COMPETITION Premier League
DATE Saturday 21st April 2012
VENUE Loftus Road






How will Tottenham bounce back from the disappointment of a bad league run and a defeat in the FA Cup semi-final ??  Indeed, will it be a bounce or just a flop through to the end of the season ?

The side need to win all their remaining matches to be sure of a Champions League place and even then it is dependent on Chelsea not winning the competition and Newcastle out-scoring us if they match our results.

As for QPR, they are battling against the drop and will be looking to continue their good home form, which has included wins over Liverpool and Arsenal of late.  it seems a long time ago since their 1-4 thrashing on the opening day of the season against Bolton at Loftus Road, but the side have learned the Premier League lessons the hard way this season, as they have shipped goal sand struggles to score them at the other end. 

Not that their side is without good players and now they have Mark Hughes in charge, they possess a manager who might make more of a fist of staying up than Neil Warnock was doing.  The behind the scenes issues at the club make managing difficult whoever you are, but with the likes of Adel Taarabt, Jamie Mackie and Bobby Zamora, there is a core of decent players.  However, some of those brought in when they gained promotion last season are not all of the top quality demanded of the Premiership.

The goalkeeping position was filled by Warnock's favourite Paddy Kenny, who is a sound enough keeper, but lacks the ability to make big match winning performances, always looking error prone and his angles are not as good as they should be.  Behind him is Brian Murphy, an Irish keeper, who was formerly at Ipswich Town and Radek Cerny, the ex-Spurs goalie.  Murphy I don't know much about, while Cerny is a reliable back up keeper, but one who is not at the stage of his career where he would be a first choice at a top club.

The defence has been Rangers' Achilles heel all season long.  Too many mistakes and some defenders in the squad who are Championship class and that is all.   Armand Traore (Arsenal), Nedum Onuoha (Manchester City), Anton Ferdinand (Sunderland), Clint Hill (Crystal Palace), Fitz Hall (Wigan Athletic), Daniel Gabbidon (West Ham United), Danny Shittu (Bolton Wanderers) and Luke Young (Aston Villa) are all now reaching the twilight of their careers and have not exactly set the world alight at their previous clubs.  All journeymen now, they lack the quality to keep top Premier attacks under control and while Onuoha is perhaps an exception, as he was brought in by Hughes, the others are probably playing above the level they should be now.  The other proper defender in the back four is on loan from Marseille and Taye Taiwo was a sought after defender a few years back.  Built like a tank and keen to surge forward, he can cause problems for opposition defences, who might not pick him up.

The midfield contains some players with flair, some with clog and some who don't seem to get that involved.  Our former Moroccan midfielder Adel Taarabt has been in and out of favour but since Hughes has taken over, he appears happier and is playing well.  A fantastic dribbler and a serial step-over artist, Adel can change the course of a game on his day, but other times, looks like he should be hauled off within minutes of the game starting.  A mercurial talent that lead to him leaving Spurs for Rangers and playing a big part in them getting up, but his role this season has been more muted.

Joey Barton has decided to stick to football and leave his Twitter account on hold, which might be for the best.  He can be an effective player when he concentrates on his game, but often lets the things on the periphery take his attention, leaving him to rage through a game, not contributing to QPR's game and ending up losing his focus.  Much the same can sometimes be said of Shaun Derry, who unjustly got sent off against Manchester United, although in the past he has escaped censure and these things even themselves out apparently.  A veteran, who does well to last the Premier League pace, he reads the game pretty well and sits in front of the back four to protect them. 

With Kieron Dyer unsurprisingly injured and Alejandro Faurlin having joined him on the missing list, some of the free-running midfield play has gone by the board, but Shaun Wright-Phillips was signed to provide some pacy wing play, but too often he is side-lined to a supporting role, without getting really involved.   Akos Buszaky has perhaps had more impact with some performances of sparkle and magic, but they have been irregular, while the re-emergence of Jamie Mackie and the signing of Samba Diakte have made a bit of a difference to the midfield.

