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Premier League

Saturday 26th April 2008

With draws galore preceding this match and with Bolton Wanderers winning at Middlesbrough, this game might logically see you suppose that the team in most need of points might take them at White Hart Lane.

But with only three games remaining, it might be that the Spurs side want to end the season with a bit of a flourish.  Having Liverpool (a top four club ... so you know what that means) at home in the last game might mean that this could be their last (home) hurrah.

Juande Ramos has said that he will not experiment with the team, so the side ill consist of the bulk of those who are fit at the moment and with Robinson, Woodgate and Chimbonda all returning to training this week, the Tottenham team could be bolstered to almost full strength.

But with their Premier League existence in the balance, expect the Trotters to get around the pitch and to try and make a silk purse full of PL cash out of the pig's ear they have been since Sam Allardyce left.  For all the players coming in, the team has stumbled on under the guidance of Gary Megson.

With Jussi Jaaskelainen out for the rest of the season, Ali Al Habsi has come in and looked a sound enough goalkeeper.  A big guy, he has shown good reflexes and a confidence that is at odds with the team's position in the table.  Not that we have anyone capable of getting on the end of them, unless Bent comes on, I think that crosses might test him and an early examination of his ability might be in order with plenty of shots on target.  Likely to sit on the bench with the gloves on is an old Spurs man ... Ian Walker, who has played very rarely for Bolton since joining them.  it may be one of the last times he turns out for Wanderers, as there will no doubt be a clear out in the summer.

The defence has suffered this season.  Promising full back Nicky Hunt has missed big chunks of the season with injury, while Jlloyd Samuel was signed from Aston Villa in a move that they hoped would kick start his career again, but he has not shone at the Reebok.  Big central defender Abdoulaye Meite might give Berbatov a hard time, which might leave him marginalised.  In the other full back slot, Aaron Lennon could have a field day up against Ricardo Gardner and other options could include the defenders Tamir Cohen and Gretar Rafn Steinsson.  However, Andy O'Brien adds more experience to the back four, while Gary Cahill has been partnering him in the centre of defence following his move from Villa.  The latter is also a danger man at set pieces.  Additionally, the transfer window signing from Portsmouth, Matthew Taylor, has had a lack-lustre time since the move to the Whites.  He is dangerous from free-kicks and also can score spectacular goals from anywhere on the pitch.

Deployed in front of the back four has been Ivan Campo, who has the experience , if not the legs, to keep the opposition at bay.  He still reads the game well and can get forward in support of the front men, as we witnessed with his long-range drive going in against us at the start of the season.

Another hard-working midfielder has dropped below the high standards he met when Big Sam was in charge.  Kevin Nolan has talent and a good engine, but has failed to break through into the senior England side, probably as he played for an unglamorous club.  However, he can make something out of nothing and will need to be a player who is picked up ... especially in these times of lax play by Spurs.  Stelios Giannakopoulos has fallen out of favour, but he is another industrious midfielder, who has the happy knack of popping up in the right place to score important goals.  It was Gavin McCann who scored at Boro and he has had a troubled season too, but a tough tackler, who likes to get amongst the opposing members of the midfield.  Can pass the ball well and only lacks a bit of stamina because of his age.
Mikel Alonso is the brother of Liverpool's Xavi, but has been used sparingly, with Megson preferring the on-loan Liverpool midfielder Danny Guthrie, who is young, but has done well with the opportunities he has been given in the Bolton first team.  Two younger players have been given a run in the side, but might not feature here, with the manager having many of his injured players back.  Swiss Blerim Dzemaili is one for the future and Iranian Andranik Teymourian has shown he can play a good part in the Lancashire side, but still needs to round out his game. Another player the Wanderers have high hopes for is Joey O'Brien, who has played for a couple of seasons now, but has been in the side for only about a third of the games.

