COMPETITION Premier League
DATE Wednesday 1st January 2013
VENUE White Hart Lane






Spurs start the New Year in fourth place and hope to continue their development under Andre Villas-Boas and to avoid the drop-off in form they had last Spring that cost them both a place in the Champions League and third position.  In facing second bottom Reading, the will hope that they can secure a seventh win in nine games to stay up there with the leaders, but should be wary, as the Berkshire side have started to come to terms with what is required on the top flight.

With the transfer window opening, Reading have started recruiting with Sporting Lisbon captain and defender Daniel Carrico signed, but not arriving until next week and you can bet there will be other arrivals, with our own Tom Huddlestone a loan target for the Royals.  So, perhaps it is useful that Spurs meet them with their squad the same which has a record of losing ten matches, drawing nine and winning just two.  However, with a draw and a win against West Ham in their most recent two games, they will be more confident than previously and might make life difficult for Spurs.

Without Gareth Bale, Spurs must find a way of playing without relying solely on Aaron Lennon, as the Royals will no doubt double up to try to snuff out the threat from a player in form after his shining performance at Sunderland.  Gylfi Sigurdsson could be played against his former club to give Spurs options on the left or Dempsey could be brought in as an auxiliary striker behind Adebayor and Defoe.  Options are there for Spurs, but Reading's newly promoted squad lack these options and the players are getting used to the Premier League, but are getting used frequently.  With a hectic Christmas and New Year schedule, they may be getting tired and with this game coming before a chance to rest some players for their FA Cup tie against Crawley, so there may be a bit of lactic acid left in the legs.

They have some decent players despite their lowly position.

Goalkeeper Adam Federici can be an effective stopper on his day, but often he is exposed and loses his bearings leaving angles open for strikers to beat him.  He needs protection by his defence, who  may have got together in training a bit more and tightened up with the two clean sheets since Christmas.  Chris Gunter will be disappointed he is not up against his Welsh team-mate Bale I am sure and he will be looking to prove Spurs wrong that they let him move on a few years back now.  A quick full back who likes to attack, he can find himself stranded up-field some times and Spurs might profit on the break.  On the opposite side of the back four, Ian Harte has returned to add some experience, but was given a bit of a roasting at the Madjeski by Lennon, so expect |Reading to pull back numbers to help him out.  Good from dead ball situations, his delivery is vey good and Spurs will need to mark up in the box better than they did at the Stadium of Light, as Reading will have highlighted this as a potential source of chances.

In the middle of the back four, Adrian Mariappa and Alex Pearce have been the choice at centre half lately.   Mariappa came in from Watford and has settled in well.  Strong and a ball-playing centre-half, Reading will make use of this ability to try and launch attacks from the back, while using his height to win the ball in the air, with Pearce also strong in that area. Both can also use their height at the other end from corners and free-kicks.

The Reading midfield has some willing workers.  Danny Guthrie has had his problems since joining Reading in the summer, but appears to be back in the fold now, with his work-rate in closing players down useful to prevent them having time on the ball, while Mikele Leigertwood provides a strong, physical presence in midfield and he can produce goals out of nothing with his long-range shooting.   Jay Tabb is an annoying little player, the sort that few players enjoy playing against and captain Jobi McAnuff has had a logn career, starting as a youngster at Wimbledon, before moving around and has settled for a central midfield role, form where he tries to unlock opposition defences, but also gets his tackles in.  Another player who likes to play in areas that opponents don't like is Jem Karacan, who darts around and can see a through ball that can hurt defences.  Jimmy Kebe is a skilful wide player, with an eye for a trick and a goal, while Hal Robson-Kanu is a more direct player, who prefers to play through the middle and he can pop up in the box to finish off moves, so needs to be watched closely. 