Mackie came from the lower leagues, where he made his name with Plymouth Argyle as a striker, but he has moved deeper and had done well in the Premier League.  Attacking minded, he likes to get in and around the box and still possesses that striker's ability to hit the target.  Diakite is on loan and made an impact on his first QPR appearance with a  red card, but he has settled in a bit now and is strong and likes to get forward too.  A player who will need to be watched carefully ... and not just by the referee !!

In attack, Bobby Zamora came in with the promise of goals, but only has two for Rangers, after netting five for Fulham in the earlier part of the season.  Brining in Djibril Cisse was an attempt to find him a compatible partner, but that has not worked out well, with the former Liverpool forward getting sent off twice although he has scored three times.  A quick striker who is good in the air and possesses a fierce shot, he can be a handful, while he can be pushed wide, where he is not at his best.

Other options include on loan Frederico Machedo from Manchester United, Heidar Helgusson, Jay Bothroyd, Rob Hulse and DJ Campbell.

Machedo has fallen out with Hughes after tweeting his unhappiness at not being in the team and Bothroyd has not made the transition to the top flight after signing from Cardiff City, much like DJ Campbell from Blackpool.  Both scored freely in the Championship, with Campbell having a season in the Prem, but not hitting the mark regularly enough.  Hulse came from Derby County after a spell at Sheffield United, where his link with Warnock was established, but the manager left him out of the PL squad at the start of the season, only for Hughes to bring him back in during January.  Heidar Helgusson is the one most likely to be chosen as back up, as his harrying style will be difficult for a Spurs side without a number of defensive options available to Harry Redknapp.

And it is Tottenham's defence who are being asked questions, as the midfield is shut down by the opposition's terriers and the two up top push onto the back four and try to pick up the pieces.   With the remaining games against mostly bottom half teams, they will have picked up on the way to play against Spurs and we can expect time and space to be a premium.

It is in midfield where Spurs can win the match, by pushing Rangers back as far as possible and trying to play at a pace that their players find it hard to live with.  We were not in sparkling form when we won 3-1 against QPR at the Lane earlier this season, but we will need to be sharp and willing to put in the effort to match a determined QPR team on the night.

I am hopeful that the team react in the right way to the defeat last Sunday, as the fate of the team for next season is in their own hands.  A win would give them the confidence to go on a  little run, but anything else might spell the end to even a Europa League place.

PREDICTION QPR    1      Tottenham Hotspur   2
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QPR  1 (1)     
Premier League
Saturday 21st April 2012                              
Venue :  Loftus Road
Tottenham Hotspur  0 (0)

Kick off  17:30
Taarabt 24 None
Taarabt (foul) 42
Zamora (foul) 22
Onuoha (foul) 75
Hill (foul) 78

Taarabt (second yellow - kicking ball away) 79




Crowd :   18,021 Weather :  Sunny with showers of rain
Referee :  Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear) Assistant Referees :  Mr. S. Beck; Mr. S. Child
Fourth Official :  L. Probert Match Delegate : Kenny Hibbitt
Professional Game Match Observer :  Kelvin Morton
Spurs kicked off and played towards the School End end in the first half.
QPR : kit Tottenham Hotspur : kit
  1  Kenny

34  Taiwo
  3  Hill     
35  Ferdinand
42  Onuoha     

  7  Taarabt            
  4  Derry
17  Barton
  2  Diakite  (14  Buzsaky 69)

52  Zamora     
12  Mackie

Unused subs: 
24  Cerny
  6  Gabbidon
13  Traore
32  Wright-Phillips
23  Cisse
22  Helgusson

  24  Friedel

28  Walker
26  King (c)
13  Gallas
32  Assou-Ekotto (25  Rose 66)

  8  Parker (17  dos Santos 84)
30  Sandro (  7  Lennon 46)

11  van der Vaart
14  Modric
  3  Bale

18  Defoe

Unused subs: 
51  Smith
29  Livermore

Manager :  Mark Hughes Manager :   Harry Redknapp
Sponsor :   Malaysia Airways Shirt sponsor :  Aurasma
Kit Supplier :  Lotto Kit Supplier :   Puma
Match report

Who can explain the pallid performances Spurs are putting in against the likes of Norwich and QPR.  Not our manager for one and realistically, if we are unable to beat Rangers, who played with ten men for the last 12 minutes, then it is perhaps for the best that we don't qualify for the Champions League and pit our players against the cream of the continent.

