|COMPETITION||FA Cup Fifth Round|
|DATE||Sunday 19th February 2012|
Spurs visit the venue for their reserve games of a few years back and take on League One Stevenage in the FA Cup Fifth Round.
As well as the familiar surroundings, there will be some familiar faces to greet us. Manager Gary Smith had a link with Tottenham, as his Dad Roger played for the club in the Sixties, with former Spurs youngsters goalkeeper Chris Day and defender Ronnie Henry are both at the Hertfordshire club.
But Spurs will face a side, albeit with a new manager, who are doing well, just outside the play-off zone in their league. Previous boss Graham Westley left to join Preston North End and during his time at Stevenage, his success was undermined by claims of gamesmanship and a physical approach. Smith, a former Arsenal youth coach and manager at Colorado Rapids in the US, may try to play a more fluent game, with the focus being a recent signing from Arsenal. Striker Luke Freeman was signed in a blaze of glory from Gillingham, but failed to make much of a mark on the Arsenal first team, so moved to Broadhall Way in January for £600,000. A 19 year old who has a good awareness of the target he seeks, his strengths are his ability to hold players off when in possession and an explosive shot.
A number of the Stevenage players have started at a higher level and dropped down, with midfielders Stacy Long beginning at Charlton and Robin Shroot at Birmingham, so they have had a good grounding in football life. Some of the defence have been there for a while and in the shape of Jon Ashton, Mark Roberts and Scott Laird, they also two of the three top scorers at the club. This hints that set-pieces are an important source of opportunities for them.
In midfield, the combative Mark Bostwick will relish the chance to bruise a few reputations at the very least, so Spurs must be ready for a few crunching tackles and any shirking will give the home side the sniff of a shock in the offing. No time for faint hearts and Redknapp will surely rest some of the first team regulars, with games against Arsenal and Manchester United in the following two weekends.
Without having seen a lot of Stevenage, it is hard to know how they might approach the game, but their recent record since early October has only been spoiled by a defeat to ten man Leyton Orient on 2nd January. The run includes some good wins (doubling Sheffield Wednesday, beating MK Dons and in the FA Cup both Reading and Notts. County) and some big wins (5-1 v Rochdale and 6-1 v Colchester United - both away). They are clearly a team who are well organised and confident in playing as a unit, so even though this looks straightforward on paper, Spurs need to respect Stevenage's ability. And they have the marvellously named Jennison Myrrie-Williams, who looks like he has been around the Scottish and lower league scene, but he might be out to make a big name for himself in this game.
Hopefully, the mix and match side Harry puts out will have enough grit to take the tie and progress to the quarter-finals.
|PREDICTION||Stevenage 0 Tottenham Hotspur 3|
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Stevenage 0 (0)
FA Cup Fifth Round
Sunday 19th February 2012
Venue : The Lamex Stadium
Tottenham Hotspur 0 (0)
Kick off 14:00
Byrom (foul) 41
|Crowd : 6,625||Weather : Dry, sunny, chilly|
|Referee : Phil Dowd (Stoke-on-Trent)||Assistant Referees : Mr. D. Cann; Mr. M. McDonough|
|Fourth Official : Mr. A. Taylor.|
|Spurs kicked off and played towards the North Terrace in the first half.|
|Stevenage :||kit||Tottenham Hotspur :||kit|
6 Edwards 88)
|Manager : Gary Smith||Manager : Harry Redknapp|
|Sponsor : ServerChoice.com||Shirt sponsor : Investec|
|Kit Supplier : Puma||Kit Supplier : Puma|
To say that this was an uncomfortable afternoon's watching was like saying that it is cold at Broadhall Way watching Spurs reserve son a February evening with about 150 people in the Main Stand. For Spurs, the game was all set up to be a massive banana skin and for Stevenage, it was their big day in front of the big top set up opposite the ground housing an American circus. But the wheels failed to fall off the Tottenham vehicle that we hope will head to Wembley, but the tumbling that they took in a physical sense was not to their liking, although they tamed the home side to keep the game goal-less and to earn a replay at White Hart Lane in a couple of weeks time.
With the usual changes in the side, Harry Redknapp tested a 3-5-2 formation, with Ryan Nelsen coming in for his first start and Livermore starting in midfield to add some bite against the robust approach Stevenage are noted for. In attack, with Adebayor unable to play because he was on loan, Spurs paired Saha and Defoe. Stevenage started with more or less their first choice XI and the game kicked off on a crisp sunny afternoon in front of a vocal home crowd.
With the venue having homed the Spurs Reserve side of a few years back, with pre-season friendlies thrown in as part of the deal, the home fans are used to seeing Tottenham at the Lamex, but this time they were the enemy. The first time the two clubs have met in competition. And they had decided that Gareth Bale was to be the butt of their abuse with the Welshman getting a more tactile sort of attention from the white and red shirted players. In fact, Spurs were given no time to settle and that lasted throughout the match, which, combined with the bobbly pitch failed to suit their game and lead to passes going astray on a regular basis.
