Tim Sherwood's first match since being given an 18-month contract to run Tottenham Hotspur didn't end up exactly like he had hoped, but he seems to have brought some stability on the touch line as Spurs continue their holiday fixture march Sunday at White Hart Lane versus Stoke City.
Spurs (9-4-5) are in eighth place on 31 points as they near the halfway mark, which is somewhat impressive given they've totalled on 19 goals - better than only Stoke among teams in the top half of the table. The Lilywhites were held to a 1-1 draw on Boxing Day by West Bromwich Albion, conceding Jonas Olsson's goal two minutes after Christian Eriksen gave Spurs the lead on a free kick in the 36th minute.
"The shame is that we scored a goal, a fantastic free kick from Christian, but before we drew breath they equalised," lamented Sherwood to the team's official website. "We didn't carve them open enough and didn't show enough quality in the final third, that was disappointing."
Spurs have gotten a win and a draw in league play under Sherwood's stewardship following the dismissal of Andre Villas-Boas, but they are still lacking bite at home. Tottenham have claimed only nine points from their nine home matches, scoring just eight goals, and are winless in their last four (0-2-2) at White Hart Lane.
Like Spurs, Stoke (5-6-7) have been a team challenged on offence with only 18 goals. The Potters were overrun at St James' Park on Boxing Day as Newcastle United throttled them 5-1. It started brightly for Stoke as Oussama Assaidi scored in the 29th minute, but both Glenn Whelan and Marc Wilson received red cards in a three-minute span around manager Mark Hughes' expulsion late in the first half, and the Magpies hammered the nine-man Potters for four second-half goals.
Thomas Sorensen, who will continue to start after first-choice goalkeeper Asmir Begovic suffered a broken finger in practice on Wednesday, nearly got Stoke into break with a lead after denying Loic Remy's penalty attempt following Wilson's ejection for hauling down the Frenchman, but a deflected effort from Remy found its way home for the equaliser as things quickly went downhill for the Potters.
"Up to the point when the first sending-off was given I thought we were totally in control of the game," Hughes said. "We've got a big game Sunday against Tottenham, and in the end we have to try and protect players. We have to put this one behind us. We were on our way to maximum points, but we have to dust ourselves off now."
Spurs claimed four points in the two matches between the teams last season, but Stoke held out for a scoreless draw in the corresponding fixture at White Hart Lane as Begovic made five saves. Tottenham have four wins and two draws in their last seven matches versus Stoke City, and the Potters have not beaten Spurs in London since a 1-0 victory on Oct. 24, 2009.