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+The Monday Verdict

Posted on 7 March 2005  - 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).

Our unhappy record at Southampton's home of just a few years continues. Our visits to St Mary's since its opening in August 2001 have yet to yield any reward - with all the Premiership contests finishing 1-0 to the home side. Throw in a 4-0 drubbing in the FA Cup and it would be understandable if this is not the most eagerly anticipated fixture for either players or fans.

The team played better in this game than in any of our previous trip to the venue and had many chances to score a first goal at the home of the Saints. It should have at least been a draw and, as Jamie Redknapp admitted in the tunnel afterwards, he suspected for a good second half while that a goal was coming.

If any extra little incentive was needed for the boys to win this encounter, it was provided by the local paper the Southern Echo. Saturday's edition ran a front page story under the banner headline 'Can we play you every week?', pointing out our record at St Mary's in a not so subtle fashion.

Jermain Defoe returned to the side after his midweek breather at Forest, partnering Mido in attack. Michael Carrick also re-entered the starting line-up in a midfield featuring Andy Reid, while Ledley King came back into defence for Noe Pamarot with Erik Edman replacing Thimothee Atouba.

Redknapp was in opposition, along with another former Spur in the shape of Peter Crouch, but the on-loan Calum Davenport was not allowed to feature under the terms of loan agreements between Premiership sides.

It was so nearly a dream beginning. Michael Brown dispossessed Redknapp 25 yards out before prodding the ball to Mido with a clear sight of goal. Unfortunately, Paul Smith - who was subsequently to deny us on many more occasions - stuck out a foot to prevent the ball nestling in the back of the net.

Henri Camara, who we came across last season playing for Wolves, pounced on some indecision in our rearguard on six minutes and it took King to knock him off his stride while taking aim at Paul Robinson's goal.

With 15 minutes on the clock Saints caused suitable mayhem with the pace of Camara when he got away from Anthony Gardner and Stephen Kelly. The jet-heeled marksman evaded the pair to the left of the area before threading a pass across the six yard box that was just too far ahead of the supporting players. A minute later a long clearance from Smith set Crouch away, but he delayed his final ball and Edman was able to intercept.

We then had a clear cut chance to take the lead, Claus Lundekvam lay injured in our area but the game went on and Defoe went one on one with Smith with effort being helped over the bar by the goalkeeper. It would not have been the most widely appreciated goal had it gone in and Defoe duly got the bird from the home fans.

A fluid passing movement saw Kelly found in space on the half hour mark but, with time to pick his pass, the full-back opted to shoot with teammates screaming to be played in. Two minutes later Camara was through on the advancing Robinson, with the striker immediately opting for the lob and the keeper thankfully getting enough on the ball to avert the danger.

Saints were giving us more than a few problems at the back, Camara was effectively feeding off Crouch, while the wide play of Graeme Le Saux was troubling Kelly - who was a tad fortunate not to concede a penalty for a challenge on the former England man. Half-time was looming and you sensed it was no bad thing.

Crouch so nearly shot his side into the lead on the stroke of half-time, this time Camara turned provider after beating Gardner for pace and knocking a tempting ball into the area from the left. The radar of Crouch, thankfully, was slightly askew and his shot drifted just wide.

The boys began the second period in a positive fashion, with Brown testing out Smith early on. A few minutes later, a Mido shot in the spin inside the area had Smith grasping thin air, but the effort was wide.

However, on 50 minutes, the Saints stole forward and grabbed the lead. Sub Nilsson floated over an inviting cross from the right, which was tracked perfectly by Nigel Quashie who nodded powerfully past Robinson.

Defoe had the chance to level with a chance of his own making, but Smith was equal to the shot. On 52 minutes though, it should have been two, when a cross from Nilsson was met by the on-rushing Crouch and it looked a stick-on goal, but the reactions of Robinson in scooping the ball up in the air for Kelly to clear.

At the other end Defoe again worked himself an opening, but was again denied by Smith. It was time for Fredi and he arrived on the scene on 57 minutes with Mido being withdrawn.

The pressure was rising with chances falling to Reid and Defoe - the home side were being well and truly pegged back as our quest for a leveller gathered significant momentum. Reto Ziegler was introduced for Kelly on 67 minutes, forcing an interesting reshuffle formation-wise.

Davies appeared to be filling the right-back slot, Reid moved inside and Brown pushed out to the right, with Ziegler operating on his natural left. Robbie Keane was then added to the mix on 74 minutes with Andy Reid making way. Keane soon made his presence felt with a speculative effort from distance, but you got the feeling Southampton were growing in the belief that the points were theirs.

And so it transpired.