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Match Reports
Spurs v Port Vale, 08.11.06

(a.e.t – score after 90 mins 1-1)

Spurs scorers:-
Huddlestone, 79, 99
Defoe, 107

Port Vale scorer:-
Constantine, 64

Referee: - Steve Bennett

Attendance: - 34,560

Spurs (4-4-2):- Cerny; Ifil, Dawson, Dervite, Y-P Lee; Malbranque (sub Lennon, 63), Huddlestone, Davids (Capt.), Murphy (sub Ghaly, 69); Defoe, Barcham (sub Berbatov, 66)

Subs not used: - Fulop; Ziegler

Booked: - Dawson

Port Vale (4-4-2):- Goodlad; Abbey, Walker, Pilkington (Capt.), Miles; Whitaker, Sonner (sub Gardner, 104), Harsley, Smith (sub Cardle, 104); Constantine, Sodje (sub Husbands, 104)

Subs not used: - Anyon; Prosser

Booked: - Miles, Walker, Harsley

Until Tom Huddlestone equalised in the 79th minute, it looked as if Spurs were going to go out of this year’s Carling Cup and join the giant-killers victims list, that last night enrolled Manchester United at Southend. Port Vale had brought a full contingent of 2900 fans with them, and they were having a whale of a time, celebrating top scorer Leon Constantine’s 64th minute goal. The whiff of a victory for the Potteries side was certainly in the air, but once Huddlestone’s free kick sailed in there was really going to be one winner, and it was a matter of time before the win was sealed. Sadly for the travel arrangements of those gathered, extra time was required, before Huddlestone and Defoe made the scoreline comfortable.

As expected, Martin Jol made a number of changes, with French under 18 International Dorian Dervite getting a debut at centre back, and Andy Barcham also making his first appearance next to Jermain Defoe. What an experience for these young lads to play in front of what was nearly a full house, despite the anticipated chaos at the ticket office. Phil Ifil also made a return to first team action after a long break, since his debut as a 16 year old in 2004. Of the three, surely it was Dervite who impressed most. He already has the physical stature of a central defender, and he looked comfortable and confident tonight – almost getting a touch as he rose to try and meet Huddlestone’s free kick. Now that would have capped a great debut. Andy Barcham was not so lucky, although he had his moments, especially early in the game, winning several corners. Barcham is only about 5ft 9 ins, so Spurs needed to deliver to feet, and this often led to some hesitation and delay in the build up, waiting for an opportunity to pass accurately to arise.

Steed Malbranque made his much-awaited debut for Spurs, and played on the right tonight. Malbranque made a few good passes, but plenty of stray ones, and was the first to be replaced (by Aaron Lennon) after 63 minutes. Mido was absent altogether, and I assume he had an injury, otherwise he surely would have played tonight. 7 of the team that beat Chelsea on Sunday were rested completely.

Spurs enjoyed the early pressure with a number of corners, but the best chance came to Port Vale’s left winger Jeff Smith, who collected a loose ball on the left of the Spurs area, but fired just wide of the side netting at the near post. Spurs then had a couple of chances from corners. One was taken short by Murphy and passed to Young-Pyo Lee, whose shot was parried by Mark Goodlad, who was to make plenty of saves all night. Dervite’s follow-up was saved, then Murphy’s returned cross was put wide by the young centre back. A Malbranque ball across the field was intercepted by Whitaker, and the ensuing attack led to a rising shot by Constantine that went over the corner of the goal.

Mid-way through the half, Defoe had the first of many chances when he was onto Huddlestone’s ball. Defoe turned and hit a great curling shot which Goodlad patted round for a corner. Port Vale enjoyed a brief spell of pressure, and their fans were outsinging Spurs who had finished crowing about Sunday’s defeat of the Premiership Champions. Huddlestone had a 20 yard pop at goal himself after winning a challenge 30 yards out. At the other end, Cerny had to be alert to Abbey’s free kick after 37 minutes. Just before the break, a great ball by Davids gave Defoe another opportunity. Jermain got in a left foot shot, that was saved. Whenever Defoe was on the ball, it seemed that three or four defenders were buzzing around him. Vale were ever so well organised, and whilst they managed to feed the ball to Sodje and Constantine often, they soon formed a defensive dome whenever Spurs were on the attack.

Just after the break, Barcham laid the ball back for Edgar Davids to hit a whizzing shot just past the post. Sodje battled away to try and get a shot on goal, but was blocked. The ball ran to his left and Constantine did hit a shot just past Cerny’s post. After 55 minutes, Malbranque tried to tee up Defoe, who fired low, but saw the keeper get down in time to save yet again. Lennon made a welcome entrance, but hadn’t touched the ball before he saw his team go one down. Dawson failed to deal with a high ball into the Spurs area, and Constantine took advantage with his shot in front of his own fans, to shock most of those gathered. It wasn’t long before Big Marty added Berbatov and Ghaly to the fray, but Miles made Cerny save again.

At last Spurs started to tick, and they nearly scored through Berbatov who got on the end of a Huddlestone free kick, but saw his header saved by that man Goodlad. Huddlestone then sent a great ball down the line on the right for Berbatov, who fed Defoe. Jermain got almost to the bye line before this cross/shot was cleared. Defoe was soon at it again, trying his heart out to score, beating two or three defenders, but firing wide again.

Finally that equaliser came. It looked as if Dervite might have got a touch to Tom’s free kick, but it actually beat everyone including the keeper, and drifted into the far corner of the net to bring deep joy and relief to the Lane. Defoe should have secured the game before full time, when Spurs played a great move from the back through Huddlestone, Berbatov, Ghaly and finally Defoe, who this time had the goal at his mercy.

Extra time it was then, and Spurs nearly scored from the off, as Lee crossed from the left and Berbatov hit a lovely left foot first time shot that was saved yet again. Ghaly and Lennon caused pressure from either flank, before Davids charged down and chased a ball to the left, crossed for Berbatov, who passed back outside the area, where Huddlestone hit a fine 22 yard drive, that took a slight deflection, but deserved the resulting goal. Ghaly had a couple of shots cleared or blocked in added time at the end of the first period of extra time, and then two minutes after the break, the game was sealed when Defoe got the goal he clearly deserved. Ifil crossed deep from the right, and Jermain met the ball inside the 6 yard box with a delightful first time shot that he slid in with his right foot. Spurs were comfortable thereafter, and Defoe might have had another goal in the closing minutes, from a Lennon pass.

These were Huddlestone’s first goals for the club at first team level, and he clearly warranted a man of the match award, for the goals and his overall contribution. Port Vale’s team and their fans can travel back with their heads held high, having had a great night, that so nearly turned to glory. However, it is Spurs’ name which goes into the hat for the quarter final draw being held on Saturday at 12 noon.

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