Looking Forward

 

WEST BROMWICH ALBION (Away)

Premier League

Monday 21st April 2003

Saturday saw West Bromwich Albion's relegation from the Premier League confirmed.  We are playing like a team that is in danger of relegation, so the match really promises to be a six-pointer.

In the previous game this season, WBA were unlucky to leave Spurs with a 1-3 defeat.  Their passing game deserved better than that.  Now that Tottenham's passing game has been consigned to the dumper, we can expect the Lilywhites to be scrabbling about for scraps, while Albion, free of any pressure, will be able to pass the ball with confidence.

It all depends who Hoddle decides to put out for this game.  He should make wholesale changes, especially in midfield, where gaps appear and runners stroll through, leaving the defence overwhelmed.  Toda is not the ball-winning, destructive midfielder we need to replace Freund and match players like Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira.  He will get walked over by the likes of them.  We not have a natural player like that at the club.  May be Johnnie Jackson might fulfill the role, with Blondel and Ricketts both able to do a bit of ball-winning, but with more of a creative bent in their game.

As for Albion, their keeper Russell Hoult, who was being touted as an England prospect earlier in the season, has now been having a dodgy time in goal.  Perhaps if Tottenham can create some chances, they might be able to test him, should his confidence be a bit fragile.

In defence the man mountain Darren Moore would have been a formidable obstacle to any progress to goal Spurs want to make, but he has been out with a long term knee problem that ruled him out of this season a while back.  Sean Gregan showed this season that he reads the game well, but he does suffer with a lack of pace and Robbie Keane might be able to capitalise on this.  Alongside him in central defence is usually Ronnie Wallwork ,a former Man U youngster, but he has ended up at the Hawthorns and is a rugged tackler who likes to get forward.  Phil Gilchrist has been out with a knee problem and won't figure for the rest of this season, but Igor Balis could add strength to the right of the defence if required and his form has kept ex-Forest man Des Lyttle out, only just coming back into the reckoning after injury and has been a sub. in recent games.  Nigerian Ifeanyi Udeze is a defender who has played a few times since signing on loan in the January transfer window.  Twins James and Adam Chambers are also available to play on the flanks in a back four.
Two players who have been almost ever present are Neil Clement, who has a fierce left foot and hits a mean dead ball and Lars Sigurdsson, the Icelander who marshals the defence.  

Midfield is an area where Albion have suffered with injury.  Jason Koumas, who arrived last summer from Tranmere is a Welsh international and has the ability to open up defences with his passing, with a good scoring record too.  After being injured earlier in the season, Lee Marshall has now recuperated, but is being eased back into the team.  He is a strong, tall lad, who can also switch to defence is required and played there a few times for Leicester against us.  He likes to break forward to support the attack and has a good shot on him.  The hard work in this area is done by Andy Johnson (another Forest signing) and Derek McInnes.  Both have trouble with refs and have been dismissed this season, which has hampered WBA's consistency.  Johnson has found himself in some good scoring positions, but has missed some sitters and McInnes' two goals won the match against Sunderland, which still wasn't enough for them to stay up.  They will scrap and as Spurs have no like-minded players to oppose this, they could have an easy time of it on Monday. 

The threat up front has been lacking this season, with goals a rare commodity for the Baggies' strikers.  Daniele Dichio has returned to the side and his height has provided a focal point for the attack (becoming leading scorer in the process), while the returning Lee Hughes has had a tough time trying to get back into the goalscoring form he showed at the Albion the first time around.  Just the sort of forward we need to partner Robbie Keane would be someone like Jason Roberts.  Big, strong and pacy, he has all the attributes needed to partner a little poacher, but he has found life tough in the top division.  He has scored a few goals, but not as many as was expected from him.
Versatile Scot Scott Dobie can play up front or just behind the front two in midfield. 

Two weeks ago, I might have predicted a 2-1 win for Tottenham, but with the circumstances as they are and the way we have been playing, I can see no further than a win for the home side ...

PREDICTION : -   West Bromwich Albion  2   Tottenham  1

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

 

 

West Bromwich Albion   2     Tottenham   3     (Half-time score : 1-1)
Premier League
Monday 21st April 2003
Venue : -  The Hawthorns
Kick Off : -  15.00 p.m.
Weather : -  Bright, warm
Referee : -  P. Dowd (Staffordshire)
Crowd : -  26,899
Teams : -  
West Bromwich Albion : -  Hoult; Balis, Sigurdsson, Wallwork, Udeze (Clement 59); McInnes, Johnson, Gregan, Koumas; Roberts, Dichio (Dobie 70) 
Unused subs: Murphy, Chambers, Lyttle

Tottenham : -  Keller; Richards (Perry 85), King, Gardner; Carr, Toda (Poyet 46), Davies, Bunjevcevic, Etherington; Keane, Sheringham
Unused subs: Sullivan, Iversen, Acimovic

