Looking Forward

 

MIDDLESBROUGH

Premier League

Saturday 27th October 2001

With the change of manager at the Cellnet Riverside O2 stadium complex the Boro side have had to change too.  Both playing style and personnel.

Steve McClaren, fresh from triumph at Manchester United, is finding taking over from Bryan Robson, a different proposition.  The 2-0 win over Sunderland at home has helped them move away from the gaggle of clubs gathering around the bottom of the table, but there is a long way to go and the squad has lacked depth in some areas and quality in others.

Already ruled out are Dean Gordon, Ginaluca Festa (yes, he is still there) and striker Andy Campbell, who might be leaving for Crystal Palace anyway when he is fit.

Mark Schwarzer is the main man in goal.  The tall Aussie is a very good shot stopper, but again for a big man, there are questions over his ability to take crosses.  He could be given a hard time on Saturday, as Spurs are just starting to move the ball well into wide areas and this could be a source of problems for Boro.  IN back up they have former Forest keeper Mark Crossley (of Lineker 1991 FA Cup final penalty save fame) and Marlon Beresford.  Neither gets much of a look-in as Schwarzer is almost always fit.

Half the reason Boro signed Ehiogu was to counter the aerial threat in defence.  With Schwarzer less than dominating, Ugo was bought to head everything away.  A strong player in the Richards mould, the London born central defender has been playing well, when he hasn't been injured or red carded.  Indeed, the whole back four has a veteran look about it.  Gareth Southgate spurned the charms of John Gregory for the bright lights of ICI on Teesside and has settled in as the man alongside former club colleague Ehiogu.  While Steve Vickers may be leaving for Southgate's first club Palace too, Curtis Fleming at full back and Colin Cooper in the middle do their best to push up the average pensionable age of the defence.  Franck Queudrue has been brought in on loan until the end of the season and got the first goal against the Mackems and is a bit of an unknown quantity.  He might have the ability to bring the ball out of the back that the others do less convincingly.  Robbie Stockdale has been used to cover injuries, as had young prospect Jason Gavin .

Unfortunately, the unique Paul Ince will not be missing for this match after being sent off on Monday.  Pushing Niall Quinn in the face, even if it was not malicious was an irresponsible thing to do.  Ince has been in the game and around Europe long enough to know that if you raise your hands, you get sent off.  Perhaps he just fancied a few free weeks to do his Christmas shopping.  Great store is being put by Carlos Marinelli, who, being Argentinian, was automatically tagged the "new Maradona" on his arrival at Middlesbrough.  Through a string of injuries, his appearances have been limited and his youth has made settling in the North-East hard, but he may be one for the future.  Paul Okon plays the defensive midfield role well.  Having played in Italy he has good experience and the Aussie is a commanding presence when on his game.  Veteran Robbie Mustoe is still getting a go and his experience alongside the next two midfielders is a great help to them.

When McClaren arrived from Old Trafford, he brought two youngsters who were not getting a look in at United with him.  Mark Wilson is a young player who a lot of teams were after, but he chose to follow his coach, along with Jonathan Greening.  This former York City youth player has been a hot property for some time, but he rarely saw the first team action at OT and opted for first team football elsewhere.  Both he and Wilson are established England Under-21 players and it will be hoped that they develop into good Premiership players.  Spurs were after Greening for a while, but the path they took is probably the more satisfying at the moment, with potential being tried in other areas.

The top star in the Boro side these days is Alen Boksic.  The Croatian striker has stayed while others have moved on and is showing that even at his age he is a class act.  Strong in the air and on the ball, his awareness of what is going on around him is a real education for others who watch him play.  Will be a danger and Deano will have to be sharp to make sure he doesn't slip away for even a few seconds.

Allan Johnston has come in from Glasgow Rangers and is an experienced wide-man who can provide quality balls in to the box.  He will need to be detailed to chasing our wing backs to reduce his effectiveness.  Noel Whelan might be fit for selection, but the has been a great disappointment since signing from Coventry City, but it more likely that the old guard of Windass/Deane/Ricard will play alongside Boksic.  Dean Windass arrived at the end of last season from Bradford City and is a burly, bustling centre forward.  This is in contrast to the Colombian Ricard, who can show a delicate touch, but can also look like he wears lead boots.  Brian Deane is one who is a threat in the air, even at his age.  The full backs raid up the line to knock high balls onto his head, where he can set up Boksic with knock-downs or go for goal himself.  The other option up front is Joseph Desire Job, the Cameroon international, who has not made the impact that Bryan Robson thought he would when he was signed from France.  A talented player, but a little light-weight perhaps for the physical game played in the Premiership.  Szilard Nemeth has failed to settle in and has had a few starts, without doing much to make the headlines; let's hope he doesn't start doing that on Saturday.

