McCarthy bristles with defence to needle Spurs

Tottenham Hotspur 0 Wolves 1
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The Independent Football

The biggest surprise of the weekend came courtesy of a lesson learnt at Chelsea. Wolves' victory by a single goal over Spurs at White Hart Lane on Saturday was the result of the "painful slapping" handed over to the West Midlands side at Stamford Bridge earlier this season, according to Mick McCarthy. The Wolves manager said: "At Chelsea, I set the team up to have a go at them and went 3-5-2. That was my fault. It was my responsibility for that defeat."

Kevin Doyle's goal helped to erase memories of both that defeat and a less forgivable one, 1-0, at home against Birmingham the following week. McCarthy has got into his players over their attitude since. That has led to two consecutive wins – they beat Bolton last week – in the top flight for the first time in "300 years", in McCarthy's words – 26 in reality.

"I hope that result shows that we are starting to find out feet in the Premier League," he said. "It was a measured performance if anything, a calculated performance. Today I set the team up differently and it worked."

The afternoon ended on as sour a note as it had started for Tottenham. Wolves' tight defence contributed to the frustration building up in the Tottenham players with every cross headed out or booted clear. But the pain of losing at home to a team 14 places below them was most visible when Benoït Assou-Ekotto snapped.

The Cameroon left-back, signed from Lens in 2006, was walking off when he, presumably, heard a mouthful of abuse from a Tottenham supporter. A confrontation then followed, with Joe Jordan, the assistant manager, and a steward separating player and fan. Police are looking into the incident.

Ordinarily, recovering from such an early goal should not have been too difficult for Harry Redknapp's side, but they never got into their stride, for which Wolves must take great credit. McCarthy left two men up front to harry Wilson Palacios, and moving his midfield higher up the pitch in the second half to deny Niko Kranjcar and Tom Huddlestone time on the ball. Luka Modric, who was making his first appearance since breaking his leg in early September, will have to find match fitness before he is influential again.

If Tottenham had responded to Doyle's goal with a deluge similar to the one with which they drowned Wigan three weeks ago in winning 9-1, you would have said Wolves had scored too early. McCarthy admitted he had not shown his players the video of that game.

It worked, as for 87 minutes they rarely let Jermain Defoe or, before he was substituted, Robbie Keane get into dangerous positions and snuffed out Spurs on both wings. When the ball did come in, Jody Craddock and Christophe Berra looked to be enjoying rather than enduring the threat posed later on by Peter Crouch.

Just as Redknapp had refused to gloat when beating Wigan, he declined to indulge in too much soul-searching here. The Tottenham manager summed up a weekend of strange results saying: "It's not easy to win any football match, no one's got a divine right to beat anybody. The early goal gave them a massive lift, and then they could sit in and make it difficult for us, and they did that well."

Tottenham Hotspur (4-1-3-2): Gomes; Corluka, Dawson, Bassong, Assou-Ekotto; Palacios (Modric, 59); Lennon, Huddlestone, Kranjcar (Dos Santos, 77); Defoe, Keane (Crouch, 59). Substitutes not used: Alnwick (gk), Hutton, Bale, Rose

Wolverhampton Wanderers (4-4-2): Hahnemann; Stearman (Iwelumo, 80), Craddock, Berra, Ward; Edwards (Foley, 59), Henry, Milijas (Mancienne, 70), Jarvis; Ebanks-Blake, Doyle. Substitutes not used: Hennessey (gk), Surman, Maierhofer, Castillo.

Referee: S Attwell (Warwickshire).

Booked: Wolves Hahnemann, Henry, Jarvis, Mancienne, Ward.

Man of the match: Craddock.

Attendance: 36,012.