Danny Rose was seeing a lot of the bal on the left side of midfield, taking on former Spurs reserve defender Ronnie Henry down the line. A low ball in to the near post was met by Defoe, but he could not get his foot around it to get it on goal, then a later cross was just a little too high for Walker and the defender got to it with his head, but could only glance it wide from a yard out. A minute later, Kaboul played a ball through the middle of the Stevenage defence and Saha was onto it in a flash. As the ball sat up nicely for him, the shot spooned the ball up into the air, leaving Day with a comfortable catch. How it got there was revealed later on TV, as a defender managed to stand on Louis' foot, taking his boot off and putting him off his shot.
Stevenage fans showed that a League One understanding of handball is different to that of elsewhere in the league. Saha took one on the chest and the home crowd appealed and Dawson did make contact with the ball with his hands when it was blasted at him from behind another player. So the home team were aggrieved about that too. Funnily enough, they were quiet when Ashton physically threw Defoe to the ground off the ball and this was typical of some of the tactics that Stevenage have been accused of over the last couple of years. Even to the extent that players were going down at the end seemingly to waste time.
In the 38th minute, Michael Dawson won a header from a cross in from the left and the ball was going inside the right hand post of Stevenage's goal until a defender booted the ball away and then a coupe of minutes before the break, a free-kick 20 yards out was smashed at goal (after Spurs had wasted a couple of previous opportunities) and it was Younes Kaboul who ran up and thumped it at goal, missing by a couple of yards as it flew across goal.
A long shot from Bostwick as he ran forward unchallenged took a deflection off Parker's leg as he closed him down and the ball went wide. From the corner, a header was won at the far post and Dawson hacked the ball away from the six yard box as the half time whistle sounded.
The break saw Kranjcar warming up vigorously, but Harry kept with the same eleven at the start of the half.
Beardsley was a threat to life and limb and caused a dodgy moment in the second half when Cudicini went up for a deflected high ball and was pushed by the Stevenage forward, just managing to get the ball out without a free kick being awarded. In fact, Dowd was letting a lot go for the home team, perhaps aware that he would be criticised if he applied Premier League refereeing on them, but the laws are the same at any level, so I was surprised that only one booking came out of the whole game.
Early in the second half, Spurs had a good chance. A Stevenage move broke down and Livermore played the ball to Bale on halfway. He ran forward and with Parker running off to the right and taking a man with him, the Welshman let fly, hitting a left foot shot to Day's left. The low effort looked like it might be past the former Spurs keeper, but he got a bit of his hand on the ball as it squeezed under him and it was enough to divert it past the post, with the ball casting a shadow on the woodwork as it passed by.
Bostwick and Byrom tried shots whenever they were within forty yards of the goal. For most of the time, like a good knife thrower, Bostwick was off target, while Byrom came close with a 25 yard drive that went over the angle of post and crossbar by about a foot. A Charles shot was straight at Cudicini, but dipped on the keeper and he spilled it, with Ryan Nelsen on hand to clear the loose ball and the Kiwi generally had a solid game, not being phased by the physical side of the game and making himself available for the ball when his team-mates were closed down.
The hype around the game had centred on Luke Freeman, who holds the record as the youngest starter in the competition at 15 years and a few hundred days. The former Gillingham and Arsenal player was being built up as the man who could damage Tottenham's FA Cup run, but his free-kicks were mostly disappointing and while he had the ability to turn in tight situations, he rarely did so to any great effect.
Ten minutes into the half, it looked like Tottenham had broken through, as Rose got away down the left, put a ball into the near post that Day and a defender both went for and neither got, leaving Louis Saha to poke the ball home form a couple of yards out, but Scott Parker had moved forward and was standing on the goal-line and unfortunately, the ball hit him on the way in, making the linesman's flag for offside correct.
As the game got scrappy, the chances on goal became fewer. Bale was pout away down the right by Defoe and his low ball in was met by Saha's run and he tried to back heel the ball into the net, causing it to dribble through to Day, whereas, had he let the ball go, Scott Parker was running in behind him unmarked.
Aaron Lennon was introduced to add some pace to the Tottenham attack and he got away couple of times down the right, once providing a cross for Saha to head at goal, but it cannoned off a defender to safety. But aside form a weak Defoe effort and a run into the Spurs half by Cowan followed by a shot that ended up nearer the corner flag, there was little late threat and the final whistle saw the Stevenage players rush to swap shirts with the Spurs players.
Without their ringmaster Luka Modric, Spurs had struggled to perform their tricks. Maybe he will return at Tottenham, when the dancing horses and performing seals might perform the big finish Tottenham fans are accustomed to.
(No animals were hurt in the writing of this report)
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|What you thought|
|Stan Chun||There was a
time when Spurs would have lost a match like this ... and that was
with a full first team out.
It wasn't pretty ... it wasn't great, but we are in the draw for the next round.
|Other scores during this round :|
|Norwich City||1||Leicester City||2||Saturday|
|Liverpool||6||Brighton & Hove Albion||1||Sunday|
|Crawley Town||0||Stoke City||2||Sunday|
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