From zero to hero? Well not totally, but Peter Crouchâ€™s two goals in this game will at least have helped him climb a couple of rungs up the ladder to redemption. If he doubles the feat on Wednesday evening or embarks on a run of scoring that gets us back in the CL next year then maybe people will forget the disappointment his rash behaviour in the Bernabeu engendered.
A bit of a strange game this one. We played very well for most of the first half and took our chances excellently. Tony Pulis will be furious with the ease with which Crouch was able to get clean headers on to Pav and Huddlestoneâ€™s crosses and also the way Modric, with basically only one dip of the shoulder after collecting Pavâ€™s pass ended up staring into the eyes of Begovic on the edge of the six yard box. The goals reflected our superiority, Etherington and Jones kept Stoke in the game however with efforts of real quality which meant that we were only one ahead at the break.
Huddlestone was undone by Etheringtonâ€™s speed for the first and embarrassing though it was, all it did was expose the weaknesses in big Tomâ€™s game that we already know about. Fortunately throughout the rest of the game he was able to display the promptness and range of passing that we are also familiar with. His quick thinking and confident moving of the ball with both feet provided a dimension weâ€™ve been missing hugely and it was good to see him back.
Younes Kaboul also provided welcome strength and confidence but his scampers forward at the very end of the game when we fairly desperately attempting to cling on to our lead indicate that thereâ€™s still a way to go in terms of discipline and concentration.
In the second half the momentum shifted Stokeâ€™s way as we struggled to gain and keep possession in midfield. Gomes dealt well with crosses into the area and saved from Etherington and Jones. At the other end we were occasionally bright with Pav stinging Begovicâ€™s paws and having a perfectly good goal disallowed but in general the away team were on top. We held on though for the three points our first half display at least deserved.
Pav and Van der Vaart played the full ninety minutes. The Russian did well I thought throughout the whole game. His movement was excellent and whilst he appeared to take an extra touch occasionally, he linked up well with big Tom and Modric and his cross for the first goal was excellent. Van der Vaart played nominally on the right but spent most of his time in a more central position meaning that we had no width down his flank. He too was exposed for a lack of pace and his free kicks continually hit the wall or the first man.
Van der Vaart is a fine player who is struggling a bit and had an off day here but even so for him to appear (and obviously itâ€™s not his fault) in the list of nominees for the PFA Player of the Year with no sign of Modric alongside him makes you wonder. The Croat was again superb showing his normal skill and vision plus the strength on the ball his slight frame belies. Bale and VdV havenâ€™t even been the best players in the Spurs side this year let alone the Premier League.
The win keeps the chance of fourth place still alive and breathing. It will though take some spectacular form in our last seven games plus much pin sticking into voodoo dolls of Carlos Tevez. Another break next weekend then itâ€™s the filthy Gooners. Danny Rose waits in the wings.
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