Martin Jol keeps insisting his Tottenham side are not the finished article and not quite strong enough to finish in a Champions' League place this season. Whether or not he has learnt the art of kidology in order to keep the lid on expectations, you would have to agree with him on the evidence of yesterday's performance.
Against Paul Jewell's Wigan in the only Premiership fixture of the weekend, brought forward one week because of the Carling Cup final, Spurs were looking for the victory that would have increased their lead over arch rivals Arsenal to seven points. Instead they ended up having to battle for a draw, twice coming from behind to cancel out a double from Sweden's Andreas Johansson.
Much has been documented about how Jol has transformed Spurs but six points from the last six matches suggests tension is creeping in as they fight to cement fourth spot.
Yesterday was all about Wigan a week away from their Cardiff appearance against Manchester United. Any thoughts that Jewell's players may have had the final on their minds were quickly erased as they troubled Spurs almost as much as any team at White Hart Lane this season. The visitors were ahead after just 10 minutes, a long upfield punt flicked on by Paul Scharner into the path of Johansson, who finished neatly. A sublime back-heel by Mido pulled Spurs level and the Egyptian was a whisker away from giving his team a half-time lead with a bullet header that just missed the target at the end of an electrifying three-man move. That should have been the signal for Spurs to move into the ascendancy.
Instead, with Edgar Davids and Danny Murphy - the latter making his full debut in place of the virus victim Jermaine Jenas - both looking half-fit and increasingly giving the ball away, Spurs were pushed back. Twice, Henri Camara could have restored Wigan's lead and it was no surprise when Johansson, normally a substitute, did just that, outsmarting Ledley King before rifling the ball past Paul Robinson.
Before Wigan's celebrations could die down, Defoe latched on to Mido's flick for an instant equaliser but Spurs couldn't take advantage. "I've got some tough decisions to make for Cardiff and I'll probably break some hearts but that's what I'm paid for," said Jewell, who knows what it is like to be left out, having been omitted himself from the Wigan starting line-up against Brentford in the 1985 Freight Rover final.
More significantly, Wigan have now moved on to 40 points, the tally managers believe ensures Premiership survival. "Before the season started, I doubt people even thought we'd get 40 corners let alone 40 points," Jewell joked. "What we've achieved should not be underestimated but we won't rest on our laurels."
No one gave more than Jimmy Bullard, a £275,000 bundle of midfield energy who used to play for Peterborough. "He gives the players in the lower reaches hope," Jewell said. "Europe is probably beyond us but we've only spent £2.9m to get from the second division to the Premiership. It shows it can be done."
Jol looked a picture of frustration, in particular with Wigan's first goal, allowed to stand because of the new rule regarding passive offside. "It's a hard rule to defend against but we couldn't get our rhythm together and our service was poor," he said. "Sometimes we are not good enough but I'll be disappointed if we don't finish in the top six - and that means Europe."
Goals: Johansson (10) 0-1; Mido (23) 1-1; Johansson (67) 1-2; Defoe (68) 2-2.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Robinson; Stalteri, Dawson, King, Young; Murphy (Keane, 73), Davids (Huddlestone, 84), Carrick, Lennon; Mido, Defoe. Substitutes not used: Gardner, Kelly, Cerny (gk).
Wigan (4-4-2): Pollitt; Chimbonda, Henchoz (Jackson, 46), De Zeeuw, Baines; Bullard, Kavanagh, Scharner, Thompson; Camara (McCulloch, 90), Johansson.
Substitutes not used: Filan (gk), Mahon, Teale.
Referee: U Rennie (Yorkshire).
Booked: Tottenham Hotspur Mido; Wigan Athletic Kavanagh.
Man of the match: Bullard.
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