OPPONENTS Norwich City
COMPETITION Premier League
DATE Monday 9th April 2012
VENUE White Hart Lane






Spurs face Norwich City just two days after a long trip to Sunderland where they put in a lot of work for little reward.  But at least we can expect Norwich to play with a bit of open-ness rather than the closed shop that the Mackems set up in front of their goal.

Norwich have done well on their return to the top flight, with Paul Lambert playing to his side's strengths.  They pass the ball well, work hard to make space and have a goal-scorer in Grant Holt who will trouble any side. 

The team spirit has brought the side together to provide formidable opposition for most sides in the Premier League.  The midfield is the engine room where they attack and defend as a unit.  The addition of Johnny Howson from Leeds United has given them a goal-scoring presence in midfield and he did just that against the Toffees on Saturday.  A dynamo in tackling and breaking up and back, he will add some energy to a side that has limited resources coming into the tail end of the season and was a shrewd purchase.  Wes Hoolihan also works hard and has a good cross on him, as well as having the right timing to arrive in the box to finish well.  David Fox is a similar player with perhaps a little less in the pace department, while Scot Simon Lappin has been out of the picture for a while since suffering appendicitis in February. 

Kyle Naughton won't be able to play, as he is on loan from Spurs for the season and has been playing very well for the Canaries in a  left sided midfield role.

Other midfield options are Bradley Johnson, who is a dogged and hard tackling player, while Andrew Surman is drawing a lot of admirers with his driving runs from midfield and his defensive abilities.  The former Southampton man is one who may eventually find a move away from Carrow Road to gain success at a higher level.  Crofts is a wide midfielder, who might give them some supply into the box if required.  Anthony Pilkington is a pacy winger, who might be used to relieve pressure on the Canaries defence, but he hasn't featured of late due to a hamstring injury.

Up front Grant Holt has been a regular scorer, taking his total to 15 against Everton.  Able to hold the ball up, good in the air, strong and sometimes over-physical, he has come up through the leagues and is enjoying his days in the sun.  He formed a good partnership with former Stevenage and Millwall striker Steve Morison, who did well on his entry into the Premier League.  Another forward who is good in the air and he is adept on the floor with the ball, often scoring from unlikely situations, Morison has been used from the bench of late.  The same is true of Aaron Wilbraham.  Coming through the lower leagues like Holt, he was at Stockport County and MK Dons, before Lambert snapped him up.  Ungainly, but a handful, he could provide a different problem for our defenders to that posed by Holt.  Simeon Jackson is a livewire striker, who has pace and can score goals when in tight situations, but had been confined to the bench in recent weeks.  Norwich will be without James Vaughan, whose knee injury rules him out. 

The defence will be without Daniel Ayala, the centre-half signed from Liverpool, but another former Liverpool central defender in Zak Whitbread will be a likely starter.  The tall defender is a good header of the ball, but as we saw in the game earlier in the season, he came second in a foot rave with Gareth Bale, as many defenders do.  Alongside him Elliott Ward has provided a solid partner in the middle of the back four, but both are vulnerable on the floor, so Spurs might opt to play the ball in low to get some change out of them.  In goal, another former Merseysider, this time with Everton, John Ruddy has done well with some point winning performances, but he has also been at fault for some goals and the more shots we get on target, the more success we might have.

Right back Russell Martin is having a very good campaign and might be detailed to stop Gareth Bale,  but the Welshman's roving role in the match at Carrow Road left him difficult to pick up.  Whether Harry will go with that role for Bale again is doubtful, as he said he likes the set-up we have played in the last few matches.  On the other flank Elliott Bennett is another solid defender.  Taking over from Richie De Laet, who suffered injury and returned to Manchester United where he was on loan from, Bennett has proved dependable and likes to get forward on the over-lap.  However, if Lennon starts, he could have to pay more attention to his defending than going upfield.

However, the defence is suspect to low balls into the box as both Everton goals came that way on Saturday and Spurs might benefit from having both Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale on the pitch from the start.

Spurs are a different proposition at home and Norwich a different one away.  Will Lambert abandon the way the team have played to try and stop Tottenham playing ?  I don't think so, but there may be more caution about their approach and they may rely on set-pieces to use the height advantage they will have over Spurs to make them count, but I think that there will be a home win at the final whistle.

