Tag Archives: FA CUp

It gets better and better: Watford, Wigan, Liverpool and Newcastle

After enduring games against Watford and Wigan when the team, rather than the Manager, played like it had a prison sentence hanging over its head we regained our composure with an excellent defensive display at Anfield and a stupendous first half performance against Newcastle at Whit Hart Lane last night. As we appreciate sport at the very top level is all about confidence and having a clear head and that really shone through against Newcastle. Maybe it was the manner of the loss at Man City but it seemed more of a “got something on my mind” situation.

What’s more deadline day eyebrow raiser Louis Saha took 20 minutes to equal his haul for Everton this season with two well taken goals as we ran though a Newcastle team that took two mandatory counts in the first six minutes. You have to feel sorry for Defoe sitting on the bench looking on but for me Saha showed all that Pav didn’t for the majority of his stay at the Lane and certainly increased our options for the remainder of the season.

To be truthful I didn’t see all of the Watford game but in the second half action I saw we looked like the Championship side and without Kaboul could have been out. I had heard Rafa’s goal on radio commentary whilst driving and was shocked when I saw how far out he had been when he hit it. Thankfully we progress to the next round but if we don’t play better it could be interesting.

Next up was Wigan in a game which we took all of 20 minutes to get going in. Yes, a comfortable win but Wigan were so bad in the first half that they should have been lucky to get nil yet ended the game looking for a second. Having said that the goals when they came were wonderful. 

Modric’s deep chip across the box to Bale was delightful and Gareth took it brilliantly and despatched it for 1-0. Modric then got in on the act with a well hit shot from the edge of the box to give us a 2 goal lead at half time. In the second half Bale scored another excellent effort but to be honest the Wigan men were like subbuteo men sitting off him and allowing him to strike his now trademark left edge to right corner shot. 

Wigan’s consolation came from a looping deflection but at a time when we should have been inflicting further goal difference improvement upon them and as I said earlier they then pressed for a second. To be fair we did introduce all three subs including a debut for Cameron Lancaster who worked hard to get into the game so the team ended a little disjointed with Livermore having to drop to right back in place of Walker. He himself had been a sub coming on in the first half to replace Rafa who had ended up sitting down on the half way line and throwing his shin pads away in frustration.

This time it was a calf injury for Rafa rather than the usual hamstring and he didn’t make the Liverpool or Newcastle games. That could have presented a problem as Anfield has always proved a difficult place to get a result and our bench on the night showed how stretched the squad had become. Saha and Rose, who got on, plus new boy Nelsen, Khumalo, Luongo and Lancaster.

However, a stirring display gave us a creditable point with Dawson and Parker being outstanding. We also had a chance on the break during the second half which Bale unfortunately scuffed straight to Riena when he maybe had a little more time. 

Suarez was available but despite not being called upon to practice his handshakes got on after an hour and within minutes had planted a kick into Parker’s midriff. After the Manchester City game I suggested that Ballatelli might have been unlucky when standing on Parker but for me this Suarez incident was similar to the Lescott one. Is it important to make it look as bad as possible so that you get away with it? I suppose it is as that is how Stoke have got used to going about their work. 

Some years ago Drogba fell down for fun but then for no apparent reason stayed on his feet more and earned more respect for showing the player he is. Suarez certainly needs to take that wise counsel as he looks a good player who is too keen to win at whatever the cost rather than by exercising his skills. 

And so to Newcastle, with Lennon and Defoe returning to the bench, and a first start for Saha. Newcastle’s error may have been to try and give us a game for their early attack was cleared and suddenly Benny turned up on the far post to turn in Adebayor’s cross to light the blue touch paper with his opener. 

We’d hardly sat down before Adebayor crossed from the right for Saha to arrive perfectly and prod it home past Tim Krull sending us into raptures. Newcastle weren’t done and tried to come back at us but Dawson and King were solid at the back setting Luka back into possession from where he orchestrated further damage with a second for Saha and then Kranjcar making it four before the break. 

