OPPONENTS Norwich City
COMPETITION Premier League
DATE Tuesday 27th December 2011
VENUE Carrow Road






Norwich City are sitting in ninth place in the table after having a great season up until now, but manager Paul Lambert will not be taking things for granted as his side's 21 points have been well earned and it may be that they need that many points again to stay up.

Lambert is a shrewd manager, who has a lot of experience having won the Champions League with Borussia Dortmund as a player and played at a high level.  Using the resources he has available to him, he has got the best out of them and the players he has brought in have fitted into the team pattern very well.  His tactics have produced some difficult games for the sides in the top half with the latest being a 4-2 win over Newcastle United. 

Centred around a hard working middle four, his tow men up front work hard chasing back and giving opposition centre-halves a tough time.  Steve Morison was a late entrant into the Football League having started with Oxford United, but being released into non-league, where he built his goal-scoring reputation with Stevenage.  Picked up by Millwall, he has gone on to play international football with Wales and top flight football with Norwich.  A strong player on the ball and in the air, he is matched in those qualities by his main striking partner Grant Holt.  But both men have a touch of finesse about them when required, as all good goal-scorers possess.  Personally, I didn't think either would make a big impression in the Premier League, with Holt playing football at Shrewsbury Town in League Two but a few years back.  However, Lambert has played a system where they thrive.

And that involves getting the ball up to them quickly and into them from the flanks.  Anthony Pilkington, picked up from Huddersfield Town, is a flying winger, who also scored a few goals.  His crosses supply the front two with the opportunity to win the ball in the air.  But it is his midfield partners in Wes Hoolihan and Andrew Surman who work hard in the middle to stop the other side getting through.  Surman had Premiership experience with Southampton and Hoolihan played with Blackpool until just before they were promoted.  Surman has a lovely passing ability and Hoolihan can use his energy to get up and support the front two and get back too. 

One player who had been a regular was former Leeds man Bradley Johnson, who has been used from the bench in recent games, but he has been around and is a tenacious midfielder, who enjoys a tackle and has a powerful shot on him, given the opportunity to use it.  Similarly, Andrew Crofts can provide a dogged midfield presence and the former Gillingham and Brighton man can operate wide if required.  Other midfielders available are David Fox and Elliot Bennett, who came in from Colchester United (following his manager) and Brighton respectively.  Fox prefers to play centrally and has the ability to pick out a good pass, while Bennett is another flying winger, who had picked up the pace of premier League football very quickly. 

The defence will have to be reshuffled to a certain extent, because of absences.   Elliot Ward is out with a bad knee; on loan from Spurs, Kyle Naughton got his fifth yellow card to serve his suspension in this game, which he wouldn't be allowed to play in anyway, against his parent club;  Richie De Laet is on loan from Manchester United, but injured his back against QPR recently and might not make the game and Daniel Ayala was signed from Liverpool, but is out with a knee injury.   This limits their defensive options somewhat, with left back Marc Tierney, central defenders Leon Barnett and Zak Whitbread likely to be joined by right back Russell Martin in the Canaries back four. 

Barnett has been a little rash in his tackling sometimes and can be turned as he is not the most mobile of defenders, leaving him vulnerable to players who are quick footed, but the covering of Russell Martin often gets his team-mates out of trouble, as he is becoming a master of the goal-line clearance in games this season.  A good defender, it will be interesting to see how he faces up to Gareth Bale, where other, more experienced defenders have failed.  Whitbread has been around for a while, having been with Liverpool and Millwall, but he is another who has stepped up his game, although he might have a tough time coping with Adebayor's movement.

Tierney is a quick full back who also was brought to Carrow Road by Lambert and has settled into the top flight well.  Without Aaron Lennon's pace, he might be faced more by opposition defender Kyle Walker bombing forward.  Again, this will be an interesting match up of opponents.  Reaching the veteran stage left back Adam Drury has been with the club for ten years now and can still do a job, but he is not as quick as when he played for Peterborough United back in the day.

Keeper John Ruddy has had some inspired games, but he has made mistakes and with the amount of chances Tottenham create, you feel he might be in for a busy evening.  Starting with Cambridge United and formerly with Everton, the goalie didn't really get his opportunity there and moved out on loan regularly before moving to Norfolk.  Tall, he is capable on crosses, but his positioning and handling are both areas where there are doubts in my mind.

Norwich have done well taking points off the teams around them, while also nicking the odd point off teams above them.  Lambert will no doubt sacrifice some of their attacking intent against Spurs to try and stifle our own forward movement.  But they will look to use the pace of Pilkington on the break and the physical presence of the front two at set pieces, so Tottenham will need to be strong in defence, where Kaboul may return as Ledley takes a break.

Good at home, I predict that it will be a tight one and Spurs will just squeak it.

