The sort of game that Spurs traditionally fluff up - Northern side in
wintry weather just when we need the points to keep a presence in top
few in the division - was reserved for a gritty performance against a
physical and determined Blackburn Rovers side that was seen off by two
Peter Crouch goals.
captain in the absence of both Robbie Keane and Ledley King, Michael
Dawson has taken on the responsibility of setting an example to the rest
of the side and his early involvement stopped Blackburn's surge from the
kick off. Firstly, the ball popped up off the turf as the snow
started to come down and it struck Dawson's arm, giving Benny McCarthy
the chance to strike a free kick from a long way out and he hit it a
long way over. Then, he threw himself into a tackle to take the
ball and prevent Franco Di Santo's run into a dangerous position in the
Still inside the first five minutes of
the game, Peter Crouch took the ball as it dropped from a loose bit of
play by the Rovers defence and went wide, but did well to spot Tom
Huddlestone racing into the area and the ball he pulled back was a
little bit too far behind Hud for him to take a shot, when he would have
been well placed.
The game was a lot more open in the first
fifteen minutes than I had imagined it may be, with Corluka setting up
Defoe on the right side of the box, thanks to Givet's hashed clearance,
to test Paul Robinson at his near post and the former Spurs keeper was
up to it with a save low down. Blackburn had a good chance in the
ninth minute, as McCarthy went wide to put in a cross that Dawson
cleared away, but Di Santo got a sliced shot on the loose ball and Gomes
had to be sharp to make sure he knocked the ball away as Salgado came
Rovers came even closer in the 14th
minute, when they got a dodgy free-kick for a foul by Dawson according
to the ref. McCarthy took it again and it flew off the back of
Aaron Lennon, the one player in the wall and almost foxed Heurelho
Gomes, but bounced onto the top of the bar and then went over.
Alongside Dawson, Sebastien Bassong was having another good game,
standing up to the physical threat posed by the home attack and he
thwarted Di Santo by sliding the ball away in a chase between the two
Halfway through the half, Assou-Ekotto
picked out Niko Kranjcar, who opened up the Blackburn defence to create
the best chance of the game up until then, as he passed through to
Jermain Defoe on the right side of the box and as he lined up his shot,
he must have misjudged his angles, as he put it wide of the post by
about a yard with only Robinson to beat. At the other end, Gomes
was being worked by Junior Hoilett, who came in from wide position
on the left to hit a shot that the Brazilian goalie took comfortably
enough in the 26th minute, but two minutes later, Heurelho had to make a
better stop to deny Di Santo from about 10 yards out, as he managed to
escape the attentions of Michael Dawson. Gomes did well to beat
out the shot, although it was straight at him.
Hud hit a shot wide from 20 yards on the
half-volley, while Nzonzi managed to deflect a free kick from McCarthy
wide of the target and McCarthy himself tried the outrageous, when he
struck a 30 yard volley that dipped but too late to hit the target.
Then into injury time, and much to the chagrin of the Rovers fans (who
make a lot of noise, but only about fantasy decisions they think they
should have been awarded), Peter Crouch opened the scoring with a weird
goal. Crouchy headed a long ball down for Huddlestone to shoot at
goal, but he got it all wrong and shanked the ball that looked like it
would go off for a goal kick, but Kranjcar was alert to the ball staying
in play and hooked it back across goal for Crouch to get above Nelsen
and head past Robinson off the underside of the crossbar to give
Tottenham the lead at a great time.
Blackburn tried to get back on level
terms almost immediately after the break, when Nelsen tried to reverse
the injury time action at the other end, by climbing over Assou-Ekotto,
but he couldn't get his header on target. After Lennon failed to
provide the ball in front of Defoe and the ball got caught between his
feet, Rovers broke to come very close to making it 1-1. When
Robinson pumped a long free-kick into the Spurs box, Gomes came to punch
and got the ball out to Grella, who lifted the ball back into the area.
For once, Dawson got his header wrong and got under the ball, allowing
Benni McCarthy to chest the ball down and hot s shot from six yards out,
right in front of goal. Gomes managed to get something on the bal
and it proved to be a vital touch, as the ball hit the inside of the
right hand post and rolled along the line before Bassong got to the
loose ball before Di Santo to hack the ball clear.
Ten minutes into the second half, Di
Santo hit a shot from outside the box that bounced just in front of
Gomes, but he gathered the ball well and it shows the confidence he is
playing with, as last season, the ball may have come out to an
on-running opposition forward.
Wilson Palacios had been having a quiet
game and was getting out-muscled against a side at a ground where he was
sent off for Wigan Athletic and Spurs in recent seasons. Jermaine
Jenas came on to replace him at a time when Blackburn were pushing onto
the Spurs defence. Dawson was doing some sterling work in front of
Gomes, who had to push out a Nzonzi shot with players following in for
any rebound off the keeper.
As the clock ticked past the 70 minute
mark, Spurs started to get back into the game, with Hud engineering
space for Benoit Assou-Ekotto, but he put his cross off the pitch when
he had time to pick someone out, but a minute later Aaron's run on the
right produced a cross for Peter Crouch to easily head home to make it
2-0, but for the linesman's flag ruling it out for offside.
But four minutes later, Crouch was not to
be denied, with a second goal that made it very difficult for Blackburn
to get anything from the game. Corluka and Keane linked on the
right and Keane's header put Jenas through. As JJ stretched, he
managed to play the ball into Crouch, who coolly took the ball and
finished past Robinson across the keeper to his right for 2-0. It
was a well worked goal on the break and one which Tottenham are becoming
good at scoring.
Rovers failed to give in and a minute
after the goal, Gomes had to dive full length to push a shot from
McCarthy form 25 yards out. Then four minutes from the end of the
90, a corner found the head of Ryan Nelsen, who got a header on it, but
although he did it by the textbook and headed it down, he was two yards
out and managed to bounce his header over the top.
Perhaps it was one of those days for
Rovers, but it could have been worse when Kranjcar curled Keane's pass
just over well into added time. The final whistle found a
substantial fewer number of home supporters in the ground than were
there at the start and the loyal Spurs support that made the trek into
the frozen North stayed on to cheer the side with chants of "Jingle
Bells". The away form is bearing up and the points Spurs are
gathering on the road are vital to the pursuit of a top four placing.
With the northern visits not always as
successful as fans might hope, this was a rewarding experience for those
in the crowd and those on the pitch too.
benny the ball