If we were looking to bounce back from our defeat at Wolves, we certainly took our time in doing so.
Bolton dominated us in the first half to an extent that we haven’t often seen this season. In truth, we did well to only go in at half-time at 1-0 down, as Bolton out muscled and outplayed us.
Owen Coyle has brought some prettier football to Bolton, but when you have a weapon like Kevin Davies within your ranks, you’d be foolish to completely eschew the option of the long ball.
Bolton peppered our area for long periods, with Davies the central figure. Eventually he got his just rewards when he gave Bolton the lead with a clinical finish, after some smart play down the right flank.
It is strange how some players get promoted to the England set up, whilst other seemingly equally talented individuals, are not deemed to be of sufficient ability. If you had no knowledge of the players on display today, you would think that Davies rather than Crouch was the England international possibly on the way to the World Cup. Perhaps he’s been ignored because he scores relatively few goals, though this has never hampered Emile Heskey.
Davies doesn’t have any trouble scoring against Spurs though and there was some inevitability about his goal today. What wasn’t quite so inevitable was whether Tottenham could mount a comeback in the second half.
Slowly we got back into it and it is a sign of the times that man who inspired us was our left back Gareth Bale. Full backs are are often the type of space that few other positions on the pitch are granted and it is currently a pleasure to see Bale having matured into the type of player who can fully exploit it. The second half was quickly an end to end encounter, with Bale giving us our thrust.
Any time we had the ball in central midfield, you knew that they could stroke it to the left and that Bale would be bombing down the touchline. His pace was electric and his crossing always dangerous.
We hit the bar twice within a few minutes, before Bale got to the byline and drew back an intelligent ball to Defoe, who had peeled off his marker and fired home with conviction.
At 1-1 we looked like the team more likely to win the game and we had a wonderful chance to do just that, when Peter Crouch juggled the ball in the area and forced a Bolton handball.
It was a wonderful chance, until that is we remembered that we don’t actually have anyone who can take penalties. I myself had advocated Huddlestone as someone who might be more adept at the art of the spot kick than Defoe, but when it came down to it, he looked nervous and rather appropriately stuttered, as he ran to the ball. Instead of striking it with the force that we all know he can, Huddlestone instead offered a meek side footed effort, at a convenient height for Jaaskelainen.
After Huddlestone’s miss, a draw always seemed likely, though we did have a couple of half chances. A replay is inconvenient in regards to our (dwindling) Champions League ambitions, but is a decent outcome in terms of winning the FA Cup.
Should we win the replay at White Hart Lane, we then face Fulham at Craven Cottage. It’s by no means an easy route to the semi-final, but nor is it that difficult. Perhaps the FA Cup is a more realistic target than a top four space this season.
It’s not a bad alternative.