Sam Allardyce had said that Martin Jol was beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel at Tottenham Hotspur. It turned out to be an oncoming train from Newcastle. With only one league win to their name in ten games – and that against Derby – Spurs remain in the bottom three.
They conceded their 21st goal here last night, a total only Reading and Derby can beat. The leaks are alarming and they will continue as long as Michael Dawson defends as he did. Dawson was culpable on Obafemi Martins' opener just before half-time and also on Claudio Cacapa's second six minutes into the second half.
Robbie Keane did pull a goal back on 57 minutes and with Dimitar Berbatov introduced and Didier Zokora starting to show in midfield at last, there was a brief period when the Londoners appeared as if they might have enough to scratch an equaliser.
But it was wishful thinking on Spurs' part. There was no clear chance created by them after Keane's seventh goal in seven games and any hope of securing a point was lost when James Milner fluffed a right-foot volley in the 73rd minute only to rifle it past Radek Cerny with his left instead.
Cerny was Paul Robinson's stand-in and the England 'keeper may be glad he is carrying an injury. Robinson is not expected back for the visit of Blackburn Rovers to White Hart Lane on Sunday and only Ledley King of the other major names is missing. There was admittedly no Jermain Defoe here, not even on the bench, but that was a tactical omission.
Berbatov started in the dugout and his demeanour was of an unhappy camper.
The Bulgarian apparently refused the invitation to warm up on three occasions although when he appeared afterwards Jol denied that. "Rubbish," Jol said, "no problem at all."
But then Jol also said that he thought Spurs were "fairly comfortable" until Newcastle scored, a view that disregarded Abdoulaye Faye's 13th minute header onto the bar and Cerny's 27th minute fingertip save from Michael Owen.
But Jol did address the central issue: his defence. "Even when we play well we seem to concede goals. You saw the first goal – a long ball to a small striker. The second goal? A corner kick. Before the game we tell them who to pick up. But, disastrous."
Jol said the thought the "spirit" is still in his team "but we lack a bit of leadership". It needs to be rediscovered swiftly. This was the first of five matches in twelve days across three competitions.
Jol cited that as a reason for Berbatov being a substitute. When he did replace Steed Malbranque just before the hour, Berbatov linked well as Tottenham seized the momentum for the first time.
However, the accuracy of their passing in that short spell served to highlight the sloppiness of what went before. The distribution of Jermaine Jenas, an England international, was woeful. Pascal Chimbonda's was not much better.
At least Chimbonda supplied the cross from which Darren Bent hit the post with a header, the ball coming back off the woodwork for Keane to tap in. But Allardyce put on Joey Barton for his debut not long after and that had an impact. Milner scored almost immediately.
Perhaps had they not lost Gareth Bale twenty minutes in or not conceded just before the interval, Spurs' night might have been different. But Dawson's inability to clear Jose Enrique's fifty-yard pass, allowing Martins to ram the ball through Cerny altered the balance of the match.
Cacapa tilted it further towards the home side with his first Newcastle goal. It was the third home game in a row in which Newcastle have scored three and they have their best start to a season for a decade.
"We're coming together," Allardyce said. Spurs aren't.Reuse content