Looking Forward

 

COVENTRY CITY (Home)

Premier League

Saturday 17th March 2001

Having been beaten at home for the first time this season last time out, Spurs will be looking to set the record straight with another home win.  However, with the situation at the bottom of the Premier League being pretty tight, Coventry will be fighting for every point they can get.

Some battling displays have seen them pick up draws against Chelsea, Charlton Athletic and West Ham United.  However, they haven't won a match in the league since Boxing Day and will be desperate to set that record straight.  One of their players with something to prove to Tottenham is new signing John Hartson, who will be seeking to show he should have been signed by George Graham.  The burly forward can be more than a handful for defenders and a handful for referees if he gets stuck in (as he has been known to do).  Partnering him up front will be his Welsh pal Craig Bellamy, who was also once a rumoured transfer target for Spurs.  He is nippy and takes up good positions, so will the back men will need to watch him carefully.  John Aloisi has also featured since returning from injury, but seems like he will be leaving Highfield Road (like Cedric Roussel who went to Wolves) after a number of enquiries for his services.  The Aussie can be a good finisher and has a liking for scoring against Spurs, so watch out for him too, although he could be limited to an appearance form the bench.

Breaking from midfield in support of the front two will be Mustafa Hadji and Youssef Chippo (international calls permitting).  The two Moroccans have brought a bit of spice to the side, but have been criticised for their effort and lack of team play in recent months.  Some fans would not be sorry to sere the back of them, especially as they feel that local youth product John Eustace has impressed with his endeavour when he has had a chance to play in the first team.  Former Blackburn anchor man, Lee Carsley will stick in the middle to tie things up, while ex-Liverpool wide and short man, David Thompson, will try and get in behind the Spurs defence to provide the crosses for Hartson and Bellamy to feed on.  His temperament can be suspect at times, so expect a yellow to be flashed in his direction (at least).  Others in line for a place in the middle of the park are Irishman Barry Quinn and Scot Paul Telfer, neither of whom have been playing regularly, but could come in to battle away there, unlike Carlton Palmer (sent off in the first meeting this season), who has returned to Sheffield Wednesday on loan after a big falling out with the manager.

At the back, there are a number of options despite the loss of Colin Hendry to Bolton and an unsettled line-up there because of injury.  Man mountain Mo Konjic has been out with an injured knee, but might be back to add height to the defence.  Paul Williams is another who is certain to play, but also almost certain to pick up a card as he is whole hearted, but not the best timer of his challenges.  Marc Edworthy and Gary Breen have both been showing good form of late, but there are hesitancies in their play that allow opposing forwards to benefit and they will be trying to cut out that weakness.  Richard Shaw is always available, although most Sky Blues fans wish he wasn't and Marcus Hall has made a new start after a long injury lay off.

Behind both of them expect Magnus Hedman to start in goal.  Despite the fact that he has not lived up to his high standards of last season, he is capable of making important saves, but this term has looked susceptible in the air.  If he does not begin the game, Coventry have an able deputy in Chris Kirkland, who they rate very highly, as do Liverpool, who have expressed interest in the young goalie.  Spurs will have to get past the defence and then a good keeper to get on the score-sheet.

With such a long run without a win, it has to end sometime, but with Tottenham on a high after the FA Cup win at West Ham and determined to maintain their good home record after the loss to Leeds, I consider the outcome will be ... 

PREDICTION : -  Tottenham  2   Coventry City  0

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

 

 

Tottenham  3   Coventry City  0 -  Saturday 17th March 2001

Weather : -  Drizzly rain, cold.
Crowd : -     35,606
Referee : -   Graham Poll (Tring)
Scorers : -   Tottenham  -  Iversen 29, Ferdinand 34, Rebrov 59
                       Coventry City  -  None

Tottenham: Sullivan, Young, Freund, Campbell, Perry, Doherty, Clemence, King, Ferdinand, Iversen, Rebrov.
Subs Not Used: Walker, Korsten, Etherington, Davies, Gardner.

Coventry: Kirkland, Shaw, Breen, Thompson (Telfer 64), Quinn, Carsley, Eustace (Chippo 63), Hadji, Hartson, Hall, Bellamy, Chippo (Edworthy 77).
Subs Not Used: Aloisi, Hedman.