PREDICTION Norwich City    1      Tottenham Hotspur   2
Click here for more info on opponents - stats v thfc , history, etc.
Spurs loanee Kyle Naughton misses the game on two counts ... one, he can't play against Spurs as they are the club that holds his registration and secondly, he is suspended having picked up five yellow cards, so his ban is served in a game he was not eligible for anyway !!   Defender Richie de Laet has a chance of playing despite a back injury that has sidelined him, along with knee injury victims James Vaughan, Elliot Ward and Daniel Ayala and Korey Smith, who has a foot problem.
Good news for Spurs is that Rafael van der Vaart might be fit following a scare about his hamstring in the Chelsea match, but it is not torn, so he could feature.  Ready to undergo fitness tests are other hamstring victims, Jermain Defoe and Younes Kaboul.  Tom Huddlestone (ankle), Michael Dawson (Achilles), Ledley King (knee) and Aaron Lennon (hamstring) are all ruled out.

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Norwich City  0 (0)     
Premier League
Tuesday 27th December 2011                              
Venue :  Carrow Road
Tottenham Hotspur  2 (0)

Kick off 19:30
None Bale 55
Bale 67
Whitbread (foul)  69  


Gallas (foul)  52  


Crowd :   26,807 Weather :  Mild, dry
Referee :  Michael Oliver (Northumberland) Assistant Referees :  Mr. S. Burt; Mr. S. Long
Fourth Official :  Peter Walton -
Norwich City kicked off and played towards the River end in the first half.
Norwich City : kit Tottenham Hotspur : kit
  1  Ruddy

  2  R. Martin
24  De Laet (20  Barnett 64)
  6  Whitbread      
  3  Drury (17  Bennett 75)

14  Hoolahan
11  Surman
  7  Crofts (12  Pilkington 75)

  9  Holt (c)
  5  Morison


Unused subs: 
  4  Johnson
10  Jackson
21  Wilbraham

  24  Friedel

28  Walker
13  Gallas      
  4  Kaboul
32  Assou-Ekotto (25  Rose 72)

30  Sandro
  8  Parker (c) (29  Livermore 90+4)

14  Modric
  3  Bale   
van der Vaart (21  Kranjcar 85)

10  Adebayor

Unused subs: 
19  Bassong
40  Pienaar
  9  Pavlyuchenko

Manager :  Paul Lambert Manager :   Harry Redknapp
Sponsor :   Aviva Shirt sponsor :  Aurasma
Kit Supplier :  Errea Kit Supplier :   Puma
Match report

Tottenham had control of the game from the early stages against Norwich City at Carrow Road, but had to wait for two Gareth Bale goals in the second half to take the three points and narrow the gap on the top two, while pulling away form the fourth and fifth placed clubs Chelsea and Arsenal.

With the majority of the possession and also the chances and, corners, Tottenham bossed the game and while Norwich had a few moments that gave Spurs a little concern, it was a formality that just needed the icing on the cake of goals.

Steve Morison almost shocked Spurs within 30 seconds, when the defence stood off him and he teed himself up for a volley that Friedel took stepping back towards his line and it was a little close to be comfortable, but Tottenham created their own first chance within three minutes and Benoit Assou-Ekotto's cross was nodded back down to Rafael van der Vaart by Gareth Bale to allow the Dutchman a shot, but he could not get any decent power behind it to trouble John Ruddy in the Norwich goal.  Bale had the next effort a minute later, with Adebayor setting him up with a neat touch, but the Welsh wing back could not get enough curl on the ball to take it around the keeper.  And Spurs kept Norwich back in their own penalty area with a few corners, as well as a free kick when Grant Holt decided he needed to keep BAE off him with a straight arm in the face.  He was lucky to escape with only a free kick and no card at all.

A quarter of an hour in, David Fox picked the ball up 25 yards out and hit a shot at goal, which Brad had to grab at head height and at the other end, Tottenham were being restricted to long shots, with Kaboul's free kick going wide as did Bale's effort that took a deflection.  With half an hour gone, Gareth did well to close down Russell Martin, who then mis-controlled the ball and it was whisked away from him and Gareth bore down on goal.  With Manu inside him in the box, Bale chose to shoot and it flew well over the top from 12 yards out on the left.  Then Adebayor got onto the end of an instinctively played magnificent ball over Whitbread's head and touched it past Ruddy as he came out, but the striker could not get onto the ball and it ran out of play.

Ten minutes before the break, Spurs put together a flowing passing move from their own back four through to Bale on the edge of the box and this time his shot was about to creep inside the left hand post but Ruddy beat it out for another corner.  Following that VDV hit a shot from the edge of the box that went a foot or so wide and Spurs should have been awarded a penalty but the incident went unnoticed.  As a free kick was about to come in, William Gallas made a run into the penalty box, Morison stuck out a leg to prevent him getting to where the ball was heading, bringing the Frenchman down.  Then, in injury time, Adebayor looked like he could have tested Ruddy, but instead hit his effort over the top.

