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Spurs v Nottingham Forest, 20.02.05

FA CUP FIFTH ROUND
SUNDAY 20TH FEBRUARY, 2005
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (1) NOTTINGHAM FOREST 1 (0)

Spurs scorer:-
Defoe, 45

Forest scorer:-
Taylor, 56

Referee:- Steve Bennett

Attendance:- 35, 640

Teams:-
Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Kelly, Naybet, King (Capt.), Atouba; Davies, Carrick, Brown, Ziegler (sub Keane, 65); Kanoute (sub Mido, 65), Defoe

Subs not used:- Cerny; Bunjevcevic; Mendes

Booked:- Carrick

Forest:- (5-3-2):- Doyle; Curtis, Morgan, Melville, Doig, Rogers; Perch, Powell, Evans (sub Thompson, 73); Taylor (Capt.), Commons (sub Bopp, 90)

Subs not used:- Roche; Harris; King

Booked:- Morgan, Melville

A draw was the least that Forest deserved today. They might even have won the game minutes from the end, when left back Thimothee Atouba dinked the ball past Perch near the left corner flag, then inexplicably did not bother to chase and clear it, allowing Perch to slip the ball to man of the match Kris Commons, who took the chance to dance into the Spurs area, past the likes of Carrick, Defoe, Naybet and King, before Paul Robinson saved the day from a close range shot. This incident was not untypical of the disarray displayed at times by a Spurs first-choice side, that was widely expected to pulverise the opposition.

Gary Megson came with a good team plan today. Whenever Spurs were on the attack the central defensive area was swamped with red shirts, whereas skipper Gareth Taylor was well supported by Commons, and Paul Evans, both of whom played in the midfield, but ably supported the planned breakaway attacks by the visitors. Perhaps Megson's ultimate aim has been achieved - to take Spurs back to The City Ground for a lucrative replay, which I do confidently expect Spurs to win.

Forest were missing players, such as first choice keeper Paul Gerrard, suspended for this game, who will be available for the replay. His replacement - 19 year old Colin Doyle presented Jermain Defoe and Spurs with a half time lead, dropping the ball into the net almost as far as Roy Carroll did at Old Trafford. There was no question of a goal not being awarded today. Spurs reciprocated in the second half, with their own piece of charity conjured up by two of their usually most reliable defenders, Ledley King and Paul Robinson. The latter was probably the more culpable, as he advanced but failed to collect the ball headed past him then finished easily for an equaliser by Taylor.

Forest's shape was fluid, with that support from the middle for Taylor, but also Wes Morgan seemed to be assigned to stick to Defoe like a leech. He it was that conceded the free kick that Defoe converted, but arguably, Morgan should already have been off the field, as he got away with a yellow card for a blatant cynical foul as Defoe advanced upon goal. Morgan was surely the last man, and should have gone, but referee Bennet did not see things that way.

Having had such success in the second half last week, when Simon Davies was inserted at half-time, the Spurs strategy was strange today, to say the least, as both Davies and Ziegler started, but rarely seemed to seek the width that they could offer. This task was left to the full backs, and Atouba did not win himself many fans today, as he was caught out when going forward several times. Michael Carrick continues to win the favour of many, who describe him as a cultured midfielder, but too many of his passes failed today, and he does not seem to take to the "gutsy" kind of game offered here by guests who were playing "their cup final". Carrick's long passes are percentage balls, surely. Often they only come off because an attacker will make ground and make the ball his own, but his distribution from his own creations, and dead balls was poor, in my view today.

That man Commons (signed from Stoke last July) had already had one effort, deflected for a corner, before he made the chance that fell to left back Alan Rogers after just 5 minutes. Rogers had got into the left side of the Spurs box, and Stephen Kelly desperately tried to recover ground and block any attempted shot. Rogers got his shot in, but it flew across the goalmouth. It took Spurs until the 13th minute to create a decent effort. A good move started down the left by Defoe, featuring Kanoute, Carrick, then Kelly, ended with a Ziegler shot being blocked. Carrick intercepted a stray midfield pass after 18 minutes, and gave Kanoute the chance to put Davies in, but Doyle got to the ball first just inside his area. Doyle was first again within a minute, when Defoe was presented with a similar chance.

After 20 minutes, Kanoute had the ball in a right hand position, and had options available. He chose to pass pack to Michael Brown, who forced a save from the keeper stretching to his left. Mid-way through the half, Commons was allowed to run with the ball from the right side of midfield, getting all the way into the box, hitting a good shot saved by Robinson's knees. Simon Davies had an excellent skimming effort from 30 yards out that Doyle just managed to push round the post. Carrick tried to tee up Defoe with a free kick in a similar position to last week, but Defoe hit his shot outside the keeper's left post. Spurs were getting the chances, but generally failing to test the young keeper.

Rogers took a free kick on the left for Forest, and Taylor headed down, bringing another good save from Robinson. Defoe had already been brought down by Morgan, before Ziegler dribbled into the box. It looked like Melville had handled whilst he was scrambling at Ziegler's feet, but the ball ran back to Michael Brown who rattled the far post with his shot. Defoe hit a reflex shot from the rebound but it went well over the bar. Defoe then took the free kick he had been awarded as half time approached. He hit a right foot in-swinger, that Doyle reached but spilt well over the line, to give Spurs the lead.

Shortly after the break, Atouba was nudged over the touchline, and conceded a throw. A Brown back-header fell to Evans, 25 yards out, and he hit a powerful rising shot way over the bar. Commons got in the area and skipped to the left of Ledley King, before hitting a shot that Robinson could not save cleanly, relying upon Ledley to clear. Spurs won a corner, which was half cleared to Brown at the back of the Forest area. Brown again hit a powerful shot just over the stanchion. Commons left Atouba in his wake as Forest broke again, and then fell under the Spurs chasing defenders. No foul was given, although it looked like Mr. Bennett was going to blow, before thinking better of it. The Forest equaliser came in the 56th minute, when Rogers crossed the ball towards the edge of the box. Ledley was facing goal, and failed to win the header, Taylor got in between Ledley and the advancing Robinson, before heading the ball past the keeper, before slotting home for an easy finish. Taylor, is apparently a big Spurs fan. Such are the thanks you get from some fans!

So, it was game on, and the atmosphere got hotter, as home fans got more and more frustrated, and the 5,000 away contingent cheered on their heroes, chanting "Are you watching Andy Reid!" Carrick stole from Commons in the middle and fed Defoe, whose shot was cleared, before Kanoute crossed for Ziegler, who was in space, with time to measure a shot that should have hit the target, but failed.

Maybe the icy cold weather had something to do with it, but Paul Robinson did not look at all confident, flapping at a cross by Commons from the left, that he half-cleared to Atouba, who gave the home fans the usual scare before clearing. Doyle had to make another save from Defoe, and then Ledley tried to lead by example, carrying the ball forward before hitting a good shot from an angle on the right that went just outside the target.

Mido and Keane had been put on to replace Kanoute and Ziegler, and they both had half-hit shots saved from close range after Kelly's 83rd minute cross. Simon Davies was the next to have a pop, off target, before that late scare created by Atouba's sloth near the touch-line. Personally, if he's fit, I think it is time for Edman to return in the left-back position. Forest successfully played out time, irritating Brown especially near the Spurs corner flag, before the final whistle was blown, and everyone has to contemplate a mid-week replay on Wednesday March 2nd at The City Ground. Spurs Odyssey will be there, by which time, we can hopefully contemplate moderate opposition in the quarter-finals after tomorrow's draw. On this performance, we will certainly struggle against the stronger teams.

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