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Premier League

Saturday 18th August 2007

At least Spurs appear to be in the same boat as the Premiership Champions, as we approach our third league game in a state of crisis.  In comparison, one point from two games has seen the Rams make a fine start which they are very happy with.

So, all the pressure will be on Tottenham, with the County side having nothing to lose, other than more points.  With a good draw against Portsmouth on the opening day, they were hit by a single goal defeat at table-topping Manchester City in midweek.  As for Spurs, two straight defeats sees them sitting way below Derby and start the game as underdogs.

The make-up of the Tottenham team is all wrong at the moment.  No left sided midfielder, a surfeit of riches in attack, injury hit defence and a lack of confidence.  The team that has been playing is not the first choice XI and perhaps, when they can take to the pitch, it might be different.

Until then, the players who do pull on the lilywhite shirt need to battle for results.  Starting on Saturday.

Derby will be no pushover, as Billy Davies has made them an organised and tight unit, who set the pace in the Championship until the end of the season when they dropped into the play-off places and then won through against West Bromwich Albion.  Not perhaps the most flamboyant team around, they work hard for each other and will give Tottenham a difficult afternoon.  They know that they are fragile at the moment and will go out to give them a going over in the 90 minutes.

At the back, West Ham did not see the best of goalkeeper Stephen Bywater and he can be a good shot-stopper, but his handling and his kicking are not the best, so pressure on him and players following up could benefit from any dropped balls.  His height is not great, but he does have agility on his side.

The back four also contains another West Ham old boy, who has now returned to his former home.  Tyrone Mears was a defender Tottenham looked at, but the Irons got in first, but never used him as he had been at Pride Park.  An athletic full back and one who likes to attack, someone who could play wide left might be able to take advantage of his forays up the line.  On the other flank, Jay McEveley is a strong tackler, but one who is a bit on the heavy side, so Routledge might benefit from being up against him.  Dangerous from set-pieces, he, Claude Davis and Darren Moore can all go up for corners and free-kicks.  The former Sheffield United defender was with Davies at Preston and he re-joined the boss to stay in the Premiership, while Moore is a player with top flight experience with Portsmouth and West Bromwich Albion.  Neither have been truly impressive, but they are honest journeymen and that they give everything for the cause.  With two of our many forwards up against them, they should be too much for the Derby defence.  Hopefully.

Midfield contains Craig Fagan, Matt Oakley, Andy Todd and Stephen Pearson line-up to produce a tough and hard-working section of the team.  Todd has returned to his spiritual home where his Dad was a legend and his tempestuous streak will have to be calmed to give the side the ball-winning ability it needs in the middle of the park.  Pearson is a flighty winger, while Fagan works up and down the line after years playing up front.  Matt Oakley is perhaps the most interesting one of the four.  Having had a good early career with Southampton, he moved to the Midlands and has had a great affect on the Rams team, becoming captain and scoring some notable and unusual goals to add to his drive from midfield.  Together they provide a strong basis to send the forwards on their way.

The former Luton striker Steve Howard is a bit of a battering ram and his strength is his forte, rather than guile, but he has scored regularly wherever he has played and alongside him, Rob Earnshaw is a nippy striker with a knack for hitting the target.  Both are being relied on to score the goals to keep the County side up and form a decent partnership.  An option up front or played in midfield s Gary Teale, who can operate wide as a supply line to the front two.

Given our injuries, I would go for Bent and Defoe up front, with Routledge on the right side of midfield from the start.  Keane could play in the middle, but I think that he might have to settle for a place on the bench, while I would use Tom Huddlestone to pick out the passes to open up his former team's defence.  Hud could either sit in front of the back four to give them some extra protection or even play alongside Gardner, as he played a similar role when he first started at Pride Park.

Whichever way the team lines up, I hope there will support for them, as it will need a lot of backing from the crowd to boost their confidence and feel as though they don't have to beat the Spurs fans as well as Derby.

Given that their backs are against the wall, I hope they have the willingness to pull something out of the bag and get a decent reward for the supporters as well as themselves ...

PREDICTION : -  Tottenham Hotspur  2       Derby County   1

For more information on the opponents and their history, including full result history of matches between the two teams, click here.


Gareth Dace gives his take on the game against the Rams ...

Having watched their game at Man City on Weds on Football First I would expect them to line up the same way. That is in a 4-1-4-1 formation – Bywater, Mears, Davis, Moore, Griffin; Todd, Fagan, Oakley, Jones, Pearson, Howard 

I was actually surprised to see Derby take the initiative in the first half and attack City. Fagan and Pearson regularly found themselves in advanced areas to support Howard. Derby, if given the space will look to thread balls into Howard’s feet and then play off him. This was effective with Oakley and Jones supporting well from the centre. Howard, Fagan and Pearson are the sort of strikers that I worry about playing against, especially when its Tony Gardner, as they will use their strength and look to put us under pressure when in bad possession. Pearson is a good dribbler and needs to be closed down quickly as he will look to get his head down and drive forwards. 