The rain dropped on White Hart Lane, but few shed tears for George Graham, whose reign ended yesterday.  With David Pleat taking the reins for this match all that was missing was the signing of Claudio Reyna to make the wet allusion complete.

The game started with a fairly standard George Graham Spurs team taking the field.  With little time to change things, I suppose Pleat decided to go with what the side knew, but there was a different approach from those players who had started so slowly against Derby County in the last League game.  Within the first minute Ledley King had looped a header from 10 yards out onto the top of the bar, but they could easily have been two down early on as Coventry tried to knock Spurs out of their stride.  Craig Bellamy was the man to cause the problems with his pace down the left flank.  Firstly, he beat his man on the outside and pulled a shot across the face of the Spurs goal, with no other Sky Blue forward there to prod the ball home.  The Welshman also forced Sullivan to a stretching save which came after Hartson and Hadji headed wide of the goal and Eustace had drilled in a shot that the Spurs keeper held.  The Tottenham response came from Doherty, whose low drive flashed across the face of goal and  Stephen Clemence, who had a very good game.  Two drives from outside the box had Kirkland reaching to stop the ball, but the Spurs midfielder's contribution was about to become more telling.  On 28 minutes, he floated in a corner, which found the head of Steffen Iversen, beating his marker to nod inside the far post.  Clem wasn't finished there as it was his free-kick from the left that found Steffen again.  The Norwegian's header was this time saved by Kirkland, but it was not held and while still in the air, Les stooped in to net Tottenham's second on 34 minutes.

At this stage of the game, Coventry never looked like getting back into the match.  They were a pale shadow of the Coventry sides of the past which had successfully battled against relegation in recent seasons and there was little to base any hope that they may do so this season.  Gordon Strachan will have his work cut out to sort things out in the remaining games left to them.

With the second half, Spurs went about their business in much the same way.  Sol was dominating Hartson, who only had one sniff of a weak header at Sullivan in the 45 minutes.  He did look worth every 5,000 a game they are paying for him. Immobile and more frustrated as the game went on, I fear he is not what the Sky Blues need to help them in their plight.  Alongside Sol, Perry looked much better than he has done for some time.  His reading of the game prevented the ball getting to the Coventry forwards and when it did, he made some important tackles and headers.  Tottenham knocked the ball about nicely and had chances through Clemence's header, when delightfully picked out by Ledley King, who put in another assured performance.  Unfortunately, it went over the top as did Rebrov's rasping free-kick towards the end, but by then the Ukrainian had wrapped up the points with a clever finish.  A good passing move worked the ball forward and Ledley slipped a ball into the box, with Sergei looking suspiciously offside.  He took the ball on the left hand side of the box and as the Cov keeper came out to him, he slid the ball past him at his near post.  The movement had done Coventry and accusing fingers pointed amongst the defence and it was typical of what Spurs produced in this match.  In fact, the move of the match almost produced one of the most memorable goals ever scored at White Hart Lane.  It would have been notable for two reasons.  Firstly, the movement and swift passing was a joy to watch and must have mimicked the pass-and-move philosophy of Spurs teams gone by.  The second was that the final ball by Clemence set Steffen Freund racing into the box and when he pulled his foot back, for all the world it looked as though he would score his first Spurs career goal.  Unfortunately, the ball agonisingly went just the wrong side of the post and may well have got a touch from Kirkland's boot, even though a corner was not awarded.  It would have gone down in Tottenham Hotspur Football Club folk history, especially as it had been preceded by a first half effort that he should have got on target, but shot over the bar.

Winning this match was not a tribute to GG, nor a success for Pleat, but more a deserved reward for the players, who performed at a decent level against a modest team.  Not too much should be read into this result with two very important and frantic games coming up, but the form of some of the team is heartening with the vital fixtures in the next few weeks.

MEHSTG TOP MAN : - CHRIS PERRY

Pete Stachio

 

 
 
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Absent Friends ... and 
Re-Acquaintances

 

For a team who had reached the semi-final of the FA Cup and for all the talk of who did manage, who currently manages and who might manage Spurs in the future, there was a strangely muted atmosphere at the Lane for the visit of Coventry.