An early goal in the second and it could have been 10 but to Newcastle’s credit they battened down the hatches and did well in closing the game down. We still had plenty of second half possession and missed a couple of chances before Adebayor turned home a Saha header in spectacular fashion to add a goal to his 4 first half assists. 

In many ways this result is what could have happened in a number of games had we put away our chances and what looked good was the way Saha and Adebayor worked together. Defoe did get onto the field and had a few runs but nothing opened up for him to remind Harry of his talents. 

Both Wigan and Newcastle were a big reminder to Harry of the affection with which is currently held at White Hart lane. Last night he was bombarded with a continual outpouring of emotion from all sides of the stadium asking him to stay and continue managing this team. 

The team were fantastic last night so Harry had little to do. Unfortunately a problem with a plane prevented Harry from travelling to Liverpool but had he we might have played better in the second half. His work will be cut out from now till the end of the season in our games at White Hart Lane. 

Whilst Manchester United will come out and play Stoke, Swansea, Norwich, Blackburn and Fulham will no doubt have taken heed and unless we can open them up early doors we face further 10 men back games to avoid further goal fests. 

Before then its FA Cup and then that lot up the road. That promises to be some game.

Come On You Spurs    

No wheels on our wagon! Fulham 4 Tottenham 0

I haven’t been to Craven Cottage and I’m very glad that I did not choose today to change that. Unfortunately for them a strong contingent of Spurs fans made the trip across London and made a better fist of it than the players being extremely vocal throughout the game. 

It was probably all there was to do as we threw ourselves wholeheartedly into the worst Spurs display for many months leaving Harry looking very hot under the collar as he chose his steps carefully back across the pitch to issue (hopefully) the rollocking of all rollickings to those gathered in the dressing room. Quite what the problem was is hard to tell but both teams carried on from the last time we met with Fulham getting much better and Spurs getting much worse!

Over confidence? Complacency? The thought of a home draw after coming through this match? The year ending in 1? Whatever it was it gripped them all at the start, none more so than Michael Dawson who firstly played a suicide pass to Alan Hutton before allowing himself to be blocked off in the chase back and then giving away a second penalty and getting himself sent off for tugging a shirt after 14 minutes.

Hutton’s challenge which conceded the first penalty looked unfortunate in real time but he never got any the ball and clipped his man so a fair decision. Quite whether Dawson should have gone for the second is debateable. I felt it harsh but the way he was playing Phil Dowd clearly felt sorry for him and allowed him to sneak off quickly to the Cottage changing rooms. 

But it was not just Dawson who was having a mare. Over the 90 minutes we hardly had an attack and one shot I recall was from a Van Der Vaart free kick near the half way line. Not the right decision though the keeper was a shade of his line but Rafa could only see two men ahead of him and both were short and useless in the air.

Fulham were good – of that there is no doubt but when they got the team sheets they probably felt we can get a “Lancashire performance” out of this lot if we get into them early. The midfield we presented was Lennon on the left, Rafa out right with Pienaar, Sandro and Modric in the centre. Time and time again we feel we can go into these games in all out attack mode but once we get put onto the back foot there is never any answer to it. 

Sparky’s job was easy, “The only real tackler is the boy Sandro and he has no experience of our game.” I know I’ve complained about Jenas on this blog but this year he has looked better and his experience was vital to compete and take the sting out of Murphy and Dempsey in the early stages. So we lost that battle and inside 45 minutes the war. What made it worse was that Sandro was them removed to allow Gallas to come on. 

Let’s understand this. Sandro plays for the defensive midfield role – or that was my understanding – and then gets taken off after 17 minutes. In the past Lennon or Modric would have gone, personally I think it should have been Pienaar. He’s new to the club and it could have been justified. Easy for me to say after the game but I thought he showed little and will only be a squad player as he offers nothing over Bale or the others.

Many will look at the absence of Bale but that wasn’t it. He would have helped as he has been able to assist in back tracking but he would not have got the ball enough to make a difference. Added to that he played in games where we did give away goals for fun before recovering. 

