I never liked Alan Shearer as a player. A fine goalscorer, but a
nasty, whingeing one with it, who escaped a lot of punishment form the
officials and the FA because he was England captain. So, when his
team come to White Hart Lane and I see them playing in his image, I am
not too disappointed when Spurs run out 1-0 winners and his team are sat
with just one team beneath them in the table.
To be truthful, on the day, while Spurs were
more than comfortable, they did not play that well, but Newcastle were
worse. My son pointed out that when we played at St. James Park in
the League Cup earlier in the season we were bottom and United were
second bottom. Before this match, Tottenham were ninth and
Newcastle were second bottom. Says a lot doesn't it.
I can't get caught up in all the
hyperbole about Shearer and Newcastle. About how he was a great
player and how they are a massive club. I know it is a long time
since we last won the league, but is it forty years since Newcastle won
So, when the Toon come to town, it is
nothing to get excited about, especially when they believe that the
previous few league games against us would guarantee them a result today
... and they accuse Spurs fans of being arrogant. Well, the
Barcodes failed to string many passes together and their big hope was
the big hoof forward, especially when they brought on Big Viduka and
As I said, Tottenham's play in the game
was sloppy and we gave the ball away far too much, but there were some
passages of play when we moved up-field with good passing and movement.
It is just when we get around the penalty area that things lose impetus.
The game was crying out for someone to smack the ball at goal and
although that did happen ,with Huddlestone and Palacios having shots
from long range, when the ball arrived at a Spurs player's feet in the
box, there was a dis-inclination to have a pop at goal.
Within the first two minutes, a slick
move set Bent through ... well, it would have down had Beye not managed
to fall all over him as he burst through the middle. It was
outside the box, but a sending off ? Well, with less than two
minutes on the clock, it would be unlikely that Halsey would incur the
wrath of She-Ra by reducing the Newcastle side to ten men.
Especially when five of them were playing at the back. Damien Duff
was deployed at left back to counter the threat of Aaron Lennon, but the
three centre-halves looked like strangers and could not fathom where
they should be a lot of the time nor where the Spurs forwards were.
To be honest, they tried hard and were
picking off the through balls Spurs were trying to thread through the
defence at the start, but the midfield distribution of the ball was
appalling. It was ten minutes before they crafted a chance, with
Owen putting Guttierez (or Jonas as his shirt said) in for a shot that
Michael Dawson did well to get across and block. Then Spurs hit
back as Palacios and Keane combined to put a low ball into the six yard
box for Darren Bent, but Stephen Taylor cut the ball out. The same
happened when Beye intercepted Corluka's low ball into the area, but he
nearly sliced it towards his own goal.
Michael Dawson was down needing attention
after a clash with Andrew Carroll, the young striker. You could
tell that Shearer had been coaching him, as Dawson was flat on the floor
... and not for the first time. Some of the "tackling" by
Newcastle bordered on the fringes of the laws of the game and Mark
Halsey, the referee, was lenient bearing out his previous reputation as
one who doesn't get his cards out that often.
With 15 minutes on the clock, Modric and
Lennon took a short corner and the ball found Modric in a surprising
amount of space, allowing him to move into the area and put a ball into
Bent's path. The striker took it firs time, but did not make a
clean connection, slightly dragging it as it went straight at Harper.
Spurs had a mini-scare in the 23rd minute, when Ryan Taylor swung in a
free-kick, but failed to find a Newcastle head, but found Tom
Huddlestone's head and the ball skimmed off it and went just over the
Tottenham crossbar. From the corner, the ball was cleared and when
it was played back in, Kevin Nolan was offside, although the ball ran
through to Heurelho Gomes, so the ref waved play on. And a good
advantage it was !!
The Brazilian keeper threw the ball out
quickly to Benoit Assou-Ekotto on the left, he took the ball forward,
before releasing a pass to Luka Modric, who looked to find Robbie Keane
coming in on the right hand corner of the penalty area.
Unfortunately, Bassong slid in to cut out the pass, but only succeeded
in diverting the ball across the area into the path of Darren Bent.
Coming in from the left, on his right foot, he looked like he was trying
to square the ball for Keane, but it was firmly struck and Steve Harper
could not hold the ball. Luckily for Bent, it rolled back into his
path and this time he could curl it past the keeper and Beye on the
goal-line to open the scoring for Tottenham after 24 minutes.
Benty took the goal well, but should really have finished it the first
As it was, it gave Spurs impetus to go
forward more and as we have seen over the last few weeks, one goal is
sometimes not enough. In the 28th minute, Modric knocked the ball
into Hud's path and the big midfielder strode onto it and lashed it
goal-wards, from fully 25 yards, with the ball stinging Harper's
fingertips as his full length dive pushed the ball away. Just as
Tottenham's momentum was building, an injury to Dawson, when he fell
awkwardly, interrupted play and he had to be carried off on a stretcher.
It was a shame after he was given a start as Ledley King wasn't fit for
the game and he had done well against the lanky Carroll in the air.
