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Spot on!

Posted on 26 October 2008  - 12:00

Harry Redknapp's first game as the new Spurs manager resulted in our first league victory of the season as we defeated Bolton Wanderers 2-0 at The Lane.

Spot on!

Harry Redknapp's first game as the new Spurs manager resulted in our first league victory of the season as we defeated Bolton Wanderers 2-0 at The Lane.

Roman Pavlyuchenko's first Barclays Premier League goal and a nerves-of-steel penalty from substitute Darren Bent gave us the points - and the Club a much-needed lift after an eventful week.

It is difficult to judge how much of an effect the events of the previous 24 hours had had on the team, but the players certainly came out of the traps seeming like they were looking to prove a point - perhaps to the new man at the helm, but almost certainly to themselves.

The team had a slightly new look, with Tom Huddlestone being brought back into the midfield, David Bentley onto the right flank, and Pavlyuchenko into the lone striker role with Luka Modric in a more advanced position just in behind.

Bentley in particular had an added drive about him to begin with, bringing to the side the sort of delivery our attacking players crave.

That goes especially for Pavlyuchenko, and he proved to be the main beneficiary of the service after 17 minutes.

Ten minutes earlier, only Andy O'Brien's brave defending denied the Russian from tapping home Bentley's in-swinging corner.

But the next time the big striker was found by the former Blackburn man, he made no mistake as he got in between the defenders to power a header firmly into Jussi Jaaskelainen's bottom right-hand corner from 15 yards, sending the White Hart Lane crowd into raptures.

We have talked about for some time how key scoring the first goal in a game could be to our improvement, so was this to be the difference? At first it seemed as if it might prove to be a false dawn as we experienced a spell of pressure.

Most of it was of our own doing. A defensive mix-up on 28 minutes put Heurelho Gomes in all sorts of trouble, and as the ball run free to Kevin Davies, the forward did extremely well to come to within millimetres of equalising from a tight angle.

Three minutes later, we again failed to clear our lines as Matt Taylor sent a low shot inches wide from the edge of the box.

And we had Ledley King's goal-line clearance to thank for once again keeping the visitors out on 34 minutes after Johan Elmander capitalised on a half-cleared free-kick.

It was clear we needed a second goal to give our lead that important protective cushion, and to be fair, we certainly got ourselves together and went looking for it at the end of the half.

Two chances fell to Huddlestone, the first just inches out after Jaaskelainen spilled a Bentley free-kick at his feet, only for the big man to volley over.

But then the England Under-21 international created an opening for himself, side-stepping Gary Cahill on the edge of the box before unleashing a rasping left foot shot which whistled just past the post.

However, Bolton emerged for the second half intent on finding the equaliser they felt they deserved, and it seemed as if it would take a little bit of luck to turn a fast-approaching tide back in our favour.

That came on 56 minutes when Bolton's tough-tackling midfielder Gavin McCann was sent off for a second bookable offence, and we looked to capitalise immediately.

First, a nice one-two between Huddlestone a Modric resulted in the latter getting free on the left-hand side of the penalty area, and he should have done better with his shot which went straight at Jaaskelainen.

Then Jamie O'Hara took a leaf out of Huddlestone's book, side-stepping a couple of defenders on the edge of the box before hitting a fierce shot that was just too high.

Bolton's answer was to bombard Gomes with high balls at every opportunity, and it could have paid off for them on a couple of occasions.

On 62 minutes, a punch from the Brazilian goalkeeper fell to Kevin Nolan on the edge of the box, who fired over, and four minutes later a similar fist away from Gomes landed perfectly for Fabrice Muamba to attempt a volleyed lob, which fortunately dropped onto the roof of the net.

We needed some fresh impetus, and Harry duly delivered his first tactical manoeuvres as our new manager with a touch of renowned genius.

Pavlyuchenko had gone a touch quiet on his road back from an ankle injury, and he was replaced by Bent in a straight swap, while Aaron Lennon took over from Jamie O'Hara on the left flank.

Almost immediately, Bent was given the chance to put his fresh legs to use as Modric put him through, but his shot was well saved by Jaaskelainen.

Lennon also got a piece of the action soon after his introduction, but he failed to convert after another Jaaskelainen save from Huddlestone fell to him 10 yards out.

But it was Bent who was to have the defining say in this match, as his awareness and determination to chase down a loose ball after a Modric shot had been saved drew a foul out of the Finnish goalkeeper and resulted in a penalty.

There was only one man who was going to take it, as our top scorer grabbed the ball and didn't let go until he had placed it on the spot and slammed home his fifth goal of the season - in the process sealing our first league win of it.

As the final whistle blew and the crowd let out their biggest cheer of the season so far, it was clear the players had embraced this brave new era for the Club as much as anyone, giving Harry plenty to be encouraged about before he takes office on Monday.


Spurs (4-4-1-1): Gomes; Hutton, Corluka, King, Assou-Ekotto; Bentley, Jenas, Huddlestone, O'Hara (Lennon, 71); Modric; Pavlyuchenko (Bent, 67)
Subs not used: Cesar, Zokora, Gunter, Giovani, Campbell

Bolton (4-1-4-1) Jaaskelainen; Steinsson, Cahill, A O'Brien, Samuel; McCann; Davies, Nolan, Muamba (Gardner, 85), Taylor; Elmander (Riga, 85)
Subs not used: Al Habsi, Hunt, Smolarek, Helguson, Shittu