Tottenham misfits find their feet
Tottenham 2 Bolton Wanderers 0
Harry Redknapp began one of the craziest 24 hours of his career by announcing that he would just be a passive observer at White Hart Lane yesterday.
By the final whistle he had picked the team, sat in the front row of the dugout and directed operations in Spurs' first Premier League win of the season. The fightback has started. The revival may take a little longer.
The day after Juande Ramos departed, some of the players whose performances have contributed to his downfall finally got it together in time to impress their new manager. Roman Pavlyuchenko scored his first league goal of the season, Darren Bent added another penalty and, though stuck at the bottom of the Premier League they might be, Spurs at last have a little dignity.
It was with a shy little wave and a bit of applause for the crowd that Redknapp introduced himself to the Spurs fans on the pitch before the game. There was a warm embrace for Gary Megson as the Bolton manager took his seat and if there was one man really under pressure by the end of the day then it was Megson. Two late substitutions prompted a chorus of "Gary Megson is a wanker". And that was from the Bolton fans.
No wonder Redknapp wanted to get involved straight away because with the run of league fixtures he has coming up – Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City – there might not be too many more opportunities to win games in the near future. The side that Redknapp selected was relatively conservative, with players deployed in their natural positions. David Bentley was picked ahead of Aaron Lennon and Tom Huddlestone selected ahead of Didier Zokora.
A new manager and a new sense of optimism at White Hart Lane and they have witnessed a few false dawns before. The sheer shock factor of Ramos's departure and Redknapp's arrival were still evident among the support who were singing their new manager's name within a few minutes.
If Ramos was watching, he would have recognised the intensity of players performing to impress a new manager. Spurs started well, Huddlestone and Jermaine Jenas passing the ball effectively but without the cutting edge the side have lacked all season. Then, on 16 minutes came the kind of moment Spurs had been hoping for all season. Bentley picked the ball up on the right and dropped a brilliant cross onto the head of Pavlyuchenko, who directed the ball inside the post of Jussi Jaaskelainen's goal.
A goal made on the touchline by the £17m man and finished by the £13.8m man – this was how Daniel Levy and the now departed Damien Comolli had it planned all summer. Shame that it came a bit late for the latter. But if they had hoped that was to prove the watershed, Spurs proved that they are still dreadfully vulnerable in defence, their goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes in particular.
Gomes, who had treatment on a wrist injury in the first half, got nowhere near a Bolton free-kick which was turned back in by Johan Elmander and required a clearance off the line from Ledley King. Later, when Spurs weathered a period of pressure, Gomes managed to assert himself somewhat in the area but his defence looked as if they still needed convincing of his reliability. It got little better for Gomes in the second half, especially given his tendency to get too little power on his punches and to direct them, with unerring accuracy, to the feet of the opposition. Later he was lucky to get a free-kick for jumping on top of Kevin Davies
In the meantime, however, there was a huge stroke of good fortune for Spurs. Gavin McCann, who had been booked in the first half for what looked like dissent, left a foot in late on Huddlestone and was sent off. Suddenly it looked like Spurs might just hang on in spite of Gomes.
In the space that opened up in the midfield, Modric finally showed what he was capable of as an attacking midfielder. A little flick and spin and he was able to push a ball through to Bent, on as a substitute, who hit his shot over. Then finally another breakthrough. Modric's shot on 74 minutes was saved and when Bent got to the ball ahead of Jaaskelainen, the Bolton goalkeeper only succeeded in bringing him down.
Bent scored the penalty, his fifth of the season in all competitions, and it was straightforward for Spurs from then on. Instead the spotlight switches to Megson, toward whom the reaction from the Bolton fans seemed disproportionately savage. "We've got our Tottenham back", sang the home fans. It may yet be a bit early for that kind of optimism.
Goals: Pavlyuchenko (16) 1-0; Bent pen (74) 2-0.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-1-1): Gomes; Hutton, Corluka, King, Assou-Ekotto; Bentley, Huddlestone, Jenas, O'Hara (Lennon, 70); Modric; Pavlyuchenko (Bent, 66). Substitutes not used: Sanchez (gk), Zokora, Gunter, Dos Santos, Campbell.
Bolton Wanderers (4-1-4-1): Jaaskelainen; Steinsson, Cahill, O'Brien, Samuel; McCann; Davies, Nolan, Muamba (Gardner, 84), Taylor; Elmander (Riga, 84). Substitutes not used: Al Habsi (gk), Hunt, Smolarek, Helguson, Shittu.
Booked: Bolton Nolan, McCann, Jaaskelainen.
Sent off: McCann (56).
Referee: A Marriner (West Midlands).
Man of the match: Modric.
What the fans think
*Neil Linfield, 46, from Harlow
"Daniel Levy wants sacking if he thinks this is the way the club should be run. You shouldn't give managers the sack after just one year. It will be interesting to see how Harry Redknapp does. He has done well with smaller clubs, but to manage Tottenham is another level."
*Dave Redbridge, 25, from Seven sisters
"I rate Harry Redknapp because of what he has done with West Ham and Portsmouth but I never thought he'd come here. It will be interesting to see if he can give the team the kick up the backside they deserve. Players like Bentley, Modric and Jenas have not played as well for us as they have done with other clubs."
*Ian Kingley, 72, from Dorset
"I would have liked to have seen Juande Ramos given more time. But it will good for us to have an English manager back. We sacked Martin Jol in ridiculous circumstances and I really hope that Daniel Levy knows what he's doing and gives Harry the money and time to make this team a success."
*Pete Redford, 46, from Northampton
"The majority of the fans are happy for the change. Everybody is especially pleased to have an English manager in charge. You could see that by the reception Harry received at the start of the game. He's already working miracles; he's got Ledley King playing twice in a week."
*Alan Wilson, 42, from Peckham
"I hope that this is the end of the soap opera that this season has become. It was getting embarrassing watching us lose every week. We have had more red cards than points this season before today. As long as Redknapp doesn't try and bring Sol Campbell or Tony Adams with him I'll be happy."