After six successive defeats, back-to-back wins. Martin Jol's Tottenham Hotspur maintained the Premiership's second-best defensive away record at Ewood Park last night by keeping a clean sheet in beating Blackburn Rovers with a second-half Robbie Keane goal.
Spurs have now conceded five times in their eight games away from White Hart Lane this season and the Jol revolution, previously noted for its emphasis on attack, can now be accredited with building on the defensive foundations laid during Jacques Santini's ill-fated reign as head coach.
This was their second successive clean sheet and it was the hallmark of a performance that was effective but far from vintage.
Results elsewhere saved Blackburn from dropping into the bottom three - Fulham were the only team apart from Spurs in the lower half to gain so much as a point yesterday - but this was a chance missed to make up lost ground. Until Mark Hughes can improve his striking options in next month's transfer window the chances are his side will continue to struggle to climb the table. On a mild evening in the North-West, it was Spurs who started with the greater urgency.
Keane, recalled in favour of Frédéric Kanouté, twice embarked on trademark dribbles that took him inside the Blackburn penalty area without quite providing a clear shooting opportunity.
By contrast, Paul Dickov was starved of service. The only impact he could make was to push Ledley King, making his 150th appearance for Spurs, into the advertising hoardings as the England defender shepherded the ball out for a goal-kick. The normally placid King had to be restrained by his team-mates.
Undeterred, Dickov earned himself a booking by fouling Noureddine Naybet two minutes later and Spurs' Thimothee Atouba exacted further revenge by aiming a snide kick at the Scotland forward off the ball.
Towards the end of a mediocre first half, both sides at least came close to scoring. Andy Todd found himself unmarked on the penalty spot but could not direct his volley towards goal. Then Jermain Defoe ran on to Keane's pass and forced Brad Friedel into deflecting his shot on to the roof of the net.
Dickov concentrated on football in the second half and one intelligent run presented his strike partner, Paul Gallagher, with the chance to turn and shoot from eight yards, Paul Robinson turning his effort around the post.
Keane's winner arrived 11 minutes after the break. Michael Brown capitalised on Dickov's misplaced return pass to Barry Ferguson and was allowed to carry the ball 60 yards into the Blackburn area. When he looked for help he spotted Keane arriving and rolled the ball into the path of the Irish striker, who shot first-time past Friedel.
That allowed Spurs the luxury of acres of space on the break as the home side chased an equaliser, a situation made for the likes of Keane and Defoe.
It was they, rather than Blackburn, who looked the more likely source of a second goal in the closing stages.Reuse content