PREDICTION Tottenham Hotspur    3         Norwich City    1
Click here for more info on opponents - stats v thfc , an alternative history, etc.
Spurs are without long term injury victims Tom Huddlestone (ankle), David Bentley (knee), Michael Dawson (ankle) and Heurelho Gomes (knee), but should have the rest of the squad to choose from.  Depending on who picked up knocks on Saturday at Sunderland, Harry Redknapp might chose a first choice XI, but has half an eye on the FA Cup semi-final next weekend.
Anthony Pilkington may have recovered from a hamstring pull to play some part in this match, while James Vaughan will be side-lined by a  knee injury and defender Marc Tierney's pelvic problem keeps him out too.
On loan from Spurs, Kyle Naughton will no be allowed to play against his parent club.

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Tottenham Hotspur  1 (1)                                 Norwich City  2 (1)
Premier League
Monday 9th April 2012                                                                    Kick off 15:00
White Hart Lane
Defoe 33 Pilkington 13
E. Bennett 66
Walker (foul)  50


Johnson (foul)  59
E. Bennett (foul)  62


Crowd :   36,126 Weather :  Wet, light rain, chilly
Referee :  Michael Oliver (Northumberland) Assistant Referees :  R. Ganfield; A. Halliday
Fourth Official :  Phil Dowd Match Delegate : - Simon Morgan
Professional Game Match Observer :  B. Curson
Tottenham kicked off and played towards the Park Lane end in the first half.
Tottenham Hotspur : kit Norwich City : kit
24  Friedel

28  Walker     
  4  Kaboul (33  Nelsen 45)
26  King (cpt)
32  Assou-Ekotto

  7  Lennon
29  Livermore (11  van der Vaart 71)
14  Modric
  3  Bale

15  Saha (10  Adebayor 46)
18  Defoe 

Unused subs: 
25  Rose
30  Sandro
21  Kranjcar

    1  Ruddy

  2  R. Martin
22  Ward
33  R. Bennett
  3  Drury

17  E. Bennett      
  4  Johnson     
24  Howson
12  Pilkington  (11  Surman 72)

  9  Holt  (  5  Morison 69)
21  Wilbraham  (10  Jackson 79)

Unused subs: 
31  Steer
20  Barnett
  7  Crofts
14  Hoolihan

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

For the the high faluting reputation that Norwich City have been tagged with this season for their good football, this performance was one which was a triumph for their hard-working side, but also one for cynicism, time-wasting and some borderline tackles that many a ref other than Michael Oliver might have dealt with more sufficiently.

Coming into this game on the back of a nightmare performance at Liverpool at the weekend, Oliver went on to produce a performance that was arrogant and naive in equal measures.  He failed to get to the heart of the action in terms of officiating and when he did, breaking up a promising Spurs move by getting in the way, he made now apology to a player, rather indicating it was their fault.

But this 2-1 defeat was not solely down to him and Tottenham's lack of application cost them their place in the top three and even a possibility of dropping deeper down the pecking order with other results not going their way of late.  The bullying of the Spurs centre halves by Grant Holt and Aaron Wilbraham, was nothing more than shocking.  As shocking that Younes Kaboul and Ledley King allowed it to happen, as much as the referee allowing it to go on.  Holt's constant backing in is a foul on each occasion it happens, while Wilbraham spent most of his time on his backside or bending the ref's ear or trying to pull the shirt/shorts off a Spurs player.

The fact that this happened was due to Tottenham's slow start and lack of effort in making the game go their way.  Norwich closed down quickly and effectively.  Starting with Bale and Lennon, the width would have been the key, but the wingers were turning infield whenever they got the ball and this made the pitch narrower and also caused them to run into congested areas.  When they did get wide, it made life difficult for Norwich and with some better crosses, there might have been more joy.

John Ruddy's main contribution to the game will not be the fine save he made from Benoit Assou-Ekotto, when the Spurs full back broke through in the 53rd minute, but for his incessant time-wasting with every goal-kick from virtually the beginning of the game.  We might have well been watching Stoke/Wolves/Bolton (delete as appropriate).

Spurs started with good possession and Saha had a shot that Ruddy fumbled with no Spurs player in close attendance, but they soon started giving the ball away cheaply or playing it long when pressured at the back, while the back four appeared to be playing on ice, such was their nervousness when the ball came near them.  They looked uncertain what each other were going to do or going to go, leaving Norwich with a couple of chances early on.  Benoit stopped Holt getting a shot away with a  block, as our tentative touch left him through, then in the 13th minute, our defenders were slicing at the ball in their own box, Walker tackled Wilbraham and when it went off Ledley to Anthony Pilkington, he found the back of the Spurs net from close range in a mess of a goal.  Not that the Man U fans in the away end were concerned.  Any goal is a good one for them.