One error by our goalkeeper and a lack of guile in trying to break down two banks of four and another player thrown in for fun meant that Spurs slipped to a 1-0 defeat and stretched their run of poor form to one win in nine Premier League matches, resulting in the team plummeting like a stone.

For all the possession and all the corners and all the chances, Spurs could not do the one thing that was required and that was beating Paddy Kenny to get the ball into the net.  As soon as the starting line-up was announced, it was obvious that we would struggle.  Once more the initiative was handed to the home side to sit back and stifle Tottenham with Lennon's presence on the bench only giving the Rangers defence one wide player to worry about and with Defoe starting up front with Adebayor's hamstring strain keeping him out.  A little man up front with three hulking great defenders was not a recipe for success.  And Spurs pumped high balls in to Defoe expecting him to do what Adebayor does.

Needless to say, the home side packed behind the ball and had little trouble keeping Spurs from making decent goal-scoring opportunities and took every opportunity to have a free kick at the Tottenham players, which Mark Clattenburg allowed them to get away with more often than not.  How Jamie Mackie stayed on the pitch when Adel Taarabt was sent off for a second bookable offence for kicking the bal away, I don't know.

But for the game itself, this report might as well read like any of the previous eight games (apart from Swansea).  We had something like 75% possession in the first half and created two efforts that forced a save.  A van der Vaart corner in the 20th minute was won by an unmarked Bale ten yards out and in the middle of goal and he put his header straight at Kenny, who pushed it over the bar. 

Then four minutes later, Taarabt and Sandro went in for a tackle, Tarrabt fell on Sandro and as he put his hand out to stop his fall, it went onto the ball behind him.  He could not see it and did not intend to handle, but Clattenburg gave a direct free-kick anyway.  25 yards out and Spurs had a wall ... a little wall, as we were short of tall players today ... leaving Taarabt to send it over the wall and into the right side of Friedel's goal with the keeper unable to cover the gap he had left to that side.  It was a poor goal to let in and one that was of a type we never score.

Anyway, 0-1 down usually means we are going to lose and with a response required to get level quickly, it wasn't forthcoming.  The middle of the pitch was overly congested, but Tottenham insisted in turning infield whenever they went forward, playing straight into QPR's hands.  Just after the half hour, a corner was cleared and as it was played towards Rafael van der Vaart, Barton was getting there first, but slipped, leaving the Dutchman in space.  He hit a shot at goal, but Kenny was equal to it , but as the ball came off his hands, Defoe got on the end of it with his head, only to put it over the top. 

Kyle Walker showed some enterprise in bombing down the right and was brought down by Taarabt just outside the box earning the Moroccan a yellow card.  Just before the break Barton broke into the Tottenham box and had a shot which hit King, hit Barton and might have foxed Friedel, but the ball went over the top.

Half time came and we wondered what Harry would do to give Spurs the upper hand, but bringing on Lennon did not have the effect that we really needed, as less than halfway through the half he switched to the left and Bale to the right.  Spurs continued to press and Rangers continued to defend their goal well, but unlike other sides, whose pressure pays off, ours just simmers away without building to an explosion.  Luka Modric tried hard, but lacked the final ball that would have opened up the back nine and Parker tried to surge forward, but ended up only getting steamed up when decisions didn't go our way. 

Shots were being blocked or going wide, our players were being brought down on a regular basis and Rangers were happy to soak up the pressure for long periods without worrying about attacking.  A Bale cross caused confusion in the box and the ball dropped for van der Vaart just inside the area, but he hit it too hard and couldn't get over  it, so it flew into the crowd.  Bale then was floored by Onouha who was booked, then the same player appeared to make contact with Parker, but no free-kick was given and it lead to a lot of finger-pointing by Barton and Onuoha claiming that the Spurs man was looking to get the QPR defender sent off. 

