Looking Forward

 

BLACKBURN ROVERS (Away)

Premier League

Saturday 29th November 2003

The Blackburn team that takes the field on Saturday might not look that different from that of last season, but the League table tells a different story.  Graeme Sourness has turned the side from top half to bottom three in the space of just a few footballing months.  And they sacked Glenn Hoddle !!

The distraction of UEFA Cup football is never a plus for Rovers and their loss to the unheard of Turkish club was not a surprise, but the way they have flopped domestically is a shock.  With Sourness in charge, you would have thought the Rovers players would be too scare dot lose, but the nearest the club have come to putting up a fight was the incident at the New Dell, where Sourness "offered out" SCBC's assistant manager Dennis Rofe.

It's not that the playing staff are all that bad.  Kasey Keller's USA rival Brad Friedel is a big goalie, who is a fine saver of shots, although he could be better on crosses.  For cover he has former Spurs transfer target and Irish keeper Alan Kelly and on loan from Villa, the hapless Peter Enkelman, who is best known for his cock-up when touching a throw-in into his own net against local rivals Birmingham City.

Slovakian defender Vratislav Gresko looks like some Eastern-European tennis player, but has been a bit out of his depth this season, while the return of Craig Short adds some height and experience to the defence.  Lucas Neill has his problems - mainly staying on the pitch, but when he can remain in play, he has pace and is a tough tackler.  Young Martin Taylor is the long term replacement for Short, while Lorenzo Amoruso is the short term answer in firming up the centre of defence,  Unfortunately, he will be out injured for a while.  The same has been the case for Markus Babbel, Liverpool's former German international on a season's loan, who is now playing again, but only a shadow of his former self following his bout of Guillain Barre syndrome.  Knowing someone who has had this illness, it is lucky he is walking again, let alone playing the game at the highest level.  The Norwegian Nils-Eric Johansson tends to be a bit part player and was intended to be a more skillful answer to the British central defender, but James McEveley is the one who has come through the ranks and is a strong youngster, who is keeping Andy Todd out of the first team picture.

New buy Australian Brett Emerton is a player who comes from Feyenoord with a big reputation and he is now starting to show why.  A winger with pace and skill, but he is capable in doubling up as a defender.  Turkish midfielder Tugay is likely to miss out, after being struck down by illness over the last week or so, while Gary Flitcroft is suffering with a knock that might rule him out of selection.  It might mean that some of our players will stand a better chance of staying on the pitch for 90 minutes.  Former Millwall man Steven Reid is one who Tottenham were looking at before he decided to move to Ewood Park.  He has suffered a couple of sending offs, as he gets accustomed to the pace of the Premiership.  I am sure he will adapt well in time.  Dominant Italian midfielder Dino Baggio has been doubling up in defence, but has yet to develop an understanding with his team-mates since he arrived.  Having been on trial at Wolves, it shows how much it takes to get back to anywhere near the form you once had when you drop out of top flight football for a while.  Barry Ferguson has had the opposite problem with stepping up to the English game after leaving Glasgow Rangers.  ,

The forward line will be a bit decimated with David Thompson's long term knee injury ruling him out of contention, leaving Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke, Matt Jansen and youngster Paul Gallagher to battle for the two places up front.  Cole we all know about and maybe he won't score unless Pleat says something about his goal-scoring to chances ratio, while Yorke has been on the verge of leaving Rovers for two seasons, but there have been a noticeable lack of interested parties.  Matt Jansen is a fantastic player, who plays with his head and makes the most of everything during a match.  However, since he had a serious motorbike accident on holiday in summer 2002, he has still to regain the standard he produced before that time.  If he can recapture that form ,he will be a valuable player to Blackburn.  Gallagher, I don't know much about ... not that many people do, although with Alan Mahon on loan at Ipswich Town and Corrado Grabbi seems to have taken the money and now wants to run away from the North-West, where he has failed to settle, means Gallagher might be drafted into the 16 to play this match.

With the benefit of three points against Villa last week, Spurs might gain some confidence from the win with a settled side and Rovers will be desperate to get something out of this match ... preferably a win as it is a home game.  Realistically, Spurs will be looking to nick something on the break, but without Kanoute, that might be harder than previously experienced in the season.  The outcome of the match, which is likely to be a poor match, will be ...

PREDICTION : -   Blackburn Rovers  1   Tottenham  1

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

VIEW FROM THE OTHER SIDE

How do you think your team have played this season ?

Obviously after the highs of last season, the lows of this season are even harder to take. Defensively we have been a shambles and have not managed to keep a clean sheet yet. We are playing with a number of new players in the team and Im sure once they settle we will be fine.

Who do you think is your best player at the moment ?

A couple of our new players are starting to play better, Ferguson is starting to show some positive signs after a poor start. Emerton scored a very good goal last week and is starting to settle in. To be fair nobody is playing out of their skin at the moment.

