Looking Forward



FA Cup 5th Round

Sunday 17th February 2002

Coming into this game (writing on 14th Feb), both sides have an identical record in recent matches with 3 wins, 2 defeats and a draw.  However, the difference is that Tranmere are eighth in the Second Division, while Spurs are awaiting a Worthington Cup Final and in the same position in the Premiership.  But the Cup, as they always say, is a great leveller.  Rovers will be keen to maintain their push for promotion, while the Cup run is a bonus for them.  For Spurs, the prospect of a European place through a league placing is slipping away and the cups are the best bet for a place in the UEFA Cup next season.  Tranmere will have their thoughts on a League match on Tuesday 19th with Oldham Athletic.  Different priorities, but both have a keen interest to progress further in this competition.

Young keeper Joe Murphy has battled out with John Achterburg for possession of the gloves and the youngster has got hold of them recently.  The big Dutchman is a good shot stopper and good with the ball, but can prove to give his defenders the jitters sometimes.  That is why Murphy has been favoured and his all round game is better than Achterburg's.  However, Achterburg's experience might be the reason for his inclusion, should manager Dave Watson feel it is needed.

The defensive options include Dave Challinor who can make problems for the opposition defence out of any throw-in past the halfway line.  Skipper Clint Hill has calmed down a bit and is a tough tackler, who likes to pass the ball well out of defence.  Graham Allen is another rugged defender and Gareth Roberts, who has played abroad and knows how the game works.  Ian Sharps has come through the youth system at Prenton Park and is a tall centre half, who has impressed so far this season. While Hill has been better behaved this season, some of the other defenders have picked up quite a few yellows and reds ,so expect no quarter to be given.  Unfortunately, just for that reason, ex-QPR central defender Steve Yates is suspended and will miss this game. 

In midfield, Jason Koumas has attracted the attention of many clubs, including Spurs.  He excels at passing, has good vision and can also finish.  It is obvious that he will leave Prenton Park soon and a fee of 2.5 million probably makes good value for this talented Welshman.  Former Blackpool man Micky Mellon is a fiery character, who was dismissed in the earlier match between the two clubs for two rash challenges soon after each other. Sean Flynn has been playing in a manner that belies his years and almost put the Second Division side in front against us in the League Cup tie.  Nicky Henry is a hard working midfielder, who has played for Sheffield United, Walsall and Oldham among others.  Andy Parkinson is a pacy winger, whose goals have propelled Tranmere into the latter stages of Cup competitions in recent years.  He will need to be watched, as he can shoot from any angle or distance too.  New addition, Alan Navarro was signed from Liverpool and has a good pedigree, using his dynamic running to cause problems breaking into the box from his usual position.  However, Rovers might have to make do without him as he broke his nose last week and might be ruled out for the FA Cup tie.

Veteran Wayne Allison has been knocking around for years and has also been knocking them in for years.  A natural striker who knows where to be and one who Deano will have to mark closely.  Partnering him up front is the ex-Everton man - Stuart Barlow.  A teenage star, he never really fulfilled his potential.  He's got quite a few goals for Rovers, but has been ousted from his place in the side by another oldie and former Toffee, Paul Rideout, who has had a new lease of life.  A typically strong English type centre forward, he gets on the end of the crosses from Koumas and Parkinson.  Six stitches in ahead wound last week might make him unavailable for this game, but don't be surprised if he does make it.  Jason Price is another newcomer having signed from Swansea City after a spell on loan at Brentford.  A tall rangy striker, he has always had a knack of getting goals and his height and athleticism makes him a  problem for defenders.

Tottenham will be keen to keep up their good cup form this season and I can't see Tranmere stopping them ...

PREDICTION : -  Tottenham  3   Tranmere Rovers  1

For more information on the opponents and their history, including full result history of matches between the two teams, click here.



Tottenham  4   Tranmere Rovers  0                                  (Half time score: 2-0)
Sunday 17th February 2002
Kick Off : 4.00 p.m.
Weather : -  Dry, sunny, but chilly later
Crowd : -   35,696
Referee : -   Mr. D. Elleray (Harrow)
Referee : -   Mr. G. Atkins  - Yellow flag; Mr. C. Meads - quartered flag
Fourth Official : -   N. Barry

Scorers : -  Tottenham   -   Ziege 9, Poyet 35, 90, Sheringham 63
                  Tranmere Rovers  -  None


