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Newcastle show Jol who’s boss


Jol on his way out after yet another defeat?

Newcastle pushed Martin Jol closer to the exit door at Spurs as they carved out a deserved 3 – 1 win at St. James’s Park  The gap between the supposed “top 4” and the best of the rest in the Barclay’s Premier League was clearly in evidence tonight at St. James’s Park. The meeting of Spurs and Newcastle had ‘cracker’ written all over it. Spurs, misfiring of late needed to push on to escape from the slump which saw them in 18th spot before tonight’s game. Newcastle haven’t been firing on all cylinders and tonight was a chance for both teams put out their mission statement for the rest of the season. 

Spurs were the team tipped to break the stranglehold of the top 4 at the beginning of the season and displays from the tail-end of last season seemed to enforce that. Even some displays this season have been promising but frailties at the back seem to keep costing them. Ironically, somewhat like Newcastle in recent years. The opening was promising from both teams but Newcastle seemed to grasp the game and settle in that bit quicker than Martin Jol’s men.  

Chances were few and far between for Keane and Bent and their most meaningful chance in the first 20mins saw Keane’s deft chip over Given cleared by the Newcastle back-line. An infuriated Shay Given charged to the half-way line to confront referee Alan Bennett for allowing a quick free-kick which produced the chance after Bale had signalled for attention from the bench. Bale went off soon after and with him spurs most creative outlet. 

 The strength of Faye and Martins was causing problems for Spurs all evening and Faye got on the end of numerous throw-ins from Geremi on the left wing. The inability of the Totenham back-line in general and Kaboul in particular to recognise the recurring threat was symptomatic of the defensive vulnerability Jol’s team suffer from. Spurs played some great stuff when they got going with Malbranque supplying some elaborate touches and linking up well with Keane but Newcastle typified the Allardyce approach and refused to let them play.  

The game went stale towards the end of the first half until an apparently harmless long ball from Newcastle’s Spanish left-back, Enrique, caught Michael Dawson in all sorts of trouble and allowed Martins to smash past Cerny for the opener. Dawson had been looking shaky all evening and, to be fair, all season and seemed unable to control anything that came near him. It was only a matter of time before he cost Spurs a goal. 

Within five minutes of the restart a set-piece cost Spurs dearly. A near-post corner from Emre was met by the head of Cacapa who duly opened his Newcastle account and surprise surprise, Dawson was marking him. Apparently Berbatov had to be asked three times by Jol to warm up and made his appearance on the sideline just after the goal. Wearing a sullen look and not particularly trying, Berbatov observed another lacklustre performance from his team-mates on his haunches.  

Newcastle grew in stature as the half wore on and the spirit and desire was as obvious in the Newcastle side as it was lacking in the Totenham eleven. But Spurs were handed a life-line in the 57th minute as Keane responded quickest to a Bent header which came back off the post and slotted home from the most minimal of distances.

A captain’s goal to galvanise a team? Not quite. Berbatov made an appearance immediately after the goal in place of Malbranque and any advantage Spurs had secured from the goal seemed to ebb away before Martin Jol’s disbelieving eyes. Off the pace and lacking any sort of drive, the Berb was the wrong player to bring on to claw back a result against a spirited side.     

Newcastle appeared the more comfortable on the ball and at the back as Spurs gave away possession frequently and began to look frustrated. Spurs began to grow into the game and a nervous Newcastle looked vulnerable for the first time in the game. A glimpse of what Berbatov can do when he’s in the mood was seen as he controlled a ball over the top and slipped a sublime pass through for Bent to blast high and wide. The introduction of Joey Barton for his Newcastle debut was greeted by loud applause from the home crowd as Emre made way.  

Within two minutes the Spurs revival was over as James Milner capped a fine performance with a goal. Just inside the box he mis-kicked a failed clearance but took the second chance with aplomb and drove the half-volley to the keeper’s left. 

Two teams with top 4 aspirations and European dreams showed exactly how far they are away from realising their ambitions tonight as they battled and fought but there was a surprising lack of class and quality. 

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