Like all good things, it had to come to an end. 11 games went by for Tottenham without the bitter taste of defeat, with six wins after their draw against Newcastle in October pushing them higher and higher up the table.
Stoke were the team to end Tottenham’s remarkable record-equaling run, and it was a win which was largely down to a first half performance that demonstrated Stoke still have it in them to rile one of the big boys when they travel to the Britannia Stadium. And of course, Chris Foy.
Spurs manager Harry Redknapp would do well to move on from the at-times baffling decisions made from Foy during an utterly frustrating second half performance that begged the question: Just what had Harry Redknapp’s men ever done to him?
In the space of thirty second half seconds he and his assistants contrived to get two game changing decisions wrong: a handball on the line by Ryan Shawcross from a Younes Kaboul shot before Emmanuel Adebayor was ruled offside when he stood a comfortable two yards behind the defensive line.
That Kaboul, who should have won a penalty earlier in the half to add to the one Luka Modric successfully appealed for, picked up the first of two yellow cards in the game for a rather vigorous remonstration following the incident could only conjure the image of a rock of salt being driven into the bloodiest of wounds.
Redknapp clearly must have been riled after the game with Foy’s performance such was the talk of bacon sandwiches and 30-years free of referee induced criticism, but to bleat about the referee (as much as he warrants it) misses half of the point.
For all the fury post-match about the performance of Foy it was the blood and thunder of Stoke and the ferocious crowd, especially in the first half, that forced Spurs into chasing the game.
There are few sights as edifying in English football as the Britannia stadium sensing blood, and led by the immaculate Peter Crouch, Tony Pulis’ men certainly rocked Spurs unlike any of the sides they have swept aside in recent weeks.
Crouch was almost unplayable at times, winning every first ball, and as soon as Spurs dropped off to contest the second ball he would bring it down calmly and put his side on the front foot – there were even a few flicks and backheels in the second half.
Tottenham looked unsure of how to deal with Stoker at times in the first 45, trying to match them blow for blow or play on the counter.
Ably assisted by Ryan Shotton and Jonathan Walters, who was a persistent menace throughout, Crouch ensured that every set piece (another bugbear for Spurs, who looked exasperated at the time-wasting on display) was a nightmare for the visitors.
Matthew Ethrington, another Spurs old boy coming back to haunt his former employers, took advantage twice of the chaos caused by Crouch and his cohorts, even if his first effort was thanks to another handball, this time by Crouch, that Mr. Foy missed.
Whereas before Tottenham had conceded eight goals in their 11 game unbeaten streak, their seemingly infallible back-line now looked susceptible to conceding each time Shotton’s shirt was lifted to reveal an ingenious club shop tea towel sewn onto the inside of his shirt.
It is of course a credit to Spurs and Redknapp’s much maligned tactical nous that in the second half they assumed almost total dominance.
The five man midfield deployed by Redknapp helped cut off the supply to Crouch and Walters up front and bought Gareth Bale into the game after an anonymous first stanza.
Scott Parker and Emmanuel Adebayor also grew into the game while Walker, playing at wing-back on the opposite flank to Bale, became more of a threat as the game progressed.
Bale in particular put in some sumptuous crosses that both Adebayor and Jermain Defoe couldn’t get on the end of while Parker demonstrated an engine that saw him pop up on the wing and taking on the full-back in the dying embers of the game.
That pressure led to the awarding of a Tottenham penalty after Luka Modric’s quick feet proved too much for Glenn Whelan, who lunged for the bait dangled in front of him by the wily Croatian.
Adebayor would then convert the spot kick only for Mr Foy to take centre stage and alter the course of the game.
Many had suggested before hand that the trip to Stoke on a cold winter’s afternoon is just the type of game they needed to win if they are to challenge for the title.
While they failed to pick up all three points, there is at least reason for Redknapp to be positive after changing the course of the game from the man-handling they were on the receiving end of.
Of course Redknapp should have every right to criticise, and the fact that he or any manager is unable to hold a man accountable for his actions on the field when he and his players are scrutinized under the brightest light remains one of football’s greatest flaws.
But he need not get distracted from the fact that his side were on the receiving end of a real roughing up which they rode out and come through only to be denied.
They deserve credit as do Stoke for their approach to the game. There is still plenty to play for in north London this season.
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