Spurs :  None

Tranmere Rovers :   Sharps (foul) 40


Spurs :  Neil Sullivan; Mauricio Taricco, Chris Perry, Dean Richards, Ben Thatcher; Simon Davies, Tim Sherwood, Gus Poyet, Christian Ziege (Matthew Etherington 85); Les Ferdinand (Steffen Iversen 75), Teddy Sheringham. 
Unused Subs : -  Kasey Keller, Alton Thelwell, Oyvind Leonhardsen

Tranmere Rovers :  John Achterberg; Gareth Roberts, Clint Hill, Ian Sharps, Graham Allen; Nick Henry (Micky Mellon 70), Jason Koumas, Andy Parkinson, Alan Navarro; Paul Rideout (Stuart Barlow 70), Jason Price.  
Unused Subs : -  Joe Murphy, Richard Hinds, Wayne Allison


Tottenham :  White shirts, Navy shorts, navy socks.

Tranmere Rovers :  Yellow shirts, shorts and socks

When David Elleray (or Sir ! as he prefers to be known) started off by letting a couple of harsh challenges go unpunished, it looked as though eh favoured the underdog, but when Christian Ziege smashed home his ninth minute goal, Spurs were on their way to the quarter finals. And the chants of "Sign on, Sign on" to the Tune of "Walk On" from the Spurs fans to their Merseyside visitors made it seem like the Nineties never happened.

Tottenham stuck to playing their football throughout the match, while Tranmere stuck to their game plan throughout and troubled Spurs to the end, but not very seriously.  While they did create chances, there was little to worry Spurs as the game went on.

With Ferdinand losing control of the ball and then winning it back of a Tranmere defender, it fell for Davies, who hit a first time pass out to the left, where Ziege was waiting ... in acres of space.  He took his time as the ball arrived at the edge of the box and taking one step forward, lashed it past Achterberg.  It was a cool and fierce finish that put Tottenham one up with their first attack.  Things could have been out of Rovers reach soon after, when Ziege floated a ball in for Les, who managed to turn his marker and then dragged his shot wide from the edge of the penalty area.  He should really have hit the target from there. 

Gus Poyet did somewhat better from 30 yards, when he flicked the ball up and hit a screamer of a volley that the Tranmere keeper did very well to push out.

Christian was enjoying the space afforded him on his flank.  He firstly cut inside and with his right foot curled a shot along the ground that missed the far post by about a foot and then slipped a low ball in to the near post, where Teddy met it, but poked the ball wide of the goal.  In between, Taricco tried a pot shot from 30 yards that Achterberg had to move sharply to save at his near post.

It wasn't all one way traffic, as Tranmere caused the Spurs defence problems from set-pieces.  A few times the ball flew through the penalty area to Neil Sullivan, when a touch from an opposition forward could have taken it past him and one Hill header hit Allen before it reached the Spurs goal.  There were a couple of blocked efforts too, but mainly, the supply was poor and the Tottenham defenders ties up the visiting strikers well.

Ziege was the key to opening up the Tranmere defence for the second goal, as he was played in by a perceptive Sheringham pass and the German's low cross was met first time by Poyet.  His crisp shot left Achterburg rooted to the spot.  

With half-time must have come a roasting for the Tranmere team, as they started the second period with a verve previously not shown beyond the first couple of minutes.  It was a bit of a torrid time for Tottenham, but only Henry's and Rideout's wide efforts troubled the Spurs goal.  In fact, Rideout's failure to capitalise on Sully's poor sliced clearance was perhaps the turning point of the game.  

Meanwhile at the other end, it was a case of "after you Claude", as Spurs players tried to set each other up, with nobody willing to take the responsibility of having a shot.  Twice, perfectly good chances were spurned by the forwards messing about with the ball.  Taricco almost put in Davies, but the ball was just a little too far ahead of him as he burst into the box.  Eventually, Spurs did cash in, when Taz floated a cross in, which Les challenged for.  Expecting a whistle from the over-fussy official as Achterberg could only flap at the ball, the crowd were surprised when he didn't blow, leaving Teddy the simple task of passing the ball past a defender into the net.  For once, the ref got it all wrong, but it was an important goal in the game, as if it had gone to Tranmere, it could have been a different story.

It was a shame Teddy couldn't have been more clinical when he met Ziege's cross, but unfortunately, he was too far ahead of the ball and instead of planting the ball into an empty net, he put it behind him !!  Another chance late on was blocked by a defender and if it hadn't been for his goal, he would have had a bit of a 'mare.  As it was, Tranmere pushed on and had two of their best chances late on, with Sullivan not being able to hold onto a low shot and as the ball ran away from him, Price twice tried to nudge it past the Scot, but ended up blazing wide.  Then a few minutes after, Koumas hit a shot from outside the area, that Sully had to be alert to grab.  Barlow hit a cross-cum-shot past the face of the goal, with no other colleague available to apply the finishing touch, but it was Spurs who had the final say.

