International breaks are never good for continuity, so a two week gapwithout a game after our victory over Aston Villa, wasn’t ideal preparation for a difficult away tie against Fulham.
It made our eventual victory all the sweeter. It was the first time this season that we’ve strung two consecutive league wins together and when you include our Champions League game against Twente, we’ve now won three on the bounce.
Considering that we’ve dropped some very unnecessary points against struggling teams, we’ve got to be happy at the way that the league table is looking at the moment. The sports betting firms are unified in making Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United odds on to finish in the top four this season and seem to be ignoring the fact that we’re right on their coattails. Let them carry on wearing the blinkers. We’re better as underdogs than favourites anyway.
Unlike our last two wins, this wasn’t the Rafael van der Vaart show, although he did illuminate the game with a moment of brilliance that resulted in our equaliser. His turn and chip that hit the bar was reminiscent of Glenn Hoddle’s effort against Watford all those years ago. He didn’t get the goal that the moment of skill deserved, but luckily the ball fell at the feet of Pavlyuchenko and he was able to poke it home.
If that’s the sort of stuff that we can expect from VDV even when he’s not on his ‘A-game’ (copyright Jimmy White) then we’ll be in for a memorable season. He came close on another couple of occasions and it whetted my appetite for Everton next weekend, when he should be well-rested after serving his Champions League ban.
Pavlyuchenko’s goal was a perfect response to Fulham’s opener, which could have been avoided. They’d marginally looked the better team in the opening exchanges and had they gone in at half-time 1-0 up, we’d have done well to come away with anything better than a point.
Instead we knocked the wind out of their sails with our swift response and with the addition of Lennon giving us some much needed balance, we began to dominate the match. I wonder though how many first halves we’re going to endure without a right midfielder, before Redknapp realises that it doesn’t really work and starts playing Lennon from the start again?
We had lots of chances to win it, but the eventual goal was a controversial thunderbolt from Tom Huddlestone. It was a lovely strike from distance and it would have been a real shame had it been lost from the annals of great Spurs goals, by being disallowed.
Gallas was clearly in an offside position, but the letter of the law states that he wasn’t interfering with play. Personally, I believe this is something of a nonsense when the player in question is right in front of the keeper and tries to play the ball, but I’m not going to complain on this occasion.
The downside of the win was the injury to Ledley King and the fact that it seems like he’ll be out for another month or so. It was the first game that he’d started with Gallas, which was the eleventh central defensive partnership of the season. When you take that into account, our defensive record and lack of clean sheets doesn’t look so bad.
We’ll just have to pray that Gallas and Bassong make it through Inter and are ready for Everton. That’s the really important game this week, to my eyes at least. If the Champions League is to become the norm rather than just a one-off adventure, then it’s vital that we carry on picking up the points in the league and keep clinging to those coattails.