Friday, January 13, 2012

Spurs v Wolves Preview

Tottenham play their fourth consecutive home match in twelve days.  To date all has gone well with progress in the FA Cup and victories over West Brom and Everton to lift Spurs to joint second in the Premier League, level on points with United and three points behind City.

Wolverhampton Wanderers will arrive at White Hart Lane with two objectives tomorrow afternoon - to avoid becoming the second club that Spurs have completed the 'double' over this season and to achieve what they managed on their last visit to north London, a draw against Arsenal at Christmas or even better to repeat their success of two seasons ago when they scored a goal after three minutes and frustrated Spurs for the rest of the game to take all three points in their first win at White Hart Lane since November, 1973.

Mick McCarthy will be hoping the players will respond in a positive way to the rather public utterings of the club owner, Steve Morgan who has let it be known that he is looking for an improvement in the second half of the season as he doesn't think that 17 points from 20 matches is good enough.  This has put added pressure on McCarthy to ensure that the players are focused and know exactly what they have to do.

This will, undoubtedly, be another game where Spurs will find themselves facing a packed defence with forwards expected to track back and help in midfield and defence as required and then make to most of any opportunities which provide themselves at the set-piece plays where tall defenders will pile forward in search of a goal.  To date, Spurs have shown a patience to work at breaking down such defences and with a little more awareness and control in the penalty area could have won previous matches by a greater margin.

Wolves are in 16th place in the Premier League, two places but only one point above the relegation zone.  From ten away games they have taken six points from three draws and one win.  They have scored 10 goals and conceded 18.  Their only win was on the opening day of the season when they defeated Blackburn Rovers 3 - 2 at Ewood Park.  They followed that with a draw at Aston Villa and their undefeated three match start to the season came to an end when Spurs visited Molineux in September.  After such an encouraging start to the season, taking seven points from the first three games they have found it more difficult to pick up points.

Last Saturday they played out a goalless draw at Birmingham City in the FA Cup and in their previous two away Premier League games they earned a point in each with 1 - 1 draws at Bolton and Arsenal.  In both of those matches they came from behind to equalise through Steven Fletcher.  These recent results on their travels have shown them to be difficult to break down awith a resilience as they battle to improve their position.  Their last away defeat was at Manchester United in mid-December (1 - 4).  Other away losses have been at the hands of Liverpool (1 - 2), WBA (0 - 2), Manchester City (1 - 3), Everton (1 - 2) and Chelsea (0 - 3).

Wolves don't appear to have too many injury problems although former Spurs player, Jamie O'Hara is out long term.  Others who had minor knocks are recovering and available for selection -
Fletcher and Roger Johnson picked up minor ankle problems last weekend but have recovered as has
Dave Edwards after a groin problem.  Nenad Milijas is also back after completing his suspension.

Steven Fletcher is Wolves' leading goal scorer with 8 goals in the League, five ahead of four players - Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, Stephan Ward, Stephen Hunt and O'Hara.  Fletcher scored in last season's game at White Hart Lane and also in the 3 - 3 draw at Molineux where Kevin Doyle scored twice as well as getting the winner two seasons ago.  This season Doyle has scored two goals.

Wolves feel they have been unfortunate in recent weeks with decisions which have gone against them - in the home match against Chelsea where they lost to a last minute goal and the sending off of Milijas against Arsenal.  They will take encouragement from their performance at the Emirates and from other results in recent weeks - Blackburn's win at Old Trafford, Sunderland's defeat of Manchester City, Aston Villa winning at Chelsea - and see these as proof that the top teams can be beaten when the other team shows the application and belief that they can get a result.  Spurs will have to be wary of allowing such motives on the part of the visitors to get a control of the game.  While everyone in the media is talking up next weekend's meeting with City in Manchester the Spurs players are aware that the game against Wolves is the most important at the moment as a win would put them level on points with City who don't play until Monday evening and probably United who play Bolton on Saturday.  All three clubs could have 48 points by tea-time tomorrow.

League Record against Wolves at White Hart Lane

P  40  W  28  D  7  L  5  For 102  Ag  53
Home Premier League Record against Wolves

P  3  W  2  D  0  L  1  For  8  Ag  4

Last Season's Result
Sept. 2010  PL  Won  3 - 1 Van der Vaart (pen), Pavlyuchenko, Hutton
Wolves took the lead on the stroke of half-time through Fletcher in last season's match.  They held their lead in what was looking like a repeat of the previous season until thirteen minutes from time when Rafael Van der Vaart brought Spurs level from the penalty spot after a strong run into the area by Alan Hutton who was brought down by Ward.  Spurs then won the game in the final three minutes with two goals from Roman Pavlyuchenko and Hutton.

Memorable Matches against Wolves at the Lane
Dec. 2003  PL  Won 5 - 2  Keane (3), Kanoute, Dalmat
It was Wolves first game at White Hart Lane for twenty years and their first there in the Premier League.  Former Wolves player Robbie Keane, scored a hat-trick.  He put Spurs ahead after 29 minutes but Paul Ince equalised a minute later.  Early in the second half Fredi Kanoute restored Spurs lead and Keane completed his hat-trick by scoring in the 75th and 83rd minute.  Wolves pulled one back but in the final minute Stephane Dalmat scored the fifth for Spurs with a great strike. 

Feb. 1983  Div. 1 Won 6 - 1  Villa (3), Falco, Hoddle (pen), Crooks
This match marked the official opening of the new West Stand with the duties performed by Sir Stanley Rous, the former President of FIFA.  Spurs celebrated in grand style with an emphatic win over a poor Wolves side who were to be relegated at the end of the season. Ricky Villa rose to the occasion once again by scoring a hat-trick.  Glenn Hoddle scored Spurs' first goal from the penalty spot and then Villa got his first. Wolves scored just before half-time but in the second half Villa completed his hat-trick while Garth Crooks and Mark Falco also added to the scoring.
Mar. 1965  Div. 1  Won 7 - 4  Clayton, Allen, Gilzean (2), Jones (3)
An eleven goal thriller. The Spurs goals came from Eddie Clayton, Les Allen, Alan Gilzean (2) and Cliff Jones (3).

A number of interesting facts about this game:
  • this was Les Allen’s last goal for Spurs
  • Keith Weller a young forward made his debut and
  • Jimmy Greaves was playing but surprisingly did not score.
Wolves had scored first but Spurs equalized and at half-time the score was 1-1.  With six minutes to go the score was 5-4 and then Jones scored two late goals for his hat-trick.

Spurs know that they must win this match as they continue to chase Manchester City and United but they are aware that Wolves will prove to be very awkward opponents who must be taken seriously.  A Spurs win over Wolves would make next week's match in Manchester very interesting as it could provide Spurs with an opportunity to move level on points with City having played the same number of matches.  But that's for next week, this weekend it's all about Wolves and the chase for a vital win.


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