Crystal Palace (Home)
Tuesday 28th December 2004
Spurs on a good run of wins and Palace coming off a poor run without a
victory, everything is set fair for a result favouring the South
Londoners. But are Spurs now made of stronger stuff ?
Certainly, the rotation of certain players allows them to be fresher
for the battle in such a hectic Christmas and New Year programme, but
the "top mentality" that Martin Jol bangs on about finally
seems to be sinking in at Spurs.
That confidence, as we call it, comes from playing well and winning matches ... some which you might not deserve to win, but come out of with the three points anyway.
Palace have found the going tough since their return to the Premier League. Ian Dowie has done a fantastic job there in a very short time and that might be the root of the problem. This time last season, Palace were making their way up the table from a relegation position and the fact that they made the play-offs was an achievement in itself, but to get to the Premiership meant a hurried recruitment programme, which has brought a number of players in, but the quality to remain in the top flight is not quite there and Dowie will have to work his oracle to help them achieve this goal.
With Julian Speroni brought in to hold things up at the rear, his performances did not live up to expectations with his showings at Dundee. So, keeper Gabor Kiraly has been playing and has impressed with his athletic saves, but these can be a little continental, masking the fact that the bread and butter stuff is done with less finesse. The defence in front of him ensure that he has plenty to do.
One defender who has been knocking around for quite a while now is Danny Butterfield, even though he is still only 25. Has only just come back into the side and might find it hard to keep up with the pace and quality of the Premiership. Emerson Boyce signed from Luton has been playing well, but again has struggled to come to terms with the top flight opposition. One player that many people have tipped for a big future is the big man at the back, Fitz Hall. Signed by SCBC from Oldham, he quickly moved on to Palace and has earned a reputation for being a tough opponent. Good in the air, both in defence and at set-pieces in the other area, he can cause problems with his aerial ability. Similarly built, Mikele Leigertwood provides a strong presence at the back, but lacks spatial awareness of the movement around him. An old fashioned, up and at 'em defender, Tony Popovic gets stuck in and can be a bit rash at times, so might commit himself to a tackle, only to find players have skipped away from him. Much the same could be said of Darren Powell, who has just returned to Palace after a short spell at West Ham. A former midfielder, he has moved back and is yet to fully convince in his new role.
Veteran Michael Hughes is still going at Selhurst Park, where he formerly played with Wimbledon. He has lost a little of the pace he once had, but can still flight a good ball into the danger areas. Finn Aki Riihilahti is more well known for his wacky lifestyle, website and column in the Times, but he can be an effective nuisance in midfield, as is Ben Watson, who, being younger, has more energy in his legs to keep going for longer. With Dowie employing a 4-5-1 formation, some of the strikers might be dropped back into midfield to add strength there.
We all have heard about Wayne Routledge, who might be coming to Spurs in the transfer window ... or signing a new five year deal with Palace. Highly skilled and pacy, he has yet to find the final ball on a consistent basis to round off his good approach work. Sandor Torghelle is a Hungarian striker who was signed in the summer and has developed a bit of a reputation for diving, but he can score a goal with little to aim at, so needs to be watched keenly and Joonas Kolkka is another flying Finn on the wing, but he has struggled to find his feet and may miss out with a rib injury.
That leaves Andy Johnson, Dougie Freedman and Neil Shipperley to battle it out for the one striker's spot in the side. Johnson has done very well in it so far, but it has been identified that the scoring burden is almost entirely on him, with the pressure building in the bad run. Tord Grip has hinted that he might get an England call-up, but he needs more support in the Eagles side to help them get the goals to survive. Freedman has been a Palace stalwart and knows where the goal is, but hasn't had much of a go this season and Shipperley is an old warhorse who has had injury problems that have ruled him out of the side. This has severely lmited the options available to Dowie.
With the set-up at Palace designed to frustrate, it will take a lot of effort from Spurs to break down the Eagles side. Expect to see the attacking Spurs team out, with Defoe and Kanoute starting and Ziegler and Carrick pushing further forward. It will make it harder for Spurs to get the sixth win they crave, but I can see it being only a matter of time before they run out as winners in a London derby (at last), albeit only ...
PREDICTION : - Tottenham Hotspur 2 Crystal Palace 1
For more information on the opponents and their history, including full result history of matches between the two teams, click here.
FROM THE OTHER SIDE
MEHSTG was unable to obtain a View From The Other Side
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR : - Sean Davis (knee); Simon Davies (virus); Goran Bunjevcevic (calf); Dean Richards (ear infection); Stephen Kelly (knee); Thimothee Atouba (foot)
CRYSTAL PALACE : Tommy Black (broken leg); Nicola Ventola (broken ankle); Joonas Kolkka (rib);
|Tottenham Hotspur 1 Crystal Palace 1 (Half-time score : 1)|
|Premier League||Venue : White Hart Lane|
|Tuesday 28th December 2004||Kick Off : 15.00 p.m.|
|Crowd : 36,100||Referee : Uriah Rennie (Sheffield)|
|Weather : Cold, sunny|
|Teams : -|
Ricketts (Mendes 46)
Kanoute (Keane 83)
Routledge (Torghelle 68)
|Colours : - (kits courtesy of http://www.colours-of-football.com)|
|Scorers : -|
|Cards : -|
Pamarot (foul) 78
|Match Report : -|
Our run of successive league wins ended at five, thanks to a predominantly below-par home performance in front of a near-capacity crowd against a Crystal Palace side who hadn’t won for nine matches and who were languishing in the bottom three of the Premiership.
