We won! We bloody won! At last! We've won a game!
Not great. Far from convincing. Tight tie with tough away leg and only a single goal advantage. But we won!
Full report to come in the morning. Don't get too carried away though..... it ain't gonna be singing too many praises!
Right then, let's get this show on the road.....
So, we finally won a game. And my God was it hard work. Observations aplenty so here we go.....
I was originally going to miss this game, but as it turned out, Friday morning's meeting in Norwich got canned so I headed back and after sinking a couple of pints with an old mate around Liverpool Street (he works in the financial markets - nice time to be doing that!), headed for the ground and sank another couple of pints.
Our first foray into Europe this season and Wisla Krakow the opponents. Not a team I assume many of us would know about, but probably a reasonable minority of the UK population does thanks to the influx of Poles in recent times. At first sight they also had plenty of supporters that they'd brought with them. Certainly no shortage in the away end, unlike some teams we've played in the past. As it turned out their numbers were swollen further by the masses who had bought tickets for various other areas around the ground, particularly the East Upper. More on that later.
The away end - very full and decent support
The line-up brought little surprise other than King was starting. Seems ridiculous really. On the face of it, a relatively easy tie in the UEFA Cup with a dead important Premier League game coming up on Sunday, and the skipper is turning out. Still, probably just as well or we could've been looking at a worse result! With Corluka and Pavlyuchenko cup-tied, Gunther started at right back and Bent pretty much alone up front, although it was a bit of an odd formation up the top of the pitch with Gio also on, playing (I supposed) up front, but not quite.
At least we had Bentley starting on the right wing for a change! It did confuse me a bit though. With Frazier Campbell in the squad and we being so utterly crap with Bent up front on his own, when not push Gio to left wing, put Lennon on the bench and start with Campbell supporting Bent? Hmmmmm.....
The famous octopus jump
Anyway, as we got underway and as the half progressed there was little to cheer. Overall it was all very underwhelming. No particular danger from Krakow's attacking, and sadly, the same for us too.
Although we managed to string together one or two decent moves - and I really do mean one or two - it took until just gone the half hour for the deadlock to be broken. A decent ball in from inside the left side of the Krakow box and Bentley hit it with his wrong foot to leave their keeper standing and watching, and Spurs, for the first time this season, ahead!
Didn't last long.
Next Krakow attack and with little more a minute gone after we took the lead, one apiece. Some shoddy tracking back on the left, a really good bit of movement from the Krakow player in the box to find space and make himself available, and a cool finish. Oh dear.
The text message to my mate Patrick who was also at last night's game read "Oh for f&%$s sake".
The Krakow contingent were ecstatic and it was only then that we realised how many of them had infiltrated the Spurs areas. Probably many hundreds, if not into the low thousands. Large chunks of seats bought up in the East Stand and all of a sudden the atmosphere was getting a bit tasty. Would've loved to have seen the stewards and police trying to eject that many people! It seemed all reasonably well behaved. I suspect away in Poland in a couple of weeks could be a different matter entirely.
Not much else happened in the first half and we went in level.
I exchanged text messages with another mate who's a Pompey fan at half time. He was delighted with their performance earlier in the evening and beaming about how well they'd played. I said something along the lines of how uninspiring we were. Still, a whole forty-five minutes still to go. Plenty of time (and room) for improvement.
Not for at least another fifteen minutes.
It took till the introduction of Campbell for us to actually start resembling a side who knew what they were doing. Until then it had been, as I said, uninspiring. Except for the very rare move or two that consisted of more than a couple of forward passes (and I even count our goal in that), we had looked clueless going forward.
It wasn't until Campbell came on that we seemed to grasp what a football team at home in the UEFA Cup should be doing.
Actually, scratch that.
It wasn't until Campbell came on that we seemd to grasp what a football team should be doing!
Finally we started constructing some decent moves, particularly down the right, and it was from that channel that we profited with Campbell crossing well for Bent to rise and head us into the lead.
By this stage we'd already had what looked like a perfectly good goal disallowed for offside, but thank God we were back in the lead!
Sadly there was no more goal action even though there were good twenty minutes left to play.
I wasn't happy - neither with the performance, nor with the scoreline.
An away goal for Wisla and a one goal lead is all too slender an advantage to be taking away to a place where Barcelona got turned over by a single goal in Champions League qualifying earlier this season. Had it not been for a couple of great tackles deep in our own area late on - by (I think) Jenas and Woody, the tie would have a far worse complexion.
The performance, though, was once again piss poor. For all the talk of needing to allow players time to get used to playing with each other, I still can't fathom how it takes us an hour or more to actually start constructing some decent attacking football.
We are woefully short in options up front and all too often this season we've been clueless in our attacking play. A fact amply demonstrated again last night.
Zokora and Jenas were unspectacular in the middle, O'Hara added a bit of zip when he came on, and while Lennon had a better game than usual on the left, allowing Bale to overlap as Lennon cut inside, Bentley's delivery was shocking. I thought this lad was capable of delivering the ball with supreme accuracy? I am yet to be convinced.
Gio simply didn't get in the game, and Bent up front on his own didn't get the service, and couldn't offer anything when isolated in that position.
Campbell, when he came on, was easily the best player on the pitch. It was clear he had the bit between his teeth, almost as though he had something to prove. Which, I suppose, he probably does. His application and effort couldn't be faulted and a lot of the other members in the squad could learn a lot from that. It wasn't as though he was running around like a headless chicken either. All too often supporters mistake a player putting in the yardage chasing lost causes but actually delivering very little as being a worthy contribution. With Campbell there was certainly a case to be made for the fact that he actually got involved and in chasing down the lost causes, won a few and actually had the nouse to do something with the ball.
Of course, this was a game we should have won. Wisla were not a particularly good side. Reasonably well organised, but in reality, with the supposed - and I stress that word..... 'supposed' - attacking prowess that we have to call upon, we should be putting these ties away with ease. I could easily make the case that two seasons ago in the UEFA Cup we would've run out winners by a margin of four or five. Where's the progress in that?
We have an awful lot still to do. That is abundantly clear. Wigan will give us some serious problems on Sunday. I have no doubt about that. Under Steve Bruce they're well organised, physical, and at the same time capable of constructing decent attacking football. In the likes of Palacios and Valencia they have players of a quality far superior to Wisla.
So, while Sunday's game is next on the agenda, I can't help but think that the trip to Krawow in two weeks is going to be a very fraught one. A one goal advantage is not where I wanted to be. Two minimum is the preferred option. Unless there is serious improvement in the next two weeks I can - sad as I feel saying this - see our UEFA Cup campaign coming to a very early end this season.