Colours : -  
West Bromwich Albion  -  White and navy blue striped shirts, white shorts, white socks with navy blue turnovers

Tottenham -  Yellow shirts, Navy blue shorts, yellow socks with navy blue turnovers

Scorers : -  
West Bromwich Albion  -  Dichio  24, Clement 61

Tottenham -  Keane 45, 86, Sheringham 64

Cards : -  
West Bromwich Albion  -  Roberts (foul) 41, Sigurdsson (dissent) 45

Tottenham -  Gardner (foul) 24, Richards (dissent) 60

Whatever Hoddle said to his troops to make them go out and come from behind twice in the same game, he should write it down and repeat it at half-time in every game.  The away travel this season has been a bit of a depression express, but this shows what the team can do when they can be bothered, even though it was against a side already down, if not quite out.

As if to prove that Albion started quickly out of the blocks and threw everything at Spurs in an attempt to give their fans some hope for next season, when they will again try to escape from Division One.

The half-time music of the Champions League theme was a strange choice, because it will be as close as they come to European football and that could also include us.  With a win over Man. City Hoddle thought we could still get some action in the UEFA Cup, but that is over now and all there is left to play for is the 200,000 or so per place in the Premier League.

The early storm was weathered ... not easily as the muscular pairing up front for the home side - Dichio and Roberts - were always going to pose us problems even though Deano was back in place in the middle of a back three.  The nous was on the midfield to provide cover and the inclusion of Toda, Etherington and Bunjevcevic was obviously designed to get goal-side of the Albion players when defending.  None of them are particularly fearsome in the tackle, but they can get in front of their opponents.

Spurs first effort on goal came in the 20th minute, with Davies' long throw (which is becoming quite a weapon) bouncing in the box and Robbie Keane displaying his goalscoring instinct by flipping backwards to hit an overhead kick at Hoult in the goal.  The Albion keeper was smart in getting down to stop the attempt.  But at the other end, Keller was helpless as an accurate Koumas cross, after some good work on the right, found Daniele Dichio's head popping up over Deano's and his header was firm past the American in the 24th minute.  Up until then, there hadn't been too much in the way of goalmouth action, but Kasey had to drop to keep out McInnes' shot with his left hand.

After his ordeal against Man. City, Bunjy was having a better game and with a bit more luck might have registered his first goal to assuage the ire of the fans.  He managed to get on the end of Etherington's free-kick, but an Albion player got between him and the goal to block his effort.  However, this was a prelude to what was to come.

Just before the break, Spurs made progress up the field and were holding onto possession well, then Sheringham and Keane exchanged passes and Robbie drove home the ball on the bounce to give Spurs parity at the break.

The second half began with West Brom on the attack, but it lacked threat and when Spurs went up the other end, they created a great chance.  Matty pulled the ball back for Poyet to stick the ball away, but his shot was wide of the mark and when play switched to the Tottenham goal, Keller smartly came off his line to deny Roberts, getting his shot over the bar.  Five minutes later, a 25 yard free-kick was fired through the wall by West Brom sub Clement and Keller was beaten all ends up.

Spurs hit back immediately, with Keane placing his free-kick wide of the goal to Bunjy, who came even closer to getting off the mark, but hit the post.  As it bounced down, there was a melee in front of goal and Sheringham managed to get a good contact on the ball ... well, enough to knock it over the line anyway.

King showed that he was more comfortable playing alongside Richards, as he looked in control and his clean tackle when Roberts was through in the area, emphasised his ability.  Carr was also enjoying the game, with space to exploit on the right, he played a wall pass with his Republic of Ireland team-mate Keane and ran on to hit a fierce shot that Hoult stood up to and kept out.  However, Keane was to have the last word.  Extensively pilloried by the home fans for his association with Wolverhampton Wanders, he shot home the winner from King's through ball to silence those that had been unkind earlier.  His clinical finish is what Spurs have missed for so long in the years leading up to now and also when he was out injured.  We have no-one else like him at the club.

The performance was one that was more of a team effort and it is only a shame that it had to come in response to a poor loss against Manchester City.  If this level of performance could be maintained, then there would be no ifs and buts about a place in Europe ... but then, this is Tottenham and the consistency we crave would be anathema to us.

With Manchester United visiting the Lane on Sunday, Boro away and Blackburn at home, the last three games could provide three interesting matches, with two winnable and the other not too painful if we lost it.  Six points probably wouldn't get us in to a UEFA Cup place from our League finish, but it might go some way to show how we COULD play next season, with a few fresh legs and fresh ideas.

Burton Coggles

 

EGG ON THEIR FACES

 

After the dreadful manner of our defeat by Manchester City on Friday, Spurs were resurrected and it was a miracle ... we won an away game at West Brom. !!