Tottenham’s starting line-up showed four changes to the team that had begun the 2-0 win at Norwich City two days earlier, with Anthony Gardner, Rohan Ricketts, Reto Ziegler and Jermain Defoe coming in for Noureddine Naybet, Pedro Mendes, Thimothee Atouba and Robbie Keane.
Our first half performance was inexplicably inept and we never really got going. There was a distinct lack of fluency to our play and we created few opportunities, our best early chance coming when Reto Ziegler’s 25 yard strike deflected off Gonzalo Sorondo and flew narrowly wide. Palace largely dominated the opening period and we couldn’t have really complained had we gone in one or two goals down at half time. In only the second minute, Danny Butterfield’s cross only just eluded Andy Johnson and was scrambled behind. Johnson then had a goal disallowed for offside when he clipped the loose ball home after Paul Robinson had failed to cleanly gather a long-range shot by Vassilis Lakis.
The Eagles were dominating the midfield, with the hard-working Michael Hughes, Aki Riihilahti and Tom Soares over-running Michael Brown and Michael Carrick, whilst Wayne Routledge and Lakis caused us problems on the wings. Riihilahti contrived to miss three clear cut chances in the closing stages of the first half and an unmarked Johnson should have done better than shoot straight at Robinson from six yards out.
It was a relief for us to still be level at half time. During the interval Martin Jol brought about our second half revival with some astute tactical changes. The Head Coach made one substitution at the time, replacing the anonymous Ricketts with Pedro Mendes, who went on to direct the game and enabled us to wrest control of the midfield from the visitors. We suddenly began to look like a side on form and started creating openings. After 53 minutes Defoe cut in from the left wing and unleashed a shot which Palace goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly managed to touch on to a post. A minute later and Defoe went on a similar run, this time his strike swung on to the opposite upright and into the net.
With Spurs in the ascendancy and the visitors not looking threatening, it seemed likely that we would go on to wrap up the victory and extend our winning run. However, we failed to get the second goal which would probably have sewn the game up. The course of the match changed when Sandor Torghelle replaced Wayne Routledge for the Eagles after 68 minutes. The lively Torghelle was not afraid to run at the Tottenham defence and suddenly the visitors began to cause us problems again.
fifteen minutes left Palace equalised. The ever-dangerous
Johnson, twenty five yards out with his back to goal, turned and
unleashed a shot which went across Robinson and nestled in the corner
of the net at the Park Lane end for his tenth league goal of the
season. Defoe had reached that figure twenty minutes earlier.
For the remainder of the game Palace looked fairly comfortable and we
never really threatened. Even the introduction of Robbie Keane
after 83 minutes, on for Frederic Kanoute as Jol continued his policy
of rotating his three main strikers, failed to provide the impetus
required for us to go on and try and win the game.
MEHSTG TOP MAN : - PAUL ROBINSON
|NO GARDEN PARTY|
Spurs played a similar game to that at Carrow Road, but failed to stop the single Palace danger man, who scored with eleven minutes remaining to earn a well-deserved draw at White Hart Lane.
It was a case of Tottenham being up against it in the first half of this match, but when one up, they could not hold onto the lead and were frustrated by the formation that Ian Dowie put out against them.
With a five man midfield, Palace set out to make it hard for Tottenham to get through to their defence, but with only one man up, Johnson had to battle away on his own against the Tottenham defence, but the support he received from the midfield in the first half caused Spurs many problems. In the first minute, Butterfield overlapped from right back to put in a cross that Robinson just got a finger to and deflected it over Soares coming in behind him.
Spurs had to rely on break-outs from defence, with Ziegler setting up Defoe in the sixth minute to fire in a shot that caught a deflection to go wide and when Palace cleared the corner, they created a chance for Lakis to shoot from outside the box, which Robinson could only push out to Johnson who put the ball past him and into the net. Luckily for Tottenham, the linesman's flag was raised to wipe it out as the Palace striker was offside.
Ledley King had to redeem himself when he gave a pass away outside his own box to rob Soares with a well-timed tackle as he entered the area and when Lakis hit a low ball in from the left wing in the 24th minute, Robinson's touch was vital in denying the waiting Johnson and Soars in the six yard box from scoring a certain goal.
It was not all one way traffic, but the Spurs efforts were generally lacking real threat. Rohan Ricketts, who was largely ineffective on the right wing, had a shot deflected for a corner, Kanoute managed to engineer a yard of space in the box and drove a low shot that Kiraly touched around the post and Defoe's shot was lacking sting after it hit a defender en route to Kiraly's hands. Fredi gave Kiraly his most nervous moment of the first half, when his shot required two goes to hold onto it.
