SAFC 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur (H)

Another day, another defeat. Spurs send us crashing back down to earth and perhaps finish off our Europa League dreams for this season...

One big change for the lads, Anton Ferdinand surprisingly dropped to the bench in favour of John Mensah as Sunderland reverted to a more familiar 4-5-1 formation. It was Henderson & Muntari given the task of patrolling the middle of the park with Malbranque wide left, and Sessegnon right. Richardson & Gyan continued their excellent partnership through the middle.

After a fairly quiet first ten minutes which saw only a half chance for either team (Pavlychenko for Spurs, Sessegnon for SAFC) it was Sunderland who took the lead. Kieran Richardson, who had drifted out to the left hand side hitting a low cross towards Asamoah Gyan in the middle, and all that was required was one touch to control before the Ghanaian’s swivelled half-volley was nestling in the back of the net past a hapless Heurelho Gomes.

With SAFC clearly buzzing following the goal, it was Stephane Sessegnon who went closest next for us, stinging the palms of Gomes following some fabulous one touch play down the right involving Onuoha, Henderson and Richardson.

Next to have a go was Bardsley. Having nicked the ball away from Pienaar on the half way like the adopted Jock charged towards goal, but this time he couldn’t make it count and the ball went fizzing over.

As far as first 30 minutes go, SAFC were generally on top and with good reason to feel quite confident.

Unfortunately, that was pretty much the last moment of positivity for us as Spurs began to come back into things. Assou-Ekotto getting down the left hand side far too easy and playing in Defoe, which Mensah cleared for a corner. Well done Joh... oh bugger bollocks, it’s a corner, I do hope we’ve made improvements since last weekend.

Nope, we haven’t and Tottenham equalize. Dawson with the free header, directed low and straight at Craig Gordon, who with his legs wider than Jenna Jameson in "Star Whores XII", allowed a ball travelling approximately 3.7mph to bobble through into the goal.

Titus Bramble left wanting to allow Dawson the header, Gordon with the howler to complete the misery as the teams went into the break level.

Sunderland, continued the sloppy play as the second half started, and another corner caused the chaos. Pienaar’s ball in bounced around and Gallas was the man four yards out to get contact on it. This time Gordon got something on it, but it rebounded to the Frenchman only two yards out, but luckily Bardsley was Mr Right Place Right Time, and managed to hook it off the line. A huge moment in the game, and what should have sparked SAFC into life having had such a let off.

This was not to be as Spurs took the lead only minutes later through Niko Kranjcar. Yet more defensive boobery punished, as this time Bramble pushed way too far up the pitch, allowing Pienaar to run into the space created. His cross cleared to the edge of the area by Mensah, but it fell straight to Kranjcar who smashed a low volley past Craig Gordon. No chance for the Scotsman, and SAFC behind.

As the game petered out, Spurs content to hold at 2-1, and SAFC completely devoid of any inspiration Henderson, Malbranque, Muntari & Sessegnon all peppered the Spurs goal, with little effect. The closest SAFC could muster was Kieran Richardson’s deflected shot off the bar.

4 minutes were added, and absolutely nothing created in the final minutes. A pretty disappointing day for SAFC.

Ratings

01 Gordon – 5/10 – Schoolboy error for the first goal, never looked confident throughout the game.
02 Bardsley – 7/10 – Mainly for the clearance and his desire, not particularly outstanding though.
03 Richardson – 7/10 – Started brightly, and if we were to get a second, he was the most likely.
05 Mensah – 7/10 – Nothing wrong per se, made a few good clearances.
08 Malbranque – 6/10 – Full of first half endeavour, shocking 2nd half. Amazed he lasted so long.
10 Henderson – 5/10 – Another lacklustre display, really needs a rest.
11 Muntari – 5/10 – Sloppy in possession, clearly not up to speed yet.
15 Onuoha – 7/10 – Not a lot wrong, didn’t provide much going forward.
19 Bramble – 5/10 – At fault for their first goal, didn’t have his best game.
28 Sessegnon – 7/10 – decent in possession, but we didn’t get the ball to him enough.
33 Gyan – 7/10 – Great goal, but Spurs eventually phased him out in the second half.

Subs

07 Zenden – 5/10 – A poor free kick, but he was only involved for about 5 minutes. Too late.
27 Elmohamady – 5/10 – Rarely touched the ball in his short cameo.

So a third defeat on the bounce, I think we can put our passports back in the draw for another season, and just try and finish as high as possible.

The flirtation with a Europa place is all but dead, but if we can finish in the top 8 I’ll still call this season a success.

Drastically need a kick up the arse defensively, perhaps a re-shuffle could be on the cards, and maybe even the return of Mignolet to take some heat off Craig Gordon. I’m not sure, but something has to be done to freshen it up.

Games like this too, Welbeck & Campbell can’t come back quick enough, as the lack of options on the bench was rammed home today.

On one of the very few plus sides, all hail Mrs Roker Report, who in our Roker Riches column yesterday correctly predicted Gyan first goal and Spurs to win 2-1 at a staggering 125/1. I’m sure that would have softened the blow somewhat for a lot of us!

Onwards and upwards for SAFC though. Things can’t get much worse on the pitch. Can they? I bloody hope not anyway.

Keep the faith.

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