In attack, they often play with one up and that player is the veteran Kevin Davies, who likes to "Let defenders know he's there."   His physical approach has seen him get away with challenges that others have seen red for and we can only hope (against hope) that Clattenburg will not stand for such clattering of opponents.  With equally offensive El-Hadji Diouf in attack, it could be an uncomfortable afternoon for the Tottenham defence, but with Woodgate back, they might be better equipped to deal with such an approach.  Speedy Ricardo Vaz Te is unlikely to start, although he might come on if a more agile striker is needed, while Heidar Helguson has scored in the Premier League for a few clubs, but has not been a regular starter.  Norwegian forward Daniel Braaten has been a regular entrant from the bench, while loanee and ex-Spur Grzegorz Rasiak has been used in only brief cameos.

Tottenham need to take the lead in this one ... but then keep up the pressure and take their chances to ensure that they take three points from this game.  It will be harsh on Bolton as Spurs have not been at their best against some of the sides at the bottom of the table, thus leading to charges of under-mining the other clubs' efforts to stay up.

With a poor run of games, let alone results, since the League Cup Final, so perhaps they need to get in gear and show the home fans what they can do.  I take them to do just that ...

PREDICTION : -  Tottenham Hotspur   3    Bolton Wanderers  1

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


TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR : -  Ledley King (knee); Gareth Bale (foot); Benoit Assou-Ekotto (knee)

BOLTON WANDERERS :  -  Kevin Davies (suspended)


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Tottenham Hotspur   1    Bolton Wanderers   1      (Half-time score : 0-0)

Premier League
Venue : White Hart Lane  
Saturday 26th April 2008
Kick Off :  3.00 p.m.
Crowd :   36,176
Referee :  Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear)
Bolton kicked off the first half and Tottenham played towards the Park Lane end in the first half.
Weather :  -  Sunny, warm
Teams : - 
Tottenham Hotspur :


Hutton (Huddlestone 46)
Dawson (Bent 53)

Malbranque (O'Hara 77)

Keane (c)

Unused subs: 

Bolton Wanderers :

Al Habsi

Andrew O'Brien

Nolan (c)      
Campo      (Giannakopoulos 46)
Joey O'Brien (Guthrie 20)

Rasiak (Diouf 46)

Unused subs: 

Colours : -  (kits courtesy of
Tottenham Hotspur

  Bolton Wanderers
Scorers : -  
Tottenham Hotspur

Malbranque 52

Bolton Wanderers

Giannakopolous 46

Cards : -  
Tottenham Hotspur  

Zokora (diving) 90 



Bolton Wanderers

Campo (foul) 35
Nolan (foul) 55
Samuel (kicking ball away) 87


Match Report : -  
Another draw saw normal service restored as Tottenham failed to beat another bottom dweller, this time in the shape of Bolton Wanderers, drawing 1-1 at the Lane.

There was little to get excited about in the first half, but a goal just after the break gave struggling Bolton the lead and Tottenham came back into the game with an equaliser and then proceeded to bombard the Bolton goal, without any success.  With potential new signing Luka Modric watching on, what must have been going through his mind, goodness only knows. 

As Jonathan Woodgate returned in defence, Tom Huddlestone dropped out and Gilberto replaced Pascal Chimbonda at left back.  Bolton set yup with five in midfield to crowd Tottenham out, as they started with a former brief Spur up front in Grzegorz Rasiak, who proved why we moved him on.

Spurs pushed forward early on, while Bolton seemed to be willing to rely on set-pieces.  Robbie Keane got put through on the left, but he could only hit a shot with the outside of his right foot that was easily caught by Al Habsi.  Bolton reverted to their old style of physical intimidation, as McCann and Joey O'Brien were putting themselves about, with Clattenburg not stamping down on it early on.  It didn't work for Bolton as after 20 minutes, that O'Brien had to be substituted as he damaged a knee.