So, what of the match itself ?  Boro will have confidence form their derby win and Spurs will also be feeling good after returning from the North-East with three points.  Recent games at White Hart Lane between the two sides have been draws or away wins.  You have to go back to 1997, when Andy Sinton's single goal gave Spurs their last win over Boro (home or away).  This time around will be much different, as Spurs showed against Derby, the passing game is starting to click now and the only thing to stop them progressing is the inability to convert a greater majority of their chances.  Boro keep it quite tight away, whereas they have leaked goals at home.  Therefore, it will be hard to break them down, but by maintaining the passing and movement that has been on show in the last few games, Spurs should be bale to make inroads into the Boro defence.  With that in mind, it may need patience to get the result of ...

PREDICTION : -  Tottenham  2   Middlesbrough  0

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

 

 

Tottenham  2   Middlesbrough  1                              (Half time score: 0-1 )
PREMIER LEAGUE
Saturday 27th October 2001
Weather : -  Warm, sunny
Crowd : -   36,062
Referee : -  Mr. M. Dean (The Wirral)

Scorers : -  Tottenham   -   Sheringham (pen) 58, Ferdinand 61
                  Middlesbrough  -  Boksic 9

CARDS

Spurs :   None

Middlesbrough : None 

TEAMS 

Spurs :  Sullivan; Perry, Richards, King, Taricco (Thatcher 74); Ziege, Anderton, Freund, Poyet; Sheringham, Ferdinand 
Subs not used : -  Keller, Leonhardsen, Davies, Kamanan

Middlesbrough :  Schwarzer; Stockdale (Windass 76), Ehiogu,
Southgate, Queudrue; Marinelli, Mustoe (Johnston 82), Ince,
Greening; Nemeth (Cooper 63), Boksic
Subs not used : -  Crossley; Wilson

Tottenham do not have the greatest record against Middlesbrough in recent times, especially at home.  Those fears were realised when Boro went into an early lead and dominated the first half, but there was more to come from Tottenham.

When an eighth minute free-kick was awarded for handball against Dean Richards near the centre circle, there appeared little danger, but when it was knocked in (from a position 10 yards ahead of where the offence took place), Chris Perry, in his eagerness to get in front of Boksic, headed the ball up in the air and it fell invitingly on the volley beyond him for the Croatian international to smash past Sullivan from close range.  There were few other direct threats on the Spurs goal, although the Czech striker Nemeth was finding space down the right hand side.  Luckily, his final ball in lacked the stealth to beat the defence.  The Argentine youngster Marinelli was showing that he was a tricky customer.  His skill on the ball and intelligent running mean he could be a star in the making, although how he will develop on Teesside remains to be seen.

Tottenham hadn't found the right tempo or fluidity in the first half, but still created creditable chances.  The best was when Les fired over from about 8 yards after being put in as he was slipped in by a clever Anderton pass.  Gus twice found himself in front of goal, both times set up by Ferdinand.  His first effort looped gently into Schwarzer's arms as his standing leg slipped form underneath him, then minutes later, in the same position near the "D" on the edge of the box, he scuffed his shot through some legs and just wide of the post.

Spurs were glad when the break came, as obviously it allowed Hoddle to say some things to them that they needed to hear and to change the way Spurs were playing.  Sheringham pushed forward and Poyet moved the ball around better to link up with Taricco on the right wing.  It was a different side that took the field for the second half, as the passing game started to click once more.  Boro still made it hard, but the opportunity to claw their way came when Taricco went over Queudrue's leg trying to latch on to a smart pass inside the full back from Chris Perry.  Taz went down like a sack of spuds and that might have counted against him, but there was contact and we have suffered in the past with similar incidents not going our way.  Anyway, Mr. Dean pointed to the spot and Teddy calmly stepped up to stick the ball away.