Which player isn't playing as well in recent games ?

Vrati Gresko is having a bit of a rough time at left back, he was outstanding last year when we had him on loan. For some reason this season he just looks like a shadow of his former self.

Any exciting new names in the squad that we should look out for ?

We could be ready to unleash one of the hottest talents to come out of brockhall on Spurs at the weekend. Young Paul Gallagher looks like he could have a very bright future in the game.


What is the line-up expected to be ?

Friedel, Short, Todd, Babbel, Gresko, Emerton, Ferguson, Reid, Flitty, Yorke, Gally  (MEHSTG Ed : - What just the ten then ??)

What do you your fans think of Tottenham ?

To be honest, not much.  I think some fans are still a bit bitter about some of the quotes coming from the Spurs camp before the cup final, but at least justice was done.

Which Spurs player do you like ?

I would have liked us to have signed Keane. We were reported to be interested before he signed for you lot, as hes duffers best mate it might have persuaded him not to go.

What do you reckon the score will be ?

You beat us at Ewood last season 2-1 if I remember rightly.  I am hoping for an improvement on that.  Hopefully, we can nick it 2-1.

Ricky Clarke
www.brfcs.com

PLAYERS UNAVAILABLE

BLACKBURN ROVERS : -  Lorenzo Amoruso (knee); David Thompson (knee), Gary Flitcroft (knock), Tugay (illness), Lucas Neill (suspended), Andy Cole (suspended)

TOTTENHAM : -  Simon Davies (thigh/groin), Christian Ziege (knee), Jamie Redknapp (knee), Frederic Kanoute (ankle), Jonathan Blondel (knee)

COVERAGE : 
TV :  No live coverage in the UK.
Radio :  
Internet :  www.spurs.co.uk   Live webcast    

 

 

Blackburn Rovers   1     Tottenham   0     (Half-time score : 0-0)
Premier League
Saturday 29th November 2003
Venue : -  Ewood Park
Kick Off : -  15.00 p.m.
Weather : -  Cold, dry
Crowd : -  22,802
Referee : -  G. Poll (Tring)
Teams : -  
Blackburn Rovers : -  Friedel; Gresko, Short, Johansson (Reid 46), Todd; Tugay, Babbel, Emerton, Ferguson; Gallagher (Jansen 83), Yorke 
Unused subs: Taylor, Baggio, Enckleman

Tottenham : -  Keller; Carr, Gardner, Richards, Taricco; King, Dalmat (Mabizela 66), Konchesky (Ricketts 83), Anderton; Keane, Postiga (Zamora 66)
Unused subs: Burch, Doherty

Colours : -  (kits courtesy of http://www.colours-of-football.com)
Blackburn Rovers

Tottenham

Scorers : -  
Blackburn Rovers  -  
 Carr (o.g.) 79

Tottenham -  None

Cards : -  
Blackburn Rovers  -  Souness (dissent) 50

Tottenham -  Gardner (foul) 86

A dire first half or "Premier" action did pick up a bit in the second half, but another goal against Spurs deflected in off Stephen Carr meant a long trip home without any points yet again.

The long range effort from Gresko picked up height off Carr and looped agonisingly over Keller for the second away match running to give Rovers the points.  I suppose their need was more than ours, but it could have pout some distance between Tottenham and the bottom of the table had we been a bit more adventurous.

Blackburn pushed on more than Tottenham during the first period and were it not for poor finishing, could have run in a couple of goals.  Brett Emerton was causing problems and I can't help but think that he would have been a good buy for Tottenham in midfield.  He set up headers for Todd and Yorke with his crosses and also forced Treacle into a diving block to prevent him getting shot on goal.

Spurs only forged some attempts on goal at the end of the half, when Dalmat had two goes - one when set up by Postiga and another from a corner, but both were off target.  In truth, Spurs looked to keep Blackburn at arm's length and play for the break, but there was little conviction in that tactic.

At half-time, another Spurs target that got away - Steven Reid - came on and played well enough to indicate that he would cause us trouble.  Not as much trouble as manager Souness was proving to the referee, who sent him into the stands from the bench for a comment he made.  Souness really does have a bee in his bonnet about Tottenham and I can't see him taking the manager's job even if it did get offered to him, which I can't see happening either.

Postiga was getting into good positions, but as has been the way in the last few weeks, the ball has not been running for him.  He skied a Konchesky cross over the bar and the one shot he got on target was not of any consequence as he was offside anyway, although he later brought an easy save from Friedel.  His most telling contribution was a boot away from goal when Emerton again crossed for Yorke to direct the ball goalwards, but back defending, Helder got it away.  Replaced by Zamora, the boy needs a goal.

