Looking Forward

 

FULHAM (Away)

Premier League

Sunday 24th March 2002

Fulham have as much trouble as we do scoring at the moment.  So will this game have 0-0 written all over it ?  With both sides needing points to make sure they are free of the relegation zone, even though they are 9th and 12th respectively.  Therefore, they will probably try and push forward to get the goal(s) that help them gain all three points, so it will not be like the game back in December.

Edwin van der Sar has been the first choice keeper after his 7 million from Juventus, displacing Maik Taylor, who had held the fort pretty well in the promotion season.  Both are admirable keepers, but both are prone to the odd blooper that costs goals.  For an incredibly tall man, the Dutchman is not good on crosses, but with Les doubtful for the match, it is unlikely that he will be put under much pressure by Spurs unless Deano gets fit and forward for set-pieces.

Rufus Brevett is still playing on the left side of a back four and should be able to be got after, but with Anderton playing on that side, his ability to beat a man is questionable.  However, by bringing him out to meet Darren, should make space for others.  On the other hand, should Simon Davies be playing there, he could get some joy going past the ex-QPR man.  With Irishman Steve Finnan on the other side of defence, there is a tendency to leave space when he pushes on. Whether Ziege will be able exploit that, we wait to see.  French central defender Alain Goma is matched with Andy Melville as tall twin centre halves, but neither are the most mobile.  With Iversen and Rebrov likely to form the partnership up front, they might be able to pull them  around, but someone will need to get in the six yard box to get on the end of any chances created. Abdeslam Ouaddou has played on the right and in the middle of defence, with Zat Knight getting the odd look in as a promising youngster with a big future.

In midfield, Fulham have lots of experience in John Collins, Bjarne Goldbaek, John Harley, Sylvain Legwinski and Steed Malbranque.  Collins is the one who pulls the strings, with good vision for a killer pass and Goldbaek provides the legs in that area, although he is being introduced from the bench at the moment.  Tigana has gone with the French midfield pairing of Legwinski and Malbranque, with the latter being the better of the two players.  He can get forward into scoring positions and is good at running off the ball.  Legwinski is more of a midfield scrapper, who looks as though he will be a player to complement his compatriot.  Harley was very highly rated when he played as an attacking wing back at Chelsea, but since his move across the Fulham Road, he has slipped out of the first team picture.

The lack of goals has hampered Fulham's progress this season, with only 33 league goals in the onion bag.  With goal-machine of last season Louis Saha mis-firing this time around, former Gooner Luis Boa Morte and Spurs fan Barry Hayles have borne the brunt of the goal-scoring duties.  Both have notched a few with the mobile Boa Morte causing problems with his legs going in all directions, while Hayles is more  muscular and strong on the ball.  Steve Marlet was brought in at great expense and a broken leg in one of his first games meant that his season had a big hole in it.  He has grabbed a few more recently, but still needs time to adapt to the English game.  Latvian Andrejs Stolcers has not had a chance to impress this season, playing only three times.  Once again, we will probably be denied the sight of the exotically named Elvis Hammond, who is yet to appear this season.

Injuries have struck and Sean Davis trying to get back from a thigh problem, but Lee Clark is definitely out.  Defender Chris Coleman is still recovering from his broken leg sustained in a car crash and will not play again this season.

Both sides have problems, therefore fielding their first choice XI, but Spurs are still without about nine first team choices and that will make it hard to repeat the 4-0 win earlier this season.  While the portents point to a drab match, I think there will be some things to brighten it and there will be some goals, which, if Tottenham can finally convert their chances will end ... 

PREDICTION : -  Fulham  1   Tottenham  2

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

 

 

Fulham  0   Tottenham  2          (Half time score: 0-2)
FA PREMIER LEAGUE
Sunday 24th March 2002
Venue :  Craven Cottage
Kick Off : 4.00 p.m.
Weather : -  Bright, sunny.
Crowd : -   15,885
Referee : -   Mr. P. Durkin (Avon)

Scorers : -   Fulham  -   None
                  Tottenham  -  Sheringham 29, Poyet 32

CARDS

Fulham :  Malbranque (foul) 64

Tottenham Gardner (foul) 22, Sherwood (foul) 57 

TEAMS 

Fulham :  Van der Sar; Harley (Brevett 58), Ouaddou, Goma, Finnan; Davis, Malbranque, Legwinski; Saha, Hayles, Marlet
Unused Subs : -  Taylor, Melville, Collins, Boa Morte

Tottenham :  Sullivan; Thatcher, Perry , Gardner, King; Anderton (Davies 75), Poyet, Sherwood, Ziege; Iversen Sheringham
Unused Subs : -  Keller, Thelwell, Etherington, Rebrov

COLOURS

Fulham  :  White shirts, black shorts, white socks

Tottenham :  Light blue shirts, white shorts, navy blue socks

Having beaten Fulham twice times already this season, what odds were there that a third victory would be ours ?  Coming into the match on a losing run would make it unfavourable, but Fulham's losing run was worse than ours, so that balanced things up.  Knowing Tottenham are on the generous side, the scales swung back in the Cottagers direction.

Luckily for Tottenham, the ball swung in by Ziege from a  free-kick hit Sheringham in the eye and deceived the Dutch keeper.  It was one in the eye for Fulham and for Spurs, a revelation that Sheringham wasn't standing over the kick to demand he hit it ... over the bar, as he had done recently.  Up to that point there had been little to show that a goal might come from anywhere.  The home side passed prettily (sound familiar ?), but lack the finishing pass or touch (sound even more familiar ?).

