence, which Pavlyuchenko latched onto and hit a powerful right foot shot from a wide position, held by the keeper.
Spurs went two down though in the 64th minute. The officials had got a throw in decision wrong in favour of Bolton, and there was also a Spurs appeal for handball turned down. This was denied, and Spurs cleared in a haphazard fashion, allowing the ball to return to their left flank, where Kevin Davies lashed in a powerful right footed rising shot.
Spurs got one goal back in the 73rd minute, when Lennon got to the bye-line and cut the ball back for Bent to beat the keeper from close range. Two minutes later, Bent was the hero of Spurs fans, after good work by Lennon and Chimbonda on the right. The cross was met by Palacios, whose shot could only be parried by Jaaskelainen, and fired home again by Bent from close in for his 14th goal of the season.
In the circumstances, we would have taken the point, but Spurs didn’t really show much sign of trying to firm up defensively in spite of a signal from the bench to Jenas. Bolton had a half chance after 77 minutes, after a Dawson header was only half-cleared. With only four minutes left, Spurs gave away a silly goal. They had possession near the left corner flag, hoofed the ball to Bolton feet, seeing it come straight back. A cross/shot was deflected needlessly for a corner, from which Kevin Davies rose to score his second and the winning goal. We’ve seen some late escapes this season, but not today.
The games do not get any easier now. We have gained just four points from the last three games, where nine was desirable, seven essential. Next up, it’s the gooners.
Thanks heavens for friends, because it is not much fun watching Tottenham Hotspur labour their way through this season.
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