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Premier League

Tuesday 27th January 2009

If ever a game has to be designated a six-pointer, then this is it.

With both clubs down amongst the Premier League dead men, a win will hoist them out of the drop zone for a while.  A defeat will be a blow and a draw no good to neither fish nor foul.

Stoke have earned a reputation as a one dimensional team who throw the ball in (literally) to the box and feed off the second ball, while other set-pieces also play a major part in their success.  But there was an intention to try and play some football against us at the Britannia stadium, although it made it more viable to give them a game .. .even with ten men.

Tony Pulis will realise that the team have to play to their strengths to pull away from the bottom of the table, with a team lacking in confidence in the shape of Spurs is probably the best thing that could happen to the Potters.

For Tottenham, they can draw some comfort from the Manchester United FA Cup tie, even though many have said that there was no impetus to take the match to the hosts.  But the need to protect the goal from further attacks made Spurs sit deep and United had the opportunity to soak up the pressure that Spurs may have looked like imposing, but it was really only the last couple of minutes that caused United some nervous moments.

City's new signing James Beattie will be looking to get off the mark and with Matthew Etherington another transfer window signing looking to impress against his old side, it will be a tough task to stop the supply coming in from the wings.  With the throw-ins from Rory Delap and free-kicks arrowed in from Michael Tonge, it will need a resilient defence to keep Stoke at arms' length. The height they have in Ibrahima Sonko, Seyi Olafinjani and Mamady Sidibe will be a real threat from dead ball situations.  I am not sure how new signing Carlo Cudicini will cope with coming for the ball, as he does not possess the height necessary to nullify the flick-ons.

But the visitors do have a range of good options in the squad, with Ricardo Fuller being an old fashioned bulldozer of a centre forward, while Richard Cresswell is not far behind, but has re-invented himself as a player who can play in the hole behind the front men.  Former Reading man Dave Kitson might have to miss out on a return to the ground of his favourite team, but he is one who has a good shot on him and knows where the goal is.

The midfield will get around the Tottenham players and will not leave them time to think, let alone dwell on the ball.  The two Faye's are very athletic, Salif Diao is a massive presence and Glenn Whelan is an industrious midfielder, who has an eye for goal.  But it is at the back that Stoke really make things difficult.  Thomas Sorensen has been good in goal and was a good buy by Pulis, but with Andy Griffin, David Pugh, Dominic Matteo and Ryan Shawcross are all well drilled in keeping sides out.  Keeping the line to catch players offside, we might have to rely on Defoe's nous in keeping on the last player's shoulder to run through from an onside position and to have runners from deep to counter the tactic.  Alternatively, if Lennon plays, the importance of getting to the by-line is necessary to make chances.  Stoke like to keep pushing out and it might need a Zokora-like charge to get past them coming the other way. 

Expect Stoke to field a 4-5-1 with a reliance on hard work to get players back behind the ball and up in attack.  Stoke might regard it as a winnable game that will mean that they have a go to get the goal that might make the difference in the long run.  It will mean that a lot of tracking of players will be needed and that Spurs will have to use the ball and take the chances that come their way to get anything out of the game, but the effort the team puts in will hopefully result in a result of ...

PREDICTION : -  Tottenham Hotspur  2    Stoke City  1

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


TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR : -  Alan Hutton (foot); Ledley King (knee); Jamie O'Hara (hip); Heurelho Gomes (thigh); Wilson Palacios (suspended); - (-); 

STOKE CITY :  -  Danny Higginbotham (calf); Mamady Sidibe (knee); Mamady Sidibe (knee); Salif Diao (calf); Andrew Davies (knee); - (-); - (-); - (-); 


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Tottenham Hotspur   3    Stoke City   1      (Half-time score : 3-0)

Premier League
Venue : White Hart Lane  
Tuesday 27th January 2009
Kick Off :  8.00 p.m.
Crowd :   36,072
Referee :   Mike Riley (Leeds)
Stoke City kicked off and played towards the Paxton Road end in the first half.
Weather :  -  Dry, chilly
Teams : - 
Tottenham Hotspur :

23  Cudicini

22  Corluka
20  Dawson 
39  Woodgate (c)     
32  Assou-Ekotto

  5  Bentley     
  4  Zokora 
14  Modric
  7  Lennon    (  6  Huddlestone 90)

  9  Pavlyuchenko  (18  Campbell 90)
25  Defoe 

Unused subs: 
27  Alnwick
  3  Bale
17  Giovani
19  Taarabt
33  Rocha

Stoke City :