Striking options include Adam LeFondre, Simon Church, Noel Hunt and Pavel Pogrebnyak.  Russian striker Pogrebnyak broke a seven hour goal drought against West Ham and he is a powerful player, but one who also has a delicate and inventive touch, so his finishing can be from an unexpected opportunity, whereas Church has a more traditional finisher's role as a more traditional centre-forward, but LeFondre also possesses a deft touch in and around the box and having scored goals at the lower levels, is now proving he can replicate that in the Premier League.  Noel Hunt has the happy knack of finding himself in the right place at the right time, but often plays out wide and can deliver a damaging pass into the box from those positions.

Despite all their attacking options, Reading have not scored sufficient goals to counter those they have let in as the 3-5 against Manchester United and the 2-5 against Arsenal prove.  But maybe the biggest problem for Reading is that they are meeting a Tottenham side who are now comfortable with the way that AVB wants them to play and they are willing to play their own game, even when things are not necessarily going to plan.   With the number of chances Spurs are creating, they should be scoring more goals and it may be that today they do.

PREDICTION Tottenham Hotspur    3        Reading    0
Click here for more info on opponents - stats v thfc , an alternative history, etc.
Spurs will have to do without Gareth Bale, whose fifth yellow card has earned him a one match suspension, along with Younes Kaboul, who is yet to return after knee surgery.  Gylfi Sigurdsson may fill Bale's place on the left against his old team, with Andros Townsend having been ill over Christmas and Clint Dempsey may have to settle for a place on the bench, with Benoit Assou-Ekotto joining him on his return from his knee operation.
Coming into this game on the back of two clean sheets and one win, only their second of the season, Reading will be more confident than they have been of late, but they will not be able to select long term shoulder injury victim goalkeeper Alex McCarthy or striker Jason Roberts, who has a hip injury.

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Tottenham Hotspur  3 (1)                                                                Reading  1 (1)
Premier League
Wednesday 1st January 2013                               Kick off 15:00
White Hart Lane
Dawson 9
Adebayor 51
Dempsey 72
Pogrebnyak 4




Crowd :   36,180 Weather :  Dry, mild, but turning chilly once sun went down
Referee :  Howard Webb (Rotherham) Assistant Referees :  - (-)
Fourth Official :  - -
Reading kicked off and played towards the Paxton Road end in the first half.
Tottenham Hotspur : kit Reading : kit
25  Hugo LLORIS

28  Kyle WALKER
20  Michael DAWSON (c) 

  7  Aaron LENNON
19  Mousa DEMBELE (  8  Scott PARKER 69)
Gylfi SIGURDSSON (  2  Clint DEMPSEY 75 )

18  Jermain DEFOE
22  Emmanuel ADEBAYOR  (29  Jake LIVERMORE 88)

Unused subs: 
33  Steven CAULKER
27  Yago FALQUE

    1  Adam FEDERICI

  2  Chris GUNTER
  5  Alex PEARCE
  6  Adrian MARIAPPA
23  Ian HARTE

14  Jimmy KEBE
  4  Jem KARACAN    (  9  Adam LeFONDRE 73)
20  Danny GUTHRIE
11  Jobi McANUFF (c)    (19  Hal ROBSON-KANU 57)

  7  Pavel POGREBNYAK    (10  Noel HUNT 84)

Unused subs: 
41  Stuart TAYLOR
16  Jay TABB

Manager :  Andre Villas-Boas Manager :  Brian McDermott
Sponsor :   Aurasma Shirt sponsor :  Waitrose
Kit Supplier :  Under Armour Kit Supplier :   Puma
Match report

From the  fourth minute of the game until the end, Spurs attacked the Reading goal relentlessly, but got through a five minute sticky patch in the middle of the second half to go on to win 3-1 at White Hart Lane.

