Getting down to the Berbed wire

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Latics 1-1 Spurs
Saturday 19th April 2008

This time two years ago, I wasn’t watching Latics, aided by a superb Bullard volley, beat Aston Villa as that fantastic first top flight season wound to a close. Despite my best efforts to convince Mrs Perm otherwise, it will be a couple of years yet before the 19th April becomes a match going day again.

More’s the pity, because, 2nd Birthday or not, a draw where both sides have abandoned thoughts of defending properly is as good an introduction to football as you can hope to get.

Not that it was supposed to be like that. Latics’ recent form has been based on dogged defending, but after their performance at Chelsea on Monday the back four obviously thought they deserved a weekend off. Spurs had no intention of giving them one. Or at least that’s the way things looked over the internet and between pieces of cake and unwrapping presents.

Every Spurs article this season has to include reference to their Jekyll and Hyde tendencies and it’s become a cliché that the result in any of their games depends on which Spurs turns up. On the early showing, at least, it seemed like we’d got the one that is one of the best attacking sides in the division with Keane and Lennon, in particular, looking ready for some fun.

It’s games like these, where the opposition have something like a proper winger, that show just how close to the wind Latics’ are sailing with their policy of using Kilbane at left back. Reflecting across the season, he’s done a good job but seeing him get the run around from Lennon you know that it’s a fallacy to even consider another season without proper cover in that position.

Then again, he might have been done for the goal but the way in which his defensive colleagues managed to give Berbatov free reign in the 18 yard box was what cost Kirkland his clean sheet.

Before you even got chance to consider what such an early goal meant for Latics’ chances, Lennon was making it bleeding obvious with a run at the heart of the home defence, if his final ball had found either of the two strikers, rather than Malbranque then it could have been game over before the candles had been blown out. Instead, Kirkland saved well at his feet (I’m dying to throw in a pun about the Frenchman over extending himself, but he didn’t).

Latics took their reprieve well. As with Monday night it was an attack down the left and Heskey yet again proving that if he gets the chances then he can still hit the back of the net. One-a-piece with less than 10 minutes gone and the feeling immediately switched from ‘how embarrassing will this be?’ to ‘haven’t we been here before?’.

Which was a bit silly really because, whilst it might have developed some ability to come from behind, this side simply doesn’t have three goals in it. Not that they were needed. Whilst it may have continued in a similarly open fashion, penalty shouts and rattled crossbars aside, it was more a game of close calls than genuine chances.

In the end it was smiles and slapped backs all around for a result that both sides can be happy with out of a rare entertaining game of football that leaves Spurs a week closer to their summer holidays and the battle to keep their best player and Latics a point nearer to putting their calculators away.

That point, and results elsewhere, were enough to leave Latics top of the ‘Zovirax – not going down league’ but still in a mathematical no man’s land. A win against Reading next week makes things certain, a situation that most of us are familiar with, including Steve Bruce, I’ll forgive you if you don’t know the result that time around, but you’ll have to look it up because I’m avoiding thinking about it.

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