Monday, October 17, 2011

Thirty-something coming of age at last?

Newcastle Utd 2 - 2 Spurs

Might it be that Big Lad's been the wrong side of 30 all along, and now finally finds himself the right side? Having celebrated the milestone birthday in the week, our infuriatingly inconsistent striker, on as a substitute, belted in a sweet left-footed equaliser with four minutes of normal time remaining, setting up a frantic finish and ultimately ensuring that Spurs had to share the spoils.

That he had to wait until the 71st minute to be introduced to the action was down to Alan Pardew's understandable reluctance to tinker with a winning formula. The starting XI was very familiar, featuring no fewer than eight ever-presents (including the entire back five). Demba Ba was passed fit to partner Leon O'Best, while Yohan Cabaye was also given the all-clear after his recent exertions with France.

The first period was characterised by a lot of neat passing from both sides, but precious little in the way of goalmouth action. Wary of the threat posed by a visiting side who'd romped to four successive league wins, we were relatively cautious in our approach. A tame Ba header and a whipped Ryan Taylor free-kick claimed by Brad Friedel from the tip of O'Best's outstretched toe (remarkably quick reactions for an octagenarian) was pretty much all we had to show for our general control of the game. Mr T was excelling himself, tackling and intercepting like a man possessed to foil Spurs' advances, while Sideshow Bob was once again marshalling his defence superbly.

So it was something of a shock when our captain was partly culpable for our opponents taking the lead on 40 minutes. His risky ball into Cabaye saw the Frenchman ruthlessly mugged by Jake Livermore. Emmanuel Adebayor burst into the box and tumbled over Steven Taylor's left leg, our man dismayed to discover that there was to be no repeat of his let-off at Wolves and that Lee Probert had pointed to the spot. Rafael van der Vaart blasted the penalty goalwards and Tim Krul didn't stand a chance.

If there was a sense of injustice about the half-time scoreline, we didn't allow ourselves to dwell on it, instead fighting back within three minutes of the restart. Spidermag took the plaudits for a darting run beyond two players and a perfectly floated cross that the onrushing Ba met awkwardly six yards out. Friedel trapped the ball between his knees but his momentum took him over the line and into the back of the net. That's now five goals in three games for the Senegalese striker - surely a good enough reason to crack a smile, eh, Demba?

With both sides now playing a significantly higher line, chances began to come with greater frequency. Mr T was running out of a bit of steam (before picking up his customary booking), which enabled Luka Modric to attack us more effectively from deep. From one such foray he set up Adebayor to flash a shot just wide of the far post, while Obertan Kenobe - otherwise a waste of space on our right - did likewise at the opposite end.

'Appy 'Arry demonstrated the riches at his disposal by bringing on Jermain Defoe for van der Vaart, and the arch poacher took just five minutes to wound us. Controlling Scott Parker's pass, he turned inside Ryan Taylor before promptly dispatching a clinical shot into the bottom left-hand corner of Krul's net.

Pardew's response was to freshen up our strikeforce, replacing Ba and the commendably hard-working O'Best with HBA and Big Lad. While the former looked a little short of match fitness, regularly dribbling into crunching challenges and squandering possession, the latter made an immediate impression, discomforting centre-back pairing Younes Kaboul and Toon old boy Sebastien Bassong.

A curling long-ranger from Mr T - trying to reprise his spectacular strike, and only Toon goal to date, against Spurs' North London rivals - and a Ryan Taylor free-kick served notice of the fact that we weren't beaten yet. And, sure enough, when Spurs failed to clear their lines, a neat touch from Cabaye sent Big Lad in wide on the left and he hammered the ball home with a Rocky-esque thump.

We could have fallen behind again if it hadn't have been for a desperate Steven Taylor block and a smart Krul save, both to deny Defoe. But in a frenetic five minutes of stoppage time, during which we laid siege to the visitors' goal, we came tantalisingly close to taking all three points. Sideshow Bob, absolutely magnificent in the second half and surely a contender for the league's most in-form defender, had two opportunities to repeat last season's trick of scoring against Spurs but couldn't take either, and Spidermag jinked his way into a shooting position only to skim his drive straight at Friedel, so a point apiece and consolidating fourth place it was.

In amongst all of the late drama, Davide Santon made his long-awaited first-team debut, coming on for Danny Simpson - perhaps it's his place that's under threat from the Italian, not Ryan Taylor's. Pardew will also have a selection dilemma as regards picking two from Ba, O'Best and Big Lad for next weekend's visit of Wigan, and I'd hope he sees sense, drops Obertan Kenobe and hands HBA a free role behind the strikers. But that's for another day - we should be relatively contented with a sound performance and result against a side of superstars.

A Spurs fan's perspective: Dear Mr Levy

Other reports: BBC, Guardian

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Im afraid you will have dropped down several places possibly even below half way by the post Christmas period. Scraping results and the fact that you have only played one team, Spurs, from the top 5 or 6 means you have really acheived very little. At home again next week to the leagues bottom club and no doubt your tales will be up again. Your run in to date has been fortunate to say the least but yesterday you dropped 2 points and Spurs gained 1. If a team goes away and gets a draw that is a result for the team playing away and a loss of 2 for the home team. Comfortably predict that Toon will be around 9th or 10th place post Christmas.

8:38 am  
Blogger Andrew Parker said...

Lol, Anonymous Spurs Fan said...

Why are Spurs fans such sore losers? In the last decade we've lost a home fixture against Spurs only twice. Get over it!

And perhaps we will be below the fold after Christmas, but so what? How is that of any relevance to this match report?

11:37 am  
Blogger Ben said...

Anonymous: A nicely graceless response there. 'If a team goes away and gets a draw that is a result for the team playing away and a loss of 2 for the home team.' Yes - if judged before kick-off, and if the away team isn't as strong as the home team. For Spurs, a side stuffed with supposedly 'better' players than ours, to be winning 2-1 with six minutes to play and yet end up only drawing, I think it's you who should be lamenting dropped points. Just as your manager was.

As for our final finishing position, it'll no doubt be lower than is currently the case. All the more reason, then, for us to enjoy it while it lasts - and particularly to enjoy getting one over on those opposition fans who believe their club has a divine right to beat their supposed inferiors.

1:20 pm  
Anonymous shane nufc said...

Just proves it will take more than a bunch of cocky-nys to stop the pride and passion of SJP

1:05 pm  

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