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Tottenham vs Stoke City
 1 - 1 
Date: 
Wed Mar 21 19:45:00 GMT 2012
Venue: 
White Hart Lane
Attendance: 
35172
Referee: 
Mike Jones

CAMERON JEROME'S seventh goal of the season edged the Potters ever closer to the magical 40-point mark at White Hart Lane on Wednesday evening... but it could have been so much more had Rafael Van Der Vaart not headed home a dramatic injury time leveller for the hosts.

Harry Redknapp's Champions League chasing side were thankful to the Dutch ace for rescuing them a point from a game in which they looked likely to lose after Jerome had tapped home with just 15 minutes of the pulsating encounter remaining.

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Whilst the Potters were left deflated by the last minute heartbreak, it shouldn't take anything away from what was a real brave performance against a side many are tipping to finish inside the top four for a second time in three years.

Prior to the encounter Peter Crouch and Wilson Palacios were both handed starts on their return to North London, however, there was no place in the matchday squad for two other former Spurs stars, with Matthew Etherington and Jonathan Woodgate both missing out through injury.

England ace Crouch partnered the recalled Jerome in attack, with an entirely different midfield quartet from the side which succumbed to a narrow 2-1 FA Cup defeat against Liverpool just 72 hours earlier.

Jermaine Pennant returned to the right hand side of the four with Palacios and Salif Diao combining in the middle, whilst Pulis called upon Jonathan Walters to occupy a spot on the left; a position he has featured in on a number of occasions.

Jon Walters closes down Scott Parker. ACTION IMAGES

As expected Asmir Begovic resumed his League duties with Thomas Sorensen dropping down to the bench, and the Bosnian ushered an unchanged backline from Sunday's encounter on Merseyside.

Spurs came into the game on the back of three consecutive League defeats, which had brought a halt to their fantastic campaign, and it was clearly evident that the players were short on confidence during the initial exchanges.

Stoke, who had already racked up more points on the road than in any of their previous Premier League campaigns, started by far the brighter of the two sides with Jerome in particular proving to be a shining light for the visitors.

It was in fact the recalled striker who had the first opportunity of the game just five minutes in, as he lashed a dipping half-volley just wide from 25-yards after Walters had superbly laid him off with a clever header.

The pacy forward was again at the thick of the action moments later as he capitalised on a poor clearance from Ledley King, but was unable to hit the target with a curling effort from the edge of the penalty area.

Pulis' side continued to be the more dominant side with Crouch heading wide from a Pennant centre, but the warning signs were soon to come from the hosts as they started to display the characteristics which had helped them establish themselves amongst the league's elite.

Peter Crouch is closed down by Ledley King. ACTION IMAGES

Croatian star Luka Modric began to pull the strings in midfield and he almost grabbed the first goal of the evening after squirming through a packed out 18-yard area and clipping the ball beyond the reach of Begovic, but thankfully dropping wide of the post.

The midfield maestro went equally as close midway through the half from an almost identicle position, only this time he would have been celebrating his fifth League goal of the campaign had Shawcross not managed to divert his strike wide of goal.

As Spurs began to grow in confidence the match came to a standstill when Diao, who was making only his second League start of the season, pulled up with what appeared to have been a hamstring injury. Republic of Ireland international Glenn Whelan was introduced as his replacement.

Niko Kranjcar managed to get the crowd riled up ten minutes before the interval by embarrassingly blazing the ball high into the stand behind the goal, with both Louis Saha and Gareth Bale crying out for the ball to be squared across goal.

Saha, who joined Spurs from Everton in January, did considerably better from a similar position in stoppage time, by forcing Begovic into a superb save to his right with a stinging effort from the corner of the peanlty area.

Redknapp opted to replace the largely ineffective Kranjkar druing the break with the more potent force of Jermain Defoe; a decision which was met with approval by the majority of supporters in attendance.

With news filtering in that Arsenal were leading in their game against Everton at Goodison Park; thus temporarily elevating themselves above their North London rivals, it was no surprise that Spurs started the second half in similar fashion to how they ended the first.

Last season's Premier League Player of the Year Gareth Bale latched onto a Scott Parker ball and drilled an effort straight at the legs of Wilkinson after outmuscling Pennant, whilst Begovic mis-timed an attempted clearance to gift Defoe a sight at goal, but Robert Huth was on hand to spare the Bosnian's blushes.

Robert Huth and Wilson Palacios close down Rafael van der Vaart. ACTION IMAGES

Rafael Van Der Vaart curled a long range free-kick harmlessly over the bar from range, before Pulis shuffled his pack by brining on Dean Whitehead at the expense of Palacios; who left the field to a standing ovation from all four corners of the ground.

A rare Stoke surge forward into the Spurs half almost proved to be fruitful when Crouch very nearly freed Walters at the back post, but somehow Younes Kaboul managed to manouevre himself adequately to cut out the attempted pass.

As the game wore on, you could sense the frustration spread around the disgruntled Spurs supporters as their side struggled to find a way through a dogged and determined Stoke backline.

Those murmurings soon turned to dispair as Jerome popped up unmarked at the back post to tap the ball into an empty net, after Pennant's in-swinging centre somehow managed to find its way through to the former Birmingham City man.

Giovanni Dos Santos was thrown on in one last chuck of the dice for the hosts, and it was he who laid the ball off to Bale, who delivered an inch perfect cross for Van Der Vaart to glance home the leveller, and break Stoke hearts three minutes into stoppage time.

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Cameron Jerome celebrates scoring against Tottenham Hotspur with Peter Crouch and Ryan Shawcross. ACTION IMAGES
Rafael Van Der Vaart's stoppage time header denies the Potters a first-ever League double against Spurs...
 Match Information
 
  Tottenham Stoke
Goals : 1 1
Possession : 71% 29%
Shots On Target : 18 2
Shots Off Target : 6 6
Corners : 13 1
Fouls : 10 10
Most Fouls : Modric (2) Palacios (3)
Yellow Cards : 1 1
Red Cards : 0 0
 
Scorers :
Van der Vaart 90 + 3
Jerome 75
 
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