Hate is not a very nice word is it. To hate someone, or something, is quite a negative emotion. So (as it is a nice Sunday morning) let me just say that I don’t like Spurts very much. In the same way that I don’t like the thought of being hit by a bus, being run over by a steam roller or having my testicles removed with a sharp pointed stick. Now, taking all of this into consideration, you will understand how difficult it is for me to say that Glenda’s bunch of losers actually played some reasonable football in the first half today and were unlucky not to head into the break at least a goal up. That they didn’t was down – once more – to the great Carlo Cudicini and a free kick that was awesome even by the incredible standards of Gianfranco Zola.
Simon Davies (one Spurts player I would not mind having) should have opened the scoring when he found himself totally unmarked in the area after 16 minutes, but his shot was superbly saved by Carlo. Spurts had several chances as our defence for once looked totally static. Within a minute of the Davies effort they took the lead and it had to be Sheringham. Anderton, now fully recovered from his broken shoelaces, cold, headache or whatever else he manages to pick up, put in a cross and there was Sheringham, looking decidedly offside, to knock it in. It had been coming and we had just not dealt with the warning signs.
We did eventually wake up and had several good efforts. Not least of these was a shot by Lampard, who forced a good save from Keller. The rebound broke to Bolo, whose shot was remarkably cleared off the line by King. But five minutes before the break we scored when a free kick out on the left was brilliantly converted by Zola. It is one that is worth watching again and again and again and from that moment on it was all one way traffic.
After the break Lampard saw his volley take a slight deflection and fly inches wide, Keller then denied the Gronk, and as Eidur pursued the rebound Gardner shoved him out of the way. A blatant penalty but – bearing in mind who the referee was – the appeals were turned down. Gronk, playing one of his best games, created another shooting chance for Zola, but the little Italian somehow dragged his shot wide from 15 yards. Keller then made a superb double save, first to deny Gudjohnsen and then substitute Mario Melchiot.
Spurts will say they defended well and deserved their point. I would say that we controlled the majority of the game and should have taken our chances. When you look at it in the cold light of day, however, had it not been for Carlo we would have been at least two goals down early on. In those circumstances a point was probably a fair reflection of the game.
The season continues to be an up and down one. The fantastic comeback on Tuesday made me think we might still challenge for the top honours while now I am left wondering if we can cling on to a Champions League spot. The Gooners won at the death, United won again, Everton have caught us up and Newcastle must be smiling even with their week off. Three points next Saturday are never more crucial than they are now. The trouble is Birmingham have been dragged into the relegation scrap and will be fighting for their very lives. Next Saturday we will need a team prepared to scrap every inch of the way. Let’s hope Claudio makes our players understand that.
TEAM: Cudicini – Gallas, Desailly, Terry, Le Saux (Hasselbaink 72); Gronkjaer (Cole 87), Petit, Lampard, Zenden (Melchiot 45); Zola, Gudjohnsen. Subs Not Used: de Goey, Morris.