The Tottenham defence was looking pretty solid, with Gardner and Richards showing a greater understanding of each other's play, while Keller was having a storming match.  Emerton should have scored with a header just before the hour, then on 70 minutes, Keller caught a Tugay effort, but four minutes later, the American keeper hurt his back in making a fine save to keep Yorke's header out of the goal.  He got up to keep Ferguson's shot in his grasp, but in the next attack, Gresko hit a 25-yarder that spun off Carr and dropped in over his head.

Spurs tried to hit back, but there was only about 10 minutes left and while they had situations where they outnumbered the Blackburn defence, they did not make good enough use of the ball or the openings.  Ten minutes before the Rovers goal, Carr made a great run down the right, but when he slipped the ball to Robbie Keane, he hit his shot too high and the good opportunity was wasted.  One last chance was available from a free-kick just outside the box, but Anderton hit it well over the bar.  Reid did the same at the other end and that could have left us 0-2 down with injury time being played.

To tell the truth there were little signs that Tottenham were going to lose this from the off.  The lack of urgency when we had the ball going forward and the reliance of the players to play the ball across the field rather than being ready to move it forward quickly to exploit any space there was.  While the 

 

MEHSTG TOP MAN : - KASEY KELLER

The Polyphant

 

BEHIND THE 8 BALL

 

It's like playing against teams full of billiards players with all these in-offs depriving us of points at the moment.  Perhaps that should be the cue to appoint a new manager to shake things up a bit.

With only a few breaks Tottenham certainly need to do a lot better to rack up the points we need to keep us in the running to be in the top ranking clubs.  This showing means that we have to sink the few opportunities we have to move up (to) the table, as points on the board are the most important thing.

Although it looked fairly comfortable, with no great worries, almost on cue, along came a kiss off Carr that sent the ball spinning wildly off the defender and it was sunk into Keller's goal which left Spurs with little playing time to strike back.

The effort might have been maximum before and after the break, but the will seemed to be missing and if Kanoute comes back to instill some confidence in the team, then we might chalk up a few wins, but at the moment there appears to be little belief in the side to get a few results on the pin that would give us a cushion of comfort.

While the fans might look on the black side, the team don't seem to be too far away from bridging the gap, but the need to get a good run going is necessary and although they might get a bad kick every now and then, they have to persevere to get an even break.

The rub of the green must surely go our way soon, as this is two matches on the trot that we have gone down to a fluke of a cannon off one of our players, so we need to baulk the progress of the opponents and play safe when necessary, effecting a clearance when required, but when a break occurs, we need to finish to frame the other side, rather than try trick shots when the game still isn't in the pocket.  It gives me a fit of pique sometimes, when Dalmat uses his body swerve, but fails to knock the ball into the danger area.  When we try to stop having a nap, the rest of the team must up the pace and stun the other side with our ability to pot our chances.  The fast running would stun the other side, but we seem to need to break slower and this then plants a seed of doubt in our minds.

Perhaps we will get our share of luck towards the end of the season, meaning we won't be needing snookers to get out of a lowly position should our current misfortune continue.

Charles Haughty

 

Other scores this weekend :
Arsenal 0 Fulham 0 Sunday
Aston Villa 1 SCBC 0 Saturday

Bolton Wanderers

2 Everton 0 Saturday
Charlton Athletic 0 Leeds United 1 Saturday
Chelsea 1 Manchester United 0 Sunday
Liverpool 3 Birmingham City 1 Sunday
Manchester City 0 Middlesbrough 1 Sunday
Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 Newcastle United 1 Saturday
Portsmouth 0 Leicester City 2 Saturday

 

League Table
 
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Chelsea 14 11 2 1 28 8 35 +20
2 Arsenal 14 10 4 0 28 10 34 +18
3 Manchester United 13 10 1 3 25 9 31 +16
4 Fulham 14 6 4 4 24 18 22 +6
5 Charlton Athletic 14 6 4 4 20 17 22 +3
6 Liverpool 14 6 3 5 21 15 21 +6
7 Newcastle United 14 5 5 4 20 19 20 +1
8 Birmingham City 14 5 5 4 12 14 20 -2
9 Manchester City 14 5 3 6 22 19 18 +3
10 Middlesbrough 14 5 3 6 12 15 18 -3
11 Bolton Wanderers 14 4 6 4 13 19 18 -6
12 SCBC 14 4 5 5 8 8 17 -1
13 Leicester City 14 4 3 7 22 22 15 0
14 Portsmouth 14 4 3 7 17 20 15 -3
15 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 14 4 3 7 13 18 15 -5
16 Blackburn Rovers 13 4 2 7 18 23 14 -5
17 Aston Villa 14 3 5 6 11 17 14 -6
18 Everton 14 3 4 7 15 19 13 -4
19 Wolverhampton Wanderers 14 2 5 7 9 27 11 -18
20 Leeds United 14 3 2 9 13 34 11 -21

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