The weather was bright and sunny in North London yesterday and it matched our first half performance. After the disappointment of Madrid this was the way we wanted to perform and had it not been for two moments of individual excellence from Stoke we would have run in at half time three up and on our way to an impressive victory.
It was only after Etherington’s superb run down the left around the back and firing home that we looked shocked and unsure for a few minutes but then we conspired to score a terrific third goal from Tom Huddlestone’s perfect cross.
Along with Tom, Younes Kaboul and Pav returned to the starting line up and it was Pav who turned provider for our first two goals reacting quickly to allow us to catch Stoke cold with a short corner and perfect cross and then playing in Modric to shoot through the keepers legs for our second.
At that point we were so dominant that it looked like we should add more goals and even at 3-1 we were playing it around with much confidence until Bale allowed himself to be robbed resulting in Jones hitting an unstoppable shot into the top corner from the resulting break.
Five goals in an excellent first half but as Stoke got two of them Tony Pulis was able to reorganise his team at half time and the second half became somewhat nervy as we failed to add to our total. We did have the ball in the net and it looked like a lot of the goals Stoke score so it may well have been a tough decision on us to rule it out.
They too had chances. Walters hit a post when it looked easier to score but the cross had some power and Gomes may have got a touch. He certainly got a touch on Jones second pile driver and we ended the match defending valiantly with nearly everyone in our box.
Ekotto was forced off close to the end with a knock and was replaced by Gallas. Despite being left back for Chelsea for a period he played right back and Corluka switched across. Having won a free kick Charlie floated it right out of play and from the resulting throw Stoke attacked and won not one but two free kicks just outside our box.
Us Spurs fans watching the Milan game heard Ray Wilkins telling us time and time again “stay on your feet” and “keep the ball”. As the game closed out we did neither well and most of us would not have been surprised had we conceded a late goal.
Jones had a tough first half in the air against Dawson but more success in the second against Kaboul and with Fuller coming on late we were put under more pressure. Unfortunately our failure to add more goals left us in this vulnerable spot and by the final whistle we were just delighted to have won three points once more.
Having said that it was not from want of trying and we had some decent interplay amongst our midfield and attack in the second period but blockers were more in evidence and the first half space no longer existed. After a disappointing performance Modric was back on song and controlled much of the midfield.
Van Der Vaart too was lively but like Modric took a roving role and consequently Charlie had a lot of work to do out on the right. As a consequence Tommy was on occasions left to playing short balls to Rafa as the game went on rather than looking to the sort of expansive passes we saw from him early doors which helped open up Stoke.
Having said that we did see a full 90 minutes out of Rafa which was pleasing though I would prefer to see him holding a wider position if he replaces Lennon to allow Tom to get balls out to him so that he could hurt them from a wide position. With us unable to add to our total the last 20 minutes became a little worrying and as I said earlier we ended up hanging in whilst willing the referee to blow up.
Having not won for a six games it was pleasing to hear the victory anthem blast out at the final whistle and whilst the goal difference was only one it is the points that count for us till the end of the season. So we wait to see if Liverpool can do us a favour and defeat Manchester City – its not often we support teams in red!