Monday, December 18, 2006

Away Curse Finally Exorcised

Spurs finally put their away hoodoo to bed yesterday at the City of Manchester Stadium, where they have now won on each of their three visits. It is also twelve years since we have lost away to Man City, so if ever a fixture was required to break a curse then this was it. The other good omen, albeit one that flies in the face of logic, is that we always do well after playing in Europe – so now that is five wins and a draw out of six in the games that immediately followed our UEFA Cup exploits. With all these factors swimming around in the players heads, as well as the confidence from winning three games on the trot, they managed to forget that we hadn’t won away all season or scored from open play away from home, we were missing Dawson, Zokora, Keane, Lennon and Jenas, and that Man City hadn’t lost at home and had only conceded once.

Despite the form guide, Spurs looked very comfortable in the first half, and whilst they scored twice it could easily have been more with a Berbatov shot and a Malbranque scissor kick both cleared off the line. It was a cracking goal from Tom Huddlestone for the second and as mentioned on here in the review of the Charlton game he looks like he has the ability to score a few screamers each season, and he duly obliged with one a mere week later. The technique involved to hit the ball on the half volley like he did, and keep it down and yet powerful is very difficult, and he now has as many goals for Spurs as his predecessor Michael Carrick in about one fifth of the playing time. He still looks a little slow, but he sure is consistent and the facts speak for themselves – Spurs haven’t lost when Huddlestone has started.

The second half was always going to be different from the first. Peace reading City the riot act, Spurs holding on to what they had, and the toll of playing twice a week for ages meant that Spurs would tire and City rise. However, this Spurs team seem to be made of sterner stuff than the team that threw a three goal half time lead away to City a few years ago, and managed to hold on for that elusive away victory. Yes City could, maybe should, have had a penalty at the end, but Rob Stiles wasn’t going to do Spurs any favours so perhaps it didn’t look as nailed on as the TV made it out to be later on.

That is four wins out of four since we lost to our foes from South London at the Deathstar, so fair play to Jol and the team for reacting in the right way, and making up for that debacle. Spurs are now two points off fourth and three off third, with all teams having played eighteen games. We have already got the trips to Old Trafford, Anfield and the Emirates out of the way, as well as the nasty game at Bolton that no-one likes. So at nearly half way, sitting in seventh and on the rise, in the last 32 of the UEFA Cup, League Cup Quarters and the FA Cup to come, things are looking up. Berbatov and Defoe are finding the net, Huddlestone is finding his feet, and players are in the main out of the treatment room and getting back to full fitness (Keane and Jenas aside). We have a great squad, the new players like Chimbonda and Malbranque have settled and are really contributing to games and maybe with a choice addition of a midfield lefty, and a quality back-up centre back in the transfer window this team could be set for great things.

Southend at home up next in the Carling Cup, where nothing but a safe passage into the semi-final will do. Then with another nice draw, European football already safely assured for February/March, we can all dream of Cardiff, and banishing memories of 2002.

The Waddler.