So looking at our team – and squad – what we can see is that it’s OK when things are going well but when things go wrong the personnel are sadly lacking in breaking up play and taking the steam out of the opposition. There are exceptions. Gallas – but he was on the bench, Dawson – who went Hari Kari today and Palacios but he cannot keep it when he’s got it. 

Once again Crouch was called upon to try and resurrect the failures of the first half and Rafa limped off when it was clear it was game over. So it appears we have problems with a day to go in the transfer window. Or do we? Juvenile football says you play your strongest team, win the game and then make changes. Why don’t we do that? 

Lennon’s started right all season so why start left today. Switch by all means but start? Sandro is in his first season so why put him in as he is clearly not ready yet. Why rest Gallas if we want to win the competition and we needed a different strategy up front. When first signed Rafa was arriving in the box and scoring these days he is pressed back against the half way line leaving us with no support in the box.

Bad day at the office? Bloody bad day at the office if truth be told. No new striker on the horizon and only loan deals for those leaving. This was a competition we had a decent chance of winning. Unfortunately we thought we already had or at least for the first 14 minutes.   

Sunday afternoon at the Cottage: Fulham V Tottenham FA Cup preview

With the year ending in 1 all Spurs fans will be hoping for a place in the fifth round of the FA Cup at the first time of asking but a Fulham side who acquitted themselves extremely well at White Hart Lane earlier this month stand before us on their own turf. Therefore a tough challenge but easier than the normal away fixture at Old Trafford in these early rounds.

We are without Gareth Bale whose back injury whilst not requiring surgery needs further rest so having checked whether Pienaar played in Everton’s third round victory (he didn’t) I would expect him to start out left. As we stand Kranjcar is available to take that position but Werder Bremen have made a bid for his services. Despite having hardly played him at all this season Harry appears not to want to lose his services – apparently Niko does not want to play in Germany either. 

That poses a problem for Spurs. We have a heavy roster of players and need to clear out as well as adding. Already this month Keane did not leave for Birmingham with a question of increased wages being suggested. Keane denies this and Birmingham’s record in the market allows it to be swept away. Now West Ham are prowling and suggest that “no stone will go unturned” in an effort to sign him. That shouldn’t be a problem as we already hold an open door for him but what of the wage demands? Will personal terms be possible to agree? 

With Niko if it’s Germany or the bench the bench appears to be favourite. At least David Bentley wanted to play football when going out on loan.

Last week we were surprised by the Gomes injury and Cudicini stepped in and provided a capable performance. I would expect him to continue for this game as Gomes only returned to training on Friday. 

If we are to make changes on the field for this game right back might be one position. Corluka or Hutton? I would expect Hutton but if Charlie was given the nod it would not be a disaster for us. With Ekotto fit to return at left back it allows for Gallas and Dawson to continue with Bassong dropping back to the bench. 

Earlier in the month Seb had suggested he might be ready to move on but after a discussion with Harry he is once again committed to the cause. As it stands a decent decision, but with Woodgate nearing fitness things might get tough if he makes the 25 man squad for the second half of the season. If he could play I would rather it was for us – maybe from the bench – than for another Premier League outfit.

Palacios has not yet recovered from his injury so that leaves Jenas or Sandro competing for the shirt. I think Jenas is the man for this game with his longstanding experience and fourth rating for midfield passes this season. Sandro will make the bench and may get a chance of the game is secure. 

Lennon and Modric will play their normal roles and Van Der Vaart will support the lead man. Pav is available once more after injury but I expect Defoe to continue with Crouch available from the bench should the change be required. 

Without Zamora Fulham are not the same side but Dempsey is a useful player and Andy Johnson caused us problems as an Everton player so we need to be wary. Last time out they contributed to their downfall with a pantomime own goal but we shouldn’t expect them to bear us similar gifts. Therefore a tough test at Craven Cottage that we can win if we play to our potential. If not I expect a draw and return to the Lane as we did last year before Spurs go through to the fifth round.

My side for the game is: 

                             Cudicini

     Corluka       Gallas       Dawson       Ekotto

Lennon            Jenas           Modric        Pienaar

          Van Der Vaart          Defoe

Prediction: I’m hopeful of a clean sheet and a goal from Defoe.