Looking Forward

 

BIRMINGHAM CITY (Home)

Premier League

Wednesday 7th January 2004

It's the time of the season when the opening day's fixtures are repeated at the other team's grounds.  Let's hope that there will not be a repeat of the farcical refereeing on that day, when Rob Styles awarded Birmingham a "dubious" penalty.

Maik Taylor is on loan from Fulham and is doing well between the posts for Brum and his long kicking has set up a few goals lately, like the two against Blackburn in the Cup at the weekend.  He is brave and a good shot stopper, but crosses might prove a weak point for him, if put in with pace and players challenging him for them.  Ian Bennett is the back-up keeper, who, despite being small in stature, is a competent deputy in the absence of Nico Vassaen, who has been out long term with a knee injury.

Jeff Kenna and Kenny Cunningham have provided the experience in the defence, but there should also be some question marks over their pace and hopefully Kanoute (who missed the opening day fixture) and Dalmat might put them to the test. With Matthew Upson injured in the FA Cup tie at the weekend, Darren Purse or Olivier Tebily will probably be drafted into the middle of the defence.  Purse is a straight swap for Upson, tall and rangy, but he has not been given a look-in because of the former Gooner's good showings.  As for Tebily, he is strong, but suspect on the turn and maybe Fredi might get some joy against him, as might the smaller and more tricky Keane.  Martin Grainger is a fierce tackler and that got him a nasty injury that has seen him miss most of this season so far.  Going forward, he likes to attack the flanks and is also a dead-ball expert for Brum.  Jamie Clapham, we know all about.  Quick and very left-footed, he can provide good long and short passes as well as deliver a precise free-kick.  Might find it difficult to get forward as much as he might like, if the right midfielder for Spurs keeps him penned into his own half.  Aliou Cisse, the Senegal defender, lost a lot of respect for not returning from the summer break on time, but has earned a recall to the side in the last couple of months, but usually on the bench, as he tries to acclimatise fully to the English game.  Big, strong and a tough tackler, he might provide a difficult barrier for the Spurs forwards to get past if he gets on.

The midfield is a hard working, "in your face" set of players who don't give you time to settle on the ball.  Therefore, you will need to be able to move the ball quickly to get past them and the players will need to move around to produce an angle for each other to provide an option to dispose of the ball.  Players like Savage, Clemence, Hughes and Dunn are always on the go and it will be necessary for some of our players to match that effort to ensure that the space available in this part of the pitch is limited.  Dalmat might drag some of them around with his direct running, while Dunn does the same job for the Blues, but Gus and Darren (if fit) will need to put in the yards to make life difficult for Birmingham.  Irishman Damien Johnson and rising star Darren Carter might come into the equation with Dunn and Lazaridis both leaving the field on Saturday, although Dunn will most likely be fit.

Currently on a scoring hot streak, Mikeal Forssell is the one to stop.  On loan from Chelsea, with no apparent chance of a permanent transfer, the striker is continuing his career, scoring wherever he has played.  Pacy and with an innate knowledge of where the goal is, he can score from any angle and is not worried how they go in.  Stern John is a strong, physical forward, who might be on the bench to add variety if things don't go Birmingham's way, while Jovan Kirovski is a similar player, but hasn't had too many opportunities to play in the first team of late.  Even though Christophe Dugarry has been out, Clinton Morrison's return to fitness has given Bruce's men a focus up front and he scored on Saturday too to get him back in the groove.  Having been here as a junior, he might be keen to show what we could have had !!

While Birmingham seem on paper to have few stars, they gel together well and provide a big effort that means other sides have to work hard to beat them.  For Tottenham to get anything out of the match, they must show the movement and determination they did against Crystal Palace.  With Kanoute being played in the hope of getting something out of him before he goes to the African Cup of Nations (or in getting him injured so he can't go), Tottenham need to cash in on any chances they create and Fredi is the one who might do that.  It'll be tough going and therefore, I can foresee a tight game ...

PREDICTION : -   Tottenham  1    Birmingham City  1

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

VIEW FROM THE OTHER SIDE

It was not possible to get an opposing view from a Birmingham City website.

