Well that could have been a lot worse. Having taken a few deep breaths and poured myself a stiff drink prior to kick-off, proceedings began in precisely the depressing manner expected. I suspect there is not one soul in Christendom surprised by our early struggles in the face of perennial tormentor Kevin Davies, as well as the stream of set-piece deliveries. Vastly more dismaying however was our inability to handle the bread and butter of competing on the turf. Concepts such as winning second-balls – rather than gaping and watching in mild terror – or closing down opponents in possession appeared entirely alien to our glorious heroes, who were then torn to shreds for the second time in a week by a multi-pass move for the opposition goal.Moreover, when we did gain possession, in stark contrast to Bolton our lot regularly insisted upon two or three laboured touches, sucking all momentum from our play and giving our hosts plenty of time to organise themselves at the back.
I probably ought to hop straight to a confessional after typing this, but much that was wrong with the early part of the performance was typified by Modders. Too weak to handle the feistiness of Bolton’s midfield, our doings picked up around the time of his replacement by Kranjcar, who approached the challenge with just as much trickery but a little more muscle, linking better with Bale in 30 minutes than Modric had done in the previous hour.
Why it took an hour for our lot to switch on and boss the game is quite the mystery, but once we did it was fairly impressive stuff, just about everyone raising their game and playing with pace and zest aplenty. Bale, as ever, was at the hub of much that was good going forward. This also represented his first significant defensive test, and he performed these duties steadily without being necessarily flawless. Certainly there seems to be good reason to retain him at left-back for the foreseeable future.
In recent weeks as we have all searched for scapegoats, few have levelled any criticism at the boy Defoe and today gave an indication why. Through little fault of his own he has had precious few chances in recent weeks, but on being given approximately a yard and a half of space in the area he delivered a stinging reminder of what he does. Left foot too.
The 12-Yard Crisis
Right, time for a quick vox pop – a show of hands, please, from those who instinctively reacted to the award of the penalty by punching the air, then gave it a moment’s consideration and swiftly concluded that it might be more fun to stab out both eyes, rather than watch the kick be taken? No idea why Hudd could not just have approached it as he approaches every other shot he takes, putting his laces through the ball and leathering it to within an inch of its life. If we he were nervous – and that stuttering run-up dashed well gave the impression of man who would rather have been elsewhere – then he should have stepped aside and let someone else do the honours. It takes quite some doing, but our heroes have succeeded in turning the award of a penalty into a moment of on-pitch crisis.
As an aside, I noticed on the television replay that while ‘Arry and chums on the bench punched the air as appropriate in reaction to Defoe’s goal, behind them the Rarely-Sighted Pav did little more than squint apathetically in response to our equaliser.
Television also indicated that while the Reebok stadium was littered with empty seats there were vast legions of Tottenham supporters gathered behind one of the goals, and a mighty fine racket they made too. Awesome work.
On perusing the fixture-list each season I always consider that a draw at Bolton would be a decent result, and that this was a Cup match made no difference to my ambitions, for we never seem to play well against this lot, particularly on their patch. After the first half performance and score-line, and on the back of the confidence-sapping fare of recent weeks, we appeared to be staring down the barrel. Two efforts against the woodwork and a saved penalty may suggest that this is an opportunity missed, but I am mightily relieved with a draw, and back us to wrap this up at the Lane.
With Fulham to come, Chelski potentially up against Man City, and Villa also involved in a replay, a trip to Wembley is still on the cards. Perhaps more encouragingly, today’s late rally and performance in the final half hour give us a template to take into the next few League performances.
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