Oakley and Jones are good ball players who will look to get on the ball at every opportunity and as stated will look to play into Howard early. Todd is there to protect the back 4 and does a no-nonsense job, but is not very mobile. We should put him under early pressure to stop him settling on the ball. 

Mears is a good runner with the ball and will look to drive forwards when given the space, but Griffin will offer very little offensively. Davis and Moore are very strong in the air and whilst the ball and play is in front of them they will be happy.  

Earnshaw can come on as a second striker and Pearson and Fagan could also fulfil that role so expect to see them go to 4-4-2 at some stage too. 

So, if I was choosing the tactics I would identify that Mears is weak positionally and was caught out for the goal. City rarely turned Moore and Davis and I think this will bring success, with Defoe and/or Bent up front who both look to play on the shoulder and stretch the defence.  

I would also be tempted to play three across midfield to match them up with one player (preferably) Malbranque advanced to play onto Todd. Playing this system in midfield would reflect the fact we don’t have a proper left-winger so I’d go with three up front with Keane on the left. 

Like any promoted team Derby will be rugged and will fight for every ball. The first goal is essential and ideally we will need to be two goals up at half-time.


TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR : -  Ledley King (knee); Gareth Bale (thigh); Young Pyo Lee (knee); Aaron Lennon (knee); Benoit Assou-Ekotto (knee); Dimitar Berbatov (groin); Younes Kaboul (hamstring); - (-); 

DERBY COUNTY :  -  Giles Barnes (foot); - (-); - (-); 


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Tottenham Hotspur   4    Derby County   0      (Half-time score : 3-0)

Premier League
Venue : White Hart Lane  
Saturday 18th August 2007
Kick Off :  3.00 p.m.
Crowd :   35,600
Referee :  Chris Foy (St. Helens)
Weather :  -  Dry, breezy, overcast
Teams : - 
Tottenham Hotspur :

  1   Robinson

  2   Chimbonda  (  4  Zokora 81)
33   Rocha
30   Gardner
  3   Lee

15   Malbranque    
  8   Jenas  
   Routledge (19 Taarabt 71)
22   Huddlestone

10   Keane (c) (18 Defoe 76)
23   Bent  

Unused subs: 
12   Cerny


Derby County :

43  Bywater

14  Mears (18  Griffin 33    )
23  Moore   
  5  Leacock
  4  McEveley

11  Fagan    
  8  Oakley (c)
17  Todd (16  Teale 46)
25  Pearson

  9  Howard   
10  Earnshaw

Unused subs: 
  1  Price
  7  D. Jones
33  Feihaber

Colours : -  (kits courtesy of
Tottenham Hotspur

Black shirts
Black shorts
Black socks

  Derby County
Scorers : -  
Tottenham Hotspur

Malbranque   2
Malbranque   6
Jenas   14
Bent   80

Derby County


Cards : -  
Tottenham Hotspur  




Derby County

Griffin (foul) 51
Howard (foul) 57
Moore (foul) 61
Fagan (foul) 79


Match Report : -  
Hardly a poorer team has been seen in the Premier League at White Hart Lane in recent years, as Derby provided little resistance to Tottenham's revival with a 4-0 victory which featured only one shot on target in anger from the visiting Rams.  Two goal Steed Malbranque put Spurs on their way and to tell the truth, the final score was disappointing with such great dominance of the match.

While Spurs had struggled up until today, County had a point from a hard-earned draw with Pompey and lost 0-1 to Manchester City, but they became unravelled as early as the first minute, as Spurs found some of the form they had been searching for.

The action started early, with McEveley conceding a free-kick when he wrestled Routledge to the ground on his first run.  From it, Jenas shaped to have a crack at goal, but instead he played a short ball to his left, just outside the area and Steed Malbranque was alone to drill a low shot just inside Bywater's post.  One minute gone and one goal ahead.

When they have been hard to come by this season, they suddenly started coming along like buses.  Chimbonda had the freedom of the right wing and he played a ball to Bent inside the right hand corner of the box.  His low ball across the area was destined for Keane near the penalty spot, but it was ahead of him and it went through to Steed on the other corner of the box and he picked out a shot across the Derby keeper that hit the inside of the side netting to make it 2-0.  Spurs were having a purple patch and the visitors were being punished for loose marking and lack of shape.

Derby tried to hit back, with a pass through the Tottenham defence which Robbo slid out to clear and shortly after, Todd hit a shot that was blocked away.  At the other end, Huddlestone hit a shot against his old team from 25 yards that was always going over the bar, but when Jermaine Jenas nicked the ball away from a Derby player in the centre circle, he took the ball forward and kept going.  McEveley tried to stay with him and then tried to bring him down outside the area, but Jenas stayed on his feet and as Bywater approached, the Spurs midfielder slipped the ball past him and it went into the net off the post in the 13th minute.  It was a very good run from halfway and a composed finish at the end of it.

