When viewed from a distance the inward sloping floodlights of the Reebok Stadium make it look like some sort of half depressed bouncy castle. Maybe the modern day pylons interactively stand prouder & more erect the more people there are in the ground? If so then the Terriers faithful should be thankful to the packed stand of Spurs fans that turned up, without them the lights wouldâ€™ve been horizontal to the point where they were smacking Lofty the Lion on his furry head as he attempted to whip into a frenzy the few Bolton fans who bothered to show for this reduced price game.
Boltonâ€™s pre match build up and off field entertainment has always seemed amongst the most Americanised around. As well as the obligatory over loud and unfunny PA announcer thereâ€™s also the giant flags and lost looking cheerleaders, (or maybe that should be other way around). You know theyâ€™d just love to play a playerâ€™s theme tune over the tannoy whenever he took a corner or a throw-in.Â (The snorting Bully noise from Bullseye for Kevin Davies perhaps?) All the razzmatazz seemed more misplaced than ever yesterday played out as it was in front of empty stands on a bitingly cold day.
The away fans started in good spirits with the Valentineâ€™s Day inspired â€œyou can stick your red roses up your arse, â€˜cos I love Tottenham more than youâ€ but it wasnâ€™t long after the game started that the recently familiar noises of frustration started to appear as the gaps in the stands were matched by the holes in the Spurs defence and midfield.Â The Bolton players were up for it even if their fans werenâ€™t. We were second to everything and were making a struggling side look like world-beaters. In particular Dawson and King werenâ€™t coping Davies and Elmander and the midfield couldnâ€™t keep possession for more than a couple of passes. Chances fell to Elmander, Knight and Lee and Gomes pushed a Matthew Taylor free kick around the post as we struggled to get into the game.
The one saving grace was that none of the opportunities had fallen to Davies, however in the 34th minute a lovely passing move by Bolton ended when Lee played in Elmander who cut the ball back from the byeline to the far post for our nemesis to take one touch before beating Gomes with ease.Â It was a cracking goal even taking into account the fact that we were down to ten men at the time as Bentley was off the pitch getting treatment for a cut. (In fact as the play built up he was jumping up down like a nutter attempting to be allowed back on to the field but chubster Phil Dowd was having none of it until the action was well away from our number 49.)
We survived the rest of the half (whilst listening to taunts of â€œWeâ€™re shit and weâ€™re beating youâ€) and went in one down with three bookings to our name and certainly not much hope in my heart at least.
Redknapp apparently laid into the players at half-time but it, initially anyway, had no effect as Bolton started the second half the same way theyâ€™d ended the first and pushed us back. Then inexplicably it all changed. With nearly an hour gone first Crouch then Palacios hit the top of the Bolton bar with a header and deflected cross respectively.Â Then Gareth Bale forced his way into the area following a quick free kick from Modric and squared to an unmarked Jermain Defoe who thumped a left foot drive over Jaaskelainen. From nowhere we were back in it.
Led by Bale and Bentley down the flanks we were on top for the rest of the game. It mostly seemed to be due to an increase in effort rather than quality. Tom Huddlestone was now the main influence in midfield, guarding possession and feeding the runners forward quickly. His chance for glory came with around 15 minutes to go when Crouch indulged in a bit of ball juggling and forced Ricketts to handle in the box. Big Tom, the man with the thunderbolt shot, side footed his penalty to Jussiâ€™s right and the keeper saved comfortably. Why didnâ€™t he just belt it? Further efforts from Kranjcar (on for a disappointing Modric), Crouch and Defoe either went wide or were parried by the keeper and we ended up with a draw.
Perversely it was a game we were outplayed in for nearly an hour but ultimately felt disappointed we hadnâ€™t won. Home advantage should be enough to take us through in the replay but weâ€™re going to have to play better than this to not only ensure that we do make it to the quarters but also that we give Fulham a game when we get there.
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