It wasn't the greatest way to get the game underway, but with no-one making a dynamic move on the Norwich goal, the green-shirted players were allowed to start forcing the pace of the game.  Jake Livermore dropped deep to make himself available to receive the ball and this left Modric with a lot of ground to cover, but where he wanted to do most of his work, Norwich packed the middle of midfield.  It is not stylish, but sheer weight of numbers and people running around running into people.  It left Spurs trying to play the ball to Bale and Lennon, but being unable to get it there, because whenever someone was on the ball, they were swamped and the ball suddenly was moving back towards our own goal.

You can call it clever tactics by Lambert, but it was just a succession of their players knocking ours over.  Howson committed a blatant body-check on Modric and then, in the second half, looked to trip Aaron Lennon as he ran through the centre circle, thinking better of it and allowing Johnson to crash into the Tottenham winger and get a booking instead.  They were queuing up to stop the Spurs player however they could.

Spurs had a few breaks but the ball in was lacking or the Norwich defence blocked it.  Bale played a slide rule pass across the face of goal, but Defoe coming in at the near post was not able to reach it.  When the visitors did get away, they waited for a Spurs player to come close before hitting turf.  One free-kick on their left was whipped in and with players rushing in to try and distract the defence, Brad kept his eye on the ball and pushed it over.  But such was the 'clever' play that they might have had a couple of penalties.  One when Holt locked arms with King and went down in the box, but neither linesman nor referee showed much interest, but on other days,. they might have given a penno.  From the breakdown of that move, Spurs built the move up and when it looked like it was going nowhere, Jake played a through ball from just inside his own half, through the Norwich defence and set Defoe off on a run into the right side of the box.  It seemed that there might not be much on for him, being away on his own, but as Ruddy went to ground, JD lifted the ball up over the prone keeper and got it just inside the post to equalise in the 33rd minute.

Some might have said that the goal wasn't deserved, but then, it was a well-taken goal ... the like of which we would have been grateful for on Saturday at Sunderland.  While Norwich weren't sitting back, they were not creating much of their own from open play.  Another free-kick was headed out to Ward inside the Spurs area and he hit a volley that went through a crowd of players and Friedel had to make a sharp reaction stop to keep it out. For much of the time, the Norwich passing was not slick nor expansive, but short and precise.  Perhaps better than Tottenham's for passages of the first half, when Bale looked like he was protecting the injury he picked up at Sunderland by not going in to hard into tackles and Modric was getting fed up of being knocked off the ball.

Just before the break, Spurs lost Younes Kaboul with a knee injury, with Ryan Nelsen coming on in his place.  Nelsen did OK, but looked a little rash sometimes in going for the interception which might have led to trouble if he had missed it and Norwich had got away.  Alongside King, who was having a tough time of it, the lack of pace there was worrying. 

Half time brought some light relief, as Paul Coit asked the Academy manager about the new intake and "What do you look for in young boys ?"  The sight of Emmanuel Adebayor warming up signalled the end of Saha's involvement, which had been minimal, but unfortunately, Ade failed to make a great deal of difference.

It was a tactic Spurs should have used more that almost made an immediate impact at the start of the second half, with Lennon making progress on the wing before pulling it back to Bale in a central position and his precise shot was well blocked by Ruddy, while everyone around us thought that he should have blasted it, but then, they weren't complaining when he placed the ball past Vorm against Swansea a week or so ago.  Norwich were struggling with the low balls played across their goal and it is a surprise that Spurs didn't try that more.  Benoit had his chance, then Gareth hit a shot at goal from the edge of the box that went over, but deflected off a defender on the way.

But when Norwich did carve out a chance from open play, with Holt getting away on the right unchallenged, his cross to the far post picked out Johnson, who tried to ram the ball home, but lost aim and smashed it past the post from about six yards out.  If it had fallen to anyone else, Tottenham might have been in trouble.

64th minute and Gareth cuts in from the right wing to curl a shot over Ruddy and over the two men in front of the line, but sees his effort hit the bar and bounce back down in front of goal, where it was cleared away.  As a result of which, the ball moved to the other end of the park and with the ball at his feet on the right of the box, 25 yards out and not closed down, Elliott Bennett hit a shot out of nothing that ripped past Friedel and into the net to give Norwich the lead.  It was a stunning shot and one that Spurs had failed to produce all afternoon.

Spurs struggled to get the ball where they wanted it.  More than ever, green shirts bumped into white and the man in the black shirt failed to see what most others in the ground had.  Including a second claim for a penalty, when Adebayor barged over Wilbraham as the ball was up in the air.  It was a bit rich of the Norwich man to claim it, when he had spent most of the afternoon throwing his body at Spurs players like some two bob tart.  He left the action when he and van der Vaart challenged for a ball in midfield and clashed heads.

