Tottenham Hotspur 0-1 Hull City
I really wanted to win this game. The Tottenham fans on the tube were loud and arrogant. They were going to "dominate" us; we were going to take a "hiding". Yes folks, fans of a team who've scored only 2 points all season were obnoxious enough to think that they could just roll us over. I couldn't wait for our 11 warriors to wipe the smiles off their smug faces.
Spurs started the stronger. We were unchanged from the game at Arsenal, they played 2 forwards for a change, with some bloke called Fraizer something partnering Roman Pavlyuchenko. Lennon slid a ball across and the goal bound poke was cleared off the line by Andy Dawson. Another Lennon centre caused some confusion in our box but Pavlyuchenko's prod was caught easily by Myhill. With our first serious attack, we took the lead. King was bundled over about 30 yards from goal. The City fans called for "Geo, Geo" to step up. He stepped up alright; he took one step and whipped a wicked right foot shot into the 'keepers top right hand corner. Absolutely magnificent! Spurs came back at us quickly as Myhill was forced to tip a rasping free-kick from Bale onto the bar. We were comfortable though. We have real quality up front and whenever we had the ball in their half, we looked dangerous. Geovanni found space in behind their midfield and King, Cousin and Marney ran off him. We might have wrapped the game up in the first half, Geovanni found the ball wide on their left, played a one-two with King and cut inside, he fed Ashbee, who slid the ball into Boateng, he flicked the ball with his heel into the path of Marney who swiveled and hit a lovely shot against the inside of the post. So close to another beauty. Spurs hit our post at the other end when Turner brilliantly deflected goal bound Woodgate's shot but apart from that, we were quite comfortable. Spurs had good possession and got the ball into good wide positions with alarming regularity. A combination of really poor delivery and excellent defending meant that they didn't threaten the goal enough.
That same pattern continued throughout the second half. We allowed Spurs possession and challenged them to break us down. Knowing the threat the pace of Campbell and Darren Bent gave, we defended deeply and Ashbee and Boateng sat just in front of the back four to create a real blockade. As the half went on, we'd introduce Mendy and Halmosi to protect wider too. Again Spurs used the width of the pitch, they brought on David Bentley at right-back to try and improve the delivery, but we defended stoutly. When they tried to play through the middle, we read everything and cut out pass after pass. When the ball went wider, it was tougher to defend but we did so, sometimes with desperate blocks but generally, we were in great positions and easily dealt with the balls in. Modric volleyed into the ground and over the bar from a Campbell cross and Bent ran clear on the only occasion we left any space in behind but shot wide. That was really about the only threat, for all Spurs' pressure. We were a pretty fruitless attacking force, but Halmosi did slide King in late on and Gomes saved when King might've done better. Spurs though were never going to break us down. They were so desperate, that they resorted to keeping the ball after we'd put it out for an injury, poor sports. During the ensuing argument with the Spurs fans, a guy who used to be in "The Bill" told me to "**** ***". Charming. After four reasonably fraught minutes, during which Mendy was clobbered in the corner but didn't even get a free-kick, Rob Styles whistle signaled another remarkable 3 points for our boys. The much maligned Styles actually had a reasonable game. Spurs fans didn't think so, but then they wouldn't. Mr Styles didn't think that every time Modric and Jenas threw themselves to the floor that a free-kick should be awarded. The dastardly soul!
Boaz Myhill performed superbly again. He wasn't called upon as much as at Arsenal but was never found wanting. In the second half, he did a super job in the sweeper role, being very quick off his line. He dealt well with some tricky deliveries. Dawson did a good job on the tricky Lennon, he managed to force him inside and into traffic a lot and put pressure on his crosses. He had a tough afternoon but came out of it well. He'd got Lennon's measure by the second half leading to Ramos replacing the boy wonder. His replacement, Giovani Do Santos, was never able to get at Daws. Turner had another great afternoon. The cry from the City end was "Turner For England!". It's only that ability to bring the ball out that's holding him back. In terms of positioning, heading and timing tackles, he's absolutely superb. Zayette continues to impress. PB must get him signed up. He has a great ability to get something on the ball in order to deal with it, be it a head, a knee, a shoulder, etc. He's great at covering the ground and read some situations brilliantly today, launching City attacks from defence. My pick of the brilliant back four today though, was McShane. He made a sensational challenge on Pavlyuchenko in the box early on and continued to perform really well. He's strong and he reads the opposition well and he makes and wins challenges well. He ensured that Bale was always crossing from deep because he didn't let him beat him and when the ball came in from their right, he cover across and got something on the ball. He's not the calamity some would have you believe, far from it, he's a very capable defender. He's keeping Ricketts out on merit.
Today was another career best performance from Ian Ashbee. He was truly outstanding. He made the usual blocks and tackles and made great use off the ball. It wasn't just that though. He leads us at all times; he drives us on and demands absolute effort from everyone. There are some big sides in the premier league at the moment who are struggling because they are rudderless on the pitch. Ashbee is our rudder; he gives us direction on the pitch. He's still getting a criminal lack of recognition on the TV but he won't care. He lives for what happens on a Saturday (or Sunday) afternoon and he can be very, very pleased with the way that's going. Boateng give Ash a great back-up. He's got all the experience and terrific energy. He turned up everywhere today. One second he's clobbering someone on the edge of the box and the next he's setting up Marney with a great flick. As Folan drove at their defence in stoppage time, who was bursting up the left wing screaming for a pass? Boateng. Marney would've been desperate to impress today and he didn't fail. His incredible fitness levels again allowed him to cover every bit of grass and he showed good quality on the ball. He disappeared a bit in the second half when it became a game of attack vs. defence but in the first half, he was excellent and got the ball to Geovanni and King as often as possible.
Up front, King played pretty well again. Just on complaint. GET ONSIDE!! It drives me insane. How can someone be offside so often? And from goal-kicks? It's so avoidable and he must work better at it. Otherwise, he held the ball up brilliantly. Second half, there wasn't a great deal of service and he was playing alone but he still tried to work their defence hard. Cousin had his poorest game for us. He did OK but looked a touch off the pace. From a quick break, he ended up one on one with the last defender but looked too sluggish to escape him. By the start of the second half, he'd stopped running, leaving King and Geo to do the harrying. He was replaced by Mendy so I wonder if he was carrying a knock. Folan made another late cameo but didn't see much of the ball really.
So, another visit to an established English football giant and another slaying from The Tigers. We played well today. In spells, we were superb. Overall, we scored a good goal and then closed up the final third of the pitch and challenged Spurs to play through us which they couldn't do. It was Phil Brown's legendary "Clean sheet mentality" on display for all to see. We beat Tottenham Hotspur away today. We're the third best team in the country, on merit. 92nd to 3rd in 9 years, unprecedented surely?
You've got to imagine that at some point teams will work us out. Although with the options in the squad, as soon as they do, we'll switch to 3 strikers, or 5 in midfield, or two wingers, or Geo behind a striker, or something else. Phil Brown has proven himself to be very tactically astute so far and is outwitting some guys with major credentials. Today was yet another example of PB sending out the right team, well drilled, wound up and willing to battle. Today, yet again, that team included Ian Ashbee, Andy Dawson and Boaz Myhill who continued the journey from bottom to top with one team. I know I keep mentioning them but I won't stop until these three guys stop being utterly sensational at the highest level.
If this is all a dream, I don't want to wake up.
Ratings: Myhill 8, McShane 8, Dawson 7, Turner 8, Zayette 7, Ashbee 9, Boateng 7, Marney 7, Geovanni 8 (Halmosi), King 7 (Folan), Cousin 6 (Mendy).