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John Ellis's "third eye" report on Rochdale v Spurs, 18.02.18

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 2-2 draw at Rochdale.

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:-

Rochdale 2-2 Tottenham Hotspur

When the draw was made, an afternoon in South East London at the New Den seemed to await us. As it transpires an afternoon in Rochdale promises to be a whole lot more sociable! Rochdale even handed over their main Willbutts Stand to Spurs fans with an allocation of 3500 amongst an 8480 packed crowd. In these quirky cup ties legends are made and without a shadow of doubt the chip shop across the road from the away end will attain legendary status amongst those Spurs fans who were fortunate enough to enjoy their pies, chips and gravy!

And so to kick off and the cameras were yet again following Spurs in search of a cup upset and this time centre stage with a marquee kick off time. The team picked by Pochettino was the team expected by many a Spurs fan. It was though nevertheless reassuring to see Kane, Dele and Lamela amongst the subs.

In the opening minutes, Moura on his full debut went on a great run and put a lovely ball through to Son who took the ball down but lost his touch. Moura’s pace, sharpness and heading abilities were standing out in the early stages of the match.

Rochdale players were pressing so hard all over the pitch and especially the attackers to such an extent that surely they would be short of energy in the later stages of the match. A good move down the right instigated by Sissoko resulted in his cross being controlled by Son who interchanged with Llorente but overran the return. Within the first 15 minutes Moura had already won over the Spurs fans who were singing his name. He won a free kick which Alderweireld headed into the arms of the keeper. This led to a bizarre incident as the keeper kicked the ball into the back of Llorente and the ball rebounded against the post. The referee gave a free kick for Llorente impeding the keeper.

This was by no means one way traffic and Rochdale were causing problems of their own. A slip in the box could have led a harshly awarded penalty against Alderweireld. This was then followed up with a burst through the middle but fortunately the striker shot straight at Vorm. In the 23rd minute Llorente and Son linked up well with Son’s shot being blocked for a corner. The opening 25 minutes had flown by and there really wasn’t much to choose between the two sides.

Then Son broke through, drew the keeper, squared to Sissoko who moved it on to Llorente. Spurs were trying to walk the ball into the net! Llorente stepped inside a tackle and finally shot wide with the whole goal to aim at. A good chance went begging.

Rochdale came forward again and Wanyama sloppily gave away an unnecessary corner with a poor header. Sissoko rose to head clear. Spurs attacked down the left and Son played a delightful ball out to Trippier on the right who put in a trademark crossed volley but with just too much pace in front of and beyond the reach of our strikers.

Just after the half hour mark, a chipped pass through the left channel found a Rochdale striker in a great position to open the scoring but fortunately he sliced the ball so badly it actually allowed the attack to continue down the right wing! After a bright start we hadn’t seen much of Moura but that all changed with a burst down the right and a cut inside which brought a corner.

Rochdale’s crosses looked their best chance of a goal. They looked dangerous every time a cross was whipped into the box. Llorente and Son interchanged with a quick one-two but a little too fast and with no end product. Half chances were coming but being spurned. This time an interchange between Son and Moura was too tight and Spurs were guilty of over playing in the box.

Just before half time, Winks lost out in midfield and Rochdale hit a good ball to the right wing. A first time ball into the box - oh noooo... a Rochdale striker (Henderson) was free and swept his team into a shock 1-0 lead with an accomplished finish! The inconvenience of a draw was no longer the biggest worry facing Spurs - an embarrassing knock out was a much greater concern...

The half time talk on the concourse amongst Spurs fans was of trying to walk the ball in. Parallels were drawn with the Newport match but it really wasn’t a given that we would come back. The second half got underway and a good move broke down with Llorente turning and losing the ball in the penalty area. I hate to say but as he turned he looked the proverbial cart horse.

