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Spurs  0   Arsenal  2           (Half time: 0-1)
FA Premier Reserve League South
Monday 15th March 2004
Venue :  Broadhall Way
Kick off : 19.00 p.m.
Weather :  Light rain at start; mild, with chilly wind
Crowd : -  approx.  2,500
Referee : -  J. Singh
Spurs  -  None
Arsenal -  Birchall 41, 60
Spurs  -     Mabizela (foul) 13,    McKie (foul) 56,    Jackson (foul) 88
Arsenal  -     Cregg (foul) 18,    Simek (foul) 81,    Shiels (foul) 86,    Nicolau (not retreating 10 yards) 86
Spurs :  -  Hirschfeld; Kelly, Bunjevcevic, Mabizela, McKie; Marney, Hughes, Jackson, Ricketts; O'Hara (Malcolm 63), Yeates
Unused subs:  - 
Eyre, Lee, Daniels, Wright

Arsenal :   S. Taylor, Bailey, Nicolau, Hoyte, Simek, Cregg, Fabregas, Bradley (Larsson 88), Karbassiyoon, Birchall (Shiels 84), Bentley 
Unused subs:  -
  Fowler, Holloway, Djourou

Spurs  -  White shirts, navy blue shorts, white socks
Arsenal  -  Red shirts with white sleeves, white shorts, red socks

Two opportunistic strikes from pacy Arsenal forward Adam Birchall won this match for them, but the result was closer than the scoreline suggests.

The early possession was Tottenham's and the first chance came form some good work on the right wing by Marney, where he produced a cross into the box, leading to Yeates having a shot blocked and Hughes' low shot was saved by Taylor.  Both sides exchanged early bookings too - Mabizela and Cregg - for fouls, as Mr. Singh tried to stamp his authority on the match, but he had a poor game, often being too pernickety about where free-kicks were taken from and then in a final flurry of yellow cards, booked people for incidents he had let go in the previous 80 minutes.

Spurs nearly took the lead on 22 minutes, when a right wing corner was headed goalwards by Hughes, I think and it was headed off the line by a Gooner defender.  Marney also had an effort go over the top, when he played the ball to Ricketts and took the return pass, but couldn't keep his shot down.  Ricketts was involved in another attack in the 39th minute, when the ball was played out to him on the left.  He could not reach it, but saved it going for a goal-kick at the expense of a throw-in near the Arsenal corner.  However, with two passes, the ball was in the Spurs net.  Tottenham were slack, as Arsenal took the throw quickly and Bentley hit  along pass over the heads of the Tottenham defenders and Birchall was like greased lightning away from them.  Cutting in from the right touchline, he hit a low shot that flew past Hirschfeld, who perhaps should have done better, but it was a powerful finish.

Spurs were getting caught in possession and this continued into the second half, while Arsenal sometimes suffered by trying to be too clever with the ball at their feet.  While the Tottenham side was quite experienced, the younger Arsenal side played more as a unit, sometimes playing keep ball and others hitting the ball long to utilise the pace of their forwards. 

Straight after the interval, Tottenham had a good opportunity to equalise, when McKie's left wing cross went deep to the far post and it was met by Dean Marney on the volley.  The effort was stopped low down by Taylor, but the ball bounced up and Marney headed it over the keeper and was unlucky to see the ball bounce off the top of the crossbar and over.  McKie was involved in the next action, taking the legs of Bailey from under him and getting a yellow card.  Bailey was lucky not to get the same treatment for a petulant kick at McKie, but the ref decided to let that go unpunished.

On the hour, the game was sewn up.  Fabregas went on a mazy run into the area, with three Spurs defenders around him, but he managed to trick the ball past them, leaving Birchall a tap in from a yard out.  It was a poor goal to concede, with nobody making a challenge on the Spaniard or even stopping him from getting the ball across the face of the goal.

Tottenham tried in vain to get back into the match.  A corner found Mabizela's (or Mazibaler's, according to the bloke behind me) head, but Taylor saved at the foot of the post, then a quick free-kick to Marney on the right ended with his cross being headed narrowly wide of his own goal by the Arsenal central defender Simek.  From another corner, Yeates put a low ball in that was cleared straight back to him.  This time he unleashed a powerful right foot drive that curled in viciously.  So viciously, that it nearly took Nicolau's face off when it hit him full in it !!  I don't think the Arsenal defender saw it swerve around the player in front of him !!

The game ended with a clutch of yellow cards, as Tottenham's frustration boiled over and they gave Bentley and Fabregas a bit of a kicking.  Mainly because they were trying to take the mickey.  The ref got carried  away and also cautioned players for shirt-pulling and not going back ten yards, which, if he had imposed the same fate on players earlier, would have left much reduced sides taking part in this match by the time an hour had passed.

Hirschfeld had little to do apart from the goals, while Kelly showed he has good pace, Mabizela was strong and passed well and Bunjy looked comfortable.  McKie was pacy up and down the line and strong in the tackle.  Hughes had a good game, but was not as influential as normal, with O'Hara getting crowded out in midfield, after dropping back from a forward position early on.  Ricketts was lively, but got knocked off the ball too easily and Marney was the pick of the midfielders as he worked hard and was keen to get forward, producing most of the nervy moments for the Arsenal defence.  Yeates was the lone recognised striker and found it hard trying to do it all himself, but he continued to press and Michael Malcolm got little joy when he entered the fray.  Johnnie Jackson was the other player worthy of mention, as he tried hard in midfield to get Tottenham moving, but there were often just too many bodies closing him down, producing a rushed pass or a tackle on him to dispossess him.

Next week sees Tottenham's last home game in this campaign against Nottingham Forest.  There then follow three away games, but the chances of Tottenham ending up near the top of the table are remote, with too many points dropped earlier in the season.


Marco van Hip

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