Point Made at the Hawthorns
Dog-tired Tottenham grind it out.
Spurs have been suspiciously reliable of late. To the degree that an otherwise acceptable away draw against a Tony Pulis engineered Dreadful Bastard Machine®, suddenly clangs somewhat of a duff note. Points dropped rather than one gained. Demanding knuckleheads that we fans can be.
When Toby Alderweireld catapulted a precise diagonal ball into the path of Dele Alli after just fifteen minutes, who, in turn, volleyed past Boaz Myhill as if it was as straightforward a task as tying a shoelace— thoughts wandered, stupidly, to imagining how many more we might get.
But that, as it turned out, was the summit of our input for the afternoon. The fun was short-lived. While hard winds threatened to yank the ball straight out of the stadium, as if protesting against the lacklustre spectacle, some of Spurs’ number looked as if they’d have been happy with a similar fate. Just whisk me away from this nightmare, as another first-touch bounced awkwardly away.
No-one had an exceptionally poor game. Christian Eriksen was slightly off-colour by his towering standards. Operating without the usual sharpness— as if wearing boots three sizes too big —but nothing you’d call disastrous. Meanwhile Kyle Walker’s opening half was almost pitch perfect, with all his key statistics registering above the 90% mark. Passing, interceptions, tackles won and the like.
Sadly for him, the one crucial piece of data his brain forgot to process was the need to get goal-side of James McClean, to prevent him power-heading in the equalizer. Almost perfect. Fans of vintage Walker would say that rather encapsulates him as a player. Often 95% good; frequently that all-important 5% catastrophic.
If he hadn’t have been one of Spurs’ most reliable performers this season, we might’ve heard more from the dissenting backbenches following the error.
Talking of James McClean. He was no doubt West Brom’s most dangerous weapon. In more ways than one. It looked as if Stéphane Sessègnon would be the root of our concerns in the game’s opening minutes; he appeared plump with life and running and Spurs had a tough time keeping him restrained.
But, just as he was settling into a rhythm, the meter bleeped empty on his hamstrings and the Beninese was removed just before half-time.
It was left up to James McClean, then, to put the wind up Tottenham; something he was managing quite well, even before he attempted to atomize Moussa Dembélé’s shin-bone.
McClean wasn’t about to take any chances, though. Trickery and direct running is all very useful; but nothing says I’m here to party like reducing someone’s leg to micro-dust. An awful challenge.
It’s a shame because there was a genuinely decent duel unfolding between the Irishman and Kyle Walker, one that tested every ounce of the right-back’s concentration. The barely sufficient yellow card for McClean’s horror ‘tackle’ means he’ll escape any retrospective punishment. A victory for F.A regulations, if nothing else.
With the majority of results from the teams around us going in our favour this weekend—City, United, Liverpool all dropping points—the natural reaction is to be downhearted that we couldn’t capitalize. But without wanting to force-feed a positive spin; an away draw against a Tony Pulis side is nothing to be concerned about.
In similar conditions in years gone by, Tottenham would’ve made heroic work of losing this kind of fixture. Let’s just take the point and run for the hills.