Well, the potential was there.
What I consider to be our default crew from the Championship promotion season was back together and The Boy was just happy to be making a temporary move away from the mountain of homework that has accompanied his move to secondary school. The weather was rubbish of course. Dank. But domestic arrangements meant we had a nice, stress free meet up, though far too early. It’s just possible that one or both of the adults confused the TV build up time with the kick off time and so we arrived half an hour earlier than needed. Even this was fortuitous though, as we missed a later SNAFU at Brighton Station.
I had time to attend to some minor business with the ticket office. Those in front of me were not so fortunate, as they were tourists who had bought touted tickets via Stub Hub. These had been blocked. I don’t know if this is any use to point out to my small band of regular readers but, in no circumstances at all should you buy touted tickets via Stub Hub, or anywhere else. The club are hotter on this than almost anything else, and rightly so, and you may as well, talking of hot, burn your money.
Anyway, that was ten minutes of the extra half hour used up. The other twenty were spent in a beer queue while this year’s intake of students tried to work out how to work tills, change beer barrels and make change.
Potential, though, we all agreed through our pre-match ritual, was there because Spurs were not quite the fearsome side they’d been over the last two seasons. Tired from a last minute disappointment in Italy, missing their number one keeper, and with Kane suffering from post World Cup lethargy this was a “good time” to be playing them. And we were at home.
Unfortunately, that’s where the optimism ended. They may have been missing their starting keeper but we were missing our most creative player, last season’s player of the year and the only one in the team seemingly capable of playing number 10. They are all, of course, one and the same, Pascal Groß. I say “seemingly” because I’m sure Propper plays there for Holland. If he doesn’t then he sure gets forward more for them than us. But clearly CH doesn’t fancy him there at all and it was back to the Southampton 4-3-3 which was really much more of a 4-5-1. This made the first half turgidly flat.
Pretty much it went like this. Tottenham had the ball at the back. None of our players helped Murray chase it down or, in fact, went within 20 yards of Murray who must have either forgotten to shower that morning or, perhaps, have walked around for a few days in that sweat hugging green shirt from Monday. Either way we looked like we were allergic to him. So, Spurs have the ball. Trippier and Rose push our wingers back. We hold our shape. They can’t break it down. We get it, they close us down, we dump it back down their defences throat and so on. Rinse and repeat. It was duller than Neil the Hippie from the Young Ones presenting a documentary about formica making in the 1970s. Eighty percent possession to Spurs and zero chances. Until…
A foul outside the area, which initially went to advantage was brought back and over it stood Trippier. And we all know, from the World Cup, what he’s capable of these days. Luckily we blocked it. Chris Kavanagh immediately pointed to the spot for handball however. At full speed from the West it was hard to see, though the crowd howled with disapproval. I thought The Boy would be back in to the world of offering marks of minus ten million for his performance. Replays showed, however, a silly use of the hand from Murray in the wall. Kane was never going to miss, was he? No, he wasn’t.
We looked livelier in the second, just as we had against Southampton. March and Knocky got some joy in behind the wing backs and we pushed on a bit more. Kayal, who had come on mid way through the first half for a stricken Stephens, pushed us up having acclimatised to the game, but still there was a Groß shaped hole in our creativity. Chances came from set pieces and on the break but Spurs still had most of the ball and on 76 minutes they killed it on the break. Lamela started the move which went out on to the Spurs left to Rose via Moura. The cross was pinpoint and it was Lamela who was on the end of it with a crisp finish, a move that showed the quality gap that exists between the top six and everyone else.
Most of us trudged home in the rain but we stayed. We always do because The Boy insists and because I want to write about any last minute dramas (and have a beer afterwards). And there very nearly was drama to write about. Three minutes in to stoppage time Knockaert took possession of a lovely pass down the right, cut inside and finished beautifully with his left in to the far corner. Then, with almost the last kick of the game, another break and another chance for Knocky, though this ended up tamely saved. The best moments of the game and we’d saved them for about ten thousand people in injury time.
Flat game, flat result, flat atmosphere. I’m borrowing this from a thread on NSC started by my good friend Darren but he was spot on. And much of it, for me, was down to our flat formation. Groß can’t come back soon enough.
A trudge home, a curry and the AJ fight. A chaps’ day out. But not one I’m keen to repeat any time soon.