As Nick so delightfully put it below, we robbed Spurs on Saturday. I can understand how he feels – having been pretty gutted myself at half time – but feel the scene he paints is just a little too gloomy.
The nayseighers on T-F-I have the knives out for Chris Baird and, although I was surprised to see him start at right back ahead of Moritz Volz at the start of the season, I’m prepared to give him a go. His distribution is a lot more impressive than the much-maligned Rosenior and the superb late long throw created Kamara’s wonderful equaliser. Having been delighted with the shrewdness of Paul Konchesky’s signing (don’t him and Hameur Bouazza really give us a lot more on the left than Boa and Quedrue?), I’m prepared to give Baird the benefit of the doubt for the moment, especially considering that he is most at home as a centre-back.
The most pleasing thing for me about our entertaining start to the season has been the spirit which the side have shown. It is questionable whether Coleman’s side would have been able to recover from such abjectness last season. As Sanchez himself said, ““We’ve had our face kicked a few times this season and you don’t want to be thumped because, as much as a defeat is only a defeat, it takes it out of you in the next game. The players showed bollocks. This feels like a victory.”
There was plenty of hunger in our midfield and I’ve been particularly pleased with the form of Alexei Smertin, a tigerish midfielder, who has already staked his claim to become the new Frank Lampard with two deflected goals already this term.
The way we’ve found a goal threat in the absence of the injured McBride has been a relief too. Who would have thought we’d have managed to score three when the disbelieving crowd heard that David Healy was missing from the starting line-up? Much of the credit for our fine attacking performance has to go to Clint Dempsey, who should have finally persuaded the doubters that he is Premiership class. The American might still be a victim of his versatility – in that he can play all across the midfield, behind the striker(s) or up front – but he turned in his most accomplished performance since joining the club. His thumping header before the break restored some belief, quite apart from his majestic leap that created the opportunity. Spurs should have heeded that for it was his climb that flicked the ball to Kamara in those dramatic closing stages. Don’t forget too that he showed so much determination to recycle possession when he was on the floor leading to Smertin’s crucial second goal.
All in all, then, I don’t think there’s too much to be downcast about. Yes, defensively, we were abject but I’d attribute that to the fact that Stefanovic and Bocanegra could only have met each other for the first time on Saturday morning. Whether pitching them together in the heat of battle for the first time was the right call is debatable, but I’m confident that the Serbian has all the qualities to be a fine signing. Let’s not forget that the impressive Aaron Hughes, who has been in fine form for Northern Ireland and in pre-season, will soon return from injury. I’ve got plenty of confidence in Antti Niemi too, despite his error-strewn performance on Saturday. Another couple of weeks to familarise the defence with a third keeper in as many weeks should lead to a little more stability at the back.
Keep the faith and, remember, given that we looked down and out after 75 minutes or so, that glass is definitely half full.
– Dan –