PLAYERS UNAVAILABLE

TOTTENHAM : - Christian Ziege (thigh); Dean Richards (knee); Jamie Redknapp (knee); Mauricio Taricco (suspended)

BIRMINGHAM CITY : -  Christophe Dugarry (knee); Jamie Clapham (hamstring); Matthew Upson (ankle); Stan Lazaridis (groin)

COVERAGE : 
TV :  No live TV coverage
Radio :  
Internet :  www.spurs.co.uk   Live webcast    (subscription service only)

 

 

Tottenham   4     Birmingham City   1     (Half-time score : 3-0)
Premier League
Wednesday 7th January 2004
Venue : -  White Hart Lane
Kick Off : -  19.45 p.m.
Weather : -  Dry, mild
Crowd : -  30,016
Referee : -  B. Knight (Orpington)
Teams : -  
Tottenham : - 
Keller; Carr, Doherty, King, Jackson; Davies, Poyet, Anderton (Kelly 87), Dalmat (Ricketts 81); Keane, Kanoute (Postiga 81) 
Unused subs:  Hirschfeld, Bunjevcevic

Birmingham City : -  Taylor; Kenna, Purse, Carter (Tebily 46), Cunningham; Dunn, Savage, Clemence (Hughes 81), Johnson; Morrison, Forssell (Kirovski 83) 
Unused subs: 
Bennett, John

Colours : -  (kits courtesy of http://www.colours-of-football.com)
Tottenham Birmingham City
Scorers : -  
Tottenham  -   Dalmat 11, 25, Davies 40, Keane 80

Birmingham City -  Savage (pen) 69

Cards : -  
Tottenham  -  None

Birmingham City -  None

A four star performance from Stephane Dalmat set the tone for the four goal performance by the team in putting Birmingham to the sword.

The Frenchman showed that his fancy footwork is not just for show and that it can have devastating effect, so much so that Tottenham should investigate the possibility of being able to sign him up now.  I fear that Inter Milan might want him back, even though the loan star looks like he is settling in nicely here and could want to make the move permanent.  His night started early with a piece of twinkle-toed magic that almost put Keane in after a minute or so and then with about five minutes gone, he put the ball into the box for Keano to slam past Taylor in the Brum goal.  Only a linesman's flag against Davies for offside prevented Tottenham taking the lead.

Spurs had suffered a couple of scare sin the first seven minutes, with Clinton Morrison, who made use of the ability of the referee to see no shirt pulling all night, got his head to a cross and put his effort a couple of feet wide and then David Dunn picked the ball up on the halfway line and ran at the Spurs side.  Going back to the bad old days, they backed off and off and he shot from 10 yards out and only an agile save from Keller stopped the ball getting past him.  Dunn really should have done better and appeared to go for power rather than placement, as, with a bit more height, he could have cleared Kasey, who was six yards off his line.

Spurs hit back and went down the other end to score, with the ball being moved nicely through the midfield and then from left to right, where it landed at the deadly feet of Dalmat.  Stephen Carr made a great run outside him, which took the defence with him and Stephane switched feet to go inside and from five yards outside the box struck a low left footer that flew in.  It looked as though Taylor should have done better, but the speed of the shot, taken early, left him helpless.

Dalmat was involved in everything and carrying on his good form from Saturday, he was relishing the amount of possession he was receiving.  His neat pass almost put Carr in, but the keeper got there just before him.  With the clock coming up to 25 minutes, Dalmat put Keane in, but he was driven wide to the right along the dead ball line. Robbie maintained possession and hit a hard, low cross, which Taylor could only palm out and Dalmat came racing in to slam the second home.  At this stage Birmingham looked demoralised.

Keane was put through by a neat through pass by Anderton, who had a good night.  Robbie took the ball on and veered off to the left, making it difficult to get much power in his shot which was not hard enough to beat Taylor on this occasion.  The Dalmat-Keane combination almost opened up Brum again, but the Irishman just failed to get a decent volley on the end of the deep cross from extremely close range.

Birmingham had stopped going forward much.  A couple of bursts into the box by Kenna gave Spurs some anxious moments.  One Jackson ended with a timely tackle, which might have been seen as a penalty had he mis-times it an iota and another break saw the Irish full back knock in a dangerous cross that flew across the face of the Spurs goal.  Dunn was continuing to run at the Tottenham defence, but he rarely got close with the midfield doing a good job on him, although one long range effort flew over the bar without troubling KK.

