Looking Forward

 

SUNDERLAND (Home) 

Premier League

Saturday 4th November 2000

Our Mackem mates make the long journey South with a patchy record this season, but this is a much changed side from that which played the last match of last season here.

Slanislav Varga has been signed from Euro 2000's surprise team, Slovenia.  He looked very good in his first couple of games before suffering a torn muscle which was complicated by internal bleeding.  He could be back to face Tottenham and his distribution from the back could be a potent weapon.  He is joined by Hutchinson, Arca, Peeters, Macho and Thome as the new additions to their squad.

The defence has been changed a fair bit as Arca has come in from Argentina, Bould has retired (not before time), Thome has replaced the injured Varga and Macho has replaced Sorensen on occasion.  Michael Gray pushes up from his full-back place and Chris Makin can also get forward, as we remember he did here last season !!  Macho has proved man enough to take on the keeper's role in Sorensen's absence, while Paul Butler has been in and out the side this season so far. 

Attacking the Spurs goal will be the old lanky Gooner, Niall Quinn and the man who should be England's first choice striker - Kevin Phillips.  Little and Large they may be, but they are strikingly effective.  Phillips usually does well at home, but at the end of last season, he failed to impress at the Lane.  The Honduran Milton Nunez rarely gets a look in, but we are reliably informed he is very quick and could trouble our defence if he gets let loose.  Supplying the ammo from the wings are Kevin Kilbane, the Chris Waddle look-a-like and Michael Gray.  Stopping these two could be a key to blunting the Phillips/Quinn cutting edge.  

Young Michael Reddy is an intuitive goal poacher, who is one for the Black Cats' future and there is always the "physical" Alex Rae to battle away in midfield for the visitors.

Spurs have been doing well at home and while they will come unstuck sometime, I am not sure it will be today.  We will have to show more than we have against our last few opponents to come out unbeaten still.

PREDICTION : Tottenham 2  Sunderland 2

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

 

 

Tottenham  2  Sunderland  1   Saturday 4th November 2000

With things looking ominous and protests were looming about the top men at the club, Tottenham do the unexpected and win against a half decent side; something they failed to do on Tuesday.

Tottenham started like a train and forced Sorensen into two sharp saves early on with headers by Ferdinand (which deflected off Varga) and Vega.  Sherwood was also unlucky, when the Mackem keeper got down quickly to push away his low shot.  Both Anderton and Carr rasped shots just past each post, Spurs looked like they were going to suffer for not punishing the visitors for their early pressure.  This became very obvious when two unmarked headers just missed the Spurs goal and then a free-kick hit low into the box caused all sorts of confusion; but not to Ramon Vega, who knew exactly what to do ... handball it !!  It was not as clear cut as last week's, as the ball was ricocheting around the box, but when Phillips stepped up, you had the feeling he was going to score.  However, he sent Sullivan the wrong way, but also sent the ball into orbit over the bar.  Spurs took the hint and went down the other end from a clearance from Sullivan and Les hit a powerful drive that Sorensen acrobatically threw himself upwards to tip over the crossbar.  It was a terrific save, but Spurs pressed on and had their own claim for a penalty when Carr was bundled over in the area.  All Spurs got was a corner, but from that  the ball was knocked goalwards by Craddock and Sherwood was there to prod home from a yard out.

Leading at half-time, the crowd, who had been behind the team, cheered them off.  The second half started in a lively fashion, with Armstrong replacing Rebrov after 71 minutes.  Spurs seemed to concede ground and possession to Sunderland and although there were mainly long shots to field, Sullivan had little to deal with directly.  And it was directly that they came, with the high ball to Quinn the main focus of their attack.  An innocuous challenge out on the left wing was deemed a foul and from the free-kick, Hutchinson rose to head an equaliser at the far post.  It seemed as though Tottenham had thrown the game away, but then came back into it and started to play some nice football.  From corners, there was some scrambled efforts on goal, but when Spurs broke, they had Sunderland on the back foot.  None more so, than when Sherwood received the ball in the centre circle and he passed through the middle for Armstrong to use his pace to take him away from the defence.  Bearing down on Sorensen, he slipped the ball between the keepers legs for the winner.  His lack of celebration showed he has still not forgiven the fans for their barracking of him last season.