Admittedly, it was not the most enticing fixture of the season, as Cov were battling to gain points to stay up and Spurs had little to play for in the League other than pride, but the fans were subdued, despite all the tabloid splashes about the dismissal of the much hated George Graham.  Maybe many of them were not as anti-GG as some would have hoped.  There were neither songs to glory in his sacking or any   to mourn for his going, nor any to hail the latest new Messiah who would lead Spurs to the promised land.  In short, until a bad tackle on Rebrov in the second half which earned Breen a booking, the crowd were mainly withdrawn. There should have been lots of cheering by then as there had been three goals to celebrate and only sporadic threat from the Sky Blue attack beefed up by the signing of lardy boy John Hartson.  One real charge that could have been used against George Graham was that he ever thought of bringing this player to White Hart Lane.  We have much to thank our medical team for in this case.

Spurs almost went ahead in the first minute, when a right wing cross from Ferdinand found Ledley King's head on the edge of the box and he aimed a header in the direction of goal.  As Kirkland watched, the ball arced over him and bounced off the top of the bar and over.  The game swung to the other end where the Sky Blues had a few chances created by pacy running at the Spurs defence, who will have to be prepared to defend against this sort of play in our upcoming double header against Arsenal.  Luckily, their finishing was wayward and Sullivan did well to turn aside Bellamy's shot which would have nestled inside the far post.  With Freund doing a good job sitting in the middle of the park, it freed King to go forward a little more than usual and this made it hard for Coventry to pick up the runners from midfield, which helped Clemence too.  While there were times when passes went astray, there was evident commitment from the midfield players to get back and retrieve the situation, unlike some who would rather point a finger than chase back.  The movement in the side was pleasing to see, as it had become a missing part of the team and Rebrov's growing confidence is a major factor in this.  He got clattered a fair few times, but got up and got on with it, getting his reward in the end.

The goals all were reasonably simple when they came.  The first was headed in at the far post from a left wing Clemence corner by Iversen, who was again in the right wing back slot and performed very well.  He was also involved in the second, winning a header from Clemence's free-kick and making Kirkland save.  The Coventry keeper could not hold the ball, only able to push it upwards where Les snapped up the opportunity to head in.  With 34 minutes gone the game was effectively dead.  City offered little after this to suggest that they could get back into the match and Spurs treated the rest of the game as  passing practice, spreading the ball around with even Perry, who had a a sound performance, finding his man with unerring accuracy.  The final goal came around the hour, when a fine move ended with Ledley pushing a ball into the box, where Sergei had made a good run and managed to shoot through the narrow gap at Kirkland's near post.  Three was enough, but it could have been many more.  Clemence's two first half shots; a ball that was begging to be put home from Doherty; Rebrov's fierce free-kick in the second period; King finding Clem's head accurately, unfortunately not matched by his team-mate's header; and then the piece de resistance - Steffen Freund racing thirty yards to reach the edge of the box and get on the end of Clemence's pass, but he beat the keeper, but not with the precision required as his shot went agonisingly wide of his first goal for the club.  You could see the anguish in his face ... and the crowd's too !! 

There were not any bad performances today.  Sol was Sol and strong enough to withstand even Hartson's elbows (and get forward enough to lay Shaw out in the opposition's box too !!), Les was leading the line well and is looking more like the player who always caused us so many problems when he was on the other side.  Sullivan had a reasonably quiet time after the opening surge by Coventry and handled the long shots on target that came his way.  While the scoreline in no way flattered Tottenham, Coventry have got it all to do.  Masters of the great escape, they probably need to sign up Steve McQueen before deadline day if they want to do it this time.  Strachan must be tearing his ginger hair out as the players fail to do the simple thing and there seemed to be dissention in the ranks as arguments broke out in defence as Spurs opened them up.  It will be a shame to see them go after all their years in the top flight, but I fear that this season will be the one that sees them go down.  You wondered which side which was the one who had just fired their manager watching this.  Watch your back Gordon.

Benny The Ball

 

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