With five minutes to go to the break, the ball was again moved between the midfielders as it went from one to another.  It was played into Keane, who held it well and played it out to the left, where Jackson was moving forward.  His instantaneous low ball into the edge of the six yard box was met by Simon Davies running in and he steered it in with a volley that left Taylor with no chance.  A goal at that stage was vital for Tottenham, as they needed to have something to show for all the possession and attacking they had done in the first 45.

The second half was quieter in comparison, with Birmingham trying to get back into the match a bit harder, probably on the back of a hairdryer session with Steve Bruce at half-time.  Morrison and Forssell went close and the Finn nodded a free header just over the top from a free-kick, the ball flicking the top of the net on the way over.  But then Spurs were not quite finished with Dalmat and Anderton linking to play the ball square for Fredi to smack the ball against the bar.  However, the Blues got their stroke of luck on 65 minutes, with Dunn on a long run, which ended with a tumble in the box and the ref got suckered in one more time to point to the spot.  Savage, who was a pathetic shadow of any semblance of his annoying self, tucked it away, but even then he couldn't rile Tottenham's fans.

This was mainly because the solid start gave the side a platform to build on and the early goal certainly gave them confidence to play their passing game.  When things looked a bit rocky, even then they turned out OK.  A back pass to Keller saw him kick the ball out straight to Forssell, who took the ball on into the box, but a combination of Doherty and Carr denied him a shooting opportunity and the Birmingham player looked forlornly at the ref, who had not pointed to the spot on this occasion.  Spurs quickly moved the ball forward and Keane put the ball into the right wing position for Fredi to run at his man.  Getting past him and to the goal-line, he pulled the ball back across the six yard box where Keane had continued his run to knock the ball home at the far post.  It was a goal he needed, as he has missed a few openings in the last couple of matches and we need him to be sticking them away in Kanoute's absence.

That was virtually the end of the action, with 11 minutes remaining, but Tottenham showed they can work hard and put in the effort that allows them to play their own game.  Doherty had an immense game last night, determined to be first to every ball and to keep Birmingham out, he showed how static Richards can be sometimes in comparison.  The need for points looked to set the agenda for tonight's match, with Birmingham being one of the sides we SHOULD beat, but in the past might have slipped to defeat against.  The only thing now is maintaining that effort through to Saturday and getting the points at Leeds.  A tough assignment ahead, but one that could be achievable if the application is right.

 

MEHSTG TOP MAN : - GARY DOHERTY

Stanford Rivers

 

BLUE NOSED; RED FACED

 

While Dalmat was the one taking the bows, it was Gary Doherty that the crowd were singing about.  The central defender put on one of the best performances in his Tottenham career to ensure that there was no way back for Birmingham, just when Spurs looked like they might wobble a bit. 

Wobbling through them at that stage was David Dunn.  A stocky runner with the ball who I thought might have made a good summer signing for Tottenham, but now we have one of our own and one who can facilitate tricks and flicks without falling flat on his face !

Two moments of vision and awareness gave Tottenham a 2-0 lead.  Carr must take a share of the credit for the first strike, making a wide run that drew the defence's attention and allowed Stephane to take the ball back inside.  Feeling confident after Saturday's starring performance against Palace, he struck a low 'grubber' of a shot that arrowed inside the foot of the far post.  His second showed that he has the nous to get in amongst the goalmouth action to poach a goal from the keeper's save to Keane's cross.  

The third goal was very well worked and while Tottenham players seem to want to score the "goal of the month" every week, this team goal will surely be a contender.  Working the ball from the back and then through the midfield, Jackson was given a ball to run onto on the left wing.  Producing an early cross into an area where goalkeepers and defenders are unsure what to do with the ball, Davies' run was well made and well timed to meet the ball on the volley.  He didn't try to hit the leather off the ball, but simply guided it into the net with the turn of his foot.  This left Taylor with no chance of getting to the ball, as he had shifted all his weight onto his right foot and couldn't redistribute his weight to spring and save. leaving him leaden footed and statuesque.

