Les Ferdinand backs Robbie Keane to find goal touch

24 February 2009 11:28
The Republic of Ireland captain, who last scored in the Barclays Premier League in December, has not yet found the net in two games since rejoining Spurs from Liverpool earlier this month.

Harry Redknapp's team had to rely on midfielder Aaron Lennon and defender Jonathan Woodgate for goals in Monday night's 2-1 win at Hull which lifted Spurs five points clear of the relegation zone.

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Strike duo Keane and Darren Bent, who was replaced by Roman Pavlyuchenko after 72 minutes, struggled to cause the hosts' defence any real problems.

Keane has looked a shadow of his former self since falling out of favour with Anfield manager Rafael Benitez, appearing tentative on the ball while struggling to recreate the kind of link-up play for which he was previously renowned.

However, former Spurs frontman Ferdinand is confident the 28-year-old will soon get back to his best following a frustrating six-month stint on Merseyside.

He said: "I think the reason why Robbie is finding it difficult at the moment is just the fact that he hasn't been playing enough games this season.

"He was in and out of the [Liverpool] side, he had a little run when he first went there but he's been sitting on the sidelines for a long time.

"He came back against Arsenal and played very well, but you usually play that first game off adrenalin and the second, third, fourth game you get your match fitness."

With Keane and Jermain Defoe back at the Lane and Bent issuing a 'play me or lose me' warning to Spurs, much has been made of who Redknapp's first-choice strikers are. But Ferdinand, the former QPR, Newcastle, Spurs and England forward who was brought in to help coach Tottenham's frontmen by Redknapp, believes Keane – who was handed the armband upon his return – is the first name on the team sheet.

He said: "Lots of people say Bent and Pavlyuchenko can't play together but obviously Robbie's come back in now and been given the captaincy, so it's going to be Robbie and another but it's what you want – competition for places."

Reflecting on a first away win in five, Ferdinand admitted it was a case of substance, not style for a Spurs side normally renowned more for their attractive build-up play than grinding out results.

"It was never going to be the most entertaining game in the world," he said. "It was about the three points and we go home happy because we got the three points.

"We knew it was going to be a battle and for the first 45 minutes that's what we got. It was just about whether we could weather the storm and get that edge in the second half and we did that."

Redknapp looks set to send out a youthful side for Thursday's Uefa Cup second leg against Shakhtar Donetsk to give the bulk of the first team time to recover for Sunday's Carling Cup final against Manchester United, with Woodgate already a doubt after picking up a nasty head wound against Hull.

"I've no idea about Sunday at the moment, we've got to see how the boys recover from tonight and go from there," Ferdinand added.

Meanwhile, Hull defender Andy Dawson admitted his side cannot afford to dwell on their latest setback after a disappointing start to a crucial week.

The 2-1 defeat by Tottenham was the first of three home games in the space of six days.

Phil Brown must quickly lift his side for the visit of Sheffield United in an FA Cup fifth-round replay before Blackburn travel to the KC Stadium on Sunday.

Victory over Spurs in a game that, although scrappy, featured chances aplenty would have lifted Hull nine points clear of the relegation zone but Dawson did not want to lament missed chances. "I think if we'd have won it would have given us a little bit of daylight but it wasn't to be," said the 30-year-old left-back.

"We have got to pick ourselves up now. We have got two more massive games this week."

Hull were undone with just four minutes remaining when Woodgate rose superbly to head a cross from Benoit Assou-Ekotto firmly past Matt Duke.

Spurs had led after 17 minutes when Lennon struck a sublime opener from 20 yards but Hull battled back through Michael Turner five minutes later.

The visitors had the better chances in the second half but the game could still have gone either way with both sides hitting the woodwork – Vedran Corluka for Spurs and Kamil Zayatte for Hull.

"We proved in the first half we have the ability to play against a very good team," said Dawson, who briefly came up against his brother when Spurs' Michael was introduced as a late substitute.

"We limited them to very few chances but we have got to do it for 90 minutes, not just 45."

Defeat has now placed extra emphasis on the weekend clash against fellow strugglers Blackburn.

"We all know we need some points from that game," added Dawson.

"They are below us so if we can get a point or three there will be a little bit of a gap.

"It is a massively important time of the season and one we have got to start getting points from."

Conceding late on continued a trend for Hull which has cost them a number of times in the past two months.

Sunderland, Aston Villa and Arsenal also saw off the Tigers with goals in the closing stages of games.

"A lot of late goals have gone in recently and it has cost us a hell of a lot of points, but that is football," said Dawson.

"But if we keep doing what we know we can do we can turn it around.

"Even in the second half when we didn't play well, Kamil Zayatte hit the post. They are maybe just the little things you need to go for you."


Source: Telegraph