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John Ellis's "third eye" report on Spurs v Newport, 07.02.18

John Ellis is known to many Spurs fans and we have over 450 mutual friends on Facebook. I am pleased to add this "third eye" feature article written by "El Gringo". This time John offers his thoughts on our 2-0 FA Cup win against Newport.

John invariably comments after every Spurs game on his Facebook page, and I usually agree with everything he writes. That applies to John's detailed eye-witness report on this game, which is published below, with kind permission:-

Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 Newport County

Given the current run of high pressure fixtures, this fourth round replay is probably a match Spurs could have done without. But in the 81st minute of the first match at Rodney Parade, it is absolutely a match we would have snatched hands off for! Last night’s eye-catching news of Millwall’s demise at Rochdale has opened up what should in theory be a straightforward route to the last eight of the FA Cup. Many of us were already planning for an “entertaining” day out at the New Den!

However as we Spurs fans know though, nothing is ever straight forward in football and especially for our beloved club including tonight’s match. And so on a freezing cold North London night, with 7,500 raucous Newport County fans having made the long journey from South Wales for what was almost as good as a Cup Final for their club, Spurs had a job to do.

Of the team selected, half in the form of Alderweireld, Rose, Wanyama, Winks and Lamela are at various stages of coming back after long term injuries. If nothing else, the match provided much needed game time and it was especially great to see Toby Alderweireld back in Spurs colours. Tottenham made a nervy start with Vorm giving the ball away on the left-hand side of his box and shortly after Wanyama was forced into giving a free kick away which incurred a booking as he had potentially prevented a reasonable chance of an effort on goal.

Son had a couple of decent runs but Newport had settled well and created another effort on goal but fortunately the header looped over the bar. There was a worrying incident when Winks, having slid in for a tackle, missed the ball completely and stayed down clutching his leg seemingly badly injured. With the succession of injuries he has endured over the last nine months or so, there was a reason for concern. However following treatment, he was thankfully up on his feet and running freely. This prompted a wag in the crowd to suggest it had shades of being an obligatory injury to avoid the embarrassment of such a mistimed tackle. It resonated with a few people!

20 minutes had slipped by and Spurs really hadn’t gotten into their stride at all. Surely the unthinkable couldn’t happen could it...? Spurs inadvertently created their first real chance when a misplaced cross from Sissoko found Danny Rose who shot into the side netting. This was though a prelude to Spurs finally taking the lead in the 26th minute and it was with an abundance of good fortune. A right wing cross from Sissoko was mis-kicked by a Newport defender and the ball ended up slicing into the net for an own goal. Tottenham are having their fair share of good luck with own goals this season and long may it continue!

On the half hour mark, first Lamela and then Son brought two good saves from the Newport keeper. Spurs were now dominating the play and another good move down the left wing ended with Son shooting just wide. In the 34th minute, Son ran at pace down the left wing before playing the ball inside to Lamela who took the ball in his stride and with good close control ended the move and effectively the tie as a contest with a cool finish to make it 2-0.

Llorente’s poor touch in the first half would sadly have even looked out of place in the Newport team. Lamela on the other hand was enjoying his football and it showed with an enterprising and energetic first half performance.

The second half saw Spurs playing some good football which was again mostly instigated by Lamela who was looking in fine form. On the hour mark with a place in the fifth round all but assured and ahead of two gigantic matches versus Arsenal and Juventus, it was a surprise to see Eriksen, one of our most influential players being risked off the bench.

Lamela continued his search for a second goal and in the 65th minute from a Llorente pass he brought yet another save from the keeper. Newport seemed to be tiring and following another good move down the left, Rose cut the ball back to Eriksen who surprised us again by missing the target. Aurier was showing his usual mixture of good and bad. His worst being a throw in which was ridiculously gifted straight to a Newport player. The resulting corner was eventually punched clear by Vorm.

Lamela then turned provider with a cross for Llorente who headed back across goal just wide of the left hand post. Almost immediately after, Eriksen then crossed for Llorente this time he shot across the face of the goal and wide of the right hand post. Third time lucky maybe!

In the 82nd minute, Dele broke clean through and with all of the time in the world and in truth probably too much time to think, he clipped the top of the bar to miss a great chance. Good work from Aurier down the right brought an inch perfect cross to Dele who controlled with his chest cut inside from the left and brought yet another save from the keeper.

In added time, good skills from Lamela set up Kyle Walker-Peters who fired over. There was still time for one last attack by Newport which brought an excellent opportunity to halve the deficit but Vorm saved to keep his clean sheet intact.

Over the 90 minutes, Foyth again looked calm and assured at the back whilst Lamela was our outstanding offensive threat. After an edgy start, it was in the end a routine victory and in truth it could have been a whole lot more with Spurs being profligate in front of goal. Having said that Newport are from the fourth tier of English football and put up staunch resistance over the two ties and were continually a threat to their Premiership opponents.

With a mixture of skill and good tactics, Newport were plucky, spirited, gallant losers and showed great tenacity over the 180+ minutes. At the final whistle, as they made their way over to salute their supporters, the Newport players received a generous round of applause from the Spurs fans who they in turn acknowledged by returning the applause to the Spurs fans. Many a team have been more comprehensively beaten by Spurs at Wembley this season and Newport emerge with great credit for always trying to take the tie to Spurs and incredibly being within just eight minutes of toppling their mighty opponents in the first match.

The proliferation of foreign languages to be heard in and around Wembley stadium tonight was quite astonishing and swelled the crowd to a healthy attendance of 38,947 on such a bitterly cold February evening. So Spurs are through to the fifth round where Rochdale await us on their notorious Spotland playing surface. Let’s hope the tie is taken seriously as it represents an excellent chance of reaching the FA Cup quarter finals.

And now onto Saturday, the North London Derby and all of the drama that will surely unfold over 90 frantic exhausting stressful and hopefully ultimately successful minutes!

#COYS!

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El Gringo's Once in a Lifetime - John Ellis's account of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

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