From a dubious free-kick, Reading struck first, but Spurs played the comeback kids to leave Reading's visit to the Lane pointless and they must have been gutted, as they restricted Spurs without truly keeping them out.  Spurs could not have wished for more room and space, but they got caught could in the fourth minute of the game.  And it was from a free-kick again that Tottenham conceded, but one which referee Webb, who had an erratic day gave and then failed to award a similar one like it for the whole of the rest of the game.  Dembele's tug on Pogrebnyak's shirt and a free-kick was given a couple of yards outside the D.  Up stepped Ian Harte, as expected with a shooting opportunity from a dead ball and his shot thwacked against the bar, came back down in front of goal and no Spurs player reacted, allowing Pogrebnyak to nod the ball into an unguarded net to give Reading a shock lead.

It looked as though Spurs had learned little from Saturday's game at Sunderland, when they failed to keep alert in the second phase after the free-kick had initially been blocked.  But they did almost hit back immediately.  Federici kicked clear from a back pass, but his kick only went along the floor and didn't reach halfway, allowing Lennon to run the ball back down the right wing and stand up a cross to the far post, where Adebayor rose to head the ball at goal with two Reading defenders in the challenge.  Unfortunately, his header went a couple of feet wide, which was disappointing as a rapid response to their goal would have been a blow to their confidence and a goal for Ade would have been a boost to his.

However, an equaliser was soon scored, with Gylfi Sigurdsson's corner fired in to the near post and Dawson got his head to it and glanced it across goal and into the net for 1-1.  It was a well worked set-piece and if only we could get more from these situations, we would be much better placed in the table.

Spurs had the taste for it now and Defoe smashed a shot too high, Sigurdsson hit a shot form outside the box that flicked off a Reading player and looped over the goal, with Federici back-pedalling furiously and Demebele, breaking forward despite Karacan dragging the shirt off him, shot fiercely, but a yard off target.  Webb has played advantage, but failed to deal with the offender and whereas he had allowed advantage and then pulled back the play for a free-kick when none accrued, he failed to do the same for Spurs.  As Reading pulled lots of players back behind the ball, Tottenham had to pass the ball around to try and make an opening, which frustrated some of the crowd and the tempo of the game dropped.

However, Defoe moved the ball out of his feet to make a yard of space and let fly back from the directions he had come, fooling Federici and the ball bounced across the foot of the keeper's right hand post and went away.  The little striker had another low shot from the edge of the box saved and when Dembele tried the same,  the goalie fumbled slightly and Emmanuel was just a foot away from latching onto the loose ball.  Federici did better with Sandro's two efforts on target, the second of which flicked off Sigurdsson and made the goalie's plunge to his left to push the ball away more impressive.

The second half started much the same way as most of the first half had been played.  Spurs on the attack straight away, with Defoe having a shot saved low down after good work from Adebayor, but then the Togo man was on the end of a cross from Aaron Lennon to make it 2-0.  A run in the 51st minute by Lennon saw him go past Harte, not for the first time nor was it to be the last, before standing a cross up to Adebayor on the far post.  Sound familiar ?  Well, this time, Ade met the ball with more power and thumped his header into the net to put Spurs ahead.  Two goals, two headers !  What was going on here ?

While Reading looked to hit Pogrebnyak quickly, the passes up to him tended to be misplaced and this allowed Spurs to maintain the pressure on the visitors goal.  Sandro got the ball five yards outside the box and let fly with a low effort that went past Federici's post by about six inches.  Adebayor fashioned chances for Lennon and Walker, but both efforts were blocked, with Lennon's being looped high into the air and dropping just over the bar.  As more normally, we failed to make anything from the resulting corners.  Aaron was everywhere.  When he wasn't tormenting Harte, he was back stopping Reading break away, using his pace to nick the bal away form the Royals' players.  With shots flying in from all angles, both Defoe and Naughton went close, before Dembele went off to be replaced by Parker and Reading had a decent little spell.