So, 3-0 up and the thoughts of the crisis were indeed over.

Just after the half hour it could have been four.  Darren Bent raced away down the left and played the ball square to Keano, but he fluffed his shot with the goal gaping and it fell to Wayne Routledge on the edge of the six yard box, successfully tucking in the loose ball.  However, the linesman's flag ruled his effort out, but on TV evidence later, it looked as though Moore had played him onside.  Not that it stopped Tottenham attacking, with Jenas being set up by Keane and Malbranque to curl a shot just inches wide of Bywater's left hand post.  Keane drifted a curling chip over the goalie soon after, but it was a bit too high.

In between, at the other end, Robinson had to fall backwards to catch a Howard header but it had little power in it.  Then four minutes before the break, Hud's ball to Keane was turned across the box to Bent and when he lifted the ball over McEveley's head and was poised to shoot, fell over him and made him hit shi shot straight at Bywater.  The referee showed no interest in giving a penalty.  Neither did he when Bent played a low ball in from the right side of the penalty area and Moore knocked it away with his hand while laying on the floor nor when Keane performed the same trick lobbing over Moore's head and McEveley was over his back as he went to shoot at the keeper.

Keane should have scored about six himself, with two more efforts before the break.  A first time sweeping shot when Bent played the ball into his path hit the outside of the side netting and then he brought a low save out of Bywater with a left footed shot from the edge of the area.

At the change-over, it was a time to consider how Tottenham would approach the rest of the match and worrying that if the next goal went Derby's way, if the old insecurities would resurface.  Luckily, it was never likely to go that way.  While Spurs eased off a bit, Derby were unable to step up their game to get back into it.

Robbie started the second half the way that he finished the first, by blasting a shot well wide (by about 10 yards) from outside the box and Derby's frustration at not being very good boiled over with a series of bad tackles with Griffin, Howard, Moore and Fagan all finding their way into the ref's notebook.  Their lack of pace was exposed and the trickery of the Tottenham players left them diving into tackles.

When Derby did work the ball wide with some good possession, there was no quality in their crossing and the ball only picked out the heads of the people in Row W.  A Routledge free-kick was played in with a bit of whip and bent dived full-length, but could not direct it at goal, while a break with three Spurs players against two Rams defenders came to nought.  With Malbranque bresking away to the left, Keane took the ball through the unguarded middle of the defence and going for placement rather than power, he allowed Bywater the opportunity to leap to his left to grab the shot.  Three minutes later, Derby managed their first shot on target from Teal in the 70th minute, which Robinson pushed away with two hands.  It had been a good move by Derby, who had moved the ball quickly around the pitch.

The crowd volume went up a bit in the 71st minute, when Adel Taarabt came on for Wayne Routledge.  Quickly becoming a firm favourite, he set about showing what he is all about.  His twists and turns look as though he will make himself disappear up his own fundament, but he leaves defenders bamboozled and more often than not, he is willing to have a go at goal, although he must learn to use the other players in the team !!

He let fly with his first effort which went into the top tier of the Park Lane, then sliced his second drive wide from 20 yards out as he ran down the middle from halfway, with Matt Oakley only able to try and unbalance him by falling over him.

Robbie Keane's afternoon's work was done when Huddlestone lifted a fine pass through the middle of the Rams back four to give Keane the chance to get the wrong side of Leacock and hit it first time, with just too much elevation taking the shot over the crossbar.  Defoe came on for him and shortly afterwards, Taarabt's low ball back from the dead-ball line just missed him and Bent as the Derby defence didn't know what to do with the young Frenchman.  As he made his third nutmeg, they suddenly decided what they had to do and that was to chop him down.

Fagan's premeditated foul on Adel cost him a yellow card and his team another goal in the "against" column.  Ton picked out Chimbonda at the far post, as he had been targeted so often this afternoon, with his header looping into the goalmouth.  Bywater reached up to palm it over the bar, but only succeeded in knocking it onto the woodwork and as it dropped Defoe and Bent raced in, with Darren claiming the last touch with his head to make it 4-0.

A late Defoe attempted chip and an even later attempt by Malbranque to grab a hat-trick came to nothing and the game finished with relief and cheers to counterpoint the misery and boos of Tuesday night.  Three points finally on the board and now to Manchester United next week !!



Reaction : -



I'm not sure if Derby were
a) Lacking confidence
b) Not very good
c) naive
but whatever their problem was they got what they deserved at Tottenham in their first league defeat of the season.

