Its 12.00 noon, and we were off on our travels again, once again heading out of Brummagem, heading south down to our nations capital. This fine February Saturday, those nice fixture fixing chappies have deemed that we pay a visit to north London, and in particular the home of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, with whom we’ve enjoyed quite a few entertaining and high profile fixtures down the years. What with next weekend’s trip to South Norwood for the F.A. Cup tie, followed by the day/weekend out at Wembley Stadium come months end, we’ll certainly be seeing more than enough of the many and varied streets of London, before the last two and a bit months of the campaign creep up on us. Of course we’ve also got ourselves a date at Stamford Bridge on the distant horizon, but we`ll worry about that game come late March, right now we’re all up for, and fully focused, on the late afternoon/early evening game against Harry Redknapp’s lads.
With yours truly being the designated driver today, it leaves me in full and complete control of the music played as we chip away the miles, but even more importantly as far as I’m concerned, it frees me up from any driving responsibilities for next Sunday’s tedious haul to Crystal Palace. No wonder I’m in a chipper mood as we speed towards London, and I can well remember thinking how I hoped I was in the same party-type mood as we returned to Brum.
As always, plenty of Villa cars and coaches on the road, plenty of waves, clenched fists, and sounding of horns. Clearly the cost of this spate of London road trips isn’t dampening the spirits of the away-day claret and blue army, in fact on the contrary. Buoyed by last Saturdays victory at Craven Cottage, the roadsters look well ready to put in further practice for the big day out on the 28th, by singing and cheering the lads on to another three points at the expense of the Lilywhites.
Confidence was high amongst our fellow Villans as we enjoyed our pre-match refreshments, that is if you can count neat tonic water as refreshments, as was consumed by yours truly.
Neil, not the most reserved of our quartet, was telling three Tottenham fans that no way would they score, and that we’d catch them on the break to take home all three points. Crouch and Defoe would be meat and drink to Richard Dunne and James Collins. They weren’t overly impressed.
Unsurprisingly Martin named an unchanged line up following last weeks performance/result, while John Carew was deemed fit enough to make the bench.
Our line-up:- The Evergreen Brad, Carlos, James, Richard, Luke, in midfield Cap’n Stan, Milly, Stewie, Ash, up front Big Emile and Gabby.
On the bench, The Younger Brad, Curtis Davies (good to see him back in the mix), Habib Beye, Sidders, John Carew, Fabian, and young Nathan.
for ‘Arry’s Lot:- Well Who Really Cares?
We started off somewhat sluggishly, and not two minutes had passed before friend Gary quipped, ‘Forget what you wrote Kev, lets get Emile off and Big JC on’.
One of our pre-match concerns had been that the over-lapping Gareth Bale would have a field day against Carlos Cuellar, and in the early stages it certainly looked as if Carlos was in for a busy evening. Spurs pressed forward at every opportunity, but our guys at the back, the meanest defence in the premiership, held firm.
When our back four was breached, Brad looked invincible. He made a fine stop from Huddlestone, but saved his finest first half moment until just before the interval, when Bentley whipped over a free-kick, and King flicked Crouch’s touch on towards the top corner. Brad leapt across goal to get a saving touch on the ball, and Defoe blazed the rebound over.
The home lot started singing ‘Boring, Boring Villa’, but it was clear that they were becoming a frustrated lot, angered and annoyed by their teams inability to break us down.
On the break we had our moments, Richard Dunne almost on the end of Stewart Downing’s cross, followed by a penalty claim when Dawson handled Gabby’s effort. I’ve seen them given.
Our best first half opportunity came when James Milner’s long-range effort was parried by Gomes, and the keeper recovered quickly to deny Gabby’s follow up.
It was a damn good job that that nice man Mr. Wenger wasn’t amongst the attendance at the game. As Charlie from Hereford, sitting just in front of us commented, he’d have certainly labeled Spurs a long ball team, regularly thumping the ball forward from their own half in an attempt to find Peter Crouch, who’d knock the ball down or flick on hoping to find Defoe. Watch out Spurs. You’ll be next on Arsene’s hit list.
The only other real first half incident of note had been a knock to Emile Heskey relatively early on, that saw him replaced by John Carew. Like for like really, so no real concerns.
Half-time came and went, and we started the second half on the offensive, pushing Tottenham back. However as the half progressed Harry’s shower came at us again, but it was obvious that it would take something special to beat Brad.
Huddlestone again tried his luck, a drive towards the top corner, but Brad was equal to it, and turned the effort around the post.
Carew had a half-chance as we came back, but failed to steer his finish past Gomes. Richard Dunne blocked a long range effort from Bentley, and Crouch had an effort deflected just wide.
We had two direct free kicks in decent positions just yards outside the Spurs box, one taken by Ashley, the other by Downing. Both wasted, both curled harmlessly way over the bar. Certainly should have done better.
Defoe took a dive in the box following a challenge from Stan Petrov. Looked a good challenge to me, little or no real contact, but the natives were somewhat riled. Again I think frustration was the name of their game. Via a penalty was probably the only way they’d get on the board in this encounter.
Sidders came on for Stewie Downing, Crouch back-heeled wide in stoppage time, the referee gave us a toot-toot on his whistle, and it was all over.
Plaudits for Brad and his defensive heroes, their efforts/heroics earned us a well deserved, more than useful point. It was edge of the seat stuff at times as Tottenham pressed forward, but hey, quality defending is part and parcel of the game, and a share of the spoils was exactly what we deserved for our commitment and never say die approach.
Bring on Manchester United!! Have yourselves a great week, I’ll see you all next Sunday after the Palace cup-tie.
Right, marks out of ten for the claret and blue boys.
Brad Friedel 10
faultless, invincible, superb
Carlos Cuellar 7
gives me the heebie-jeebies at times, but boy did he battle
Richard Dunne 9
a man mountain again
James Collins 8
brave, committed, a rock
Luke Young 8
another stellar performance for our makeshift left back
Stiliyan Petrov 7
rolled his sleeves up and led by example
James Milner 8
always involved (so what’s new?)
Stewart Downing 7
I like him a lot. Sweet left foot. He’ll do for me.
Ashley Young 7
not too many opportunities to shine, but never hid
Gabby Agbonlahor 7
kept their defence awake and on their toes
replaced early on, cant really judge his showing
John Carew 6
(on for Heskey 21 mins) Off the pace a bit (to be expected), but a handful at times
Steve Sidwell (on for Downing 88)
not on long enough