It was a tough afternoon at White Hart Lane against a Bolton side that put up extreme resistance and at times looked like they could take advantage and maybe win the game. But it shouldn’t have been like that after Rafael Van Der Vaart put away his second penalty in a minute only to see Mark Clattenburg ask for a retake following encroachment from Palacios and Defoe and the Bolton defence.
The retake ended up in the crowd, much to Rafa’s annoyance having tried to repeat the spot that both previous efforts had gone into. The second was a sublime hit and certainly deserved to be a goal for its quality but rules are rules. Haven’t looked at the encroachment issue on the retake to see if Rafa could have gone again!
Had it been allowed I am not sure Bolton would not have come back but having started well and caused us problems that Gallas did well to escape from Sturridge had the type of performance that makes you ask “why is this bloke on loan?” He along with Davies and Elmander kept our back four on its toes and for a period in the second half after their goal the game looked in the balance.
Our performance was pretty good throughout with all our players contributing good things. Defoe had his best game for a long time and put away a great header, unfortunately from an offside position. However, he should have done better when he missed the goal when Pienaar teed him up in the second half. His strength was better in trying to turn and keep the move going and he only blasted the ball into a crowd of players once from recollection.
Crouch performed well in the air, winning much and providing for others, and was the victim of a perfect challenge when he bore down on goal late in the first half. From Paxton Road I needed to see this again on Sky highlights as it looked like it got caught under his feet. Similar groans to the Everton game when it looked like a feeble shot only to discover later Distin taking it off his foot. Unfortunately a third penalty was ruled out for an offside decision against Crouch when Rafa’s perfect cross was floated in.
Lennon and Jenas both had superb runs from our own half; JJ’s finishing with a free kick from which he rattled the post with a superb effort. His run was clever as he cut inside at an angle that prevented the tackle until he was about to enter the box.
Lennon had a half on each wing starting out on the left before switching after Rafa had gone off injured at half time. He also ended up injured still able to sprint in one direction but unable to turn. Whether he will miss games as a consequence remains to be seen but it was another good display. His run for the penalty was intelligent and he combined well to make crosses during our first half ascendancy. Reunited in the second half with Corluka he also made some decent breaks as the game opened up. In recent games Lennon has looked our best player, yesterday was no exception.
Pienaar had replaced Rafa and took the left flank. Certainly his best performance to date and he could have crowned his home debut with a goal had Jaaskelainen not made an excellent save. He is still finding his feet with colleagues in match situations and Dawson’s short and risky pass turned into a hospital one with the outcome a Bolton equaliser.
Dawson was allowed to return to the side at the expense of Bassong and got the Fulham performance out of his system. He was flustered on a couple of occasions and a few passes were mishit. He won balls in the air but on occasions put them into dangerous areas rather than towards the flanks.
The mix up that led to the goal was on the half way line. The line was high so when the ball fell to Bolton a chase ensued. Unfortunately the ball went straight through Gomes on its way to the net and Sky highlights revealed that it was not hit as well as it looked in real time. Once again Gomes was at fault so a succession of errors provided the equaliser and the encouragement to our opponent to push on and look for a winner.
He’s becoming too good at this and despite all the cult hero status I have a question mark starting to hang heavy over his place. He was better in distributing the ball yesterday with some sensible roll outs to get attacks moving and his kicking towards Crouch provided opportunities. But he has to save the ball when it comes his way so that he doesn’t have to stand dejected in his area.
There is also the penalty that got away. Not for us but for Bolton when Pienaar saw Cahill go over his leg and pick up a card for diving. Correct decision the card if it was a dive but was it? Had it been given we could have been behind and looking at 0/6 points against our opponents.
Harry’s substitutions were brave once again. He was forced to replace Rafa and then brought Pav on for Crouch. As Crouchy was doing well in the air and linking up well with Pienaar on the left it was a risk for with the height of the Bolton defence Pav’s opportunities in the air would be limited.
Likewise replacing Wilson, who had a good game, with Kranjcar who has been poor at every turn thus far was a risk as Bolton were far from out of the match. Yet Niko, in a more central role, took it in his stride and fired a perfect shot into the top corner to win the game in injury time.
It was always going to be something like this for Spurs to win the game. Bolton had defended reasonably well and the chances we had created been well saved. Hopefully the goal will give him the confidence to push on and contribute better in future games.
And so in conclusion a decent game which had the second penalty been allowed probably a comfortable win. It wasn’t and it didn’t but we ended up with 3 points – however streaky they may have been. It’s up to Chelsea to win today to open up the gap once more.