Firstly, a thousand apologies for the terrible titular pun. It just felt right. Secondly, I purposely left writing this article until this morning, rather than overspilling with rage yesterday evening, in the hope that in the cold light of day, I could provide a more measured appraisal of a desperately unfair defeat. Sadly, it’s still hard to feel anything other than cheated by the performance of the officials, after a second half showing that at the very least deserved a share of the spoils.
Still, if our run was going to end sometime, I’m perhaps glad that it ended with a sense of injustice, rather than with an insipid performance that was deserving of the loss. Hopefully we can immediately respond and come out guns blazing in our next game, and hopefully this game contained the majority of the terrible decisions we will suffer over the course of the season. Here, at any rate, are a few conclusions.
Harry said it best when, post-game, he stated “I felt he was quite enjoying giving us nothing.” Over the years, Mark Clattenburg has more than gone out of his way to secure the eternal disdain of Spurs fans – THAT Pedro Mendes goal, and the Nani/Gomes debacle if anyone needs reminding. However, Foy and his linesmen might just have pulled out a trump card with yesterday’s slew of frankly appalling decisions. Blatant corners given as goalkicks, Shawcross elbowing the ball off the line, closely followed by Adebayor’s ‘offside’ goal, shown below, are just two examples.
In addition, Woodgate could easily have seen a second yellow long before Kaboul did, for a mis-timed challenge on van der Vaart in the first half which was bizarrely overlooked. And I think most of us can sympathise with the sentiments expressed in Kaboul’s first booking. All in all, it made for a very frustrating afternoon, which will hopefully result in Foy being relegated to refereeing at Conference level for the foreseeable future. Well, we can hope.
The First Half Performance
Or rather, the lack of. As hilarious as Harry’s 11-man Spurs look-alike squad were in the first half, they were woefully unprepared for Stoke’s by now predictable approach – 20.3% of their passes yesterday were long balls. Gallas was wrestled out of contention for Stoke’s first goal, and their second came from a trademark long throw. Redknapp’s plan for Crouch was strangely non-existent; or at least, if it was meant to be Gallas marshalling him out of the game, it failed miserably. Crouch’s handball in the build-up to the first goal was of course a factor, and he still looks anatomically like he has enough legs to supplement three separate players, but the lack of a contingency plan for him was disappointing.
The Second Half Performance
Having criticised Harry’s approach regarding Crouch, he did pull off a relative tactical coup in the second half. His introduction of Bassong and Defoe, and change of formation to a back three with two attacking wingers, paid dividends. Our passing game, which had been disjointed and haphazard during the first 45 minutes, was suddenly revitalised, and on a more fortunate day it would have resulted in the salvaging of at least a point.
However, even despite yesterday’s loss, we remain third with a game in hand, a position that most Spurs supporters probably would have bitten your hand off for at the start of the season. Next week we travel to a Sunderland side who, despite being boosted by the arrival of Martin O’Neill, are still hardly free-scoring, so let’s hope we can get the show back on the road before hosting Chelsea the weekend after.