Never mind Saturday’s match, the games I find myself looking ruefully back upon are those at home to Stoke, Wolves and Hull, way back in the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. Oh for those eight points now…Back to the Sunderland game, and something of a whimper with which to finish the five-game winning streak. With Sergeant Wilson passed fit and Defoe back in the squad, history will probably suggest that we ought to have fared a little better, but the first-minute goal completely befuddled our heroes, who appeared to spend the following 44 minutes just trying to stagger through to half-time. That first half was not far short of total gubbins, our lot trundling round with lead in their boots and a vacuum between the ears. While the Sunderland brigade were all over us like a rash every time we had possession, when roles were reversed we carefully kept a five-yard distance from them whenever the ball was at the feet of one of their number. Ignominy duly ensued.
The second half at least saw the Urgency and Inventiveness dials turned up a few notches, but let’s face it, clawing back two-goal deficits has never really been our forte. We can certainly throw away a two-goal advantage in some style, but I’m not sure anyone believed there was any way back at 2-0 down. All the more frustrating then that, having survived numerous Darren Bent penalties, Kenwyne Jones’ quite spectacular air-kick and the disallowed Ferdinand goal, we pulled one back and looked to have the momentum for an unlikely comeback. Hopes thus raised, they were duly dashed by the concession of that third goal, from straight out of the Van Basten scrapbook.
A Brief AANP Analysis of the Spot-Kicks
First penalty – A little unfortunate for the boy Walker, given that the ball flew at him at around 100 miles per hour, but his arm was away from his body, and as such the decision was understandable.
Second penalty – Ill-advised of Modders to leave his leg a-dangling like that in the area, but by jiminy Fraizer Campbell threw himself over it with some gusto.
Thrid penalty – Again, ill-advised of Sergeant Wilson to dive in thus, for any sliding challenge inside the area has to be pretty immaculately timed – but there really did not appear to be much in the challenge.
That said, Crouch’s hands appeared to be on the defender’s shoulders when he leapt for our goal. No complaint from the Sunderland mob, but I’ve certainly seen our beanpole penalised for that sort of leverage technique in the past.
Elsewhere On The Pitch
All things told it was a pretty miserable day’s work. Curses. Five wins and a defeat from our last six games remains a decent record, but it’s not really about past form any more is it? Six games remain, and this is turning into a straight shoot-out with Man City, whose thrashing of Burnley smeared salt into the wound by denting our goal difference advantage. For added flavour it now looks increasingly like we need to win at least one of the games against l’Arse and Chelski. If we do make fourth we will have ruddy well earned it.
Gary Mabbutt will be signing copies of Spurs’ Cult Heroes for the masses this Thursday (8th April), from 12.30pm, at Waterstones Leadenhall Market, City of London.(If you can’t make this, fret ye not – further signings by Mabbutt will take place: