When you are down at the bottom not a lot goes right for you (unless you
were West Ham today) and when you put all your hopes on stifling a
rampant scoring machine like Tottenham are at the moment, things can
seem all the worse. And so it proved as Tottenham ran through
Watford for a 3-1 win that was as comfortable as the score-line
It took a long while for
Spurs to break down the numbers that the Hornets got behind the ball,
but when it happened, there would be no other result than a Tottenham
win. And on a day when it was all supposed to be about the two
England goalkeepers and their ability to keep the ball out of the net,
for one it became more about putting it in the net.
The massed ranks of yellow shirts behind
the ball made it difficult for Spurs to break through, which was not
helped by some sloppy passing and lack of form from Mido, while others
seemed to think it might only need them to turn up to win this game.
The first real incident came when Priskin
clearly elbowed Ricardo Rocha in the face and the Portuguese defender
had to leave the field for stitches in his cheek. Playing with
Huddlestone as a makeshift centre-half, Tottenham did not appear
out-numbered with ten men, as Watford were still happy to snuff out our
attack than make many themselves. After Rocha returned, Steed
Malbranque made a break down the left wing to the dead-ball line and
pulled a pass back for Mido, who tried to shot from a position ahead of
the near post with his left foot while under pressure from a defender.
It was not a position that he was likely to score from and his effort
flew a long way over the bar.
Tom Huddlestone was a little off with
some of his passing today, but when Shittu intercepted one meant for
Defoe, it fell for Jermaine Jenas to strike a bobbling effort that went
a yard wide of the left hand post. It was Jermaine who released
Jermain to hit a left foot shot on the turn that brought a low save from
prospective England keeper Ben Foster at the Park Lane end. The
laxity of Tottenham's passing was evident when Chimbonda played a ball
square into the middle of the pitch where no Spurs player stood.
It went straight to Priskin, who moved forward to shoot, but Rocha threw
a block in front of the Czech striker's effort to prevent it reaching
the goal. Shittu did much the same with his considerable bulk at
the other end, when a neat five man passing move involving Jenas, Ghaly,
Defoe, Malbranque and Mido laid up a shooting effort for Hossam Ghaly a
couple of minutes before the half hour.
A period of scrappy play followed with no
real openings until Defoe held off Mahon and played the ball wide right
to Chimbonda. The full back played an early hanging cross to the
far post, where Jenas made a prodigious jump and hung between two
Watford defenders long enough to power his header down and just inside
Foster's post to give Tottenham the lead.
A pass through from Rocha just before the
break gave Defoe the opportunity to run at Shittu and he turned him
inside out as he reached the area and toe-poked a shot that just went
the wrong side of the upright.
At half-time, Spurs must have been glad
for their slender lead, as they expected that the Hornets would come out
and attack to try and get the three points they need to help their
relegation battle. However, this could have left space for
Tottenham to exploit and with Berbatov and Lennon on the bench, they
could be introduced to heap more misery on the Watford back four.
Some high balls were launched into the Spurs area as the visitors thrust
forward to try and make the most of our weakness from set pieces.
It didn't really happen and it left Tottenham to pass their way forward,
but seem to misplace the final ball.
Chimbonda made a good run up the right,
but put a tired cross into the side netting, Malbranque hit Foster from
outside the box and Defoe tried to chip the ball over the Watford
keeper, but the ball drifted wide. So, it was not a little ironic
when Tottenham's second goal came from a set-piece. And not only
that but quite hilarious.
A foul way back just outside our own box
saw Paul Robinson play the ball forward towards the head of one of our
forwards. With none on the edge of the area, the ball ran through
and bounced with the Watford defenders leaving it for Foster to come and
claim. The keeper got far too far underneath the bounce and
watched on helplessly as the ball arced over him into the net to give
Robbo his second career goal and cement his name in Tottenham folklore
as the first keeper to score from a direct free-kick. Measurements
of the distance vary from 88m (or 95 yards) as the ball travelled or 78
yards from where the ball was placed to the goal-line measured as the
crow flies. But as the ball flies, it was a boost for the
Tottenham man over his rival for the England position, who committed a
gaff of more culpable proportions that ENO's in Croatia, which was
assisted by a dodgy pitch.
Robbo's 62nd minute effort knocked any
stuffing there might have been left out of Watford. Hud followed
the crowd's advice to "SHOOOOOOOOT" (something they urged Robinson to do
every time he got the ball) and Foster managed to get the swerving shot
over the bar for a corner. He later managed to punch the ball out
over his bar, when he was looking to punch it away from his own goal.
So, he was having a bit of a mare, but then so was Mido. When
Tommy hit a tepid shot at goal, the Watford goalie could only fumble an
easy save and the ball ran loose a couple of yards from the goal-line.
Mido ran in and tried to be a bit too clever in dinking the ball back
where Foster had come from, but he only succeeded in hitting the
keeper's legs and the ball went away. It was a terrible miss.
With six minutes to go, Tottenham finally
got it right, when they played a passing move that went from back to
front and ended up hitting the net to make it 3-0. Ghaly played
the ball out to Stalteri on the right wing and he measured his pass
inside to Defoe. It was another slide-rule pass from the little
striker that played in Lennon in the area and he slopped it wide to
where Ghaly had run on and he hit a shot that went in past Foster into
the corner of the net.
It was the sort of goal the team had been
trying to score all afternoon and having achieved it, all that was left
was for Spurs to keep a clean sheet. But that was too much to ask
for, as Mahon's through pass only found Chimbonda, who was now playing
in the left back position. He tried to be clever in playing the ball out
rather than clearing it upfield and was robbed by Tommy Smith, who
squared to Henderson, who successfully tapped into an empty net, unlike
Smith in the first meeting at Vicarage Road.
There was still time for Defoe to run in
on goal and hit a left foot shot that squirted wide of the goal, so 3-1
it ended. A comfortable work-out for Tottenham and Watford were
the weakest team I have seen at the Lane this season. There can be
little doubt that if they survive it will be by some freak miracle or by
West Ham having been docked points, but even then, it presupposes they
will get enough points to get into a place third from bottom.
It is not going to happen.
It's a shame as they filled upstairs and
down with their fans and they are a hard-working bunch of professionals,
but you need more than that in the Premiership. Keith Burkinshaw
is assistant manager there and his comments that Ben Foster is better
than Jennings and Clemence might indicate that perhaps his judgement is
not what it was. It's his opinion, but Foster still has a way to
go to be mentioned in the same breath as those great keepers.
As for Tottenham, the fact they didn't
have to call on the big guns sat on the bench tells you that there was
little chance of Watford taking anything back to West Herts.
Tough ties lie ahead for Spurs, while
tougher times lie ahead for the Hornets.