OK, let's be clear on one thing..... the headlines will be about Gomes. The mistake that cost us the first goal, and at least a point. A truly awful error. No two ways about it. But let me be equally clear - this was a rubbish performance. So..... read on.....
While sinking a couple of pints near Waterloo prior to the game we found out the League Cup draw had sent us to Watford. Not too bad I suppose. Better than a trip to OT! Ahead of the game against Fulham though, I couldn't shake that niggling feeling that today was not going to go well.
A game we would by now be expected to win given the excellent recent form. Fulham, not exactly considered the best side in the top flight. What would, by most at least, be considered a relatively easy away trip. Odds on for a serious slip on the banana skin.
Dwelling over that last pint meant we made it to the game a few minutes late. Walking up to the ground it was no surprise that the Spurs fans were in good voice.
The side showed plenty of changes from Wednesday night. King and Woodgate restored as the preferred centre half pairing. Corluka shifted to right back. Jenas and Bent also starting, with Modric back in what Harry Redknapp reckons is his preferred position just behind the front man in a free role. All very nice and worthy of building expectation for a decent result given the success with that team and that formation in recent weeks.
Hmmmmm..... so what happened?
Well, we were lacklustre. It just wasn't clicking. In an attacking sense the majority of our play seemed channeled down the left. This constantly dragged Modric to the left wing, despite the fact that our actual out-and-out winger was on the right.
Coupled with that we seemed incapable of exploiting the plentiful opportunity afforded to us in the centre of the pitch, and through the midfield it was all a bit..... well, all a bit disappointing.
Bizarrely we also looked really quite uncertain at the back, and worst of all, across the centre half pairing. At least twice in the first half Woodgate got bypassed and at least once King was second best. To Bobby Zamora and Andy Johnson! That ain't right!
We had a couple of half chances before the Fulham goal came. A decent run from Modric that ended in a wild shot wide. Then a ball that fell to Bentley on the edge of the box that he hit only marginally wide.
Gomes punches clear early on
So, we move to the Fulham goal. Ah man, what can you say? Simon Davies attempting to whip in a ball from the Fulham left, getting it somewhat wrong and too direct at goal, flicking off Woody's head..... the ball arcing towards goal but no threat. Gomes is well enough positioned. Grasps at it. Lets it slip through his hands. Ball bobbles over the line. Fulham goal.
Absolute shocker. Really woeful piece of goalkeeping. Getting very close to being on a par with Robbo's bizarre fumbling of the ball over the line against Reading last season.
The shock was there for all to see. Amongst the players - on both sides. The supporters - both sides. Probably even the scoreboard! Bet the bloke operating it had to watch the replay to actually work out that Fulham had scored.
King did his best to show solidarity, but even he must have known that this was undoubtedly the worst error in the Brazilian's short time at Spurs.
So frustrating. Fulham hadn't looked likely to score. For long periods the game hadn't looked anything like getting going, and all of a sudden, we'd gifted Fulham a goal.
From there it was clear that they were a lot more confident and all of a sudden they began to string passing moves together with much greater ease. After the goal it wouldn't be amiss to suggest that Fulham dominated the first half. Such is the confidence that a goal can breed.
At half time there was little else being discussed. That one disastrous piece of goalkeeping was on everybody's lips. Not surprising really, but equally evident was how frustrated everybody was with the piss poor Spurs performance in all areas of the pitch.
OK, so we'd conceded a poor goal, but that didn't excuse the thirty minutes of crap before that. It didn't excuse the complete lack of control exerted across the midfield. It didn't excuse the shoddy defending. It didn't excuse the lack of attacking prowess. Yes my friends, inspite of that goal, the truth was plain to see - we had been rubbish.
Would Harry give them a kicking at half time and rescue the situation?
Well, one thing was for sure. Changes were afoot. Bent had been ineffective alone up front so was supplemented with Pavlyuchenko. He replaced Huddlesonte, who had been really ineffective. Where had his recent form gone? If ever there was a game for him to exert his presence in the centre of the midfield, this had been it, and he hadn't.
Lennon was also brought on to give us some proper width on the left with Modric sacrificed.
Back to good old 4-4-2 then.
It was better. There seemed more balance, especially as moves down the left now didn't require either (a) Bale to push forward and leave vast gaps at the back, or (b) Modric to come wide thereby breaking the link between the midfield and attack.
All-in-all, though, it was still far from inspiring. While we pressed forward more effectively it still didn't look like we were going to score.
The very best effort came from King. A sublime, and I mean sublime, bit of skill to bring the ball down and turn in one go, leaving the defender for dead, to hit it on the half volley just over the bar.
