In the current circumstances, Spurs need a result from this game to lift the pressure on Martin Jol and to restore some confidence in the players. That will not be easy taking Fulham’s home record into account and comparing it with Spurs’ current form and their season long malaise away from White Hart Lane.
How quickly Spurs’ form has turned around – it was not so long ago that these previews were showing W W W W and the confidence and optimism were high. The record through December was camouflaged by many Cup results and it kept us happy but Spurs’ current form record is rather depressing: L L L W D D with the only win against Southend in the Cup and one of the two draws being the Premiership game at Craven Cottage which needed Chimbonda’a late equaliser to grab the point.
Fulham showed in that game that this will not be easy and they are determined to progress in the Cup and their manager Chris Coleman has done a good job to turn their season round when everyone had them as relegation candidates at the start of the season.
Fulham showed their fighting qualities in the 3rd Round Replay when they came back from a 1-3 half-time deficit against Leicester to win 4-3 with Wayne Routledge scoring the late winner. They comfortably defeated Stoke 3-0 in the next round. Brian McBride is scoring regularly for them and Montella has scored three goals in the Cup as well as the penalty against Spurs in the League game. Routledge is not available to play against Spurs.
Spurs’ FA Cup record against Fulham is perfect – they have met on three occasions and Spurs have progressed each time. The most recent game was in the 3rd Round in 1998 – Christian Gross’ team won 3-1 at White Hart Lane, Calderwood, Clemence and an own goal taking Spurs through. The only FA cup meeting at Craven Cottage will be remembered by many for Graham Roberts’ super hero performance. Again, in the 3rd Round, in 1984, Roberts had to go into goal when Ray Clemence was injured. He maintained a clean sheet, something Robinson might like to achieve this weekend, to earn Spurs a scoreless draw and a replay in which Roberts turned goal scorer along with Steve Archibald, as Spurs won 2-0. The other Cup success was in Spurs’ first season in the Football League, a 2nd Round home game in 1909 which Spurs won with a goal from Bobby Steel.
Martin Jol in talking up Spurs’ chances has said that the team haven’t lost a Cup game over ninety minutes this season – that is true but he will need more than statistics to see Spurs into the 6th Round against a very capable Fulham side. Spurs can win, it may require a replay, but only if the players are motivated for the game and prepared to give it everything, something that has been missing this season. Jol’s selection issues are eased with Defoe and Jenas being suspended. The selection in midfield is critical if Spurs are to succeed – there needs to be a balance to provide cover for the defence but also to provide creativity for the strikers who are starved of chances and support. Lennon needs to play and show his attacking ability to keep the Fulham defence on their toes, otherwise Spurs just ask teams to attack them and they are unable to contain and survive ninety minutes under such pressure.
Will supporters accept a gritty determined performance if it gets a result or will they be satisfied with a good but ultimately unsuccessful performance? At the moment I’ll take the result and hope that it lifts the confidence for future improved results and performances. A win is a win and the 6th Round is only two games from Wembley, a nice incentive for Spurs to renew acquaintances with the ground which became their second home in the early 1980s.
Referee: Mark Halsey