It was hard even then, coming back from the dead twice in the match, but at last the team showed some courage and fortitude, even though it was against a side who are second bottom in the league.  It might be nice to think that this is the start of a new approach ... not losing to teams who go down, but I am not counting my chickens before they hatch out of my Easter eggs.

It was eggs-pected that Albion would crack on straight from the start and they put Spurs under pressure, but without a direct effort on target in the first quarter of an hour, it was poor fare.  When there was a shot on goal, it was nearly a goal.  Simon Davies' long throw caused panic and Keano overhead-kicked the ball goalwards, only to see Hoult manage to get it away.  Five minutes after and Dichio had given the home side a nest-egg to build on.  Koumas did well out wide and the big ex-QPR striker got in front of Richards to nod home.

It was a controversial moment when Roberts raced away from the halfway line, leaving the Spurs players bobbing in his wake, to put the ball past Keller, but the eagle eyed ref spotted an infringement and pulled play back for a free-kick to Spurs.  This enraged the home support, but then as a ref, to make an omelette you have to break a few eggs.  Keller denied a further addition to a clutch of goals for WBA when he dived to prevent McInnes beating him.

Just before the break, Keane got on the end of a give-and-go from Sheringham and fired low past Hoult for the equaliser.  It came in the three minutes added on for injuries ... just long enough to keep things on the boil through the interval.

Etherington set up Poyet beautifully, but Gus managed to miss the goal from 10 yards out.  It looked like being costly, as it was a surprise when a free-kick conceded on the edge of the Tottenham box was smashed through the wall by Clement for an unstoppable goal.  Keller couldn't be blamed for this one and he made three good stops throughout the match to show that he could egg-cel at the goalkeeping art.  One tip over from Roberts was superb.

It was only a minute before Spurs hit back and WBA cracked.  Another free-kick lead to the goal.  This time, Robbie chipped a ball that was fading beyond the far post until Bunjy arrived.  He shot against the woodwork and Teddy was there to scramble the ball over the line for a goal to bring things level again.  At this stage the teams were difficult to separate, but the yolk was yet to be on the home fans.

As the ball was played into the path of Keane by King, the Irishman took great precision in sweeping it home with a poacher's skill.   He waited until he could see the whites of Hoult's eyes before shooting home.  There was no way back from that and the Baggies fans drifted off to consider their life in the First Division where they would at least be safe from Robbie Keane.  Perhaps they will find someone else to call a "Dingle", but that might not include the Wolves team after their victory this evening over Norwich City, as they could pass them on their way up a Division.

The team performance was so good, it made you wonder why they didn't replicate it on Friday, when it would have helped us be higher up the table.  For someone as hard-boiled as me, I take a lot of pleasing and fragile showings like the one against Man. City leave me walking on egg-shells in trying to find the words to describe it without offening.

Robbie's late goal was just un oeuf and left us Spurs fans feeling ovum the moon.  We had a journey back down the motorway, feeling that their Easter had not been spent on a fruitless egg hunt.

The Funky Phantom

 

 

Other scores this Bank Holiday :
Birmingham City 3 SCBC 2 Monday
Blackburn Rovers 0 Bolton Wanderers 0 Monday

Chelsea

4 Everton 1 Monday
Leeds United 2 Fulham 0 Tuesday
Liverpool 2 Charlton Athletic 1 Monday
Manchester City 3 Sunderland 0 Monday
Newcastle United 1 Aston Villa 1 Monday
West Ham United 1 Middlesbrough 0 Monday

 

League Table
 
  P W D L F A Pts
1 Manchester United 35 22 8 5 66 31 74
2 Arsenal 34 21 8 5 71 36 71
3 Chelsea 35 18 9 8 65 35 63
4 Newcastle United 35 19 5 11 59 46 62
5 Liverpool 35 17 10 8 53 37 61
6 Everton 35 16 8 11 45 44 56
7 Blackburn Rovers 35 14 11 10 44 40 53
8 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 35 14 8 13 50 51 50
9 SCBC 34 12 12 10 40 38 48
10 Manchester City 35 13 6 15 45 51 48
11 Middlesbrough 35 12 10 13 42 38 46
12 Charlton Athletic 35 13 7 15 42 50 46
13 Birmingham City 35 12 8 15 36 46 44
14 Aston Villa 35 11 9 15 39 42 42
15 Leeds United 35 12 5 18 50 51 41
16 Fulham 35 11 8 16 37 49 41
17 Bolton Wanderers 35 9 12 14 37 48 39
18 West Ham United 35 8 11 16 38 57 35
19 WBA 35 6 6 23 26 56 24
20 Sunderland 35 4 7 24 21 59 19

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