Having shrugged off a challenge form Vertonghen, Pogrebnyak cut into the box from the right and struck a low shot that Lloris beat out, but the ball bounce dup and the Russian forward ran on to head the rebound a few yards wide, with Walker back on the line covering.  Having survived that, Spurs then had to be grateful to Walker for a fine recovery tackle after Kebe made a smart run through the back line onto a ball from Guthrie.  With only Lloris to beat, it looked like it was going to be 2-2 in the 76th minute.  From the corner, Reading got another one and then Spurs had an amazing escape, with the ball headed towards goal by Alex Pearce and Dawson somehow clearing the ball off the line with his chest as Pogrebnyak came in and with a crowd of people around him. 

As it was, substitute Clint Dempsey got forward in the 79th minute to find himself on the edge of the box after Adebayor and Sandro had moved the ball to him.  He looked to hit the ball straight away and with the ball hitting Leigertwood in front of him, it flew high into the sky and dropped like a stone, but by this time, Federici was under the ball and it dropped over his head and over the line to make it 3-0 for Spurs.

Tottenham now had the space to exploit and Parker twice moved to have shots from outside the area.  The first was deflected away for a corner and the second ended with the same result, but it came from a fine tip over from Federici to prevent the ball heading into the top corner of the net.  Defoe had a cross-shot saved and with time running down, Spurs passed the ball around and Dempsey almost repeated his goal with a flick off Gunter that this time just dropped over the bar.

So, another three points and a good win, despite having to weather a dodgy few minutes in the second half, but Reading lack a lot of quality and depth in their team, leaving them vulnerable at any time in the game.  Spurs had numerous shots at goal, but only ended up with three and a greater conversion rate would make games like this more comfortable, but then that would mean it being much less exciting ... and that's just not Spurs.

Lennon was outstanding today, with Sandro, Dembele and Dawson all ably backing up their team-mates.  It was good that Ade scored, as he needs to be contributing goals and his all-round play improved after he had got on the score-sheet.  Clint did well to score his usual deflected goal, but looks very angry with the world at the moment.

A good Christmas and New Year can be rounded off with a win over Coventry City on Saturday in the FA Cup, when fringe players who need a  game will no doubt join some youngsters to play in this game.

Then it is back to the bread and butter of the league ... and the need to continue the good run.

Barry Levington


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What you thought
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Other scores during this week :
Manchester City 3 Stoke City 0 Tuesday
Southampton 1 Arsenal 1 Tuesday
Swansea City 2 Aston Villa 2 Tuesday
West Bromwich Albion 1 Fulham 2 Tuesday
West Ham United 2 Norwich City 1 Tuesday
Wigan Athletic 0 Manchester United 4 Tuesday
Chelsea 0 Queens Park Rangers 1 Wednesday
Liverpool 3 Sunderland 0 Wednesday
Newcastle United 1 Everton 2 Wednesday




League Table
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Manchester United 21 17 1 3 54 28 52 +26
2 Manchester City 21 13 6 2 41 19 45 +22
3 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 21 12 3 6 39 27 39 +12
4 Chelsea 20 11 5 4 38 18 38 +20
5 Everton 21 9 9 3 35 26 36 +9
6 Arsenal 20 9 7 4 39 21 34 +18
7 West Bromwich Albion 21 10 3 8 29 27 33 +2
8 Liverpool 21 8 7 6 34 26 31 +8
9 Swansea City 21 7 8 6 31 26 29 +5
10 Stoke City 21 6 11 4 22 21 29 +1
11 West Ham United 20 7 5 8 24 24 26 0
12 Norwich City 21 7 7 7 24 34 25 -10
13 Fulham 21 6 6 9 32 37 24 -5
14 Sunderland 21 5 7 9 21 29 22 -8
15 Newcastle United 21 5 5 11 27 39 20 -12
16 Aston Villa 21 4 7 10 17 41 19 -24
17 Southampton 20 4 6 10 27 38 18 -11
18 Wigan Athletic 21 5 3 13 22 39 18 -17
19 Reading 21 2 7 12 23 40 13 -17
20 Queens Park Rangers 21 2 7 12 17 36 13 -19


Position before match :  4th
Position after match :  3rd
Position after this midweek :  3rd


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