23  Sorensen

  3  Higginbotham     
17  Shawcross
25  Abdoulaye Faye  (33  Sonko 46)
28  Wilkinson  (  2  Griffin 46)

26  Etherington
19   Amdy Faye  (10  Fuller 49)
24   Delap
  6  Whelan     

20  Beattie 
  9  Cresswell     

Unused subs: 
  1  Simonsen
  7  Lawrence
12  Kitson
14  Pugh

Colours : -  (kits courtesy of
Tottenham Hotspur

  Stoke City
Scorers : -  
Tottenham Hotspur

Lennon 8
Defoe 21
Dawson 25

Stoke City

Beattie 57

Cards : -  
Tottenham Hotspur  

Bentley (foul) 38 
Woodgate (foul) 51  


Stoke City

Higginbotham (foul) 40
Creswell (foul) 63
Whelan (foul) 69  


Match Report : -  
When a team turn up at White Hart Lane dressed as Watford, there is little more than they can expect other than a defeat and a consolation goal, as Spurs finally began their season with the best forty five minutes so far, followed by a period when they had the old "what do we do to defend a three-goal lead" syndrome.

The three points were vital in any attempt to try and get away from the bottom of the table, but the performance was equally as important after two dodgy cup showings away from home.


It is an unusual feeling to be writing about a Spurs performance that was sparkling and we have waited a long time to see the team play like this.  However, it wouldn't be the same without an early scare and it came when Higginbotham put in a free kick from the left and it came in at the near post, where James Beattie failed to get a decent touch on it and it went through comfortably to Carlo Cudicini, who was making his debut after signing on a free transfer this week.

In Tottenham's first attack, Modric shifted the ball away from the Stoke defender in front of him and tried to put his shot on target, but missed the goal by a yard, when he should really have worked Sorensen in the away goal.  Especially when the Tottenham goal came under threat when Matthew Etherington, returning to the scene of his spat with the Spurs crowd when a Tottenham player, curled in a right wing corner and Shawcross got his head to it first, but Dawson's challenge was enough to make him miss the target.

Then, when Dawson headed away a long ball through into the Stoke half, Jermain Defoe controlled it on his chest, bringing the ball down and ran at his marker.  Cutting back inside, the striker threaded a pass wide left to where Aaron Lennon was playing, as Bentley had begun on the right.  Lennon took on Wilkinson on the outside, but the defender had not pushed him wide enough and as Aaron ran into the box, he hit a low left footer that went through Thomas Sorensen's legs and should have done better with the shot.  Whatever you say about Lennon's final ball, there is no doubting that he makes life difficult for defences and when he gets into the box, he is a player who can finish himself.

The early goal was what Spurs needed to give them confidence, but we had seen that even that can evaporate away as United came back with two quick goals to seal their win.  The expected threat from set-pieces started to be realised, with Delap's first long throw being cleared away by Jonathan Woodgate, then the Etherington-Shawcross pairing worked again from a free-kick, but the header flew too high.  Sloppy play gave the ball away and Beattie went past Assou-Ekotto, but hurried the shot that went into the side-netting.

With twenty minutes gone, Spurs scored a goal that was expertly crafted.  Pavlyuchenko held the ball up and played it to Zokora, who slipped it inside to Modric.  The Croatian returned a pass to Roman and his astute assist played Defoe in on the right hand side of the penalty spot and his powerful drive went in the narrow side to his right, with Sorensen dropping to the floor the other way.  It was the sort of goal we were scoring for fun last season. but have been harder to come by this time around.

Tottenham were in the ascendancy with another shot testing Sorensen from Bentley's free-kick, which would have gone in under the bar had the keeper not palmed it over.  With a corner, it was worked short by Bentley to Modric and Luka put a left footed cross into the six yard box, where Michael Dawson lost his marker and powered a free header into the net.  Team-mates swamped him as they celebrated a 3-0 lead with 25 minutes gone.  But, as we well know, a 3-0 lead is a most dangerous one for Spurs.  So, they decided to try and extend it, with Lennon setting up Defoe for a shot on goal from inside the penalty area that beat the goalie, but Wilkinson was at his side to kick the ball away before it got to the line.

Bentley showed his willingness to get stuck in a bit more and clattered Higginbotham, getting a yellow card, which rules him out of the Arsenal match, while the Stoke defender wreaked his revenge when he went straight through the Spurs number 5 in what could easily have been a red instead of a yellow card.  It was an intriguing performance by Mike Riley, who seemed to accept that Stoke's game is based on muscle and every time the ball was played up to Lennon, Defoe or Pavlyuchenko, they were hit from behind with varying force, but the ref allowed their physical approach to go unpunished on the whole.

A scramble from a corner fell to Corluka, whose shot was blocked, then Defoe hit the ball as it dropped and Sorensen was down at his post to block the effort.  Lennon had another shot deflected wide, while that was the end destination of Pavlyuchenko's shot after his left foot had hit it across the goalie. 

Stoke added a bit more fight to the team after the break, when they brought on Andy Griffin and Ricardo Fuller, the two players who were involved with each other in a clash at West Ham.  Griffin was joined when Sonko came on at the break to shore up the defence.  Spurs had a couple of shots in the early stages, with Roman making room for himself to get a shot on target, but it was well saved by Sorensen, then five minutes after the break, Carlo Cudicini was called upon to make the first decent save of his Spurs career.  It was straight at him from Beattie's free-kick, but it bounced just in front of him, but he held it securely.

