Norwich City vs. Tottenham Hotspur: Final score 1-1; Bale and Holtby good, also lots of blah

Jamie McDonald

Tottenham had 70 minutes of a terrible game and 20 of a very good one. Our shortcomings were clear for all to see, as were our best attributes. I have no idea how to frame this report.

Well, the good news is that we've solved one problem which was plaguing this team. Spurs no longer start games strong, then peter off and allow the opposition back in right at the end, allowing an inevitable opposition goal and ending up with a frustrating draw. Unfortunately, the flip side is that increasingly, events now seem to be running in the absolute inverse direction without delivering any better results. For most of Tottenham's tie against Norwich, we never even turned up; for the final quarter of the game, we were electric and probably could've secured three points today.

Norwich came out of the blocks and pressed hard early. Worryingly, Jan Vertonghen and Michael Dawson struggled to deal with both the aerial onslaught visited upon our box by the once-again brilliant Robert Snodgrass and the physicality of Grant Holt. The team remained fairly static with very little positive movement through the middle of the pitch throughout the whole of the first half, with no-one other than Aaron Lennon and Kyle Walker down the right flank having a real go at carrying the ball forward. Defoe and Dempsey were once again completely uninvolved with proceedings for the most part.

Eventually, and deservedly, Hoolahan opened the scoring in the 31st minute from a chance created with a great backpost cross from Snodgrass and a clever low pass from Anthony Pilkington. As we've had to sadly state many times on this side, the scarcity of cover down by the right stick was a real concern and our Achilles heel again on the night. Defoe had Tottenham's only good chance of the half after being sprung through on goal, but his shot was well saved by Bunn.

The second half started just as badly and Norwich probably should've gone two up almost straight away. This seemed to finally wake Spurs up a tiny bit and we steadily carved out a few chances while holding the ball more and more. Once again AVB left it far too long to make a sub, holding off on allowing Lewis Holtby to make his Spurs debut until the 70thminute. The results, however, were brilliant; Holtby shone from the moment of his introduction, linking up beautifully time and time again with Aaron Lennon, showing immense workrate to cover much of the pitch and showing off the kind of flair in his drinks and flicks that this side has sorely needed.

Spurs continued to crank up the heat from this point, fencing Norwich in, and the breakthrough finally came when Gareth Bale scored a goal of outstanding quality, bursting through the middle as he did on the same stretch of turf last season and pounding in an beautiful finish under heavy pressure. Most pleasingly of all, he might have silenced a few critics by staying on his feet after a heavy challenge from Tettey in the buildup. The chances kept coming after this and the freshly-subbed on Gylfi Sigurdsson was again denied his first PL goal on 87 minutes by a sweet save from Bunn on his peach of a strike from distance. That effort ultimately proved Spurs' final roll of the dice, and the match closed out at 1-1.

As I hinted earlier, I don't really feel too exhausted or exhilarated by this result. We could've won it, we could've utterly blown it, and we probably did well all things considered just to secure the point. Going forwards, the key to tighter performances seems pretty obvious- Holtby, who lifted the whole side in his appearance and helped our slow turning of the tables become a near-total rout, now needs to get as many starts as possible in our run in to the last stretch of games. It's as simple as that. We finally have the creative piece of the jigsaw that we've needed to scrape through stodgy games like this one, and now we have to use him as often as possible.

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