It was a much better performance by Spurs.  Their passing and movement was crisper and their was some desire to win today, which is not always evident.   The sending off of Thatcher in the last minute was not a triumph for common sense, but that does not appear to be Mr. Gallagher's strong suit in my opinion.  If Spurs can produce performances like this, then the season might not be a total waste, but there is still a long way to go to be serious top six challengers.

MEHSTG TOP MAN : - LUKE YOUNG

Pete Stachio

 

Mission Accomplished

 

Never have I witnessed a referee who was so obviously going to send a player off in a match as this.  Ben Thatcher has been trying to get rid of his reputation of his Wimbledon past, but here he received two yellows for dissent and made his way off, just prior to the match official blowing the final whistle.  Having been booked in the first period for kicking the ball away, his opposite number, Don Hutchinson, took every opportunity to go down like Emile Heskey to try and make sure Ben took the long walk.  He achieved his mission in the last minute of the match when he went down like a sack of spuds and Thatcher's angry response got another yellow and then the red card.  It was a situation that the ref could have said "OK, there's seconds left, let's just calm down", but Mr. Gallagher has had it in for Tottenham since he sent off Gordon Durie for feigning injury from a head-butt vs. Coventry City at the Lane in 1992 and made comments at the time about how he felt about Tottenham.  In my interpretation, he seems to make sure he will enjoy himself whenever he comes to the Lane.

It had begun so well for Tottenham, with a siege on the Sunderland goal, but after the initial twenty minutes or so, the chances hadn't gone in and you started to feel that the team lacked the conviction to continue attacking.  Sorensen in the Black Cats goal made four very good saves to keep Spurs out, throwing himself all over the place to deny Vega, Anderton and Ferdinand twice - the second an excellent tip over from a fierce Les volley.  However, Tottenham suffered as they did against Derby, with a whipped in free-kick that bobbled around and the ball hit Vega's hand for the second Saturday running.  It looked dodgy as to whether it was hand to ball, but Dermot Gallagher gave the spot kick to Sunderland and when Phillips blazed over the bar, you felt that neither side would score.  The visitors had been lack-lustre in attack, with few direct chances, while Tottenham were being kept out by the agility of the Sunderland keeper.  However, Spurs broke forward with Stephen Carr breaking into the box, where he was brought down, but the ref only awarded a corner this time.  The way things were going, if he had awarded a penalty, Sorensen would probably have saved it.  The corner ended up as the better option, with Clemence's dipping kick bouncing off Jody Craddock towards the goal and Sherwood being on hand to smack it in from close range.

The half-time reaction from the crowd was much better and as a whole they seemed to be more behind the side today.  The welcome that Armstrong got when he came on after 71 minutes for Rebrov was particularly pleasing, but he didn't see it that way after the slagging he regularly got last season.  It was a surprise that he was even there as everyone thought he was still injured.  Before that Spurs had left Hutchinson to head in at the far post after the referee had awarded yet another dubious free-kick to Sunderland and Spurs became victims of letting Sunderland come at them.  Because the black cats could offer little more than the high ball up to Quinn, they failed to break Spurs down and Young did a very good job of shackling Phillips, who rarely got a sniff.  But Armstrong's introduction paid off when Sherwood fed him through the middle and he ran away from Varga and slipped the ball under the keeper for the winner.  His non-celebration is an indication that he intends to ignore the crowd and their two-faced reaction to his performances.

All that was left was for Gallagher to complete his day's work and then we all went home happy.  Except, it was a win over a very average side.  Cracks were papered over until our visit to Villa and the harder matches to come after that.  For Spurs, Les showed the better side of his ability and Sherwood played more like he did at his best last season.  Carr was great again, Thatcher was playing a more advanced position (albeit not sure where he should be some of the time) with Vega, Young and Perry as the three centre-halves in a 5-3-2 formation, that seemed to add strength to the back line.  Clem did well battling in midfield alongside Anderton, who was also more effective.  The only low point really was Sergei's game, as he didn't look 100% match fit and although he did well, Armstrong's pace proved to be decisive. 

Peter Reid said someone told him it was the best game of the season at White Hart Lane !!  not sure what they were on !! And in Sport First on Sunday, the Sunderland fanzine writer for "Sex and Chocolate aren't better than Football" said that Tottenham's fans were "ludicrously boring".  Shame that he felt that way (he should have been here Tuesday !), as Sunderland fans gave their team good support and even took off their shirts in the Tottenham heat-wave they were experiencing, while we shivered in our big coats.  They would do better to worry about the alternative option of sex and chocolate if their team keep playing like this !!

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