Bodies on the line...
It was a magnificent performance and right back to what we do best as we hustled and harried in numbers all over the pitch with the players throwing their bodies at anything and everything, running themselves into the ground in their bid to prove that the Britannia remains a fortress despite recent wobbles that are now but a distant memory. Much of the post match discussion in the media has sadly focussed on a few refereeing decision and even Shotton’s choice of undergarment, but the moaning and finger pointing changes nothing, apart from perhaps Chris Hoy’s profession.
The main talking points for me are as follows;
Sorensen – I was a bit worried about Tommy after Everton, he looked very shaky that day with the deliveries into his area so the prospect of Bale’s crossing didn’t fill me with confidence. I need not have worried though as Tommy put in a great performance fully justifying his recent inclusion making a number of world class saves as he led from the back in keeping our lead and securing the three points.
Woodgate – I watched Woody very closely having been treated to all kinds of accusations of vendettas against him and despite the win and many associating that with the assumption he must have played well, I still feel he was poor on the day. Despite lining up as right back, and by lining up I mean standing in the right back position when we had the ball, he didn’t really play there. Every time we were on the back foot or defending, Shotton would come back into the full back position with Woodgate floating in between the two Ryans. He was only caught one on one four times, on three of those occasions the player ran straight past him and got a ball in, the one other occasion he made an awful challenge on Lennon earning himself a yellow and Spurs a kick on the edge of the area.
In terms of his other contributions, he was firmly lambasted by his Captain for failing to pick up Bassong who managed a free header from a corner, he got away with another free kick right on the edge of the area as the referee waved advantage despite Spurs perhaps preferring the set play and he almost scored an own goal. Taking the above into account and actually watching the performance of the player, despite the result, to me that is nothing like a good performance and whilst he wasn’t as calamitous as usual, that does not equate to a good game.
Shotton – I thought Ryan had a great game and whilst he showed more glimpses of naivety, his work rate and fearless running of the ball at the likes of Ekotto caused Spurs all kinds of problems. That both our goals came from his deliveries coupled with the fact that he was effectively playing not just right wing but right back for most of the game so we could carry the hapless Woodgate, he was well deserving of my Man of the Match.
©Graham Chadwick/Daily Mail
Etherington – I think it’s safe to say that Matty is now operating at near on full tilt getting back to his best with two goals against his former employers. It’s been a general rule of thumb since his arrival that when he plays well, so does the whole team so it’s a relief that he is finally over his back problems (for now at least) so can concentrate on giving full backs a nightmare once more.
Crouch – Another brilliant showing from our record signing who has done a great job of shoving my early season comments back down my throat by again winning the sponsor’s Man of the Match award (and very nearly my own). He is now showing that he can adapt to our system and indeed our system has adapted to his game too. He is starting to win more headers than usual and seems to have bought into the work ethic more and more and now happily chases down the ball when not in possession. He and Walters seem to have built up a healthy understanding with one another, my only criticism would be that there is very little pace there and at least one of them should have been replaced around the 75 minute mark as the ball just wasn’t sticking. That said, for the most part, with an in form Matty and a dynamic and eager Shotton either side of them, hopefully there won’t be too many instances of them being stranded having to carve out opportunities for themselves 40 yards from goal.
Leading from the front...
Palacios – I’m glad we saw Wilson get ten minutes or so against his former club as Spurs threw everything at us, and his class was clear for all to see as he made some vital interceptions and played some lovely through balls having won possession and carried the ball forward. This is exactly what we have been missing in the middle and this preview of what to expect is a mouth watering prospect, that said I did have some concerns about his continued apparent lack of fitness. He was perhaps lucky that he came into a game where we allowed him to sit in front of a wall of nine defenders and the space that meant he would be afforded as Spurs flooded forward. My concern was when he lost the ball or a move broke down, despite having been on five minutes, was unable (or hopefully just unwilling) to track back at anything more than a jog despite the player he was chasing being on the pitch for nearly a whole game.
I’m hoping this was more a case of attitude and expectation rather than an underlying fitness concern as he did show a little more urgency on the second such instance of this happening, closely tracking the diminutive Croatian Modric. I guess we will have to wait and see what happens and whether or not he gets his chance in Turkey to get another 90 minutes under his belt in our final group game to get a better idea of where he fitness is.
Chris Foy – I don’t think the referee got that much wrong to be honest, I think that we were perhaps lucky with the Kaboul foul (we WILL be penalised for excessive holding soon) and definitely the ‘offside goal’ but in my mind the sending off was correct, Walters was tripped from behind as he ran towards the goal with no other defender in a reasonable distance to help, when is that not a yellow card? One decision that also could have gone our way was the penalty and despite there being absolutely minimal contact, Whelan’s leg was pulled back away from Modric, it looked a lot like Larsson’s for Sunderland where the player was largely lambasted as a cheat, in fact, an almost identical incident happened in last night’s game at Stamford Bridge with the player told to get up.
The right decision...
I know it’s contentious and it comes down to the letter of the law versus intention to win a penalty. Could Modric have stayed on his feet, absolutely, did he go down on contact, no, he waited a stride or two before diving theatrically despite riding much worse challenges elsewhere on the pitch with ease. On the other hand though, the players are given little encouragement to be honest these days and we hear the term ‘he is within his rights to go down’ which makes my blood boil, you either go down because you have to or you stay on your feet, sadly that’s not the case and until we see referees attempting to play an advantage or punishing exaggerated simulation, it’s not something I think will change anytime soon.
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