Sunderland weathered everything Spurs could chuck at them – apart from on the hour, when a missed clearance led to the only goal of the game and sent us away from the Lane pointless yet again.
Being a 4:30 start (what’s that all about?) on a Sunday meant that many chose to make a weekend of it – something that seems to be getting more common as daft kick-off times and a long journey make people think “let’s have a bit of a holiday.” Apart from making it more expensive, it means that you’re guaranteed at least some enjoyment from the trip – something that the football rarely brings. Not pessimistic, just realistic. So West End shows were taken in by some, while I took part in the final Kynren show of the summer (if you haven’t been, get yourself along next summer – it’s already put Bishop on the map, so it must be canny) and have a relative lie-in before the train. The Woods and the Masons were met up with, and we discussed our chances against a Spurs side who hadn’t looked that clever at Wembley in their midweek European game. If they slip up at the back like that, we reckoned, Defoe would have a happy afternoon on his return to the Lane. We managed to catch a good bit of Watford v Man U and thus have a giggle at the Special Pet Lip. Not too loud a giggle, mind, as we might have upset the armed police over the road.
Up all those stairs to the back row, just along from the Starship Enterprise that passes as the police control room (it’s right at the top, but has stairs going up –where to?) and a view out of the ground, courtesy of the far corner having been removed as part of their redevelopment. Hence the use of Wembley, apparently. The weather had turned decidedly bright and sunny, which was more than could be said for our team. PVA warmed up, but that was the last we saw of him with a ball.
Denayer Kone Papy Manquillo
Januzaj Ndong Pienaar
Well, that’s how I’m putting the team, although Ndong probably spent more of his full debut deeper than he’d have liked. Manquillo moved over to the left and Denayer came in at right back.
Spurs were lively at positive, and in Son had someone who gave Denayer a hard time from the first minute. We were kicking away from the visiting supporters, but those visiting supporters was far more of the ball up close than we wanted to as shots whistled above and either side of Pickford’s goal, and those that were on target were competently dealt with by young Jordan. Had Defoe been still wearing a Spurs shirt, it’d have surely been game over within twenty minutes, but the current wearers were proving far less effective with the chances they created.
Just as we were settling into our siege mentality, Pickford almost caused an upset. One of his deadly clearances set Defoe through the middle and he held off his marker to get his shot away, but Lloris got his legs in the way. A ray of hope amid a flurry of Spurs attacks, but while you’re level you’re in with a chance, and with the returning Catts providing solidity to allow Kirchoff a bit of time, you could, if you squinted really, really hard, see us getting something from the afternoon. Having already saved an early header from Kane and good efforts from Aldeweield and Dembele, Pickford deserved the bit of luck on 40 minutes when Son’s effort beat him – but hit the post. He probably had it covered. His hard work almost paid dividends when Pienaar found himself with a clear shooting chance from Januzaj’s pass just before the break. We were up and ready to celebrate – but from six yards he didn’t connect properly and Walker hoofed it off the line. Bugger, but at least it led us through the one added minute, in which Manquillo was booked, and to our half time sit down in a better frame of mind and hoping that the next chance fell to Defoe.
No changes for the second half in terms of personnel - or in the pattern of the game. Sissoko was roundly booed every time he touched the ball, and Manquillo generally kept him out of the danger areas. As did the central defence and midfield, forcing Spurs wide where we could keep an eye on them.
Then it all went wrong. After Son had shot wide, and with sixty minutes on the clock and Ali headed down a cross from Walker, but Papy was there in plenty of time to clear things up in the box. Plenty of time, yes, but his first touch went further than I go on my holidays, and his second touch was non-existent as he produced a perfect air-shot. Kane had time to apply some Brylcreem to his hair, straighten his tie, and wave to his mam before slotting it past the helpless Pickford. For £8 million you’d expect someone who can at least control the ball and produce a clearance. To do neither, in quick succession, is very worrying. We replaced Pienaar with Watmore, who did what he usually does and ran at people without making a decisive pass at the right time.
The last half hour was the same as the first hour – all Spurs with the occasional Sunderland threat – but with the added interest of Mike Dean’s meltdown. Firstly he refused to acknowledge a very obvious pull of Januzaj’s shirt as he moved in from the right to the edge of the box – and the linesman could not have failed to see it either – then booked Catts and Ndong within a minute to add to the card he’d waved at Denayer just before the goal. Pickford made another pair of fine saves as the game wore on. We gave Khazri twelve minutes in place of the inevitably tiring Kirchoff, and Wabi added a bit more attacking edge to our game – but not enough, and Lloris had bugger all to do, just as he had for the whole of the second half. Januzaj spat his dummy out after not getting a free-kick and got booked, Papy got booked, McNair replaced Denayer in one of the most pointless substitutions of the season (and it’s only September) as he’s not a full-back either and Denayer didn’t seem in immediate danger of a second yellow. Six added minutes were announced, presumably because Dier had taken at least that to walk across the pitch when substituted, then Januzaj clattered Davies with a needless foul and took a deserved second yellow. Pillock.
Needless to say, Spurs held out to win, which wasn’t difficult. While it’s hard to argue that they deserved to win, and indeed could have scored more, that it took an awful error to gift them the only goal is very hard to take. A backs-to-the-wall defensive display to win a point against the odds would have been heartening and a just reward for Pickford, who produced another fine display.
Of the rest..,..Denayer isn’t a full-back, and found Son hard work. Manquillo is a full-back, and did OK, keeping Sissoko ineffective. Kone was solid, but his game must be suffering due to lack of confidence in his partner – Papy. He’s had a shaky start to life with us, mixing solid stuff with crazy errors and questionable positioning. Kirchoff was Kirchoff – steady, making himself time when none seems to exist and worked hard in negating his opponents. Catts was organising and encouraging, as he does. Ndong had a canny game, full of energy and staying just the right side of competitive. Pienarr, that awful miss apart, lacked the pace to make much of a difference to the game, while Januzaj showed why he’s out on loan – great feet, but missing the end product (apart from setting up our best chance) and getting himself sent off. Defoe was feeding off scraps, and went hungry for most of the afternoon.
Man of the Match. Pickford.
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