It had been a very composed performance, but lacked the strikes that the build-up play from Tottenham deserved, so there was always a chance that Norwich could get back into the match with a goal and shock Spurs in the process.  But the second period started much the same way as the first, with Bale coming in off the right wing to put a shot way too high with players waiting in the box.

The worry about conceding a set-piece around the box came in the sixth minute of the half when William Gallas fell as Andrew Surman ran at him and got up and struck the dead ball just a few inches wide of Friedel's right hand post.  It was a close call and perhaps bucked Tottenham's ideas up as they went 1-0 ahead just three minutes later.  A ball into Adebayor from van der Vaart was well controlled and with three yellow shirts around him, he danced around the ball and the defenders were scared to dive in and that gave him time to knock the bal square to Bale, standing around the penalty spot, who took a touch and then shot with his left foot, leaving Ruddy diving late for the ball as it went in under his body to give Tottenham the lead at last.

In the 66th minute, Adebayor had the ball in the net, but was offside and it only took another minute to repeat the effect, but this time it stood.  This time, the ball was worked out form the back once more and Modric played a ball through the centre of the Norwich defence, with Gareth Bale running onto it from the halfway line and powering away from Whitbread, who couldn't live with him.  At such pace and with Ruddy coming to meet him, Gareth showed great presence to delicately dink the ball over the goalie as he hit the ground to net his second goal of the game and to give Tottenham a cushion.

Luka Modric had a couple of weak shots straight at the keeper and then there was a little bit of defending to do, with Morison heading wide and then in the last minute, Russell Martin did the same from a corner, leaving the score unaltered and giving Tottenham a post-Christmas boost in their chase of the top two.  Other results over the Bank holidays had gone their way and they had to take advantage of that with a win tonight.  In the past, it has been the pressure of taking that next step that has often resulted in a stalling of the momentum, but this time Harry had the team mentally focused and they put in another impressive away performance to push them up behind the Manchester clubs.

There are still two more tricky games to negotiate before they take on Everton in their game in hand, so Spurs need to keep the run going and keep Gareth Bale on the run.




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What you thought
Benny The Ball What a fantastic performance.  I have rarely ever seen Spurs play that way, even against a side in mid-table like Norwich.

The way they stroked the ball about make sit look they have supreme confidence in what they can achieve now, so with games against Swansea and West Brom coming up, they must try to maintain the pattern of play they have been adopting, giving the opposition problems all over the pitch to give the opposition problems and to keep them guessing.

I think that the next few games are winnable, with the Man City match the only one where we might have difficulty, but at the moment, it is the other teams that need to think about us rather than the other way round.

Barry Levington Giving Bale the freedom to wander with his pace left Norwich not knowing where to look to find where Tottenham were launching attacks from.  They did well to stop Spurs racking up a cricket score and we do need to improve our conversion rate with our chances, but the Canaries did not know where the next attack was coming from and that will fox better teams than Norwich.

I would like to see them stay up, as they try to play football the right way, despite the overly physical approach Holt took and the cynical trip that Morison perpetrated, but Lambert is a manager with a big future and Spurs might do well to look East when the day comes for Harry to retire.




Other scores during this Bank Holiday :
Bolton Wanderers 0 Newcastle United 2 Monday
Chelsea 1 Fulham 1 Monday
Liverpool 1 Blackburn Rovers 1 Monday
Manchester United 5 Wigan Athletic 0 Monday
Stoke City 0 Aston Villa 0 Monday
Sunderland 1 Everton 1 Monday
West Bromwich Albion 0 Manchester City 0 Monday
Swansea City 1 Queens Park Rangers 1 Tuesday
Arsenal 1 Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 Tuesday



League Table
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Manchester City 18 14 3 1 53 15 45 +38
2 Manchester United 18 14 3 1 47 14 45 +33
3 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 17 12 2 3 34 19 38 +15
4 Chelsea 18 10 4 4 36 21 34 +15
5 Arsenal 18 10 3 5 34 26 33 +8
6 Liverpool 18 8 7 3 21 14 31 +7
7 Newcastle United 18 8 7 3 26 21 31 +5
8 Stoke City 18 7 4 7 17 27 25 -10
9 Everton 17 6 3 8 17 19 21 -2
10 Norwich City 18 5 6 7 26 33 21 -7
11 Aston Villa 18 4 8 6 19 23 20 -4
12 West Bromwich Albion 18 5 5 8 18 26 20 -8
13 Fulham 18 4 7 7 19 24 19 -5
14 Swansea City 18 4 7 7 17 22 19 -5
15 Sunderland 18 4 6 8 21 21 18 0
16 Wolverhampton Wanderers 18 4 4 9 19 31 16 -12
17 Queens Park Rangers 17 4 4 9 17 31 16 -14
18 Wigan Athletic 18 3 5 10 14 34 14 -20
19 Bolton Wanderers 18 4 0 14 22 41 12 -19
20 Blackburn Rovers 18 2 5 11 25 39 11 -14


Position before match :  3rd
Position after match : 
Position after the weekend :


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