Well, Spurs didn't have to try to achieve that.  When Clint Hill went through the back of Pennon, it was going to be a booking all the way and when Clattenburg pulled out the yellow card, he sort of waved it in the air and then walked up to Hill and showed him the yellow card.  it then seemed to dawn on him that something was wrong and he walked over to Adel Tararabt and showed him the red card, as he had booked him for something and it was his second yellow card.  It looked like it must have been for dissent, but one eagle-eyed Spurs fan had seen him kick the ball away when the free-kick was given.

so, 12 minutes left, with ten men, but the way Spurs were playing they could have gone on all night against ten men and not scored.  Modric forced Kenny to dive to his left to keep a shot out and Tottenham had a number of corners, which came to nothing.  Rafa shot and made Kenny dive to save, before Zamora broke away and looked like he would seal the win, but Kyle Walker sprinted back t rob him of the chance at the cost of a late added time corner and soon after the final whistle went.

While the team looked reasonably comfortable in possession ,Rangers would not let them have time and space in the last third and this lead to quite a lot of passes going astray as the Spurs players panicked without options to pass the ball on to.  The lack of tempo from the start (again!) and the drop off in players creating something out of nothing has been our downfall.

At this rate, we might not qualify for Europe at all, with Newcastle United over-taking us today and Arsenal and Chelsea drawing.  Would that be such a bad thing, as there is something not right with this team at the moment and whether it is players who want to leave or the concern over the manager going, starting afresh might give the club an idea of who wants to play for them and who doesn't.

Gary Sampson



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What you thought
Burton Bradstock I know it has been said on these pages recently that Ledley King is finished as a Premier League defender, but it didn't take a brain surgeon (or a knee surgeon come to that) to notice it.

Just look at him standing there while the toss-up was taking place.  He couldn't stand up straight, as you imagine that he must have been trying to take the strain off his knees.  This will only serve to transfer stress to other parts of his body (back and hamstrings) and thus it shows when he has to try and track back after a player that he is virtually running in a way to prevent more damage taking place.

It is sad end to a career that could have been world class if not for injuries.
Put him alongside Sherwood and Ferdinand as former players who can pass on their wisdom to those coming through.

Adam Dreadful - David Moyes anyone ?


Other scores during this week and midweek:
Arsenal 0 Chelsea 0 Saturday
Aston Villa 0 Sunderland 0 Saturday
Blackburn Rovers 2 Norwich City 0 Saturday
Bolton Wanderers 1 Swansea City 1 Saturday
Fulham 2 Wigan Athletic 1 Saturday
Newcastle United 3 Stoke City 0 Saturday
Manchester City 2 Wolverhampton Wanderers 0 Sunday
Manchester United 4 Everton 4 Sunday
Liverpool 0 West Bromwich Albion 1 Sunday
Aston Villa 1 Bolton Wanderers 2 Tuesday



League Table
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Manchester United 35 26 5 4 86 32 83 +54
2 Manchester City 35 25 5 5 87 27 80 +61
3 Arsenal 35 20 5 10 67 43 65 +24
4 Newcastle United 34 18 8 8 53 42 62 +11
5 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 34 17 8 9 57 39 59 +18
6 Chelsea 34 16 10 8 56 38 58 +18
7 Everton 34 13 9 12 42 38 48 +4
8 Liverpool 34 12 10 12 40 37 46 +3
9 Fulham 34 12 10 12 45 44 46 +1
10 West Bromwich Albion 35 13 6 16 41 47 45 -6
11 Sunderland 35 11 11 13 42 41 44 +1
12 Swansea City 35 11 10 14 39 45 43 -6
13 Norwich City 35 11 10 14 47 60 43 -13
14 Stoke City 34 11 9 14 32 48 42 -16
15 Aston Villa 35 7 15 13 36 50 36 -14
16 Wigan Athletic 35 8 10 16 34 60 34 -26
17 Queens Park Rangers 35 9 7 19 39 57 34 -18
18 Bolton Wanderers 34 10 3 21 39 67 33 -28
19 Blackburn Rovers 35 8 7 20 47 73 31 -26
20 Wolverhampton Wanderers 35 5 8 25 34 75 22 -41


Position before match :  4th
Position after match :  5th
Position after the weekend :  5th


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