Even with the benefit of the early goal start, Tottenham could still not
find it within themselves to battle with Sheffield United on a mud-heap
of a pitch to stave off another away defeat in what is becoming an
embarrassment for the club as soon as they leave N17.
Within two minutes, Spurs had the opening
they could only have dreamed about. Robbie Keane's flick on was
seized on by Jermaine Jenas, who carefully lifted the ball over the
advancing Paddy Kenny to see the ball bounce into the net for the early
goal that Tottenham needed to build on. But they didn't build on
it and paid the price as a result.
Within a couple of minutes, free-kicks
and corners were being conceded, which throughout the game gave United
the opportunity to sling the ball into the box and for their players to
launch themselves at. Knowing that the blades are strong in the
air, it seemed a reckless tactic and one which ensured the pressure grew
and grew on the back four. Chimbonda did well to block Stead's
effort when the ball fell to him from Montgomery's mis-kick.
But it could have been two to Spurs
before 10 minutes were up, as Robbie Keane got the opportunity from a
narrow angle. Just six yards out, he hit the ball across goal,
perhaps with a touch of woodwork involved, but it was a presentable
chance to put the game further out of Sheffield United's reach.
Rob Hulse had already headed a Colin
Karim-Richards corner against the Tottenham post before the same
combination worked in the 27th minute. This time he headed the
ball down and it took a wicked bounce off the muddy pitch and bounced
over Robinson's arm and the defenders' attempts to stop it going in.
There was some debate about the use of an arm to climb to head the ball,
but the ref from South Yorkshire failed to give anything.
From this point, it was all United.
Stead had two goes at beating Robinson and failed, Lucketti had two
headers go wide and Hulse's optimistic 30-yarder went wide too.
For Spurs Malbranque should have hit the target with his shot from 20
yards after Jenas scuffed an effort into the ground from about 10 yards
out when well placed. The best chance came when Dimitar Berbatov
knocked the ball into the path of Ricardo Rocha and he directed the ball
into the net, but this time the official decided that the Bulgarian had
used the back of a defender to rise to meet Jenas' free-kick.
A goal going into half-time would have
made things interesting, but the second half was mainly one way traffic
as Spurs failed to pick up the tempo of the game. A scrappy start
to the half saw a series of fouls and it was only a question of time
before the ref produced a card. it was Rocha for a foul on Hulse
who went into the book first, to be joined by Jenas, Chimbonda, Defoe
and Keane, while only three United players found their names taken, even
though Kenny ran a considerable distance to get embroiled in a spat
between Defoe and Montgomery.
Tonge shot over the top and Stead wide
before Hulse once more worried the woodwork with a header. Spurs
were struggling to cope with the aerial attack and should have worked
out how it was going to be dealt with in training, as it is not a secret
weapon that the home side would go with that as their main tactic.
On the hour, it was a penalty that gave
Sheffield the lead. As Quinn burst into the area, Tainio closed in
and the player went down under challenge. There was some doubt as
to how much contact had been made and where the incident took place, but
it was another piece of poor defending by Tottenham and Jagielka made no
mistake from the spot.
It was the Finn's last action in the
match as Defoe came on for him to add weight to the forward line, but
apart from a yellow card and a shot well over the bar, he was unable to
impose himself on the United defence. With 20 minutes left, Jol
also threw on Mido to make it three strikers up front, with Keane
playing just behind, but it was a case of too many cooks.
Spurs had no answer to the honest
endeavour of Montgomery, Tonge and Quinn in midfield. For all the
quality we had, they could not dig in on a muddy pitch to stick with
them and win the battle there to establish a grip on the game.
From the time of the goal, it all slipped away, as our league season
seems to be doing.
Still some way off the sixth spot and
nearer the bottom four at the moment, things need to change to make sure
safety is achieved and then work on what we are going to do next season
in the Premiership. Perhaps we will have to concentrate on the