Any team that allows Spurs that amount of space and Tom Huddlestone (a player they should know all about) that amount of time on the ball will be punished and even though Spurs came off the back of two losses, they eased past Derby, who must be worse than Watford looked last season.

It was expected that they would come and put Billy Davies' organisation into practice, with a strict 4-4-2 and lots of energy getting men behind the ball, but their insistence of losing their position gave Tottenham the ability to get beyond them and this either brought about goal opportunities or fouls.

In Craig Fagan, they have the player, who in my humble opinion, gave one of the most shameful performances of any Premier League player I have witnessed.  His passing was woeful, his tackling often conceding fouls and along with his niggly attitude with players off the ball (kicking Chimbonda and Lee twice) off the pitch after the ball had gone out) and after the ball had gone, he looked way out of his depth.  When teasingly nut-megged by the young talent that is Adel Taarabt, his reaction was to give him some verbals and then take him down with a premeditated slide tackle from behind ... being as far away from the ball as some of his team-mates were from Tottenham players for most of the afternoon.  In my view, football would be better off without players like Fagan, who I think do little for his team or football in general.

But the movement and passing was much improved among the Spurs players today.  Alright, the space was there to utilise, but it still requires the men to make those runs.  Hopefully, it will be something that they will take into future games.

Huddlestone ruled the midfield imperiously and with the Derby fans generously applauding him when he went to take a corner in front of them, his absence is obviously missed.  Giles Barnes might have made a difference, but in this side, I think Superman might struggle to save them.  In comparison saving the world might seem an easier task.  Tom's passing was sublime and while he had one shot that went over the top, you had the feeling that he was happy to supply the bullets rather than fire the ones which killed off his condemned old club.

But he wasn't the only one to shine.  Steed Malbranque clinically finished two early chances to give Spurs the base they needed to work from and Jermaine Jenas' 50 yard run and finish gave Tottenham an unassailable lead by half-time.  By the break, it should have been about 7-0 anyway and the Rams couldn't have complained if that had been the score-line.  Robbie missed some good chances and Routledge had a goal chalked off for offside and Jenas went mighty close with another shot.

The second half was a more sedate affair, with Derby happy to exact some damage limitation and even had a shot on target, which Robinson saved well.  But when the shots rained in on the visitors goal, they brought saves from Bywater from Keane and Malbranque.  it was on the entrance of Taarabt that the game perked up again.

18 years old and having the confidence of youth, the Frenchman took the game to Derby and showed off his tricks, although his shooting needs some honing (Clive Allen should sort that out).  His runs terrified the Derby defence and when Fagan got booked for his foul on Adel, Hud swung in a free-kick that Chimbonda forced Bywater to tip onto the bar and when it came down, Bent managed to get his head to it before Defoe to claim his first League goal in a Spurs shirt.

A comprehensive win and if it hadn't been, questions might have been asked, but with Manchester United coming up next we might well replicate last season's record after four games, with three lost.   If we can get anything against a Man U side shorn of Rooney and Ronaldo, then perhaps things might be looking up !!

The Funky Phantom




Other scores this weekend :
Birmingham City 0 West Ham United 1 Saturday
Fulham 1 Middlesbrough 2 Saturday
Newcastle United 0 Aston Villa 0 Saturday
Portsmouth 3 Bolton Wanderers 1 Saturday
Reading 1 Everton 0 Saturday
Wigan Athletic 3 Sunderland 0 Saturday
Blackburn Rovers 1 Arsenal 1 Sunday
Liverpool 1 Chelsea 1 Sunday
Manchester City 1 Manchester United 0 Sunday



League Table
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Manchester City 3 3 0 0 4 0 9 +4
2 Chelsea 3 2 1 0 6 4 7 +2
3 Wigan Athletic 3 2 0 1 5 2 6 +3
4 Everton 3 2 0 1 5 3 6 +2
5 Portsmouth 3 1 2 0 6 4 5 +2
6 Newcastle United 2 1 1 0 3 1 4 +2
7 Arsenal 2 1 1 0 3 2 4 +1
8 Blackburn Rovers 2 1 1 0 3 2 4 +1
9 Liverpool 2 1 1 0 3 2 4 +1
10 Reading 3 1 1 1 2 2 4 0
11 Sunderland 3 1 1 1 3 5 4 -2
12 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 3 1 0 2 5 4 3 +1
13 Fulham 3 1 0 2 4 5 3 -1
14 Middlesbrough 3 1 0 2 3 4 3 -1
15 West Ham United 2 1 0 1 1 2 3 -1
16 Manchester United 3 0 2 1 1 1 2 -1
17 Aston Villa 2 0 1 1 1 2 1 -1
18 Birmingham City 3 0 1 2 4 6 1 -2
19 Derby County 3 0 1 2 2 7 1 -5
20 Bolton Wanderers 3 0 0 3 3 8 0 -5


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