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Back on track!

Posted on 11 April 2009  - 12:00

Roman Pavlyuchenko came off the bench to take a vital three points in our quest for European football against London rivals West Ham at White Hart Lane.

Back on track!

Roman Pavlyuchenko came off the bench to take a vital three points in our quest for European football against London rivals West Ham at White Hart Lane.

The Russian struck his 14th goal of the season having been introduced for Darren Bent early in the second half.

It puts the disappointment of last week's defeat against Blackburn, and moves us into a season-high of eighth - just three points behind the Hammers in the seventh place which is likely to secure a spot in next season's Europa League.

Harry Redknapp made just one change to the side defeated at Ewood Park, with Tom Huddlestone replacing the suspended Wilson Palacios in midfield.

And despite not creating a great deal, we were dominant in the first half with three good penalty shouts turned down by referee Martin Atkinson.

The first, and perhaps the strongest claim, came on 21 minutes when Aaron Lennon's deep cross was volleyed into the flailing arms of defender James Tomkins by Robbie Keane for what appeared to be handball.

Nothing was given, as was the case two minutes later when Keane was knocked over in the box by Luis Boa Morte after beating Tomkins.

That could have been seen as a coming-together, as was David Di Michele's push on Vedran Corluka on 26 minutes.

It wasn't until the half-hour mark that we finally tested Hammers goalkeeper Robert Green, who was forced to turn a stinging 25-yard Huddlestone effort round the post.

Moments later, the England man looked far less comfortable in dealing with a Keane volley from the edge of the box, but managed to claw it to safety.

Bent also went close on 33 minutes when he climbed well to meet Benoit Assou-Ekotto's cross but headed just wide of the post.

Heurelho Gomes was forced into action for the first time 10 minutes before the break, doing well to keep out an arrowed volley from inside the box by Di Michele.

Going into half-time, however, things were certainly looking good for us, although it was clear we needed an extra dimension.

Enter Pavlyuchenko. The Russian came on as a 57th minute substitute for Bent and got himself straight into the thick of things.

Huddlestone's free-kick was flicked on goalwards by Jonathan Woodgate, and the rangy striker just failed to turn his header past Green.

From the resultant drop kick, we got lucky when Woodgate misjudged the flight of the ball, allowing Di Michele to get in behind and force Gomes into a good low save.

That only served as a wake-up call, and it was Green who was next called into action, again turning a decent Huddlestone effort around the post on 64 minutes.

A minute later, there was nothing the goalkeeper could do as we finally took the lead.

Corluka played a ball into the box to Luka Modric, who found Pavlyuchenko with his back to goal. In one movement, he turned his marker and found the bottom left-hand corner.

The form of Bent alongside Keane up-front in recent weeks has made it a frustrating time for the Russian, but he proved here the quality he possesses when called upon.

And with Jermain Defoe on his way back from injury, our striking options certainly look strong for the end-of-season run-in.

For the rest of this game, it was just going to be a case of holding onto the hard-earned lead, although we came close to doubling the lead on two occasions before the end.

Lennon curled one in from the left, and although only he will ever know whether it was an attempted cross or effort on goal, it certainly had Green back-tracking to keep it out of his top corner in the end.

Three minutes from time, Pavlyuchenko broke away and played in Lennon racing up alongside him. The winger carried it into the box and tried to go around Green. The goalkeeper timed his tackle well, but the loose ball fell to Keane who struck towards the empty net, with only covering defender James Collins on hand to keep it out.

Hammers boss Gianfranco Zola used up a wealth of attacking options he had on his bench in the hope of grabbing an unlikely equaliser, but it's fair to say it would have been undeserved.

Di Michele did force Gomes into another good save two minutes from time, but they had little else as our push for a top seven finish got back on track.


Spurs (4-4-2): Gomes; Corluka, Woodgate, King, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Huddlestone, Jenas (Zokora, 46), Modric; Keane, Bent (Pavlyuchenko, 57)
Subs not used: Cudicini, Chimbonda Dawson, Bale, Bentley

West Ham (4-4-2): Green; Tomkins (Savio, 81), Collins, Upson, Ilunga; Boa Morte (Dyer, 71), Neill, Noble, Stanislas; Di Michele, Tristan (Sears, 84)
Subs not used: Lastuvka, Payne, Lopez, N'Gala