Latics 1-0 Spurs
Sunday 11th January 2009
I’m not going to pretend that the last, nearly, two months haven’t happened, the catch up articles are on the way, it’s just that, beset with technical issues as I have, it’s sometimes better to focus on those things closest to home and fresher in the mind. My brain isn’t exactly cold storage at the moment, which pretty much just leaves us with yesterday’s game against Spurs to deal with.
Regular readers will have also noted a tone of sarcasm any time that I have the pleasure of discussing everyone’s favourite hang dawg, Mr. Harry Redknapp snr. To put it bluntly, I don’t like him. I dislike his wheeler dealer reputation and his talent for escapology, but most of all I hate the way that the press hang onto his every action as if he’s the saviour of English football or sommat.
Regulars will also remember that Spurs used to be something like my ‘second team’, or what ever the acceptable term is these days, and although the ties were cut a while back, it still surprised me when I thought “Well, I hope ‘appy ‘arry has bitten off more than he can chew, this time”.
Of course, he won’t have done. Spurs might have come over all Newcastle but you’d have to say that they’ve too much about them for them not to turn it around, right? Well on this showing, no. Crap is about the best you can come up with to describe this performance and if Latics had more about them this could have been a complete rout.
It’s not that long ago that Spurs were the team most likely. A squad packed with young English players either in or around the England squad, supplemented by a few, choice, foreigners, and, whilst there’s been at least one decent spectacle each season we’ve played them, Spurs had the clear edge, having won all but two drawn games.
There has to be more to their demise than the loss of two players. Keane and Berbatov might have been pivotal to Spurs’ recent successes but they have spent well to replace them (they managed to get £40-odd million worth of striking talent on the pitch for this one) and there’s plenty else wrong with them away from the forward line.
Spurs’ woes are someone else’s worries though and, going into a tough run of games, things have never looked so good for Latics whose five wins out of six gave them the unusual privilege of being bookies favourites.
Whether that’s a good thing, or not, is another matter. Latics haven’t always responded well to being top dogs and the early indications here were that they might struggle with that mantle again, but it didn’t last too long.
Once they realised that Spurs were here, first and foremost, to defend then Latics eased off on the respect and had a bit of a go. From that point onwards there could only be one winner, although the efforts of the only three Spurs men worth a mention, made it look like a nil-a-piece was more likely.
It’s easy to give praise to Woodgate, Dawson and King for keeping things bitty and slamming the door shut for most of our attacks, they had plenty to do in that regard, but at the other end our lads were doing an equally sterling job of keeping the visitors quiet. I’ve been quick to criticise Scharner in the past so, credit where it’s due, it’s only fair that I mention how well his partnership with Bramble has blossomed in recent weeks.
Unlike Spurs’, Latics good performances didn’t stop in the back line. Although they’ve along way to go to the world class point, Palacios and Valencia showed why they’ve been attracting so much attention, whilst Cattermole continued to quietly glue everything together.
It wasn’t a game for strikers, but Heskey and Zaki kept plugging away, in fact the most impressive thing about the performance was the way that the whole team carried the attitude that they weren’t letting this game slip away, right until the final whistle. An attitude which was rewarded by a flurry of late, additional, pressure and a 93rd minute goal.
Spurs fans and players alike must have been gutted, but you be hard faced to say that the three points were a justifiable reward for Latics’ endeavours. The result also showed that the sides deserve their respective league positions, Spurs looking directionless and uninspired whilst Latics were full of purpose and vigour.
Something that they will need heading into a run of fixtures that include all of the current top four sides and will test the growing theory that Steve Bruce has turned the team into genuine European contenders.
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