The defending got a bit desperate at times and as they failed to stop a running Soares, Pamarot dived in leaving Lakis a shooting chance and only Ledley King's deflection took the ball over the bar. What wasn't desperate was the marvellous save that Robinson made to stop Johnson's shot in the 41st minute. When the ball fell to Johnson about three yards out, he looked an odds on certainty to score, but the effort was blocked by the Spurs keeper in a brilliant save. It didn't just hit him, as when you saw it in slow-motion on the Jumbotron, Robbo threw his arm up to keep the ball out and cemented his reputation as the England number one. Routledge volleyed goalwards and Riihilahti could only manage to get his knee to the ball to try and get it on goal, but it went wide. Routledge had one more try before the break when he drove a shot a foot over from just right of centre.
Something had to be done at the break and Jol brought on Mendes for Ricketts. The Spurs coach had started with Ricketts as he intended to attack Palace, but the lack of involvement meant that he needed to bring on a more combative midfielder and Mendes was more instrumental in countering the five man midfield. Michael Carrick had a quiet game in comparison to his last outing at home and the game at Norwich, which is something we cannot afford to countenance too often, as his creativity is a key element to the success fo the team.
Routledge had been disappointing in the match, even though he showed a turn of pace, he often failed to get past his man, so when he was taken off in the second half, it might have been interpreted as an indication that he was being saved for an impending transfer to Spurs, but it was more that Dowie wanted to add a physical element to his attack in the shape of the Hungarian Torghelle. The striker's reputation for diving that includes annoying his own team-mates in training came to the fore when he threw himself to the ground in the box in a shameless effort to earn a spot-kick, although Anthony Gardner's challenge on Johnson him looked nearer to getting a decision from where I was sitting, but was outside the box.
Having scored his first goal of the season on Boxing Day, Michael Brown was keen to get another as he drove shots in on goal. Most were charged down, but one just after the break caused Kiraly to dirty his pyjama bottoms by plunging to his left to hold the shot. Jermain Defoe was also firing in shots from all over the field. On the stroke of the 53rd minute, he hit an effort, as the Palace players stood off him, that dipped in front of the Eagles goalie and he tipped it onto his right hand post. It was a lesson that was not learned and a minute later, moving inside from the same spot out on the left, his 22 yard shot flashed past Kiraly and hit his left hand post, before rebounding back into the net. It was a real classy finish and added to the announcement Defoe made before the game, on winning the Spurs Members Player of the Year award, that he loved it and did not want to leave, really cheered up the Tottenham crowd. His goal celebration must have been a bit tiring though, as he ran the full length of the pitch to jump into Paul Robinson's arms.
Kanoute had a strike disallowed as he had been given offside before he shot past the keeper, who became the target for the Tottenham players to hit shots at. Mendes, Kanoute, Brown and Defoe, twice, all tested the Hungarian goalie, but Spurs could not make the clear cut chance to gain the all important second goal. That proved decisive, as Palace conjured a goal out of nothing. It had been coming, as Spurs allowed the ball to get into their area far too often. The ball was played into Johnson, who was 25 yards out just right of the box, by Rihiilahti and the little forward spun to hit a shot that bounced past Robinson into the bottom right hand corner of his goal. Like Defoe's goal, it was an example of instinctive finishing from one of England's young strikers, who might break into the England team, but as with Jermain's shot, you must question the lack of closing down by the Spurs defence, knowing that he was the one player capable of scoring such a goal. In fact, Defoe was the one who almost won it for Tottenham at the death, when he managed to get a shot away, when surrounded by defenders, but it slipped the wrong side of the post, after taking a deflection ... or so said Rennie. he had missed a blatant corner earlier, so was trying to balance things up with this decision. From it, the ball was cleared out to Edman, 20 yards out, but his shot went well over the top.
At the end of the game, Spurs were disappointed to only have drawn, but it was a fair result and they could easily have found themselves two down at the break. However, the second half performance was better, although they did look tired and with the lack of options in the "battling midfielder" department means that Michael Brown has to play every game at the moment. He had a running feud going on with Michael Hughes, which surprisingly did not involve a yellow card for the Irishman, as he took Brown out off the ball and also committed a number of other needless fouls. Brown also got caught up in an incident with Sorondo, who collapsed to the ground as if felled by a Mike Tyson punch. In fact, Brown had accidentally bumped into him as he ran past and the acting that followed had as much place in the English game as the dive that Torghelle perpetrated in the Tottenham area.
Palace are a hard working side, who will battle all the way, but they might lose friends along the way if their players keep up their petulant actions in the remaining half of the season.
|Other scores this weekend :|
|Aston Villa||0||Manchester United||1||Tuesday|
|Bolton Wanderers||0||Blackburn Rovers||1||Tuesday|
|Manchester City||1||West Bromwich Albion||1||Tuesday|
|20||West Bromwich Albion||20||1||8||11||16||42||11||-26|
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