A good thrusting run with one-twos along the way by Harry Winks from deep in his own half ended with an effort on target. Struggling to recall but this might have been the keepers first save? In the 68th minute, good build up play down the left led to the ball being played inside to Sissoko in a central position who released Moura through with just the keeper to beat. Can he finish...? Yes he can! With a steady calmness he drew back his foot and unleashed a cracker over the keeper - 1-1 phew!

The game was by no means over though and a Rochdale player went down under a clumsy tackle from Foyth, the Spurs fans hold their collective breath until the referee waved play on. Spurs pressed with Lamela on for Winks but couldn’t find the goal which would surely break the hearts and staunch resistance of the home side. An attack broke down on the edge of the Rochdale box and Alderweireld showed exactly why he isn’t yet ready to play at the highest level by stopping a breakaway with a clumsy foul for which he was booked.

With the cavalry being called in the shape of Dele for Moura, Spurs earned a corner which was flicked on to the back post. Wanyama came in and having scored from 25 yards a couple of weeks ago this time couldn’t force his header home from a few yards.

The only time I had previously been to Spotland was many years ago to see my home city club Lincoln in a fourth division match. At that time there were outdoor facilities where remarkably you could actually look over the wall and continue to watch the game as you carried on with your business. Fast forward to today and the upshot is I miss Kane coming on for Llorente. How times change! Dele was making an immediate impression and completed his inevitable “see you later” nutmeg in the box but without an end product.

With the clock ticking down, a lovely move down the left involving Son and a clever Dele back heel across the box opened up for Lamela whose half-blocked effort looped towards goal but with insufficient power and it was headed off the line. Into the last five minutes and would Rochdale hold out for Wembley or go all out for glory? Spurs continued to press in search of a winner and a Sissoko shot was beaten out by the keeper.

Lamela passed inside to Rose on the edge of the penalty area, and the ball broke to Lamela who shot. The shot was blocked but within the blink of an eye falls nicely and fortuitously into the path of Dele who goes down under a poor challenge. Surely even with his reputation for diving he has been brought down - penalty we scream! The referee agrees and points to the spot!

An idiotic Spurs fan ran onto the pitch to hold up the penalty. After the long delays before both of his penalties at Anfield another delay must surely be the last thing Kane wants but gets as the Spurs fan is escorted from the pitch under a hail of boos from his own fans. (Ed: Cheered by some, but I ahgree with the threat to Kane's concentration) This time though it makes no difference to Harry Kane! He fires almost the perfect penalty into the bottom left hand corner of the net and in so doing Spurs into the FA Cup Quarter Finals with an 88th minute winner! (Ed: or so we thought!)

Having incurred the £500,000 cost of resurfacing their pitch and the performance given by their players, it was a little harsh on Rochdale to be denied the experience of a money spinning replay at Wembley. However for Spurs, it would have been delight at avoiding another game in this action packed season.

The game was deep into added time and our fans were belting out "Spurs are on their way to Wembley". A cross came in to the Spurs box, Alderweireld had the header but doesn’t seem to get far enough off the ground and instead of heading clear towards the half way line, headed across his own penalty area. The ball fell at the feet of a Rochdale striker who instantaneously controlled and shot into the bottom corner of the net for the most sensational of last gasp equalisers. The home fans erupted!

The magic of the FA Cup sprinkled its gold-dust on Spotland and wrote yet another chapter in the glorious history of this wonderful competition. The final whistle was blown and I trust the reason so few Spurs players came across to applaud their fans at the end was due to the threat of a pitch invasion. These matches and replays may give the squad players games but my word it doesn’t help the health and welfare of us fans!

Making eleven changes might just be a little too much and is there is a case of keeping the spine of the team together as we approach the business end of the competition? I feel sure Harry Kane would relish the replay in his quest to hunt down Clive Allen’s incredible 49 goals in a season! Overall Spurs are making heavy weather of their relatively easy run in this year’s FA Cup but from many such ties are tales and winners spawned. Let’s hope so!

#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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