Earlier this week Antonio Conte described every Tottenham Hotspur game as a “struggle”, and for long spells this was up there with the worst of them under his tenure or the reign of Nuno Espirito Santo before him. Unimaginative, disinterested and sloppy, Tottenham were desperately poor for much of this meeting with League One side Morecambe, who took the lead in north London and held onto it for more than 40 minutes.
It was only after Conte had swung his emergency plan into action, summoning Harry Kane and Lucas Moura from his bench, that his side were able to find some conviction and cohesion in their attack. Such a fact does not say much for the likes of Bryan Gil, Dele Alli and especially for Tanguy Ndombele, who was booed off in the second half before trudging straight down the tunnel.
“If you perform well, the fans are happy,” was Conte’s response to the jeering of Tottenham’s record signing. “When you don’t perform well, the fans are not happy. This is football.”
To think, Morecambe did not even have their manager with them here. Stephen Robinson was missing due to a positive Covid test, leaving 34-year-old assistant Diarmuid O’Carroll in charge in the dugout. Currently 21st in League One and without a training ground of their own, the visitors offered commendable spirit until their resistance was finally broken in the final few moments.
“The boys did themselves proud,” said O’Carroll. “Tottenham were finding it difficult to break us down and had to bring on players of that quality. It is possibly the best stadium in the world and the boys got their heads right. We missed our manager, our leader, but hopefully he will be reasonably happy with what he saw.”
If the scoreline suggests a relatively comfortable afternoon for Tottenham, then the times of their goals should paint a far more accurate picture. Lucas struck in the 85th minute to give them the lead, and Kane added the third in the 88th. Before that, they had to wait until the 74th minute for Harry Winks to score their fortuitous equaliser.
“We struggled to be creative,” said Conte. “At the end I think we have to be a bit disappointed. We can do much better. We must not be happy, for sure, but we reached our target.”
It all marked a disappointing last 20 minutes for Morecambe and their supporters, but they certainly had their fun here. Anthony O’Connor put them in front from a corner, and top scorer Cole Stockton might well have doubled the lead in the second half.