The momentum was now with Spurs and they poured forward whenever they had the ball.  Three minutes after the first goal, another came along.  The ball was moved around nicely and found it's way out to Taricco on the right.  He clipped a cross in to Gus Poyet's head and the flick-on, Alan Gilzean style, found Ferdinand arriving in front of his marker to steer the ball home at the far post.   This wasn't the end of things, as a ball was cleared out to the wide right from the Middlesbrough defence to Christian Ziege, who had just taken a corner and he slammed it first time on the volley with his left foot.  The ball looped over the Boro keeper and smashed against the bar and away.  Like Gary Doherty against Villa from the same position, the goal of the season was denied by the woodwork.

The only worry in the second half to Neil Sullivan was a Ehiogu volley that flew over form a corner and some runs towards the Spurs goal by Boksic which were curtailed by the defence's intervention.

So, against the odds at half-time, Spurs came up with their third consecutive Premiership win for the first time since they went top after beating Sheffield Wednesday in August 1999.  Freund was magnificent, breaking up attacks and scrapping it out with Ince in midfield, while trying to break his duck in scoring terms without coming close.  He was spraying the ball about like Zidane at times !!  Poyet used the ball well and Anderton covered a lot of ground in midfield alongside him.  Ted's link play was a little off today and despite Les spurning the game's best chance, he plugged away and got his reward in the end.  Perry made the mistake for the goal, but came back and tucked Boksic up in the second half with a performance that resembled the Perry of Wimbledon - he was all over the Boro import.  Richards looked strong, but a little hesitant at times, while Ledley was his usual calm self.   Taricco shrugged off his knock and cramp in the second half, to turn in a good performance before being replaced by Thatcher, who I swear I saw pull out of a tackle !!

All round good performance from the side, despite the spluttering start and to fight back from a goal down against teams, who historically we should beat but sometimes lose to, was the most pleasing aspect of the match.

MEHSTG TOP MAN : -  STEFFEN FREUND

Pete Stachio

 

GOOD MOVE, GARETH

 

For one Boro player, he must be wondering what he has done.  Gareth Southgate spurned the chance to come to Tottenham, choosing Middlesbrough as the best chance he had of playing in Europe.  Having lost this match, performing with a display of shirt-tugging, fouls and misplaced passes, he must rue even leaving Aston Villa who went top after beating Bolton Wanderers.

The plan that Boro arrived with was a fairly simple one and one that had worked against Spurs before.  Get as many men behind the ball and try and score on the break.  The team have a solid defence, a workmanlike midfield, who close down very quickly and a forward line that is strong and in Boksic has a real world class player.  Unfortunately, somewhere along the line, the message gets lost.  They went ahead, but rarely looked as though they would increase their lead, despite Spurs playing in a way that took us back a season or two.  Disjointed play and possession being given up cheaply meant that Boro had the bulk of the attacking play, but made little of it.

Ince did what he does best.  Getting involved in things that are nothing to do with him and pushing Freund in the face, which he got sent off for in midweek when he did it to Niall Quinn.  Will he never learn ?  One tackle on Taricco got nowhere near the ball and he was lucky that he didn't seriously injure the Spurs full back.  The days when he was the Guv'nor have long gone and he is a weak imitation of the player who was once feared for his midfield play.  Now he is only feared because he might finish player's careers.

The rest of the Boro side are journeymen who have the odd spark of ingenuity, but generally are hard-working, and that's all.  That is except for Marinelli.  Like all the Argentinian players who have come over to England, he has skill in abundance and showed some nice touches.  There was one incident where Taricco was kicking him along the line and he was shirt pulling back, in what probably is "the done thing" in their home country and neither player got upset about the give and take.  The youngster looked out of place in the line-up, as did Boksic.  The Croat looked sharp in flashes, but his undoubted ability shone through amidst the dim light of the Boro mainstream.

Spurs eventually got he upper hand, with a penalty that showed that these sort of things are evening themselves out already !!  A similar incident in the first match of the season went unrewarded, but Taricco's fall this time prompted the ref to point to the spot.  Ted did the necessary.  Tano was involved again, with a cross that ended up being volleyed home by Les, who got across his marker, just like he used to do.  The shot of the match came from Ziege who hit a sweet volley from out near the touchline and rebounded back of the bar.  The shot, had it gone in, would have been sweet for Ziege, who received stick from the few travelling fans who filled only the top tier of the away section.

In the past, as Glenn had said, these games invariably proved more difficult for Spurs to win than those against the top teams.  Having proved that hey can grab points when not playing at the top of their game, those days might be gone.

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