OPPONENTS Middlesbrough 
COMPETITION Premier League 
DATE Saturday 4th February 2017
VENUE White Hart Lane
3.  George FRIEND
4.  Daniel AYALA
5.  Bernardo ESPINOSA
8.  Adam CLAYTON
10.  Alvaro NEGREDO
11.  Viktor FISCHER
12.  Brad GUZAN
14.  Marten de ROON
17.  Antonio BARRAGAN
18.  Crishtian STUANI
19.  Stewart DOWNING
20.  Patrick BAMFORD
21.  Gaston RAMIREZ
22.  Dael FRY
25.  Calum CHAMBERS
26.  Victor VALDES
27.  Adlene GUEDIOURA
29.  Rudy GESTEDE
34.  Adam FORSHAW
37.  Adama TRAORE
40.  James HUSBAND   
PREVIEW With Tottenham's 0-0 draw at Sunderland, the pundits doubts were expressed about he ability of the club to maintain a title challenge, with Chelsea continuing to pick up points when not playing well.   The immediate chance to put things right comes with the visit of Middlesbrough, who haven't won in the Premier League since a 3-0 victory over Bob Bradley's Swansea City on 17th December.  Their only other league wins have come against Hull City, Bournemouth and Sunderland.

This is no guarantee that Spurs will win easily, as Boro's manager Aitor Karanka is an astute tactician, who is sometimes let down by his players.  However, the team will no doubt rise to he occasion this time and make it as hard as they can to stop Spurs playing.  With hard working players in midfield in the shape of Forshaw, Clayton and Leadbitter, Boro will probably put Adama Traore in a wide position to use his pace and trickery on the ball to pose some threat to a Spurs defence shorn of Vertonghen and Rose.  He is a strong runner with the ball, although his end product doesn't always match his approach work.  A lone striker will be put up front and Alvaro Negredo will plough a lone furrow trying to receive the ball out of the back.  Too often this season, he has been given a sore neck, as he watches the ball sail over his head and through to the opposition keeper.

When they play the ball right to him, as they did in that win over Swansea, he can show how good a finisher he is.   New signings Patrick Bamford and Rudi Gestede will be available, but will probably start from the bench, while the other new face of Adlene Guedioura adds a little invention, coming in from Watford.  Viktor Fischer was an Eriksen style Ajax prodigy, but has had to settle for the odd appearance for the North-East side, but with Ramirez missing through injury, he might get a chance at some stage of the match.  Former Man U full back Fabio might even be deployed in midfield, to get stuck in or Stuani can fulfil the same role.  They still have Stewart Downing, who sticks out wide, but lacks the pace of days gone by, while Marten de Roon is a midfielder who can pop up to score a goal or give the ball away in dangerous positions

It is in defence that Karanka has tried to build his side to have basic strength.  Keeper Victor Valdes has games where he looks unbeatable and others where the mistake in him becomes all to evident, but he is reliant on the back four to protect him.  George Friend might be missing and Gooner loanee Chambers will have a late test to see if he can play, but captain Ben Gibson is earning himself a decent  reputation for an English centre-half and he needs to as Daniel Ayala can be error-prone and red card prone too.  Antonio Barragan was lucky not to see red against us at the Riverside, but he might have a tough evening against Son, who ran Boro around in the previous meeting.

Spurs need to pick up the tempo to pick up the points and Middlesbrough are susceptible to passes through their defence, so Davies will cover for Rose in a system that plays the three at the back, Son will work the channels and  Dele and Eriksen playing behind Kane, with Wanyama and Dembele in front of our won back line, Spurs need to move the ball and move into space to run the legs off Boro.  A win, but it will be a war of attrition, as Boro don't like letting goals in.

PREDICTION Tottenham Hotspur    3         Middlesbrough    1
RESULTS HISTORY Click here for results, match reports and facts on meetings with Middlesbrough
Spurs will be missing Danny Rose and Georges-Kevin Nkoudou (both knee), Erik Lamela and Kieran Trippier (both hip) and Jan Vertonghen (ankle) for the game against Boro.  Hugo Lloris is expected to return after his illness of midweek.
Defender George Friend will be sidelined with a calf strain and Gaston Ramirez has a knee injury.  Callum Chambers is a doubt with a fracture of his foot, but will have a late fitness test.

