There was something of a grim inevitability about it – Tottenham 1-0 up and cruising but starting to lose control of the ball and the game.
When reported transfer target Ayoze Perez converted in injury time, the White Hart Lane faithful slumped into their seats, taken back in time to the days of Christian Gross, Gerry Francis and just about every other manager in the club’s recent history.
Newcastle’s 2-1 victory over Spurs was certainly fortuitous in nature, and if the game was played another ten times the hosts would surely win seven or eight of them.
But, just as the north London club were about to go a record 15 Premier League games unbeaten, it all came crashing down.
Although questions remain over whether Mauricio Pochettino has really changed the mentality and ethos of a club that has become accustomed to being the nearlymen, it is worth examining just why this standalone result occurred.
At half-time Spurs could well have been a couple of goals to the good, dominating affairs without absolutely lambasting their relegation-threatened opponents.
Eric Dier had scored the opener and the home crowd was eager in anticipation of more goals to come.
However, despite Pochettino stating afterwards that Newcastle only came into the game when Aleksandar Mitrovic equalised in the 74th minute, there was a change in tact right from the start of the second half. One player and his respective performances in each half typified Spurs’ combined efforts, with the goalscorer Dier putting in contrasting showings in the two 45-minute stints.
In the first half the newly capped England international continued down the route he has taken since moving forward from centre-half to become an impressive midfield enforcer. It was the former Sporting Lisbon man who anchored the Lilywhites’ midfield with assurance. He was always available to receive the ball, won the boiler room contests and picked out a team-mate when in possession.
However, in the second half the story was different, with Dier guilty of being caught out of position, trying to do too much with the ball, giving possession away carelessly and lacking the fire and determination that has characterised his season to date.
The young midfielder was joined by the majority of his team-mates in having a flat second half; the reason for this is unclear.
Maybe it was fatigue finally catching up to a young team that boasts being one of the fittest in the division after a string of recent fixtures, including a Europa League clash three days prior. Potentially it was Tottenham reading too many reports in which journalists and pundits have waxed lyrical about their supposed new mental toughness and ability to pose a title threat. One way or the other, the defeat to Newcastle serves as a timely reminder to Dier and his team-mates that they are a young side and that a lot of work must be done to achieve their objectives.
Although Dier has looked mightily impressive this season, he tried to overcomplicate things in the second half and was duly punished by gifted individual opponents in a struggling team.
For Spurs boss Pochettino, keeping this ambitious young group’s feet on the ground and instilling the fact that a game is not over until it is over will be necessary for the club to finish in the top four this season and progress in the future.