Bridge of highs as Tottenham can’t cope in Wayne’s world
Hammers loan star Wayne Bridge put in a superb performance at White Hart Lane on Saturday.
West Ham goalkeeper Robert Green had already made that miraculous save from Gareth Bale’s free kick and the Hammers seemed to have weathered the Tottenham storm when Jermain Defoe latched on to a low pass into the penalty area as the match slipped into injury time.
It looked like meat and drink for the former Hammers striker as he shaped to shoot from barely six yards out, but he was counting without the skills of West Ham full back Wayne Bridge.
The Manchester City loanee sprinted on to the scene and made a stunning last-ditch tackle to deny Spurs for the last time and earn West Ham a deserved point at White Hart Lane.
It was the final act of a stunning performance from the former England international full back and one that certainly impressed manager Avram Grant.
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“He played very, very well defensively,” said the boss after Saturday’s 0-0 draw. “On his side it was not so easy because we left him alone a lot of the time as Demba Ba was playing more as a striker than on the left side and he coped very well.”
It is a far cry from Bridge’s miserable debut back in mid-January when he was partly culpable for all three goals that Arsenal rattled in at Upton Park that day.
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At Tottenham on Saturday it was a very different story. Instead of Theo Walcott, it was another England winger in Aaron Lennon, but this time it was Bridge who was the man in charge.
Captain Matty Upson was never in any doubt that the left back would prove his worth for the Hammers.
“He just needed games,” insisted Upson. “He hadn’t been in the thick of it for quite a long time having had some injuries, so he was slow starting his time here, like you would expect.
“But he has got into his stride now, he has got match fitness and he has shown what a class player he is.”
He certainly did that on Saturday. Lennon was forced to swap wings, while Bridge found himself up against both Bale and Rafael Van der Vaart at times as Tottenham piled on the pressure to look for an opening goal.
Bridge himself was certainly happy with his display.
“It was defintely my best game since joining the club,” said Bridge. “I was up against Lennon who is really quick. You try not to give him much room, but Matty Upson was helping me out and we didn’t give him too much room to play in.
“Bale is used to cutting inside. I tried to stay with him because I know how quick he is and I was just trying to read him. I had to stay as tight as possible and again not give him too much room either.”
Bridge has now played 11 times in claret and blue, with West Ham losing just four of them and Grant knows the vital part he is playing in a position which has seen Herita Ilunga, Danny Gabbidon and even Luis Boa Morte tried in that role.
“Wayne was my player at Chelsea, so I know his qualities,” said the manager. “He is a very good player, but he didn’t play for a long time which makes him on the one hand very hungry to play, but on the other, he needed more games.
“Every game he is getting better and better and we know that we can trust him to do his job.”
He is, and as long as Bridge is firing on all cylinders, West Ham certainly look to have a formidable defence, which is at last, difficult to break down.