A vital away win was achieved with a little luck and no help from a
referee who could not tell as corner from a throw-in, but goals from
Aaron Lennon and Jonathan Woodgate were enough to ease past Hull City
and put us just a point behind them in 14th place in the table.
The win came at a cost, with Woodgate
splitting his head open above his eye in the closing minutes and Ledley
King limping. Neither were likely to play against Shakhtar Donetsk
on Thursday, but the League Cup Final on Sunday now becomes a match they
might struggle to make. Still, at least they are likely to turn up
on time, not like Bernard Mendy, whose late arrival meant that Hull had
to shuffle their side and play Anthony Gardner for the first time since
Spurs started with Darren Bent up front
and five behind him in midfield, with Carlo Cudicini preferred in goal
to Heurelho Gomes. It was a team set up to be difficult to break
through and to hit City on the break. It didn't really turn out
like that as Tottenham are very rarely difficult to break down.
And being away from home, they are perhaps more fragile than ever,
knowing that they had conceded last minute goals to lose point son the
road in a number of matches so far this season.
A frantic opening saw a shot blocked by
Assou-Ekotto for a corner that dropped in the box and ended with Andy
Dawson thankfully belting over the bar. His next intervention was
perhaps more typical of the Tigers' physical approach to the game,
perhaps not too surprising as their manager was a Bolton Wanderers coach
under Sam Allardyce. Dawson crudely took Aaron Lennon down shortly
after being spoken to by the ref and he got a yellow card. It was
surprising that Lee Probert did not then go on to book players for
similar tackles, as both Dawson, Zayatte and Ashbee were all guilty of
the same or worse.
Spurs were nearly the architects of their
own demise when Woodgate headed a seemingly innocuous through ball back
to Cudicini, but the keeper had come out and had to dash back to
stop the ball crossing the line after it went past him. Tottenham
started to push forward and Robbie Keane, who had a quiet night, slid a
pass down the left side of the pitch to Darren Bent to run onto.
he got there first and nudged it past Anthony Gardner, but the
telescopic leg came out to deflect the ball away from the Tottenham
striker for a corner.
Spurs played it short and whereas Keane
had taken the ball from Modric and tried to turn his marker close to the
dead ball line, this time he played it back to Luka and as Marney came
out of the middle to close him down, this left Lennon with space just
inside the 18 yard box to receive the Croatian's pass and to drill a
shot past the ducking Bent and the keeper. It was a well created
goal and one which seemed to indicate that Spurs had done their homework
on how Hull defend.
The goal appeared to spark Hull into
action and Cudicini had to be quick off his line to deny Zayatte and
looked to have hurt his foot in the process. One thing Tottenham
would not have wanted to do would to have conceded set-pieces, but the
corner count was high for both sides. It would have been higher if
the incompetent officials had not combined to turn an obvious corner
into a throw-in to Tottenham. It may have only seemed a minor
gripe, but on such things are matches won and lost.
From a home corner in the 25th minute,
Cudicini was impeded, but the match official failed to give anything,
leading to a corner on the other side. Dawson swung it in and
Cudicini probably thought he had to come for it, as the ref would not
protect him, but the Italian got underneath it and it hit Palacios on
the leg to head back towards the Tottenham goal, where Michael Turner
stretched a leg out to put it into the goal.
It was another soft goal to concede and
another one which wiped out a good start. Hull then enjoyed a
spell of good possession and Spurs were pushed back as a result. A
ong ball drpped kindly for Daniel Cousin to strike first time and his
shot left Cudicini standing as it curled and dipped, skimming the roof
of the net on it's way over the top. A free-kick just before
half-time gave Dean Marney to show Spurs what they were missing, but it
flew too high.
The second half saw a turnaround in
fortunes, as Spurs picked up the tempo and started to pass the ball
better. Too often in the first perios they had ceded cheap
possession and that handed the home side the chance to push towards the
Tottenham goal. A ball across the box fell to Bent at the edge of
the area. he took the ball down and struck a shot on the turn, but
it lacked sufficient power to beat Duke, who comfortably caught the
ball. The game moved to the other end and another free header was
completely missed by Zayatte, but it needed Modric to get in the way of
Kilbane's shot to keep the ball out.
An even better chance came when Keane got
free on the left and cut a ball back to the 18 yard line, where Wilson
Palacios ran in and met it full on the volley that would have ripped a
hole in the net had Gardner not got his body in the way ... or should
that be if his body hadn't been in the way, as I don't think he knew
much about it and went down like he had been shot. Keane also had
a chance to restart his Spurs scoring record, as Duke muffed a kick out
and it fell to Robbie some 40 yards out and he lobbed it back at goal,
but it unconvincingly went wide. Shame Bentley wasn't on the pitch
It was really a good twenty minutes for
Spurs, who really needed to score while they were on top and it almost
came when Modric put in a free-kick that picked out his compatriot
Corluka and he won a good header, but although it might have beaten the
goalie, it did not beat the bar and went over. With a niggly
passage of play, it was ten minutes before the next chance and it was
Spurs who were grateful for the intervention of the woodwork, with
Zayatte getting a header in against Pavlyuchenko and King's challenges
to glance it past Carlo only to see it bounce back off the post and for
Jenas to get there just before Gardner could knock it in.
The game was all about set-pieces and
when a short corner by Spurs did not work out as planned, they went back
to Jenas in the middle and he spread the ball left to Benoit
Assou-Ekotto. Unfortunately, his pass pushed the left back a bit
wider than intended, but as Gardner jumped up to block a supposed cross,
it allowed the Cameroonian to go past him and then put in a really good
left footed cross. As it went into the penalty area, the Spurs big
men had stayed up, with Jonathan Woodgate towering over Dawson to head
powerfully past Duke and then run to the Tottenham fans behind the goal.
It was a goal Spurs needed badly and the
celebrations in the crowd were matched by those on the field.
However, we were now entering the period of potential errors for Spurs.
With the HUll fans baying for nay decision the ref might be willing to
dish out in their favour, it was really down to Tottenham to see if they
could hold on for the remaining two minutes plus four to be added.
Substitutions had been made and had to be made when Woodgate went up for
a defensive header and had to leave the field with blood pouring from a
cut above his eye, which was soon puffing up.
In truth, Hull failed to put too much
more pressure on the Spurs defence and their poor run of results, being
without a win since October continued in what must surely soon be
regarded as relegation form, with a crunch game against Blackburn Rovers
at the weekend looming, after their FA Cup replay against Sheffield
Tottenham had not played as well as they
did against Stoke for instance, but they did show what they are capable
of and showed a little bit of fight. The victory leaves them
needing to win another four games and this makes things a little more
comfortable, but they must not get too complacent. The final ball
was not always the best and the movement looked to be lacking a little
when we had spells of possession, but the goal were well crafted and
taken and it will help boost confidence ahead of a punishing schedule
over the next 12 days.