Perhaps we ought to contribute to the campaign to save the world by not
bothering to travel to the North-East, such is Tottenham's poor record
up there in the league. And this last minute defeat was another
winnable match, which Tottenham allowed to slip away.
A couple of early challenges rattled the
home players. Assou-Ekotto caught Guttierez as he jumped for a
header and the always prone to injury Ameobi also took a knock, which
later forced him off with 30 minutes gone. The home defence were
also shaken in the first couple of minutes, with Lennon making an
incisive run into the penalty area and instead of steadying himself to
pick someone out, he rashly played a hard-hit cross across the face of
goal, without a player there to touch it in, as Pavlyuchenko had to back
out from an offside position.
A string of early corners put United
under pressure, but there was not enough end product. Dawson got
in ahead of his marker and forced Given to push it over the top as it
looked like it might drop over him. From a free-kick, Newcastle
played a huge ball downfield from Given and Assou-Ekotto was underneath
it, but was out-muscled, despite knocking the Newcastle midfielder over,
allowing N'Zogbia to go on to shoot past Gomes to give the home team a
12th minute lead. It is another example of the old Spurs, who got
caught out like this. With King back, but Woodgate missing, the
lack of a regular back four might have cost us the first goal.
However, questions should be asked about the other two defenders who
gave up running and left Benoit to deal with it on his own.
Up to that stage, Tottenham had looked
good. And they did again after the goal, with Bentley making good
space inside the penalty box before pulling his shot along the floor and
wide. But Tottenham also had to be alert at the back, where Dawson
foiled Owen when it looked like he would shoot after Butt's neat ball
through and then, when Owen supplied Butt, his legs got him there, but
his control was not equal to it. Then Gomes was alert to push out
N'Zogbia's cross as he got away from Corluka with ease.
With 28 minutes gone, Dawson rushed in to
tackle Ameobi and the ball went forward into the Newcastle half, where
Roman Pavlyuchenko was standing offside, but was running back towards
his own goal, while Luka Modric was going the other way, played onside
by Enrique. He took one touch and as the ball came down and Given
came out, stroked it past the Newcastle keeper for the equaliser.
Ameobi had been mostly harmless and his
replacement by Viduka, although clearly not 100% match fit (but then is
he ever ?). provided a more muscular presence up front. However,
it was the Spurs striker Pavlyuchenko who was more active; firstly
testing Given from outside the box with a shot and then almost getting
an open opportunity from Corluka's cross, but Collochini got in just
ahead of him to knock it out for a corner.
While the first half had been open and
attacking, the second was almost stultifyingly dull. Both teams appeared
to have lost the verve for the game they showed in the first 45 minutes,
although Tottenham did start the half well. A short corner saw
Modric cross and the ball drop with Michael Dawson trying a spectacular
scissors kick, but he's not Klinsmann and the ball went well over the
top. Then a few minutes later, N'Zogbia got past Corluka again,
much as Lennon had the run on Enrique, but the winger's cross found only
Assou-Ekotto who cleared on the edge of the six yard box.
The ball made it's way into both boxes,
but when Huddlestone chased a ball in around the penalty spot in the
Newcastle box, Given came out to meet him and to avoid squashing the
goalie, it appeared that Tom leapt over him, but the referee saw this as
a dive to earn a penalty and showed him a yellow card. Dear, so
dear Mr. Marriner, where were you when we needed you in previous games ?
Spurs took of Pav and brought on their
only other fit striker Campbell, who showed good energy, but has not yet
quite perfected the timing of his runs into dangerous areas. His
counterpart on the other side has done this for years and one such run
saw the ball land at his feet ten yards out and that normally only means
one thing, but on this occasion, Michael Owen managed to hit his shot
way over the bar, when anything on target might have reaped the reward
of a goal. Campbell got a bit too far ahead of Lennon's cross with
ten minutes left and could not get a header on goal.
Cards were exchanged, as they are at this
time of year, with Modric and Guttierez going into the book for fouls,
but when another long ball was played into the Tottenham defence,
nothing looked too dangerous. However, King's weak header was
picked up by Duff, who had only been on for a minute. He knocked
it in to Viduka inside the area and the Aussie took one touch, then
back-heeled it into Duff's path, as he had continued his run and nobody
had gone with him. So, in the last minute of the game, the winger
had time to dribble the ball past Gomes and into the net for what seemed
like the winner, being so close to the end.
His celebrations earned him a booking and
some added time for Tottenham to try and salvage something from a game
that both teams seemed happy enough playing out as a draw. There
was still enough time for Modric to dink a cross into the empty heart of
the Newcastle box to where Fraizer Campbell was moving. As the
ball came in, Given stood rooted to his line and a decent touch might
have taken the ball away from the keeper and into the net, but without
realising what was going on around him, Campbell tried to flick a header
and missed the ball completely.
It was a desperate end to a match which
Spurs should have been ahead in. The fact that the team are still
trying to be too clever when not safely in the lead, means that any
error they make is being punished and points are being lost.
This was to be the first of the winnable
games we had coming up. It was but the side failed to capitalise
on Newcastle's fragile defence. They need to be more ruthless, as,
although they are out of the bottom three, with other results this
weekend, the battle to avoid the drop is still as close as ever.