The ball wasn't bouncing our way and the laboured approach work of the early stages returned in the final throes of the game, when the last throw of the dice left Spurs relying on someone getting on the end of a cross, but that hardly ever happens for us, so time ran out and Norwich ran out winners.

For their play over the course of the season, maybe Norwich deserve praise.  I have only seem them in highlights on TV and the two games against Spurs, so am not qualified to comment on that.  All I know is that on this evidence, they look like a side who are not far removed from the Wimbledons and Stokes of this world.  Long balls up front for their players to knock into defenders and someone else follows up to pick up the scraps.  They were lucky that Bennett scored a wonder goal, as they looked less likely to score in the second half from their first half tactics.  It was just the number of players in the area and the rebound of the ball that gave them the chance in the first half.

But more worrying, is the way Spurs played.  Not well at all.  The run we are on spells danger, with Newcastle level on points and Chelsea two behind, Arsenal two in front.  The run-in should have been a good one, but that would require us to be confident and in form.  We are not and the way we played with the two wingers left the full backs exposed.  More worrying is the lack of cover at centre-half means we might struggle in the coming games, with only Gallas, King and Nelsen seemingly available if Kaboul's knee injury is serious.

The earlier rant at the ref was well justified.  His lack of consistency was alarming.  The booking he gave to Bradley Johnson was nothing to the "challenge" that took Modric's feet from under him late and from behind.  Consistency would have seen him sent off.  Additionally, one free-kick against backing in by Holt was nothing compared to what he was doing the rest of the game.  He persistently shirt-pulled and pushed and pulled.  Hardly surprising that he got his share of free-kicks, as by the time the ref looked around, it appeared he was being dragged down.

I fully realise from this game and the Sunderland match, that teams with limited resources must play within their restrictions, but the way they play is always a moot point.  Small clubs with a small mentality ?  Well, I don't think that's the case, as Swansea don't take that approach and they have won many plaudits with the nature of their football.  Indeed, Tottenham have been in dire straits in our recent history, but I don't remember them resorting to such tactics to get out of it.  And I thought Norwich had more about them than to play like this.  I know in the previous game this season, Holt had tried to rough up our players, but this approach will only last so long.  It has won them another year in the Premier League, but more than that, they might have to change tack.

If this is top flight football, I can see why some people are deserting it for other attractions.  The packed stands at Carrow Road might tell you otherwise, but I know what I would prefer to watch.

Philip Martin


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What you thought



Other scores during this Easter mid-week :
Aston Villa 1 Stoke City 1 Monday
Fulham 1 Chelsea 1 Monday
Everton 4 Sunderland 0 Monday
Newcastle United 2 Bolton Wanderers 0 Monday
Blackburn Rovers 2 Liverpool 3 Tuesday
Queens Park Rangers 3 Swansea City 0 Wednesday
Manchester City 4 West Bromwich Albion 0 Wednesday
Wigan Athletic 1 Manchester United 0 Wednesday
Wolverhampton Wanderers 0 Arsenal 3 Wednesday



League Table
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Manchester United 33 25 4 4 78 28 79 +50
2 Manchester City 33 22 5 5 79 26 74 +53
3 Arsenal 33 20 4 9 66 41 64 +25
4 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 33 17 8 8 57 38 59 +19
5 Newcastle United 33 17 8 8 50 42 59 +8
6 Chelsea 33 16 9 8 56 38 57 +18
7 Everton 33 13 8 12 38 34 47 +4
8 Liverpool 33 12 10 11 40 36 46 +4
9 Fulham 33 11 10 12 43 43 43 0
10 Norwich City 33 11 10 12 46 52 43 -5
11 Sunderland 33 11 9 13 41 40 42 +1
12 Stoke City 33 11 9 13 32 45 42 -14
13 West Bromwich Albion 33 11 6 17 39 45 39 -7
14 Swansea City 33 10 9 14 37 46 39 -9
15 Aston Villa 32 7 14 11 35 44 35 -9
16 Queens Park Rangers 33 8 7 18 38 56 31 -18
17 Wigan Athletic 33 7 10 15 30 55 31 -25
18 Bolton Wanderers 32 9 2 21 36 65 29 -29
19 Blackburn Rovers 33 7 7 19 45 70 28 -25
20 Wolverhampton Wanderers 32 5 7 17 34 70 22 -36


Position before match :  4th
Position after match :  4th
Position after the mid-week matches :  4th


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