Glensider at White Hart Lane
White Hart Lane
Our first trip of the still relatively new 2010-11 campaign down to our capital city, took us to White Hart Lane, North London, home of Champions League new boy's, Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. Like ourselves, Tottenham have put together a fairly impressive honours list down the years, since their founding in 1882 (as Hotspur F.C.), being the first club in the 20th century to land the coveted League and F.A. Cup double, while in 1963 they became the first British club to win a major European trophy, the European Cup Winners Cup. In modern day premier league times, Tottenham have now forced their way into the lucrative European Champions League, after deservedly finishing in the top four of last seasons Premier League competition, and early results have proved to the doubters that Harry Redknapp's men are certainly not in the Champions League get-together, merely to make up the numbers.
Only time will tell whether the Spurs can sustain a serious push to finish in this seasons top four of the Premier League, while also competing for Champions League glory, but early performances in the latter, allied to an impressive quality filled squad, would suggest that they might just silence their detractors, and enjoy another successful and productive campaign.
Lifted by our two wins since the official arrival of Gerard Houllier, the excellent news relating to the possibility of Ashley Young committing himself to a new four year extended deal at Brummagem B6, and the non too serious news about Gabby's groin problem, we were in fairly upbeat mood as we jumped into the car bright and early this morning, heading south, destination The Streets Of London (excellent Ralph McTell song that, from his 1975 album 'Streets', check it out). With yours truly at the wheel again (well after our rotation policy that saw me land last weeks short drive to the Molinuex, it was the least I could do), my brief today was to be the designated driver and chaperon to my three lifelong buddies, so tonic water was very definitely the order of the day for me. On the upside though I had 'control' of the cd player, and as we hit the motorway to begin our journey down to London, it was Barclay James Harvest who were 'in concert', serenading us with their 1975 album, 'Time Honoured Ghosts'.
In our regular predictions pool, I had gone for the 3-1 Villa victory, while two others went for away wins also, 1-0 and 2-1, while our fourth, less confident companion went for the 2-2 draw. With money on the line, these predictions have to be taken seriously.
It was a wet, overcast afternoon as we arrived in London, thoughts now turning to Gerard Houllier's probable team selection. Funnily enough we all decided that changes needed to be made despite last weekend's victory at Wolverhampton Wanderers. Dunne back in for Cuellar seemed to be the united decision, while a starting role for Stephen Ireland was also suggested. The thinking was that experience down the years indicates that you should always go with your strongest starting line-up, as opposed to remaining with a line-up that was successful in your previous game. Whether Gerard would agree with our line of thinking though, was an altogether different matter.
Arriving at the stadium our questions were answered, Richard Dunne indeed returning, with our starting line-up reading:-
Brad Friedel, Luke Young, Richard Dunne, James Collins, Stephen Warnock, Marc Albrighton, Stan Petrov, Nigel Reo-Coker, Stewart Downing, Ashley Young and Emile Heskey. On the bench we had, Guzan, Ireland, Carew, Bannan, Sidwell, Clark, and Carew.
There were no empty seats in the away section as far as I could make out, and the traveling Villan's were in good voice as the game got underway, the Villa attacking our end.
There was a great early chance for Pavlyuchenko who headed over from close range following a superb cross from Modric out wide left. The striker really should have done better, leaving us to breath again following the let off, and we responded by getting into the game more, looking comfortable on the ball, and coming forward at every opportunity. The game was delayed for a brief spell when Albrighton accidentally caught Gomes as the keeper came out to collect a through ball, but the keeper was o.k. after taking a short breather, and the game continued.
On the fifteen minute mark we deservedly took the lead, following great work from Emile Heskey out on the right, who chased a ball down the line, outmuscled the Spurs defender, squared the ball invitingly across the face of the home goal, and there was Marc Albrighton handily placed to force home his first premier league goal.
The Spurs lot thought they had won a penalty on twenty minutes, when Pavlyuchenko's shot hit Richard Dunne's hand, but it was clearly not intentional, definitely ball to hand, and referee Clattenburg was most unimpressed. The ball fell to Alan Hutton, who sent his effort into the side-netting, when he too perhaps should have done better.
Ashley Young was rather needlessly booked for a deliberate handball, and we suffered a second blow when Emile Heskey limped off to be replaced by John Carew ten minutes or so before the interval. A blow indeed, because once again Emile had looked a threat, and apart from laying on the opener, had pressured the Spurs defence at every opportunity.
While we didn't look like adding to our lead as the game moved towards the break, Tottenham weren't causing us too many problems, although
Pavlyuchenko wasted another opportunity when he hooked Gareth Bale's low cross wide from just six yards.
In first half stoppage time though Spurs found a way through to level. Van der Vaart climbed above Richard Dunne to nod home after Peter Crouch had headed Pavlyuchenko's ball back across goal, beating James Collins who was stationed on the line.
As the second half got underway, Spurs brought on Lennon to replace Pavlyuchenko, and pushed Van der Vaart into a more central position.
Only a desperate Stiliyan Petrov lunge on fifty minutes stopped the Dutch midfielder from putting Spurs ahead, and then the same player had a shot blocked by Richard the Lionheart, after being set up by Bale. Spurs were slowly but surely getting the upper hand now, although we still looked threatening on the break. Carew though wasn't enjoying the same sort of afternoon that Emile had been enjoying before his departure, and several Villans were getting quite animated about the big man's arm waving and niggling fouling, when he really would have been better employed in keeping the Spurs defence on their toes, and supporting Ashley Young, just as Emile had been successfully doing until his afternoon ended prematurely.
A superb Ashley Young crossed was almost met at the far post by Marc Albrighton, while Crouch spurned a great opportunity to put the home team ahead when he powered a header over the bar, after Huddlestone had flicked on Modric's corner. Easier to score, or so it looked, but the score remained at 1-1.
Fifteen minutes from time though Tottenham went ahead. Crouch knocked the ball down to Van der Vaart, who turned Richard Dunne, and fired past Brad Friedel.
Gerard made a double switch, throwing on Stephen Ireland and Barry Bannan for Stan Petrov and Marc Albrighton, but Tottenham saw the remaining minutes out fairly comfortably.
Spurs won the points due to the performance of the impressive Van der Vaart, and also because their football had more variety to it, something that as we all know, our game has been lacking for a long time now, and something of course that Houllier isn't going to be able to remedy overnight. Heskey's departure hardly helped our cause, and with our lack of options up front anyway, we have to hope that it was more of just a niggle than anything too serious.
I thought that Richard Dunne and Nigel Reo-Coker played well for us, as did Emile until he had to leave the game. There wasn't that much between the teams if you were to remove 'The Flying Dutchman' from the picture, but Tottenham will clearly be extremely delighted that they were able to secure the signing of the player, an individual who looks every inch the talent he undoubtedly is.
Well my friends, I'm sorry that I couldn't provide you with a winning match report as we enter into the international break, but lets not get down on ourselves. It will take time for Houllier to turn things around until we are playing to his preferred style, but there are definite signs of things to come, and by the time Tottenham head to Brummagem B6 for the return encounter, I am sure that we will be more than capable of putting Harry Redknapp's shower to the sword.
Have yourselves a great week, and don`t work too hard. I wont.