However, in the 57th minute, Stoke broke down the left after Dawson had a pass intercepted by Delap.  Etherington got in on left and knocked the ball across the box to Beattie where he took a quick touch and then rifled a shot back across the Spurs keeper low into the far corner to make it 3-1.

Would the nerves return to scupper Tottenham's hopes of a much needed win ?

Well, a free-kick from outside the Stoke box was curled narrowly wide into the side-netting by David Bentley, then, just as Corluka got forward and looked like he was about to get a shot away, he was tackled well by Sonko.  Stoke tried to pile on some pressure with throws and crosses into the box, but Tottenham dealt with them well by defenders heading them away or Cudicini coming for them, dropping only one, which he regained possession of.

With five minutes remaining, Andy Griffin swung in a cross from the right wing and for once, Cresswell lost Dawson and got a free header on the ball, but he put too much glance on it and missed the goal completely from about ten yards out. 

With Tottenham taking the steam out of the last few minutes, it left Stoke chasing something from the game, but they were unable to force any mistakes out of the home side's defence, as this might have been the only way they could get something back.  They were playing poorly and it is not hard to see how they have dropped from a position of safety.  As for Tottenham, their first half performance was enough to take the points and it is a step in the right direction, but one which needs to be followed up with another.  An away trip to Bolton is perhaps not the most inviting prospect, but it will show how determined Spurs are to get some return from games like these.

Away from home, the team still have a lot to prove.  Wins are still needed, so the three points will be in another crunch game, which most of them will be until the end of the season.



Reaction : -



Last night's performance was much more of what I expect from Spurs, with little Luka Modric turning in a titanic performance, maybe his best for us so far.

Behind him, Zokora was again solid and dependable, full of his usual energy and tirelessness but lacking quality still. Surely he'll be on the bench this Saturday with Palacios coming straight into the side at his expense.  Where does that leave the enigma himself, the fit-again Jenas ?

With Lennon in devastating form back on the right flank, it would seem that the only place for Jenas would be on the left in place of Bentley, as bad-luck charm Bale mustn't be selected at all costs. 

I'm sorry for O'Hara who looks like missing out again, through no fault of his own, because he isn't high-profile like some others.  People criticize his lack of quality, but the lad has a good left foot and the requisite battling attitude that is needed for survival. Sometimes I doubt Jenas' battling qualities, as he has gone missing in recent games, but can turn it on against the big teams like Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool this season. Eternally frustrating, has his time finally run out ?

If Stephen Appiah gets his 6 month deal, then it'll be a very strong and competitive midfield at Spurs at long last, because at his best, the Ghanaian is a Patrick Vieira-style destroyer, who can score goals too.  Hopefully, Harry can keep him fit and motivated, as that's long been his biggest problem. Staying focused. All we can do is hope...











Other scores this mid-week :
Portsmouth 0 Aston Villa 1 Tuesday
Sunderland 1 Fulham 0 Tuesday
West Bromwich Albion 0 Manchester United 5 Tuesday
Blackburn Rovers 2 Bolton Wanderers 2 Wednesday
Chelsea 2 Middlesbrough 0 Wednesday
Everton 1 Arsenal 1 Wednesday
Manchester City 2 Newcastle United 1 Wednesday
West Ham United 2 Hull City 0 Wednesday
Wigan Athletic 1 Liverpool 1 Wednesday



League Table
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Manchester United 22 15 5 2 39 10 50 +29
2 Chelsea 23 14 6 3 44 13 48 +31
3 Liverpool 23 13 9 1 37 15 48 +22
4 Aston Villa 23 14 5 4 38 24 47 +14
5 Arsenal 23 12 6 5 38 26 42 +13
6 Everton 23 10 7 6 31 27 37 +4
7 Wigan Athletic 23 9 5 9 25 23 32 +2
8 West Ham United 23 9 5 9 31 31 32 0
9 Manchester City 22 8 4 10 41 31 28 +10
10 Hull City 23 7 6 10 29 44 27 -15
11 Fulham 21 6 8 7 19 18 26 +1
12 Sunderland 23 7 5 11 24 32 26 -8
13 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 23 6 6 11 24 28 24 -4
14 Bolton Wanderers 23 7 3 13 24 32 24 -8
15 Portsmouth 22 6 6 10 22 35 24 -13
16 Newcastle United 23 5 8 10 29 39 23 -10
17 Blackburn Rovers 22 5 6 10 27 38 22 -11
18 Middlesbrough 23 5 6 12 18 35 21 -17
19 Stoke City 23 5 6 12 20 38 21 -18
20 West Bromwich Albion 23 6 3 14 20 42 21 -22


Position before the match :  16th
Position after the match :  13th
Position after the midweek matches :  13th


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