Never mind the quality, feel the width. Tottenham were poor last night and it required a penalty one minute from time converted by Robbie Keane to secure this win, but it widened the gap between them and their neighbours Arsenal, one of their main rivals for the last Champions' League place, to five points.
With only seven games remaining for Spurs, they may need to draw on the manner of this victory if they are to hold their nerve and reach Europe's premier club competition for the first time. West Bromwich were entitled to feel hard done by, although in the end they were the architects of their own downfall.
Tomas Kuszczak, otherwise excellent, hit his clearance into Jermain Defoe on the edge of the penalty area. Defoe chased the looping ball and was pulled back by the Polish international. A penalty-kick was inevitable and the Irishman dispatched his 100th career league goal, 51 of them coming in the Premiership, with the minimum of fuss. He had notched up his 99th, 21 minutes earlier to put Spurs back into contention.
The Baggies' manager Bryan Robson was in no doubt as to where the blame lay for losing this game and throwing away the chance to extend their lead over Birmingham City, who occupy the last relegation position, by at least a point.
"That was sheer bad play by us," he said. "We've done that too many times. We put in good performances against top teams and then we end up shooting ourselves in the foot. The second goal was woeful. A point here would have been a good point."
The way the game ended was in stark contrast to the start. After sticky opening 20 minutes for the hosts, when they found few gaps and even fewer sightings of goal, Tottenham eventually came unstuck in a manner that left their manager, Martin Jol, distinctly unhappy.
With 21 minutes elapsed Nathan Ellington ventured down Spurs' right flank, which had looked vulnerable, guarded only by Stephen Kelly, the young right-back. The West Bromwich striker cut inside from the touchline and, although he let the ball get away from him, he collided with Michael Carrick, the referee Chris Foy generously awarded a free-kick and Jol let his feelings be known.
Greening delivered the perfect cross for Curtis Davies. The centre-half was allowed to steal in at the far post and from there he headed his second goal of the season with ease.
In the week of the Champions' League quarter-finals, the paucity of the football generally offered by Jol's side after a nine-day break was a reminder of the challenges that potentially await Spurs next season. Against a team such as West Bromwich, set up to do nothing more than defend and counter-attack, it showed they still have far to travel.
Spurs naturally pressed on after the interval, although prospects of a breakthrough looked less likely than their second home defeat of the season, after their defeat by Chelsea last August. But the midfield finally worked a way through the middle of the Baggies' packed defence after 68 minutes, Carrick's pass being met by Keane, who clipped his shot over the advancing Kuszczak.
But the denouement was still surprising, and Robson's words will have been ringing in Kuszczak's ears all the way back to West Bromwich last night.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Robinson; Kelly (Mido, 60), Dawson, King, Lee; Lennon, Davids (Murphy, 85), Carrick, Jenas; Defoe, Keane. Substitutes not used: Cerny (gk), Tainio, Gardner.
West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Kuszczak; Albrechtsen, Davies, Watson, Robinson; Kozak (Inamoto, 63), Wallwork, Johnson, Greening; Kanu (Campbell, 81), Ellington (Gera, 85). Substitutes not used: Hoult (gk), Clement.
Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).Reuse content