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Tottenham Hotspur  1 (0)                                                                       
Premier League
Saturday 4th February 2017
White Hart Lane
Middlesbrough  0 (0)

Kick off 17:30
Kane (p)  57m 17s None

Marten de Roon  (foul on Alli)  38


Crowd :   31,949 Weather :  Mild, but colder as sun went down
Referee :  Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear) Assistant Referees :  Mr. J. Collin; Mr. R. West
Fourth Official :  Jon Moss  
Spurs kicked off and played towards the Park Lane end in the first half.
Game time : -  90 + 6 minutes.
Tottenham Hotspur : kit Middlesbrough : kit
  1  Hugo LLORIS  (c)

  2  Kyle WALKER
33  Ben DAVIES

12  Victor WANYAMA
19  Mousa DEMBELE 

  7  Heung-Min SON  (17  Moussa SISSOKO  81)
20  DELE Alli  (29  Harry WINKS  88)
Christian ERIKSEN

10  Harry KANE  (p) (  9  Vincent JANSSEN  90+3)

Unused subs: 
13  Michel VORM

27  Kevin WIMMER
25  Josh ONOMAH

  26  Victor VALDES

25  Calum CHAMBERS
5  BERNARDO Espinosa
  6  Ben GIBSON  (c)
  2  FABIO

14  Marten de ROON 
  8  Adam CLAYTON
34  Adam FORSHAW  (
27  Adlene GUEDIOURA  62)

19  Stewart DOWNING  (18  Cristhian STUANI  62)
10  Alvaro NEGREDO
37  Adama TRAORE  (20  Patrick BAMFORD 79)

Unused subs: 
12  Brad GUZAN
  4  AYALA
29  Rudi GESTEDE

Manager :  Mauricio Pochettino Manager :   Aitor Karanka
Sponsor :   AIA Shirt sponsor :  Ramsdens
Kit Supplier :  Under Armour Kit Supplier :   adidas
Match report

Games between us and Middlesbrough are traditionally tedious low scoring events, with this one a little more exciting, but when you play a side who have scored the lowest amount of goals in the Premier League and set up to conceded few, a 1-0 win for Spurs was a good outcome, even if it did take a penalty after an hour to break through.

Karanka put out a 4-3-3 system, with the Spanish international Negredo playing as the lone striker, with the aim of using the pace of Adama Traore and Stewart Downing to support him when the ball was played forward.  It worked with Traore who is a threat with his strength and speed, breaking from deep, but Stewart Downing is still the player he was 15 years ago.  Neither player has a good enough final ball and there was one occasion when Traore found Negredo's head early on, but his header went too high.  It was a good chance and had it gone in, I hate to think of what might have happened in the game, which was littered with stoppages.

Tottenham suffered a little with Danny Rose's absence, forcing Pochettino to revert to a back four, which restricted the attacking threat from our full backs.  They were still able to get forward, but generally from further back and the crosses in were dealt with by the Boro defence.  Valdes was tested in the fifth minute, when Dele took the ball off Forshaw and played in Son, who hit his shot low, but the keeper was behind it.  Davies put in a pacy cross low in front of goal, but there was no Spurs player to put it away and the some of the Spurs fans thought we had scored when Eriksen slipped through to Dele, but his powerful first time shot rippled the net, but it was the side-netting.   It is not hard to see how Boro are hard to score against, as they get ten men back behind the ball very quickly and the manager has got them organised.  Tottenham were trying to stretch them with Toby Alderweireld was pinging diagonal balls out to Walker with great accuracy.  The only outlet that Boor had was Traore, who drew a foul in front of the dug-outs by Kane and when the ball came in, it was cleared outside of the box and Forshaw's eyes lit up.  He struck a volley, which, in his mind, hit the top corner of the net, but in real life weakly bobbled past the right hand post, missing by a good few yards.

