Premier League

Our Man In The Stand – Mike Skuff

Rushing home to watch the game from some unexpected Saturday call outs, I didn’t want to miss a minute, but the last thing I wanted on my journey home, was to be stuck in traffic in Islington, on a Saturday when our friends down the Seven Sisters Road are playing at home. It was a late kick off but in this day of super traffic, I didn’t want to take any chances.

Luckily I knew a couple short cuts to get me home in time for the kick-off. I was really nervous about the Stoke game, we had already battered them at WHL for 87 minutes, and somehow managed to come out on the losing side. Plus our much abused squad is running very thin of experienced players, hopefully the Stoke bruisers won’t add to that growing list of casualties.

So understandably I was thinking in my head that I’d take a draw from the Britannia Stadium, as only Manure, Chavski, the Scum, and Birmingham have taken the full 3 points from the Sunderland lookalikes, with Villa, City and Liverpool all drawing there, it did seem a big task to win, especially with Defoe out with a torn hamstring.

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Finally getting home and putting on the match, Harry’s selection was not much of a surprise due to the fact we have such a full physio room at the present time. I thought it was a good move keeping the Sgt to the bench, Kaboul his replacement. Against Stoke we would need that Hulk protection for our defence and giving our other little midfield players some much needed physical help. Like for like in my eyes. The game was more like a couple of boxers swinging wild punches at each other without any telling blows. I also noticed a familiar Delap & Co style football from the opposition, that so many fans of other clubs accuse us of playing. This ugliness of course is the long ball tactic, boot it from anywhere aimed into opposition penalty area and hope something happens. We had dealt with their threat pretty well so far, hopefully we could keep it up.

The injury to Pavlyuchenko was not the best news of a first half that only had a shot from Kranjcar, which Sorensen spilled, but managed to gather ahead of Crouchie, and one half chance header from Higginbottom for Stoke, as shots on goal. The home side had other opportunities, nothing really testing Gomes. Thought a dejavu was happening when he clattered Corluka again, but this time the chilled Croatian didn’t come out of it like last season which coincidentally was in the same stadium, thankfully!
Picking up yet another injury, only time will tell how long our Russian Striker Cameron Diaz lookalike (come on someone else must see it) will be out for, which could be a big blow for our quests for a Champions League and FA Cup Wembley place, hopefully its only minor.

I hope those travelling fans of ours didn’t take too long in the bog at half time, as we couldn’t have started it better! Great link up play between Ekotto and Gudjohnsen allowed Crouch to play a dinked through ball over the top of the defence to the latter and the finish was unstoppable. Even better for us not even 5 minutes later and Stoke were down to 10 men. The giant Stoke midfielder Dean Whitehead, making our Luka look like a small child, brought the Croatian down unfairly and the referee deeming the challenge enough to reach into his pocket and give him his second yellow card to send him to the dressing room, with no complaints from the Stoke player or his team-mates.

I was overjoyed, what a start, the next 20 minutes or so being nothing but our beautiful game in full flow, crosses from both sides causing the home side problems, but we kept the ball well, created a few chances, the question on everybody lips, when will we get that second goal? Then a 5 minute spell of madness from our re-instated left back BAE reversed the flow of the game. Firstly he and Corluka seemed to have a disagreement about something, pushing and shoving between our two players, with Ricardo Fuller having to act as the peacemaker. Then what looked like an over hit cross from one of the home teams players, turned out to be a penalty to them!!
Ekotto adjudged to have pushed Kitson over in the box, I still can’t honestly say if it was or not, even though Bale had been fouled in a similar way a few minutes earlier in their penalty box, but now I was dreading what was to be. BAE also booked for that foul. Oh well 1-1 the home side on the ascent, their fans buoyed on by the equaliser, they had began to put us under a lot of pressure.

From this sustained pressure a free kick was conceded which lead to a poor defensive header from Crouch that gave Fuller the opportunity to bury a second goal for Stoke after a knock on, but somehow blasted it over from 6 yards. The pressure was turned up a notch by Stoke as we looked more likely to concede another. The Delap and Co football was starting to actually cause problems as we seemed to fall apart at the back. At this point I was wondering which team was actually playing with ten men.

But things suddenly changed again in the 77th minute when Ekotto made up for his earlier 5 minutes of madness with a precision cross into the penalty area to which Gudjohnsen beautifully dummied and set Kranjcar up for a fantastic finish that not even a brick wall would have stopped.  Proper football and 2-1 to the Spurs. This goal made me celebrate more than any other this season as I know how important a win here can be for us. A succession of more long ball football was played by Stoke for the next few minutes where they tried desperately to get that equaliser. An 84th minute double substitution was made by Pulis bringing on Tuncay and Sidibe for Kitson and Whelan respectively in an attempt to reinforce their attack.

The last few minutes of the ninety were nerve racking to say the least as Sebastien Bassong nearly turned from hero to villain after a brilliant last ditch clearance that surely had equaliser written all over it, then a very poor headed back pass to Gomes which nearly let Sidibe in through on goal, but we were only saved by his inability to stay on his feet as he slipped right in front of Gomes who managed to clear the ball from danger.  At this point I was so scared that another last minute lapse of concentration looked to be on the cards.

The usual 3 minutes added injury time were shown by the forth official, but anymore heart in mouth situations for Spurs defensively seemed to have passed. A minute and a half into stoppage time Jake Livermore was brought on for Kranjcar for his first full team Premier League debut. That was about all the action I could take anyway!!

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The whistle finally blew and the joy heard from the away fans end could be heard and felt all the way here in the Lillywhite side of north London. I was overjoyed as a win was highly unexpected but very welcomed and definitely needed for our push for the footballing elite.

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