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Match Reports
Leicester v Spurs, 08.01.06


Leicester scorers:-
Hammond, 44
Hughes, 57
De Vries, 90

Spurs scorers:-
Jenas, 20
Stalteri, 41

Referee: - Steve Bennett

Attendance: - 19,844

Leicester (4-5-1/4-4-2):- Douglas; Stearman, McCarthy (Capt.), Johansson, Maybury; Smith (sub Kisnorbo, 89), Hughes, Williams, Gudjohnsson, Hamill (sub Hammond, 34); De Vries

Subs not used: - Henderson; Hume, Dublin

Booked: - Maybury

Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Stalteri, Dawson, Gardner, Kelly; Lennon (sub Tainio, 86), Jenas, Carrick, Brown (sub Defoe, 70); Rasiak, Keane (Capt.)

Subs not used: - Cerny; Pamarot; Routledge

Booked: - Rasiak

Words fail me. Spurs, for whom Cup competitions once held an aurora of magic about them, have been knocked out of a Cup competition at the first hurdle for the second time this season. Both defeats have been at the hands of lower league opposition. This time it hurt more because we had been two goals up after 40 minutes. Leicester bounced back, and killed us in stoppage time, as the most culpable of Spurs’ defenders, Anthony Gardner stood stock still, expecting an offside flag, which did not come. Gardner tried to recover, but never caught up with Leicester’s top scorer, Mark De Vries, who had given Gardner and Dawson a hard time all night.

I seem to recall that the last time Spurs were featured by the BBC in an evening Cup game, we also suffered an ignominious defeat. That was three years ago at Southampton. I had an e-mail yesterday from a correspondent who said he would accept defeat in this game, as long as we get fourth place at the end of the season. I find it hard to accept, but perhaps we’ll feel better in May, although on this form it seems unlikely. It is 32 years (1973-74 season) since Spurs went out of both domestic Cup competitions at the first hurdle. That was also the last time that we did not even have a home domestic cup game. We did at least have the joy of making the UEFA Cup Final, although that too ended in disappointment.

Martin Jol was obliged, it seems, to play Grzegorz Rasiak in place of Mido, who did fly back to England today, but obviously not in time to join the squad. His presence will be dearly needed next week at Anfield, as Rasiak has no chance of gaining the necessary confidence to play at this level. He was openly getting jeered by many Spurs fans every time the ball approached him, and has no chance of winning over the boo boys. Yet I did see a few good touches from him in the first half. I repeat, Tony Gardner was the most culpable of all the Spurs players for this defeat, and it is not the first time I have seen him fail to play to the whistle at a crucial time. (An away game at Bolton comes immediately to mind)

The game was said to be a sell-out, but although the Spurs section was full, there were thousands of empty seats in the home section Aaron Lennon was one of the few Spurs men who could hold his head up with pride. He was ultimately replaced by Tainio (with only minutes remaining on the clock), but from the start Lennon was giving Maybury real problems. Maybury got a caution for a cynical foul upon the Spurs winger in the first quarter of the game. De Vries gave Spurs some worries in that period too, having an early shot blocked well for corner, then failing to take advantage of a weak back header by Stephen Kelly, who replaced the injured Lee at left back.

Spurs had been the superior team though, and they took the lead from the free kick which followed Maybury’s booking. Carrick floated in the kick and it was a Keane header that rebounded off the post, to be fired home from close range by Jermaine Jenas, for his fourth goal of the season Dawson had to be alert to De Vries, as he nearly responded in the Spurs area. Leicester Manager Craig Levein pulled off what turned out to be a master-stroke with an early tactical change, bringing on Elvis Hammond, and changing to a 4-4-2. It was a while before a reward was forthcoming though, as Spurs continued to purr at this time. A great move started with Kelly, and ended with good combination passing from Rasiak, Lennon and Robbie Keane, who hit a good dipping shot just over the bar. Rasiak again was involved in a play, where he passed to Kelly, the ball then came inside to Brown who hit a testing low shot just outside Douglas’s right post. The keeper put the ball out for a corner, just to be sure.

Soon after that, Spurs took a two-goal lead and we thought it was game over, as Paul Stalteri scored his first goal for the club, with a fine solo advance to the edge of the area and a cracking shot that hit the roof of the net from 20 yards. Sadly, Spurs only held the two-goal lead for three minutes, as they lost concentration and gave too much space to Arsenal loanee Ryan Smith, who crossed from the left, Stearman, who headed back across the area from beyond the back post, and finally, substitute Hammond, who only had to prod the ball home from close range.

The hosts came out fighting straight from the restart, and Paul Robinson had to make a great save from Stephen Hughes. Spurs should have increased their lead, when Robbie Keane led a break, and had both Lennon and Kelly making runs ahead of him. Robbie chose to pass to Kelly, who should have scored, with only the keeper to beat, but fired over. We paid for that with some Leicester pressure from corners, one of which was half-cleared to Hughes outside the area. His shot was deflected cruelly past Robinson, by the leg of Dawson.

There was all to play for then, but it was still Spurs getting the better chances. Jenas had been pulled down just outside the area, and Carrick’s free kick was going out for a corner, but Gardner chose to cross, and Rasiak headed over. De Vries was still getting chances at the other end, and one shot from a corner was only just outside the target. Robbie Keane worked the ball down the left and pulled it back for Jermain Defoe, who had taken Brown’s place. Defoe might have hit a conventional shot, but chose to try a chip, which landed on the roof of the net. Lennon gave Defoe another opportunity, which was wasted with a shot wide across the goalmouth.

Just as we were planning for the replay on 17th January, Joey Gudjohnsson sent a ball towards that man De Vries. Gardner stood stock still, put his arm up for the flag, which did not come. De Vries was heading for goal, and did not fail to beat Robinson with a shot to his left, leaving Spurs no time to come back.

So Spurs have 17 matches left to play and two free week-ends in January and February. They have a squad strong enough to cope with much more than a 40 game season, which is all Spurs fans are getting this term. All I can say is “Make it count, Martin!”

· Squad numbers,appearances,bookings & goalscorers
· Read the preview for this game.

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