Inside Lane: A Spurs fan’s view of the draw at Aston Villa

11:59 07 May 2012

Sandro (right) battles with Aston Villa

Sandro (right) battles with Aston Villa's Charles N'Zogbia

PA Wire/Press Association Images

Tottenham supporter Daniel Grigg gives his views on yesterday’s 1-1 draw at Aston Villa.

Tottenham were unable to grab an unexpected lifeline yesterday, failing to capitalise on Arsenal’s draw with Norwich and missing the chance to put third place in their own hands.

Despite all of the disappointments of the last couple of months, third place would amount to Tottenham’s highest league finish since 1989-90, when Terry Venables was in the charge and the likes of Gary Lineker and Paul Gascoigne were up there with the very best in the world.

Fourth still looks very achievable after Newcastle’s defeat against Manchester City – but that would still leave Spurs with an anxious wait after the season ends, as they wait to see how Chelsea fare in the Champions League final.

That would be a hugely uncomfortable position to be in – and Tottenham could have dumped Arsenal fans into that situation if they had done what was expected at Villa Park.

Unsurprisingly, the Lilywhites were all over Villa for most of the match. Indeed, at times, it was almost as one-sided as the reverse fixture at White Hart Lane back in November, when Harry Redknapp’s side won 2-0.

On that occasion Tottenham had converted their chances - or at least enough of them - and even more crucially had never allowed themselves to be caught on the break or put under pressure.

But Villa struck first this time - although it came with a large element of good fortune as Ciaran Clark’s long-range effort deflected off William Gallas – and that ensured that this game was never going to be so comfortable.

And, if there’s one thing an Alex McLeish team can do, it is to frustrate the life out of their opposition when they have a lead, with last-ditch backs-to-the-wall defending.

At that stage, Spurs knew that nothing less than two unanswered goals would be good enough from that position, but they continued to exasperate in front of goal, missing chances galore for the umpteenth time in recent months.

Shay Given has been one of Villa’s best players this season – and he’s needed to be – but he was never forced into as strenuous and testing an afternoon as he should have been.

Aside from a sharp Gareth Bale strike and a couple of less notable efforts, Tottenham failed to land enough dangerous attempts.

Emmanuel Adebayor’s penalty just after the hour-mark gave Spurs hope, after Richard Dunne had fouled Sandro inside the box, but the 4-1 win at Bolton last Wednesday remains Tottenham’s only away win of 2012 in the Premier League.

That victory at the Reebok Stadium seems to have been the exception rather than the rule in the second half of the season, in terms of Spurs actually converting their chances and piling on the goals against a team they have outplayed.

On an individual level, Sandro showed why many, including myself, see him as having the potential to reach much greater heights in the future.

The Brazilian international’s sheer size and movement, both defensively and when driving forward, suggests that he is equipped to be even more potent as he gains game time, experience and confidence in English football.

Hopefully that will be at Tottenham – assuming that Redknapp has the sense to give him more and more opportunities, rather than just working the legs off Parker like this season.

Younes Kaboul was again dominant at the back, and the Frenchman’s undeniable aerial power has helped to cut out a number of silly goals that Spurs too often seemed to concede in previous seasons, from long throws, corners and free-kicks.

Kaboul is very much the main man in his partnership with his countryman William Gallas now - although Gallas is still the one with the more medals and international caps.

As an attacking force, however, Spurs were hindered again by quiet displays from both of their wingers - and Kyle Walker for that matter, given that he virtually plays as a winger sometimes.

That was particularly unhelpful against a side who like to pack the middle of the pitch with defensively-minded players to limit the impact of creative players like Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart.

Aaron Lennon had destroyed Bolton’s left-back back Sam Ricketts a few days previously, but he was far less effective against the young and fairly unheralded Eric Lichaj.

Meanwhile, Stephen Warnock – who is also a natural left-back - was positioned in front of Lichaj in the midfield to provide extra against the combined threat of Lennon and Walker.

So, after a topsy-turvy weekend, Tottenham are right back where they started - forced to keep an eye on other results and pray for other teams to help them out.

Spurs fans will now have to rely on West Bromich Albion or Bayern Munich to do them a favour, and gain favourable results against Arsenal and Chelsea respectively on their home grounds.

But that is assuming that Spurs don’t slip up one last time themselves on Sunday. Of course, Fulham boss Martin Jol knows all about the heartache of missing out on Champions League qualification on the final day of the season – as do Tottenham supporters. Hopefully not again.


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