Thursday, March 08, 2012

Tottenham 3 Stevenage 1 FA Cup

It's customary for the minnows or underdogs to get a late consolation goal as acknowledgement of their gallant effort.  Last night Spurs turned that idea upside down as Stevenage scored inside four minutes and could have added to it before Tottenham eventually came to life.

Tottenham Hotspur 3 Stevenage 1  
(FA Cup 5th Round Replay)
Scorers:  Defoe (2), Adebayor (pen)       Byrom (pen)

Team: Cudicini; Kaboul, Dawson (Walker), Nelsen, Rose; Lennon (Adebayor), Parker, Kranjcar (Livermore), Bale; Van der Vaart; Defoe  Subs: (unused) Friedel, Modric, Gallas, Giovani

 Spurs Writers' Club - Tottenham, The Glory-Glory Game

Available here (£15.00 +p & p) : Use Code LH1

Spurs progressed to the FA Cup 6th Round and a home match against Bolton Wanderers but it was not as easy as the scoreline might suggest.  Spurs had put out a strong team with a strong bench for backup while both former Spurs, Chris Day and Ronnie Henry, were in the visitor's starting line-up.

Spurs started sluggishly, content to pass the ball around but in the third minute Joel Byrom made the first foray into the Spurs penalty area to be brought down by Ryan Nelsen.  A penalty which was duly dispatched, Cudicini diving the wrong way.  That was greeted with stunned disbelief by the Spurs fans and great exuberation from the Stevenage faithful.

Spurs looking to bounce back from two consecutive League defeats had just added to the pressure on themselves and for the next twenty minutes it just got worse.  First Michael Dawson had to be replaced, carried off injured, and then Spurs play went from bad to worse as their passing went awry and their play was totally devoid of ideas as Stevenage defended with composure and endeavour.

After twenty four minutes Spurs had provided no threat to Chris Day in the Stevenage goal but the visitors could so easily have been two ahead as a header from a free-kick looped over the crossbar.  Thirty seconds later, Spurs were ahead.  As one national paper put it, five touches later and Jermain Defoe had scored.  A short goal-kick from Carlo Cudicini to Gareth Bale, a long ball forward from the left found Defoe centrally, on the edge of the box, one touch to control and another to set himself and then a powerful strike past a diving goalkeeper.  That was the first FA Cup goal that Day had conceded this season - denying teams for over five games and a total of 475 minutes.

A sigh of relief from Spurs supporters, assured that the goal would see Spurs take control but it wasn't to be.  Certainly, Spurs play improved but Stevenage matched them and were deserving to be level at the interval.  Aaron Lennon had by this time departed, injured, to be replaced by Emmanuel Adebayor and he had nearly made contact with a pass from Rafael Van der Vaart just before half-time.

Into the second half and after three minutes, it appeared as if Defoe had put Spurs ahead following good work and a cross by Younes Kaboul but the England striker was ruled offside.  Stevenage continued to be a threat from corners and Cudicini had to make a sharp save at close range to keep them out.  Then Gareth Bale got the breakthrough they were looking for after ten minutes of the second half.  Gareth Bale made a run into the area on the right and as he was about to put in a cross, he was brought down and the referee signalled a penalty, having been advised by his assistant.  Adebayor remained calm to score easily.

That was the filip that Spurs needed as suddenly their play and confidence levels were lifted and Bale became an increasing threat to Stevenage by creating a number of chances for Defoe and Adebayor.  He also hit a thunderous shot against the crossbar but Stevenage weren't going to give up without a fight and their threat at set-pieces continued.  From one, they hit the bar with a header and the ball bounced down to land only inches from the line, to be grabbed by Cudicini. 

Spurs chances continued to come and go as Bale's pace caught Stevenage out but it was from a quickly taken long throw from his own half that set up Defoe for the third.  Gathering the ball from Bale's throw, Defoe ran on  towards the goal with the defenders uncertain what to do as he lashed a shot past Day.

Stevenage continued to work hard and can be satisfied with their performance.  If Spurs had scored any more goals the result would have been flattering to them.  Stevenage received a very deserved reception from their fans at the end but Spurs continue to the next round, one step closer to the 'Joy of Winning the Cup'.

Spurs were looking for a boost after their previous disappointing results but as they say in 'Deal or No Deal', "that tells us nothing."  It could be the start of something good or it might not.  The result against Everton will be a better indicator if Spurs have rediscovered their defensive composure and their attacking threat against Premier League opponents.

Worryingly for Spurs, Dawson will be out for the rest of the season while Lennon will be out for a spell with a re-occurrence of his injury.  The central defensive positions are of concern as Spurs will be looking for their two experienced campaigners, Ledley King and Gallas, to overcome their injuries and provide cover during the coming weeks.  The absence of`Lennon again reduces the attacking threat which Spurs can pose when both he and Bale are running at defenders from the wide areas.

How Spurs deal with these injuries and how they deploy the remaining players will determine whether Spurs can find the level of consistency needed to retain third place in the Premier League and if they can sustain a challenge for the FA Cup.  It will be an interesting few weeks for Tottenham supporters.


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