The second half was always going to be difficult to match the first, but Tottenham did create chances.  Keane missed two and Dalmat blazed over when his hat trick was begging.  Fredi was playing on a hat-trick from the last game and with the knowledge that he would most probably get his clearance to play for Mali, but showed little interest in proceedings for the majority of his time on the pitch.  His one big chance came when clear in front of goal from a square pass by Anderton, he shot and it bounced over off the bar.  As he hit it, I thought it wasn't going in, as he lacked conviction and was leaning slightly back, when there was a lot of the goal to aim for to Taylor's left side. 

Robbie Keane looked more into it tonight.  Scoring a late tap-in at the back stick after good work by Kanoute will help him, as he should have scored in Saturday's procession against Palace.  His best chance in the first half came through a neat pass from Anderton.  If he had taken the ball to his right, it would have been across the run of the covering defender Purse and it wouldn't have been possible for the Blues man to touch him, without bringing him down.  Mind you, whether the ref would have given it is questionable, as he gave Spurs little all night.  David Dunn seemed to be on his way to hitting the ground before most challenges came in on him, so when he managed to get down to the ground in the area, it was not a great surprise that the ref brought about the double for Birmingham against us this season, with their second debatable penalty in matches against Spurs.

Fellow Irishman Doherty was up for it.  He threw himself in the way and tackled like it was going out of fashion, while his willingness to get to the ball before Morrison or Forssell helped put them out of the game for long periods.  As long as you realise, that like Perry, his distribution is not the world's best, he does a job and will do it honestly.  He's not the greatest played in the world, but he has his assets and he will be a lot more mobile than Richards.

I must admit, that when I saw the side with Poyet and Anderton in midfield and with King moved back alongside Doherty, I feared the worst, but Pleat's selection did the trick tonight.  King looked happy at the centre of the defence, while both Anderton and Gus put in some hard work and passed well.  Dazza made some cutting passes, while Gus did what he does best, just short passes that link play and keep things ticking over.  Both Jackson and Dalmat found joy wide and Jacko looks like he is getting more used to the Premiership with every passing game.

One other pleasing aspect was the performance of Keller, who only really had to pull one decent save out, but at 0-0, it stopped the side going behind and the crowd perhaps getting onto them.  The one part of his game tonight that was good to see was that he was coming for high balls and crosses.  It looks as though Segers must have spotted this weakness from recent matches and Kasey's handling was good and he only punched one ... and that went quite a long way.

More performances like this, especially away from home, where we sit back and get stuffed, would go a long way to ensuring that we no longer trouble the radio phone-ins ... but then some people are never happy !!

Benny The Ball

 

Other scores this midweek :

Everton

1 Arsenal 1 Wednesday
Wolverhampton Wanderers 2 Blackburn Rovers 2 Wednesday
Manchester City 1 Charlton Athletic 1 Wednesday
Middlesbrough 2 Fulham 1 Wednesday
SCBC 0 Leicester City 0 Wednesday
Newcastle United 1 Leeds United 0 Wednesday
Chelsea 0 Liverpool 1 Wednesday
Bolton Wanderers 1 Manchester United 2 Wednesday
Aston Villa 2 Portsmouth 1 Tuesday

 

League Table
 
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Manchester United 19 16 1 3 40 14 49 +26
2 Arsenal 20 13 7 0 36 13 46 +23
3 Chelsea 20 13 3 4 36 17 42 +19
4 Charlton Athletic 20 8 7 5 28 23 31 +5
5 Liverpool 19 8 5 6 29 21 29 +8
6 Newcastle United 20 7 8 5 27 22 29 +5
7 Fulham 20 8 4 8 31 28 28 +3
8 Aston Villa 20 7 6 7 21 24 27 -3
9 SCBC 20 7 6 7 18 15 27 +3
10 Birmingham City 19 7 5 7 17 24 26 -7
12 Everton 20 6 6 8 24 26 24 -2
15 Middlesbrough 19 6 6 7 16 19 24 -3
11 Bolton Wanderers 20 5 8 7 21 30 23 -9
13 Manchester City 20 5 7 8 28 28 22 0
14 Blackburn Rovers 20 6 4 10 28 31 22 -3
16 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 20 6 3 11 23 30 21 -7
17 Portsmouth 20 5 4 11 21 30 19 -9
18 Leicester City 20 4 7 9 28 31 19 -3
19 Leeds United 20 4 5 11 18 41 17 -23
20 Wolverhampton Wanderers 19 3 6 10 18 41 15 -23

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