With time running out, Etherington, on the left wing, passed inside to Teddy.  He found Gus Poyet, who's run into the box was well timed and his shot was deflected off Hill past the goalkeeper.  It was cruel on Tranmere, who had not disgraced themselves, but Tottenham were a class apart.  The early goal, as Gus had suggested earlier in the week, had helped, but with Ziege in this form, his return will be most welcome.  The rest of the side functioned well and Perry was particularly good in defence.  While not being at the top of their game, they strolled through this tie to set up a re-match with Chelsea in the Sixth Round.  Bring 'em on !!


Pete Stachio





There was little that Tranmere could do to break Spurs down and they provided little threat on the Tottenham goal.  Every time they went forward, their finishing was weak or they invariably found a white shirt with their passes.  For Spurs, who worked quite hard, the task was made easy with Ziege's first strike and the goals that were tucked away by Poyet and Sheringham.  Although the team did fanny about trying to score the goal of the season again, they did take some of the chances to put the game out of Rovers' reach.

Such clinical finishing will be necessary next week, as I feel that Blackburn might think that their best bet is to tighten up the game and restrict Tottenham's chances of playing the game that they want.  That will mean that they will protect the edge of their box vigorously and then opportunities will be at a premium, so Tottenham will need to be at their striking best.

Today Poyet moved well in the first half and was the major threat on the Tranmere goal,  Not only did he take his goal quite crisply, tucking away Ziege's low cross without hesitation, but he also forced a flying save from his long range volley and nearly got on the end of another low ball into the six yard box.  However, in the second half he faded a bit, but still popped up in the box for the last minute shot that deflected past the keeper.  His overall contribution was good after missing the Leicester game as he was suspended, but how he will fare next week, with some Rovers players snapping around his ankles, we will see.  Mind you, a goal from him in the 90th minute in the same scenario would be welcome.

Teddy hasn't really been on top of his game for the last couple of games.  His flicks haven't come off and his short passing game has been out of kilter too.  It is disappointing that he can't maintain that aspect of his game, as his high standard makes fans think that he's not trying when it doesn't work for him.  He is trying, but it's just not quite there.  As most of Tottenham's play revolves around him, we need him to be functioning at full throttle. However, if he does nothing else but score a goal, then he has made a useful contribution.  Greaves used to be able to get away with 89 minutes of quietness, then burst into action and win the game.  Maybe, that is what we should expect from Sheringham.

One cause of concern today was Sullivan's handling.  He did come for more crosses than usual and did catch them all, but his handling of low shots was a bit loose.  One left Price with a three-time chance, but he blasted it well wide in the end, but the other from Henry, almost left Price with an open goal.  With few chances expected next week, I hope he was getting the errors out of his system today.

Perry did well, getting all over the player he was marking and Richards was strong enough to throw a few blocks to stop anything getting through to Sully.  Thatcher was good, but his use of the ball was a little rudimentary sometimes.

Ziege played a good game after being out for so long.  His getting set to thunder the ball past Achterberg for the first goal showed his experience and set Tottenham up for a comfortable in win the end.  His delivery of low passes into the box make it difficult for the other side to defend and creates good chances for his team-mates.  Even the one that ended up behind Sheringham in the first half opened up the Tranmere back four.  It was a case of Sheringham being two yards ahead of his time !!

Taricco also played well and managed to not get involved with anyone. Not that he needed to. He also played a couple of nice balls into the box - one of which lead to Ted's goal - and he almost scored his first goal with a thirty yard drive from way out on the right wing !!  It will come one day !!

Davies was relatively quiet, but did well and didn't do anything wrong, while Sherwood had another effective game.  Etherington didn't have much of a chance in the last two minutes, while Iversen also didn't get much to do.  Les had done well without getting much opportunity to score, but he did muff a decent chance in the first half when he turned on the edge of the box and pulled his foot across the ball and shot wide.

Tranmere didn't let themselves or their fans down.  Their fans deserved better as they were up for the game and made a lot of noise, but in the end Tottenham's class showed.  Stuttering at times, but they didn't have to be at their very best to get the win to take them through to the next round today.  Next week, they will need to be on their mettle.


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