It was a strange decision to limit the number of Spurs fans who could go to this game to 750, when this was Fulham's lowest crowd of the season.  However, they had more to sing about than the West Londoners, as Iversen, with a header and a volley, threatened the Fulham goal, while two efforts from the home side drifted wide of the mark.  The Cottagers started with three forwards in the side, although Marlet played wider than Hayles or Saha.  Spurs had slipped into a 4-4-2, with more solidity at the back the key and more work from those left in midfield.

Teddy had a weak header directed straight at the goalkeeper and then had his stroke of luck.  Bouncing off Legwinski's arm and then Ted's face, it was the break that the side had needed for a few weeks now.  It was one which he wanted to build on and when Iversen passed on to Ziege, he ghosted in at the far post.  The German did not spot him though, as he burst into the box and unleashed a fierce low shot that van der Sar beat out, but Gus was on hand to stick the loose ball back past the grounded goalie.  Teddy failed to celebrate as he was furious that the ball didn't reach him !!

There were a few chances each way before the break and then just after the interval, King's long pass picked him out and he was clear of the pack, but took a page out of Les Ferdinand's book in putting the ball too far wide of the keeper and the goal, when he was favourite to score.  

Fulham did get back into it, when a lob into the box ended in a tackle on Hayles that sent the ball to Malbranque, but his finish was way too high.  After 66 minutes, Goma got onto the end of a cross, headed against Sheringham, before Marlet hit the post with a header about five minutes after.  Luckily for Tottenham, the ball fell in front of the goal and Perry hacked clear before any Fulham player could pounce.

Spurs came a bit stronger towards the end, when Simon Davies slid a header wide with his first touch and Sheringham was denied by a defender's knee, that deflected the ball away.  Ziege obviously fancied his chances as he hit a fierce shot that had some dip on it, but not quite enough. Even so, the jitters were still there when a Saha volley near the end was well pushed away by Sullivan.

The defence stood firm and looked determined to keep Fulham out, but the side still were giving the ball away too often.  Sherwood was good in the defensive midfield role, just in front of the back four and Ziege provided a creative  outlet on the left.  Teddy still looks out of touch and Iversen showed willing, but not much finesse.  Sullivan looked sounder than he has done lately too.

All together a valuable three points, even though it was not a great performance.  With a bit of application, the side can defend from the front, giving the defence a bit of an easier ride.  There will be even less to play for now, as these points virtually rule out relegation for Tottenham this season, but they should have their pride to play for.  Hopefully, that will be enough to show the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool that we can still match the better teams in the Premier League.

MEHSTG TOP MAN : -  ANTHONY GARDNER

Patrick Brompton

 

COTTAGE CHEERS

 

A clean sheet and two goals = three points.  I never thought they would come, but this time there was enough in the Spurs locker to keep Fulham at bay, with a little help from the post.  But although Spurs won for the first time in five matches, all was not well in the camp.

The game started so innocuously, with some mild sparring between the two London sides.  Fulham playing three forwards in an attempt to break their losing run of five consecutive defeats, could not break the Spurs back line to start off with.  Spurs meanwhile had an early chance with Iversen's header, but it caused little trouble.  Then, it happened.  Our luck that has been missing for a while, turned up to even things out for the season.  A free kick driven in by Ziege, flies off the arm of Legwinski in the wall and smashes into Sheringham's face.  Fortunately for Tottenham, his face then propels the ball into the net past a static van der Sar.  When players were talking about a goal off someone's backside sparking the team to a win, I thought they were talking figuratively and not from some special move they had perfected on the training ground.

Within two minutes, they were 2-0 up.  Ziege was released down the left and riding a challenge on the edge of the area, he drove a fierce shot in at van der Sar, but the Dutchman found it impossible to hold.  He pushed the ball out towards the penalty spot where Gus Poyet was lurking and he stroked the ball into the net.  Unfortunately, Teddy was standing at the far post unmarked when Christian decided to shoot and he was furious that he wasn't put in to score.  Perhaps Ziege thought that in his current form, Sheringham was not near enough to a barn door to be deadly !!

Spurs had further chances, through Iversen and Poyet, but they were off target ... shockingly so in Steffen's case, when Ledley's long ball released him away from the Fulham defence and he failed to make the keeper make a save.  The home side pressed on, but their final ball was lax and the finishing was not of the highest quality. It is no surprise that their goal-scoring is what has let them down.  Even with three forwards, the Spurs defence looked reasonably comfortable holding them at bay.  They all played well, with Thatcher getting in some good challenges and Perry being all over Marlet.  King marshalled Hayles professionally and Gardner swept up anything that got past them all.

Anderton didn't look perfectly fit again, but did OK, producing some good passes, but the best part of the midfield's play was the way they kept the ball moving.  It has been a feature that has been a bit stop start in the last four matches and the ability to hold the ball better than recently, meant that Fulham had to chase the ball.  In the dying stages of the match, Fulham gave up doing that and Spurs could knock it about as they wished.

Iversen desperately needs to improve his finishing.  Twice he could have made the score 3-0 and put the game well beyond Fulham's reach, but he rushed both efforts and at 2-0, it was still feasible that getting one goal back could have resulted in a panicky last few minutes.  Sullivan's late save denied the Cottagers even one goal and it was about time the side had stopped leaking goals left, right and centre.

A good professional performance, which we haven't seen from Tottenham for a while.  The team did defend as a unit and the clean sheet laid the basis for the win.  It was a bit typical though that after nearly seven hours without a goal, two come along in two minutes !!  As long as the team play in this manner, there will be some joy to be had from the end of season matches, but the need for rebuilding is plain to see.  With Boro' on Saturday, it will be a battle of the middle of the table and the professionalism of the team who wants to do best will come out.  We will see how it pans out, but Spurs need to start putting a run together, even if it does not end in Europe.

BARRY LEVINGTON

Back to homepage