Dembele's strength on the ball tormented the opposition and when he released Walker on the right, it produced another low cross that evaded everyone.  Son had a couple of opportunities to cross too, but one went over everyone and the other was low and was blocked.  Middlesbrough's well drilled back line caught Son and Kane offside a fair few times this evening, but with the game quite congested, it was difficult for Spurs to find space to work a way through.  Ironically, as our corner routines are so poor, we nearly scored in the 25th minute when Eriksen's corner saw Toby break the grip on him by the Boro defender and his header smacked against the outside of the post and behind.  Ten minutes later another header should have brought Valdes into action at least, as Son picked out Harry Kane's head and from a central position eight yards out, he didn't get over it and it flew over the bar.

At times, Boro's tactics to stop us were basic, with de Roon booked for trying to take a ride on Dele's back for about 10 yards, as the Spurs midfielder ran away from him.  He got a booking and Spurs continued to push forward, with Dembele trying a rare shot, but it went a long way wide, then Son sliding a perfect low cross to the near post, where Harry Kane swept it into the roof of the net, but was denied a goal by an offside flag.  That was four minutes before half-time and there was still time for Wanyama to have a shot deflected wide, but from the corner the ball dropped between Toby and Dele, who left it for each other, leaving Traore to break away.  He was dispossessed and the ball was played to Kane, whose shot was blocked.

The half-time break revealed we had 12 shots to Boro's two and that probably reflected the balance of play.  Ledley King's appearance celebrated the 10th anniversary of the TH Foundation, but the talk was of how we needed to win to take advantage of Liverpool and Arsenal's earlier defeats. 

The second half started in a totally different way to what had gone on in the first half.  It was really open, with Downing almost capitalising as Wanyama's clearance hit Davies and Walker got in the way to block the effort.  When Son moved forward, he stopped to turn a defender and Eriksen ran in to hit the ball at goal, forcing Valdes to dive to his left to save.  Just before the hour, Spurs worked the ball down the left and Son darted into the box onto Dele's pass, again stopping the ball to turn his marker, Bernardo, who whipped the Spurs man's feet away from under him.  Clattenburg pointed to the spot and Harry Kane stepped up to drill the ball into bottom left corner, while Valdes dived the other way.  It was the breakthrough past a stubborn Boro defence, with the visitors now having to change their approach to get something out of the game.

It allowed Spurs to work their way through to the box and Kane put Eriksen in to shoot at goal and the keeper dived left to push the ball wide, where Dele picked it up and then poked it through a defender's legs across the face of goal, but all that was missing was a Spurs player to put the ball in at the far post.  Boro got a bit more ambitious, with Alderweireld blocking de Roon, as he moved into the box to shoot, Son hit a shot into the side-netting and then Walker gets around Fabio easily, firing in a cross, but Valdes flopped on it at the near post.

Having made a double attacking substitution, Boro had new signing Guedioura to try and prompt them into attack, but when presented with a shooting opportunity, he struck the advertising between the top and bottom tiers of the Park Lane end.  They did better with their next effort, but it was a weak header from de Roon, that Lloris took easily.  Tottenham should have gone further ahead when they broke on Boro, but between Kane, Alli and Son, they made it more difficult than it should have been and the ball was played into Eriksen, but the ball bounced off his shin for a goal kick.  Middlesbrough were getting in the way of Kane's shots and the same happened to Christian after good work on the left wing, involving substitute Sissoko.

At 1-0, the lead is always precarious and when Fabio floated in a cross to the far side of the box, Negredo launched into an acrobatic overhead kick which had power, but not accuracy and the ball went comfortably wide of Lloris' goal.  Bamford had a shot blocked after Lloris didn't gather in a cross and then into added time, de Roon had a great chance to level, when the ball was nodded down to him by Bamford, but six yards out and with only Lloris to beat, he hit his volley to try and beat the keeper at the near post, when he would have been better putting it across him to the greater part of the goal to his right.  The result was that he missed the target altogether, thus condemning Boro to another defeat meaning their winless streak stretches back to 17th December and he was not alone in his lack of aim, as the team failed to get a shot on target all game.

