- Jun 5, 2004
[banner by the always awesome chrissivad]
With 88 minutes on the clock, I slumped forward on my bar stool with a deep sigh. "How could a goal like that be buried beneath a result like this?" I thought. I swilled the apple & mango J20, that hadn't been shaken properly, and threw it down my throat as to avoid all the nasty bits making contact with my tongue. I looked left and right at my fellow Tottenham watching compadres, and gave another one of those sighs.
Clichy had the ball as the clock ran down. I expected him to beat Jenas comfortably and start adding the vinegar to the already salty wound, but like a horse shot with a sonic gun, he fell in a heap. GO ON JJ, I yelled, as he raced through the gears, accelerating beyond the Arsenal chaser and with a deft drop of the shoulder he bent in an absolute beauty with his wrong foot. In any circumstances that would have been greeted with some sort of running around celebration, but it was a consolation. Nothing more.
A neuron or two dared to flicker in the Stoof grey matter. What if we could nick one? Oh stop it Stoof, stop getting yourself all worked up. Look, they've got the ball again, it's not going to happen. Oooh free-kick given. Right Bentley, this has got to be good. Got to be good. Headed out for a corner by that blaggard Gallas. Come on, this corner has got to be good Bentley. Has to be good.
As Arsenal broke away, I dreaded a Gooner Fifth to compound our misery. But it never came. The ball was hoofed up to Huddlestone, and then to Modric who turned and shot and hit the post, and and and … LENNON!!! What followed was a bit of a blur for me. In the Temple Walkabout, myself, a recently returned Jimbo and talkshowhost86 danced a stupid jubilant dance. The Arsenal fans in front of us finished their pints, muttered something and then walked off. They hadn't lost, but oh how they'd been beaten.
It's these sorts of games that make the cockerel emblazoned across my heart swell with pride (not in some sort of cardiac arrest!). It's these moments where it all makes sense to me. Everyone has their story, their reason for support our great club, I've said many a time in this column that the up and down but deeply glorious nature of our play is something to love and despise all at the same time – and that we as Spurs fans wouldn't want it any other way.
Last night we wrote ourselves another page of history, 4-2 down with a minute + stoppage time left, away from home. We grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and said "No, Arsene, you're not having these points. Not today". And by gosh did Harry Houdini pull off one hell of a trick.
Let me return to the very beginning: a divine raking ball from Huddlestone to Bale who almost exposed Almunia at his near post. That set the tone of what was to follow. Both sides absolutely going for it; we even had the better of the opening exchanges – seemingly Arsenal were caught cold and we planned to exploit this. With only 12 minutes on the clock, Jenas chested the ball down to Bentley who teed himself up and dreamt of running down the other end to yell with his fellow Spurs fans. As he let fly with a tumultuous swing of his heavily insured right foot, the ball whimpered as it was violated from beneath. It swung, it span, it rose, it dipped and it went in. IT WENT IN. My jaw dropped. The bloke behind me's jaw dropped. The pub erupted, and Bentley ran down the other end to yell with his fellow Spurs fans. One of the greatest goals in a North London derby, and in my sexy opinion it's allowed to rub shoulders with Gascoigne's in April of 1991.
As tends to happen at the Emirates we sat back and Gomes looked increasingly shaky. Now, I know it's easy to say this and I know there are some forum people out there that will be feeling mighty small at the moment, but Gomes is not our answer as a Number 1. I'm all for giving chances to people, but I just have not seen enough in him to be this commanding number 1 we all want and need. I just still wonder why we didn't try and hijack a Premiership experienced goalkeeper. Brad Friedel's the one that sticks out for me. But I suppose that's pointless conjecture, however I'm not sure that Gomes instils anything close to confidence in our ever-changing back four.
Hutton had a mare too. His attempted goal-line clearance, and his hand in the 4th Arsenal goal were shocking lapses for a £9 million full-back – but I have seen enough of him to think that this is simply down to lack of a pre-season and I hope that he returns to show exactly why we paid that money for him. I also think that Bentley and him are made for a right hand sided combination.
So after a couple of typical set-piece conceded goals and Hutton's failed clearance, we were on the back foot until Huddlestone let fly with an almighty rocket that not even the best goalies would have held, and it was there for Darren Bent to collect his first Derby goal, slotting home neatly and breathing hope into our team. Bent had come on for the tireless Pavlyuchenko, who really really impressed me. He seems to have developed a first touch and the ability to hold off players and he looked every inch like a possible Berbatov replacement. I don't credit the statement that Bent and Pav can't play together, I think we'll see them both in the starting line-up soon enough – especially if they can involve Modric sitting behind them. I thought he too showed glimpses last night of absolute marvel. His feet are fantastic; and I thought it would have been fitting had it been his shot that went in for the 4-4 so he could stick two fingers up in the direction of Wenger and say "lightweight, schmightweight". As it was, after Hutton's disastrous mistake for their fourth, JJ and more devastatingly, Lennon, sealed our dramatic comeback and reinforced my love of this great club and made my voice very very sore.
As a closing stat: a point off Arsenal at the Emirates? A point off Chelsea at the Bridge? That's Title Challenging form isn't it?
*tongue well and truly in cheek*