As it was, Spurs kept going on the
attack, with Corluka releasing Huddlestone down the right after a good
run into space and his low ball across the goalmouth was missed by Bent,
then Keane and Modric both had shots, with Bassong getting in the way of
the ball, taking all the sting out of the second effort, leaving Harper
to calmly pick up the ball. The Geordie keeper had to be a bit
sharper when Hud hit another thunderbolt from outside the box and the
ball was touched over the bar, although the ref waved away calls for a
It was only in added time that Newcastle
threatened seriously, with Guttierez picking the ball off as Woodgate
and Corluka hesitated, but his pass into Michael Owen in the centre of
the goal was weak and claimed by Gomes, but Tottenham had a chance of
their own when Hutton hung up a right wing cross to the far post and
Darren Bent climbed well, but his header went over the angle of crossbar
and post rather than heading it back across goal.
The half time break saw Stephen Taylor go
off and Alan Smith come on in his place. So far had he disappeared
from view that I had forgotten he was still at Newcastle and his lack of
blonde hair gave him a strange appearance ... much like the strange
appearance he was about to put in. With Hutton having come on to
replace Dawson and Corluka slipping in alongside Woodgate in the middle
of the back four, the Scot linked well with Lennon on the right wing and
a lot of play came down that flank in the early part of the second half.
Duff stuck to his task, but faced with two players, he started to need
reinforcements and this created space inside.
A couple of minutes into the half, a
through ball almost caught Newcastle out, but Bassong did well to stay
with Keane and as the Irishman got his shot away, the French defender
got a boot in the way and the ball went away for a corner. A few
minutes afterwards, Lennon's cross saw Butt raise his hands to block the
ball and a free-kick was given a few yards outside the area, which
Huddlestone smashed at goal and Bassong got in the way, leaving him
rubbing his lower abdomen for a while afterwards.
A good ball out of defence by Modric let
Bent run away on the left and his low ball into the near post was
blocked, but the ball came out to Wilson Palacios, who drilled in a shot
that Beye threw in the way of to stop it. it was becoming a bit
too much for Shearer and he brought on Martins and Viduka with the
ineffectual Nolan and Carroll going off. All three subs used with
an hour gone and there were now three forwards on the pitch and
Guttierez playing in an advanced wing position. The two new men
linked immediately and Martins should really have done better than blast
over the bar from six yards out, but Gomes had to be quick out to stop
Owen's attempted run into the area, as Harper had done to Bent a minute
earlier. As usual, Owen was hurt in the clash, but managed to limp
Newcastle thoguht they had equalised, but
the whistle had gone a considerable time before the ball hit the net and
it was the handball that Martins perpetrated before shooting home that
was the reason. A minute later, in the 68th, Lennon came in from
the right wing and ran across the face of the area before hitting a left
foot shot that went just wide. It was from this side that
Tottenham were getting a lot of joy and Hutton put in a low cross that
Harper claimed in the six yard box, just before Keane got there.
Martins was causing problems with his
direct running and a shot that Woodgate got in the way of, spun into the
air and the Newcastle forward got there first, but could only see the
ball weakly come off him into Gomes' hands. With Bent
struggling to hold the ball up front, Redknapp brought on Jermain Defoe
with fifteen minutes left. A free-kick was awarded for a cynical
foul by Ryan Taylor on Lennon, after he had skipped past him and there
was nobody beyond him. However, he only got a yellow card and
Spurs only got a corner, when Assou-Ekotto's shot came off Owen, who was
about five yards away when he struck the ball. From the corner,
Modric put in a well flighted free-kick met powerfully by Woodgate and
Harper palmed the ball up into the air and just got to the rebound over
Keane's head to knock it away.
Huddlestone was up for it today and his
passing was mostly spot on, as was his shooting as he struck a shot from
fully 30 yards to send Harper scuttling across to over it, but I am not
sure if he would have got there if it had been on target. But as
with a one goal lead in any game, it can be a fragile lead and when Ryan
Taylor put in Martins for a volley just outside the six yard box, we all
held our breath until it soared over the bar.
At least when Defoe got the ball in
dangerous positions, he wasn't afraid to shoot and Bassong blocked one
effort that looked as if it was on its way in and in added time, Beye
denied the returning Spurs striker too. A massive goalmouth
scramble at the end, but realistically, had Newcastle got anything from
the game it would have been an injustice.
It is not hard to see why they are where
they are. Too many players in the side are perhaps the wrong side
of their best days and the lack of confidence shone through, as they
passed the ball into a space where nobody was or passed it off the
pitch. It appears that the money that has been spent on this side
has been wasted and whether they stay up or not, there will have to be a
drastic reshaping of the team for next season.
Before the game there was a minute's
applause for 1970s winger Jimmy Neighbour, who died last week,
ironically on the day when Spurs played another of his old clubs, West
Ham United. It was a fitting tribute to a winger who flitted down
the line in his heyday, but he would have been pleased with the way
Tottenham stuck to their football today. A coach at the club, he
would be looking down on the team playing the Tottenham way.