Spurs were presented with a series of free-kicks from these fouls, but failed to make much of them, with Jermaine Jenas failing to get the ball over the first defender or hitting shots into the wall or in one case so high and wide, it was embarrassing.  Lennon did get on the end of one that had been cleared, but his shot on the volley rose over the top.  When Spurs finally did work a bit of space for Robbie Keane on the left corner of the box, he took aim to try and curl the bal into the top right corner of the goal, but slightly over-did it, leaving his shot passing wide of the far post.  Then Steed Malbranque broke into the same sort of position, but could only nudge his shot wide of the goal as Al Habsi came out.

Woodgate threatened from a corner, but could only head Jenas' cross off target and just after the 33 minute mark, Aaron Lennon broke forward and left Bolton player sin his wake, but when it came to the final pass, the winger could not find either Berbatov or Malbranque.  Clattenburg did show a good refereeing decision, when he went back and booked Campo, as he had cynically brought down Jenas at the start of the move.

At the end of the first half, Alan Hutton was brought down for about the fourth time, as he got past his marker, leaving a free-kick for Spurs on the right hand corner of the box.  This time Jenas did not take it, but Gilberto was the more suitable option, being a left-footer and his low shot beat the wall, but found Steinsson at the near post and his sliced clearance struck the woodwork before going off for a corner.

At the interval, Bolton made two changes, with Campo, who was sitting in front of the back four, going off to be replaced by Stelios and Diouf replacing the disappointing Rasiak, who made little impact at all.  Alan Hutton had being helped over the advertising hoarding halfway through the first half by a McCann elbow and he made it across the pitch to his position, but could not carry on, as his limp got worse, leaving Tom Huddlestone to rush out of the tunnel and straight onto the pitch for Tottenham's kick-off.

The ball was played back to Dawson from the re-start and he played a low pass forward, which was cut out by a Bolton player.  Steinsson got wide and his low cross into the near post saw Cerny save from Diouf and Stelios was on hand to net the rebound to give Bolton a lead they had hardly deserved, but one which Tottenham could have avoided by netting in the first half.

Tottenham looked as though the change had disrupted them and it was only when they started going forward, with Huddlestone spraying passes around.  One move saw Jermaine Jenas inject some urgency into the passing with a crisp pass to Keane on the edge of the area.  Robbie turned and hit a shot that looked as though it was going wide, but came off a defender's leg and found Steed racing in at the far post to steer it into the net to level the score.  It had a slice of good fortune, but was a well-worked move.

Every time Lennon got the ball on the right wing, he beat Matthew Taylor, who was struggling to keep him in check, although plenty of Bolton players managed to check Lennon's progress unfairly.  Didier Zokora had dropped into the right back slot and linked well with Lennon, putting in some good runs and crosses.

There was a good chance for Keane, when Lennon ran into the area, passed to Berbatov and he passed sideways to Robbie, who should have shot first time, but took a touch around Cahill and Al Habsi was out at him quickly to shut down the angles.  Jenas struck a shot over the bar as it bounced up from Zokora's pull-back and Aaron hit a low shot from a long ball forward that went straight at the keeper, while Keane stood up a cross to the far post, where Malbranque came in, but took the shot with his right foot and put it across the goal, rather than in.

Zokora copied the tactic, by swinging in a cross with pace, but it was cleared to Keane, who hit s fierce shot which hit Darren Bent.  Lennon got to the by-line and dragged the ball back to Berbatov, who spun onto the shot which was well kept out at the post by Al Habsi.  After 67 minutes, another foul on Lennon saw Jeans take the kick out on the right of the area and his low pull-back found Berbatov and his similar shot to the previous one was blocked as he didn't get a proper contact on it.

Diouf had an opening when he got on the end of a scramble in the Tottenham area and screwed his effort wide.  A few minutes later, when Huddlestone got the ball past the last defender with a pass from very deep, Bent got onto it, but he tried to get it over the keeper as he came out at him, but only managed to hit his midriff.

