Bartlett strikes deepen the gloom despite fighting show

Tottenham Hotspur 2 - Charlton Athletic 3

Having lost a manager overnight, Spurs also continued their losing habit against Charlton, but it was a close thing in the end after the visitors, with a pair of Shaun Bartlett goals in the first half, went 3-0 up before Bartlett was shown a red card in giving away a penalty.

Despite the pre-match pitchside assur-ance of the sporting director, Frank Arn-esen, that Jacques Santini's departure had been entirely the manager's own decision, the Spurs fans were more preoccupied with the impending memorial service for Bill Nicholson at White Hart Lane today, as the profusion of "in loving memory" signs around the stadium indicated.

Quite what Nicholson would have made of this Spurs side is another matter. His first advice would surely have been to try playing the ball along the ground.

Perhaps it was something to do with the fact that, for the second year in succession, Tottenham have failed to get through the autumn without losing a manager. At any rate, after a bright start they had lost four of their last five matches before facing Charlton, a side who know little else but success at Spurs' home. They came into this match unbeaten at White Hart Lane in the Premiership, having last lost 14 years ago, when one of the goals was scored by Gary Lineker.

Following their limp defeat at home to Middlesbrough last week, Charlton were clearly under orders not to let Tottenham take the initiative. They did not stand on ceremony, belting the ball into the crowd if necessary whenever danger threatened, which was not frequently.

Their goalkeeper, Dean Kiely, did not have to make a difficult save in the opening 45 minutes, as Spurs opted to play Jermain Defoe and Frederick Kanouté up front, with Robbie Keane on the left side of midfield.

One clever dummy by Defoe gave Kanouté space to collect a cross from the right, but his shot was blocked by the red shirts massed in the penalty area.

There were ominous signs for Spurs when Ledley King was forced to bundle away a Hermann Hreidarsson cross with his knee and, sure enough, just past the quarter-hour, Charlton went ahead. Their captain, Matt Holland, started it with a crisp pass out to Jerome Thomas on the left touchline. The centre was curled in, and with not a Spurs challenge in evidence Bartlett clipped the ball wide of Paul Robinson's dive to his left.

With 20 minutes gone the home complaints of "rubbish" started, and there was not much in Spurs' performance to silence the criticism. Kanouté missed an easy far-post header from Keane's cross, and the tall striker next ballooned over when Simon Davies missed connecting with a bouncing ball in front of goal.

Charlton showed how chances should be created and put away by scoring again seven minutes before the interval. Jonatan Johansson, operating deep, slid out a pass for Luke Young on the overlap, and his cross was so precisely delivered that Bartlett had no problem heading it back across Robinson's forlorn dive.

There was a chance for Spurs to cut the deficit when Defoe won a free-kick on the edge of the box, but Kanouté was again at fault, driving his shot into the wall.

Before five minutes had been played in the second half Spurs fell three goals behind. Thomas was the real architect of the goal, swapping passes with Bartlett to drive in a shot which took a slight deflection off King.

If they were dismayed by this further setback, Tottenham did not show it. Immediately they began to play with purpose. Kiely was forced into his first real save, collecting low down from Keane, and thereafter he was hardly ever out of the action, though there was nothing he could do about the Kanouté shot which rebounded off the base of a post.

Jamie Redknapp's disappointing return after suspension was terminated on the hour when he was replaced by Michael Carrick, a change which introduced even more energy into Tottenham's play. In the 69th minute Spurs finally got a goal back and Charlton lost Bartlett in the same moment.

A long, high free-kick escaped Kiely's clutches, and when the substitute Reto Ziegler drove towards the untenanted net Bartlett handled to keep the shot out. The red card was inevitable and Keane put away the penalty for only his third goal of the season.

Charlton were on the ropes after this. A goal-bound shot by Keane was blocked by Chris Perry, but the Irishman's next intervention brought Spurs a second goal. He put in a determined run to the edge of the penalty box before slipping a short pass to Defoe, who turned and shot in one lightning move to send the ball past the despairing Kiely. However, Charlton held on for a win they deserved.

Comments