It was an attritional win by Spurs, who played well, but had trouble finding a way past the packed ranks of navy and light blue shirts (why weren't they wearing red ?).  Missing Rose, the tempo in the first half was not enough to trouble Boro and only when they stepped up their game in the second half did they work Valdes more.  It is games like this that we perhaps miss Lamela, who can often commit players and open up defences.  We need to make more use of breaks when we outnumber the opposition, as we tend to try and make things more intricate than they need to be.  Seeing out games is fine, but we were hanging on a bit at the end.  Finishing teams off stops the worrying as we approach the final whistle with only a one goal lead.

The three points were important today, having lost the chance to get that return from our visit to Sunderland and with other teams around us losing earlier in the day.  Chelsea won, so are still way out in front, leaving Spurs with no option, but for the second season running, to try and keep going to put pressure on them.  Winning games like today shows a better mentality in believing that playing our way will bring results.  The crowd showed frustration at times that we weren't hitting the ball forward, but building from the back is the tactic that Pochettino wants the team to develop and that extends to the way we take goal-kicks short too.  If it is the way to bring success, I, for one, am happy to stick with it.

Purcell Cole




The old ground of Middlesbrough FC - Ayresome Park - once had the gates padlocked.  It had nothing to do with the club's finances not allowing them to play matches, but to keep their fans in during the relegation season of 1965-66.


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What you thought
Stan Chun Time-wasting is a bit of a bugbear with me and the way that Clattenberk dealt with it was a joke.

From the start of the game Valdes was taking an age over every goal-kick and kick-out.  The referee urged him to speed up three times without actually taking any action.  Amazingly, when Walker was taking a throw-in and Lloris took half the time Valdes did towards the end of the game, the ref made the same "hurry up" gestures. 

It would be great if, at the end of 90 minutes, the team could decide whether they wanted to play or take off the time the other side had wasted during the match.  That might prevent teams wasting time if they are seeking a late equaliser and suddenly their earlier slowness means there is no time to be tacked on the end of the game.

Last week everybody felt sorry for Wycombe who let in a goal in the last seconds of added time. 

People should be asking where did all that added time come from ?  Yes, there were injuries, goals and substitutions, but there was also a big chunk of time-wasting.  Take that away and they might have had a money spinning draw.

What goes around (hopefully) !

- -.


Other scores during this week :
Chelsea 3 Arsenal 1 Saturday
Crystal Palace 0 Sunderland 4 Saturday
Everton 6 Bournemouth 3 Saturday
Hull City 2 Liverpool 0 Saturday
Southampton 1 West Ham United London 3 Saturday
Watford 2 Burnley 1 Saturday
West Bromwich Albion 1 Stoke City 0 Saturday
Leicester City 0 Manchester United 3 Sunday
Manchester City 2 Swansea City 1 Sunday


League Table  2016-17
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Chelsea 24 19 2 3 51 17 59 +34
2 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 24 14 8 2 46 16 50 +30
3 Manchester City 24 14 4 5 49 29 49 +20
4 Arsenal 24 14 5 5 52 28 47 +24
5 Liverpool 24 13 7 4 52 29 46 +23
6 Manchester United 24 12 9 3 36 21 45 +15
7 Everton 24 11 8 6 40 27 40 +13
8 West Bromwich Albion 24 10 6 8 32 29 36 +3
9 West Ham United London 24 9 4 11 32 41 31 -9
10 Watford 24 8 6 10 28 40 30 -12
11 Stoke City 24 7 8 9 29 36 29 -7
12 Burnley 24 9 2 13 26 35 27 -9
13 Southampton 24 7 6 11 24 31 27 -7
14 Bournemouth 24 7 5 12 35 47 26 -12
15 Middlesbrough 24 4 9 11 19 27 21 -8
16 Leicester City 24 5 6 13 24 41 21 -17
17 Swansea City 24 6 3 15 29 54 21 -25
18 Hull City 24 5 5 14 22 47 20 -25
19 Crystal Palace 24 5 4 15 32 45 19 -13
20 Sunderland 24 5 4 15 24 42 19 -18

Position before match :  2nd
Position after match :  2nd
Position after the weekend :  2nd


* Pub facts may not actually be true, but after a few pints everyone might think so.


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