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+The Monday Verdict

Posted on 13 December 2004  - 12:00

Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs) Football Club is located in North London. The club is also known as Spurs. Tottenham's home ground is White Hart Lane. The club motto is Audere est Facere (To dare is to do).

We struck a bit lucky traffic-wise for our second trip to the north west in seven days. While last week's was a 5.15pm start and most of the football congestion had cleared by the time Spurs fans hit the hotspots, the fixture list helped us out this time. The Merseyside Derby saw to it that Liverpool stayed put, the Birmingham derby be on Sunday cleared the usual sticky patch, while Manchester United are away on Monday. Plain sailing all the way.

Sometimes you wonder if you need to give yourself so much time - unless a pre-match pint or five is in the offing. Some 15 minutes before kick-off the City of Manchester Stadium was nigh on empty and just a sea of blue seats - no wonder the locals call it the Blue Camp.

There were a few changes to Martin Jol's team line-up from last weekend's visit to Blackburn, Rohan Ricketts returning to the side for the injured Reto Ziegler, while Noe Pamarot reclaimed his right back berth from Stephen Kelly. Fredi Kanoute replaced the suspended Jermain Defoe in attack, with Robbie Keane making it despite a knee problem that threatened his participation.

The intriguing selection was that of Mark Yeates on the bench, the young Irishman has been desperate to get back in the fold following his introduction to Planet Premiership in the final game of last season against Wolves. The provider of Robbie Keane's opener at Molineux was the only real attacking option on the sidelines.

City fans were baying for a penalty in the first minute when Robbie Fowler sent Jon Macken clear. They needn't have bothered, it was simply a seemingly effortless and brilliantly timed interception by Ledley King - you know the type.

They say City are a bit like a Forrest Gump box of chocolates in the sense that you never know what you are going to get, but Kevin Keegan's side did start brightly and pinged the ball around with some aplomb, with Bosvelt, Barton and Sibierski central to this.

Michael Brown didn't seem to realise quite what a chance fell to him on seven minutes, a Ricketts cross bobbled through to him in front of goal but bounced off his shins to the obvious relief of his former club.

Paul Robinson was called into action 15 minutes in when the ball fell to Barton 20 yards out and his angled volley had to be clawed away. There followed something on a melee involving Noureddine Naybet but no cards were brandished. He was booked seven minutes later for a supposed trip on Fowler just on the edge of the area.

Ricketts should have put us in the lead on 25 minutes from a move pretty much of his own making. He darted in from the left, beat two men before electing for a precision finish. Sadly his radar was slightly askew and the low sidefooted effort tricked wide of David James' left hand post.

There was a another real chance on 39 minutes when a bouncing ball from Mendes sent Keane through, but his lofted shot over James also cleared the post.

So it was 0-0 following a half which, to borrow a phrase used by David Pleat last season, had plenty of ebb and not too much flow - although we were the better team.

This was reflected on 56 minutes when a Brown ball over the top to the left was latched onto by Fredi Kanoute, who checked inside and thumped the ball high past James, beating him to his near post. There was a confidence surge through both players and fans following this superb strike.

There were changes at the break, Anthony Gardner replacing the struggling Naybet, while Kelly was introduced at left back with Atouba stepping forward for the substituted Mendes.

There were two great chances on the counter-attack that broke down with the final pass, the best one following a superb sprint down the left by Kelly.

On 27 minutes Keane should have killed the game off when Kanoute put him through, he duly rounded James but was thwarted by Distin on the line. Should have been two.

Keegan showed his hand and bought on Bradley Wright-Phillips and Nicolas Anelka in order to spark some life into his ailing team who, to be honest, looked there for the taking at that point.

With just 12 minutes left Keane had another chance to bank the points for sure when another lung busting run from Brown led to Keane being presented with a clear opportunity a few yards out at the far post - his effort went high and wide.

Jamie Redknapp made his entrance ten minutes from the end, Ricketts making way, as Martin Jol sought to lock the gates on a home revival. The minutes ticked away and the points deposit into our account was duly made.