The Tony Gale Column

Tuesday 4 December 2012 14:52

Things went a bit pear-shaped against Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday.

Spurs got a lot of credit for their performance but I thought they were shocking in the first half. It was actually one of the worst halves of football I’ve seen this season. Spurs weren’t really at the races in the first half and I felt they were there for the taking. But we just lacked that incisive pass into the strikers to really create a chance. Kerim Frei had a good opportunity and if he’d taken it, then it may well have been a different game.

It was too easy for Spurs in the second half. Mark Schwarzer was at fault for the opener but he’s one of the most consistent goalkeepers in the Barclays Premier League, so he can be forgiven for the odd error. But he’ll have watched the replay and while it did bounce awkwardly, he’ll know he should have saved Sandro’s shot.

That goal changed the game and Spurs’ second saw Philippe Senderos beaten too easily by ‪Gylfi Sigurdsson. For the last goal, okay we were chasing the game, it was too easy to get through our offside trap. Martin Jol was right when he said afterwards that defensive errors had cost us.

A week before we faced Stoke City at the Britannia, a game that’s always a hard one. I was at the match and I just felt we could have attacked the fixture a little bit more. It wasn’t until we went 1-0 down that we put a bit more pressure on them.

Anyone who had any worries about Dimitar Berbatov not being up for a game on a cold and windy day in Stoke should fear not as he was excellent. It was an inspired move by Martin to make Berba Captain in Brede Hangeland’s absence. It meant Berba had to be up for it – and he was. But Stoke have come into a bit of form of late and it was one of those games you just want to get out of the way. The result was probably just about right.

It was then onto Chelsea, another game I commentated on. The Blues didn’t really give us a threat. Everyone was saying how Chelsea’s performance was lacking but you’ve got to give credit to Fulham. Again, Berbatov was excellent and probably the best player on the pitch. Chelsea didn’t really trouble Schwarzer until late on and when they did he was up to it. There were some other good performances; I thought Aaron Hughes was excellent.

We’ll have Brede back from a three-game ban against Newcastle United on Monday night and that’s a massive boost for us.

People underestimate just how good Brede is on the ball. Most of our moves come from him and he’s the one that can play that incisive pass into midfield or into the feet of a striker. He’s one of our leaders and we’ve missed him. If there’s a threat for him from Newcastle then it’s Demba Ba as he’s in good form.

We may have gone seven games without a win but we need to be positive. We’ve played some hard games recently and the Newcastle match represents a good chance for us to return to winning ways.

Martin has tinkered with his front two in recent weeks. If Bryan Ruiz is fit, I’d bring him back in and play Berbatov right up top. Although Berba does well when he comes deep to get the ball, I’d like to see him as our main striker. When he’s played up top with Ruiz just behind, that’s when we’ve looked at our best.

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