As the game came to a close Jonathan Woodgate rose to Jenas' corner, but could not hit the target and then Huddlestone drilled an effort over the top from more than 20 yards out, just before he was pressured by McCann and sliced a shot wide from Berbatov's set-up.

From a corner in added time, O'Hara sent the ball over to see Darren Bent meet the ball with his head, but Danny Guthrie was on the line to nudge the ball away for another corner.  When Zokora made a long run into the Bolton penalty area, you could see that his legs were giving way under him and when challenged, he crumpled in the box and earned a yellow card from Clattenburg.

There was still time for one more chance, as O'Hara once more crossed, this time from a free-kick and he picked out Berbatov's head; unmarked and he put his header over the bar without troubling Al Habsi.

There were apparently 26 shots by Tottenham, with seven from Bolton.  It is really necessary to turn a greater percentage of these into goals if any progress is to be made next season and it needs to start this season.

I know there is nothing to play for now, but perhaps a couple of more ruthless performances in the remaining matches might go some way of showing that the team can finish the opposition off.



Reaction : -



The Times' Fanzine Fanzone contains Wyart Lane's report on the match and you can read it by clicking here.
After watching the game, I wonder if Luka Modric wondered if he had made the right decision. 

Perhaps he might think that he can add something to the team that stuttered to get a point against the physical, but unwilling to attack Trotters.  How can any team who plays Rasiak up front on his own hope to get anything from a match ??

Perhaps he can see that his star will rise in a team which needs a creative midfielder who can turn a point like this into three and take them up the table.

Perhaps he can see that he will be able to unlock massed ranks of defenders like Bolton threw in Tottenham's path to their goal.

Perhaps he sees free-kicks, which he can take and get on target.

Perhaps he sees players who he can provide the quality of supply they need to score the goals that will help Tottenham win more games, rather than drawing them.

Hopefully, he is not just seeing the telephone number salary put in front of him, as the money we spend this year will be crucial to Spurs moving forward.

Perhaps he will be the key to a more fluent team next season.

Perhaps Modric, like the majority of the Upper West Stand, left before the end.





Other scores this weekend :
Birmingham City 2 Liverpool 2 Saturday
Chelsea 2 Manchester United 1 Saturday
Manchester City 2 Fulham 3 Saturday
Sunderland 3 Middlesbrough 2 Saturday
Wigan Athletic 0 Reading 0 Saturday
West Ham United 2 Newcastle United 2 Saturday
Portsmouth 0 Blackburn Rovers 1 Sunday
Everton 2 Aston Villa 2 Sunday
Derby County 2 Arsenal 6 Monday



League Table
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Manchester United 36 25 6 5 74 21 81 +53
2 Chelsea 36 24 9 3 62 25 81 +37
3 Arsenal 36 22 11 3 72 31 77 +41
4 Liverpool 36 19 13 4 64 28 70 +36
5 Everton 36 18 8 10 52 31 62 +21
6 Aston Villa 36 16 11 9 69 47 59 +22
7 Portsmouth 36 16 9 11 48 37 57 +11
8 Blackburn Rovers 36 14 13 9 46 43 55 +3
9 Manchester City 35 15 10 11 44 44 55 0
10 West Ham United 36 14 9 14 39 44 48 -5
11 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 36 10 13 13 65 59 43 +6
12 Newcastle United 36 11 10 15 44 60 43 -16
13 Sunderland 36 11 6 19 36 56 39 -20
14 Wigan Athletic 36 9 10 17 31 47 37 -16
15 Middlesbrough 36 8 12 16 33 52 36 -19
16 Bolton Wanderers 36 8 9 19 33 53 33 -20
17 Reading 36 9 6 21 37 65 33 -28
18 Birmingham City 36 7 11 18 42 59 32 -17
19 Fulham 36 6 12 18 35 60 30 -25
20 Derby County 36 1 8 27 19 82 11 -63


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