City's Draw At Spurs - A View From The Pub
Me and several mates hold a yearly "Athlon" which consists of golf, table football, pool and darts. Points are awarded for the various positions in each event and the winner gets a nice medal and the loser receives a wooden spoon. We decided to squeeze the Tottenham game in as well.
I should also mention that this year`s wooden spoon was painted claret and blue and had a picture of Paul Lambert on it.
It was no surprise to me that Chris Hughton kept faith with the same team that had done well last weekend against QPR. I`m glad he did because the pairing of Jackson and Holt worked quite well and Simeon`s pace will trouble anyone.
It was also a signal of intent. Hoots had talked pre-match about looking for a performance from his team and also trying to win it - and they very nearly did.
The game kicked off to a very good start for City. Nice passing, possession and probing. Up front, Snodgrass, Pilkington, Jackson and Holt showed good movement and pulled the Spurs defence back and forth.
The first real chance of the game came when Spurs conceded a foul 30 yards out. The ball was lofted forward and Russell Martin got on the end of it with a powerful header. With Friedel able to get fingertips to it, the ball cannoned back off the cross bar. Spurs cleared the ball and also breathed a sigh of relief.
At the other end, Ruddy didn`t have too much to do really. He had to palm away a stinging drive from Bale, but that was about it. Other than that he made regulation "gather" type saves and nothing more.
At the other end though, City continued to threaten. Snodgrass was the main protagonist and drove at Spurs again and again, in fact he was arguably the best player on either side today. Bradley Johnson was unlucky when he hit a powerful strike that just cleared the bar with Friedel flying through the air.
Friedel though was in terrific form here. He is 41 now and faces competition or even replacement by the French Captain Hugo LLoris. On this form, Lloris may have to wait for his chance.
The best save he had to make in the first half came from a Robert Snodgrass header.
Pilkington sent in a lovely cross from the left and the City winger headed it back across goal away from the wrong footed Friedel.
Somehow, the Spurs man threw out a long right arm and his strong hand managed to keep the ball out. Jackson almost bundled it in but was denied by a defender and Friedel again.
It was an excellent save that brought gasps and heads in hands from the City fans around me. I should also mention that there was one obvious Tottenham fan in the pub. I say he was obvious because he was wearing a replica Ledley King shirt - that was slightly too small for him. But he was quiet(ish) so no problems.
It was level at half time, thanks to Friedel and we, the City fans were all very happy - it lacked a goal but the performance had been very good.
At the start of the second half AVB replaced Sandro with new man Dembele. It must be nice to be able to bring on a £15m substitute…
Holt headed just over and Pilkington brought another good save from Friedel as Norwich continued to threaten, much to the displeasure of the Spurs faithful. TV footage showed fans with folded arms were shaking their heads.
Dembele`s introduction changed Spurs outlook and they were better in possession as a result. But Ruddy still wasn`t troubled. The Norwich central midfield of Howson and Johnson had a very good game, particularly Johnson.
Saying that though, it was a mistake by Howson in the 68th minute that allowed Tottenham to have possession on the edge of the City area. The ball was played to Dembele who cleverly spun and turned before hitting a low left foot shot across Ruddy into the goal - one nil.
Back in the pub, Ledley King sprang into life as did about five other Spurs fans that had been undercover until then. "YEEESSSSSS, GET IN!" shouted Ledley. This brought howls of derision from the rest of the bar and plenty of loud swearing and a few threats as well. The atmosphere was now quite tense.
It was pleasing though to see that City`s heads did not drop. They knew they had been competitive and knew they still could be.
Steve Morison replaced Jackson on 73 minutes and had a decent shout for a penalty when Assou-Ekotto grabbed his shirt and pulled him over. Replays showed it wasn`t even concealed and in fact was pretty obvious - naturally the officials didn`t see it.
With ten minutes to go though, AVB decided to hold what he had and took off Defoe and brought on Huddlestone, who now has a pineapple on his head like Jason Lee used to when he was at Forest.
A few moments later, the landlord of the pub walked by and said to my mate "I`ve just bet that Spurs lad (pointing to Ledley king) ten quid that City will equalise before the end. He`s taken the bet - what he doesn`t know is that this stream is about 2 minutes behind and we`re already level!" He laughed as he strolled off and we made a little space for the celebrations we knew were about to come - what a beautiful moment.
A Pilkington cross saw the ball sent across the Tottenham box and then headed back by Russell Martin to Holt. He flicked the ball on again and it fell to Snodgrass who showed great technique to smash a low left foot shot past Friedel into the corner for the equaliser.
The bar erupted and Ledley King looked at the floor as the cheers (and abuse) reached a crescendo. If there was to be a winner now, it would be the Canaries (in black) that would get it now.
Bringing Huddlestone on was a big mistake by AVB though, Tom hasn`t played for a year and was clearly a little rusty. Just six minutes later he lunged in on Howson and got a straight red card.
Replays showed both players going for the ball and Howson clearly pulled back rather than hurt his opponent. Tom didn`t and caught Howson. To be fair it wasn`t the worst I`ve ever seen but the ref pulled out his red.
Boos were ringing out around White Hart Lane now as City pushed for a winner. They almost got it when Morison surged into the box and had the ball nicked off him. It fell to Holt whose clever back heel in the last few minutes found Johnson again. The ex-Leeds man hit the target with a powerful drive but couldn`t beat Friedel who made yet another terrific save.
And that was that - a very good draw against Spurs, which most of us would`ve taken prior to the kick off.
City played a brand of incisive, direct football that troubled Spurs - a lot. By direct, I don`t mean long ball, although occasionally there`s nothing wrong with that.
I was slightly concerned that Hughton would play a more defensive type of football when he was announced as coach, but here he wanted to win the game, no doubt about it.
I read on Vital Spurs prior to this game a few (a lot actually) ungracious, derisory comments from Spurs fans in response to an interview with a Norwich fan (Savvy?).
It reminded me of the Soccer AM Spurs fan of a few years ago. Sheep head played a Spurs taxi driver in a shirt too tight for him - "Spurs are a top six side, always have been, always will be…"
Really? The bottom line is that they will never win the Premier League. Neither will Norwich, but at least we understand that. I know they`ve finished top four a couple of times now, before you Spurs boys start, but as it stands you are already playing differently to the way Harry did it.
It looks to me like Norwich harried, chased and worked their socks off - which is what happens when people play as a team. The only reason that Norwich didn`t win was down to Brad Friedel - if he has a better game than this I`d like to see it.
John Ruddy only had one real save (other than the goal) to make, from Bale in the first half, and it wasn`t much of a save. If this had finished 1-3 no-one would`ve been surprised.
AVB has succeeded in slowing the Spurs game down, unlike Harry, who was all about quick incisive football. I think Dembele and Dempsey are potentially good signings but if they play like this as a team then they will struggle. AVB lasted until March at Chelsea, will Levy leave it that long if things don`t change? Watch this space.
I expect there will be lots of Spurs fans abusing "little Norwich" if their forums are anything to go by. But I`m assuming you`ve all watched the same game as I did - so you know the truth.
It just leaves me to say well done to the City team and say that back in the pub, poor old Ledley king left the bar with his head hung low, chants of "Who are ya?" in his ears and his wallet ten pounds lighter.
Oh and by the way, I avoided the wooden spoon!!!