The fact that Schwarzer would have saved it was irrelevant. It was a rare bit of genius. If somehow he had burst the net it would have beaten Bentley's effort a couple of weeks ago. That was how exquisite it was.
Irrelevant. It went over the bar.
A Bale free-kick - you could almost use this in a 'Spot The Ball' competition I reckon!
It wasn't long before we conceded the second. Nothing to do with Gomes this time. Having had an opportunity, maybe two, to clear from the Fulham corner, and having failed, we paid the price with Andy Johnson sweeping the ball in.
Pah! Two down at Fulham. Against a side that, I'm going to be brutal, are far from the best we've played this season.
This was just not what we had been expecting after performances in recent weeks.
Of course, one thing you can't do these days is write Spurs off too early. Incredibly, despite the recent late comebacks against the Arsehole and Liverpool, there were plenty ready to leave with ten, eleven, maybe even twelve minutes to go. Shocking.
I could half understand it. Unlike those other late comebacks, we hadn't looked too likely to score. Even so. You pay £49 for a ticket, you don't leave with more than ten minutes and injury time on the clock!
Just then - BANG! A Spurs goal from Frazier Campbell. A lovely finish pushing the ball to the far post from a ball played through by Bentley. Schwarzer probably should have done better. He half pushed it, but not strongly enough and it nestled in the corner.
We were back in this. Near enough ten minutes still to go..... there was a chance that we'd be saying "Here we go again".
We threw ourselves forward, but never looked all that likely to get the equaliser.
Fulham were clearly crapping it. Even with six or seven minutes to play they were only too happy to play the ball long into the corners and run the clock down. Fair enough I suppose. You're guarding a single goal advantage at home. Doesn't make for much of a spectacle - especially when you decide the players you want to sub amble off shaking hands with every teammate - but gets the job done.
Even the four minutes of added time couldn't bring anything positive. When the whistle blew - seemingly prematurely in my book - it was time to go. That horrible niggling feeling that this would be the banana skin we'd slip over coming to fruition. No pun intended.
Harry's first defeat then, and a reminder that there is still a stack of work to do. While we certainly weren't back to the bad old ways of the Ramos regime - we managed to keep the ball and pass it much better than we had in those testing times - this was a woeful performance.
Like I said earlier, the headlines will focus - rightly - on the shocking goalkeeping error that probably cost us a point. The truth is though, that we can't merely blame Gomes for this defeat. That's how poor we were. So frustrating.
Gomes himself frustrated me and plenty of others. Three times after the first goal he made world class saves. Truly world class saves. One in particular, a brilliant fingertip save to push a Bullard free-kick wide, was as good as you could wish to see. How, then, when you have a goalkeeper capable of such dazzling brilliance, do you contend with one who will drop the ball over his own line? So frustrating. I felt like pulling my hair out.
Leaving Gomes aside, it should come as no surprise based on what I've already said, that the midfield performance was poor. Fulham never really dominated the centre of the pitch, even though Bullard put in masses of work and was the centre of attention for them. It was a prime opportunity for Zokora, Jenas, and mostly Huddlestone to assert their authority. I have no doubt that had we absolutely controlled the centre of the pitch, the result would have been very different.
As it was the majority of our attacking came from the wings, and while Lennon added balance in the second half, it was all a bit too much to have to do.
Massively disappointing, also, was Bale. This was his worst performance in a Spurs shirt and continues his appalling record in League games for us. He really was garbage. If you could boil everything down to a single game, and let's face it, you can't, and it would be unfair to. But if you could, this game provided ample proof that Bale is NOT a left back. He was so poor in that position that I found myself wishing for BAE to be on the pitch! His one positive, telling contribution late on was a last ditch tackle that won the ball, but that was just not going to compensate.
Fulham probably thought they should have had a penalty as well. Plenty of shouts in the second half for it, but it wasn't given.
The best Spurs performance, for a second game running, came from Corluka. This time pressed into service at right back, he was yet again superbly composed, never flustered, and just made the game look oh so easy. I found myself idly wondering whether the long term benefit of the club would be best served by having him regularly partner Woodgate at the back. I had to banish that thought very quickly. One simply cannot think such things with Ledley King around.
So, there we had it. The first defeat under the new regime. I think I'd said after the Portsmouth game earlier in the season, that that was a performance you look at and think - bad off day. The problem then was that it wasn't a case of one bad, off day in five or six or seven. It was a regular thing. Today I'm willing to put it down as one piss poor performance in seven. The key will be bouncing right back against Blackburn next weekend. That will go a long way towards proving that today was just a one-off.
Seven games into the Redknapp regime. Five wins, one draw, one defeat.
Tell you what..... if we keep that up from now on every seven games, I'll be a happy man.