Home Truths: Spurs Must Turn White Hart Lane into Fortress Once Again
Tottenham fans have had to endure more than four hours of nail-biting frustration until their team's first 2010-11 Premier League goal at White Hart Lane arrived yesterday afternoon at 4:45.
For 76 minutes of the one-sided encounter against Wolverhampton Wanderers, it seemed either that Harry Redknapp's men had forgotten how to put the ball in the back of the net, or yet again, Lady Luck had deserted the Champions League outfit.
That was, of course, until substitute Alan Hutton took the game to the disciplined visitors, surging 60 yards directly into the heart of the Wolves defense.
An alarmed Stephen Ward tried desperately to prevent the Flying Scotsman from steam-rolling his way through on goal but could only send Hutton tumbling. Despite goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann's protests, a clearer penalty you will not see all season.
The celebrations which followed as new kid on the block Rafael Van der Vaart coolly tucked away the spot-kick were ones of relief rather than jubilation.
Because until that moment, Spurs had bossed the tempo of the game and created all of the chances—as was the case during their opening day 0-0 draw against rivals Manchester City. Yet they had nothing to show for it.
In fact, Steven Fletcher set the alarm bells ringing a minute before the interval when he timed his run from deep expertly to guide Kevin Foley's cross past Carlo Cudicini from three yards.
The dread of losing three on the bounce to Mick McCarthy's Wanderers—a team with no little skill and organization but one, nevertheless, which should prove no more than cannon fodder for the Londoners on any given Saturday.
A familiar story for Spurs in recent times. Whereas before the team was incapable of getting results against The Big Four, incompetent in the crunch games a team needs to win to challenge for the title, they had now developed an ability to lose the plot at home against teams from the lower echelons of the divisions.
But not this time.
''We gave it away...we gave them the chance to get back into the match," Mick McCarthy reflected after his side squandered the lead and left London empty-handed.
''Character'' was the key trait which Harry Redknapp alluded to in his post-match interview, when asked how Spurs overcame resolute defending and another fine display from a visiting goalkeeper.
True enough, the players kept creating chances, with Robbie Keane making his first start in the Premier League for nearly a year, going close and Van der Vaart drawing a sharp save from Hahnemann.
But the three late goals and final 3-1 scoreline still belied the increasingly nervous football on display.
Indeed, Tottenham's second and third goals both owed a great deal to fortune—even if they had been created indirectly as a result of attacking intent and decent movement.
Firstly, Tom Huddlestone's shot from the edge of the area deflected past several Wolves defenders and perfectly for substitute Roman Pavlyuchenko to put Spurs into the lead from eight yards.
Then, Alan Hutton scored his first goal in English football when his aborted one-two was deflected off his foot and looped over a stranded Hahnemann to add gloss to the three points.
However, four points from three home matches is not a good enough return for a team looking to challenge teams like Arsenal, Chelsea, and Manchester United who don't have to think twice about dispatching similar opponents with aplomb. Indeed, Chelsea and Arsenal have both scored six at home already. For Manchester United, it is only a matter of time.
Is it true that Redknapp is now missing influential attacking players such as Jermain Defoe and Luka Modric and that the season is young, but let this match act as a real warning to his team that Tottenham will have to work hard and play with more authority, intelligence, and movement in these games in the future if they are to avoid further embarrassment.
Luckily for Redknapp, he has the options and players necessary to change the course of a game—as yesterday's game proved—but he and the fans in the stands would prefer that this scenario did not become a regular occurrence.
A few home truths uncovered—a few which Spurs need to expose when they travel to Upton Park to face bottom club West Ham next weekend, looking to build on yesterday's win and cement their place in the top four.
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