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Match Reports
Spurs v Southend, 20.12.06

A.E.T (Score after 90 mins: - 0-0)

Defoe, 115

Referee: - Phil Dowd

Attendance: - 35,811

Spurs (4-3-1-2):- Robinson (Capt.); Stalteri, Dawson, Davenport, Ekotto; Tainio (sub Davids, 56), Huddlestone, Murphy (sub Berbatov, 76); Malbranque, Defoe, Mido

Subs not used: - Cerny; Lee, Gardner

Booked: - Stalteri

Southend (4-4-2):- Flahavan; Hunt, Sodje, Prior (sub Clarke, 24), Hammell; Campbell-Ryce (sub Hooper, 113), McCormack (sub Francis, 117), Maher, Gower (Capt.), Bradbury, Eastwood

Subs not used: - Welch; Paynter

Booked: - McCormack, Hammell

Spurs scraped through to the semi-finals of the Carling Cup with only five minutes of extra time remaining. The goal needed the efforts of all three strikers available to Martin Jol, with Jermain Defoe finishing the move from close range. Let there be no doubt though that any glory emanating from tonight’s game belongs only to brave Southend, who put up a great display, and had every chance of securing passage to the last four, especially with the lottery of a Penalty shoot-out looming until Defoe’s strike.

Spurs fielded a strong League Cup side. Let there be no excuses about the involuntary absences of Jenas, Keane, Lennon and Ghaly, the suspension of Zokora, and the resting of Ledley King and Pascal Chimbonda. Whilst I suspect that apart from Jenas and Keane, all will be available for the trip to St. James Park, Martin Jol fielded a side strong enough to have cast Southend aside. I thought that the Spurs defence played very well, but the ineptitude came from those players in front of them. Malbranque seemed to have free reign in front of the midfield trio of Tainio, Huddlestone and Murphy. All but Tainio did clever things at times, but Murphy and Malbranque were often guilty of poor application at the crucial “final pass” stage. Tainio just wasn’t at the races today, to be honest, and it came as a merciful relief when he had to be withdrawn (another injury), and was replaced by Edgar Davids, who was making his first appearance for a month. Whilst Davids also made one or two errors, his industry generally led to Spurs being stronger towards the end of the game. Super Ed even had a couple of decent chances on goal!

The midfield didn’t have the monopoly on mistakes though. Mido might have come closest to scoring before the goal, when he hit the bar in the first half, but he failed to win or hold up the ball enough of the time, and even fell over when presented with a golden opportunity in front of goal late in the game. I was surprised he stayed on the field, but he did claim the assist for the winning goal. Defoe too is not blameless in a display which had Spurs fans in despair for so much of the evening. He too had good chances, but often failed to manage a shot in situations when he has in the past been lethal.

As bad as Spurs might have been at times, full credit must be given to the Southend team. Sodje was so strong at the back, and when Prior had to be replaced mid-way through the first half, substitute Peter Clarke stood up well to the challenge in front of a virtual full house. Ex-Spurs Kevin Maher and Mark Gower (skipper for the night) were part of a battling midfield, that also found space to create at times. Most impressive for me was right winger Jamal Campbell-Ryce, whose tussle with Assou-Ekotto was one of the highlights of the evening. Campbell-Ryce was all over the park for “The Shrimpers”, often coming inside to pick up the play, but also helping at the back. I spotted two or three occasions of poor application on his part, but he and his ten team-mates can hold their heads high, after a marvellous League Cup campaign, in which they vanquished the mighty Manchester United. Freddy Eastwood, who was subject of a lot of the advance publicity, was almost in the background compared to those I have named.

Right from the start there were plenty of occasions when Spurs needed to defend stoutly, and that they did, with Calum Davenport winning virtually everything in the air, and Michael Dawson as reliable as ever. It was Eastwood’s striker partner Lee Bradbury who so nearly got through the Spurs defence within two minutes, but was thwarted before he could threaten Paul Robinson with a shot. This was to be a pattern for most of the game, as Robbo had few saves to make, but those in front of him did plenty of blocking.

A Murphy free kick had been held by Flahavan, before Spurs best play came after 12 minutes. Ekotto and Huddlestone won the ball back just inside their own half, before the ball was fed to Tainio inside the Southend half. Malbranque exchanged passes with Stalteri, before hitting a low shot which the keeper held. Mido’s best effort came mid-way through the half, when Defoe crossed from the left side of the area, and the Egyptian struck a rising left foot shot that hit the underside of the bar and was cleared. Stalteri hit a powerful cross from the right, and it was Murphy that got a glancing header that passed beyond the back post. At this stage you thought it was only a matter of time before Spurs took the lead, but frustration was to creep in.

Dawson incurred the wrath of the 5000 Southend fans, when he firmly challenged the keeper going for Huddlestone’s free kick. Defoe actually climbed to meet an Ekotto cross after 33 minutes, and his header was on target bringing a good save from the Southend Guardian. After the break, Murphy tried to reach Defoe with his pass, that was behind the striker, but did run to Malbranque at the back of the box. Once again, Flahavan was equal to a shot that was not as challenging as it should have been. Huddlestone slid the ball to Stalteri, who tried from distance but hit the ball over the bar. Paul Robinson found Ekotto with a good ball down the left flank, and Ekotto’s ball was lifted over Sodje who for once was confused by Defoe, who tried a flick towards goal that didn’t beat the keeper.

Davids soon made an impression after replacing Tainio starting a move which ended in an Ekotto cross and another wide shot from Malbranque. Murphy stepped up next, receiving from Huddlestone, but held by Flahavan yet again. Now Spurs got an alarm call, as Sodje was up for a corner, following which the ball was crossed from the right and the defender’s header went agonisingly across the goalmouth. The next worry, with full time only 7 minutes away, came after Campbell-Ryce picked up a stray Malbranque pass, hitting a goal-bound shot that was deflected for a corner.

Spurs had a chance to seal the win with two minutes remaining of normal time. Davids was fouled 25 yards out. Huddlestone took the kick, and Mido’s flicked header was well saved. As we went into extra-time, Kevin Maher found space for a shot, but Paul Robinson was confident enough to leave it and watch the ball pass outside the target. Ekotto picked out Berbatov with a good ball to the left side of the Southend area, but Berby’s left foot shot carried no power. Ekotto had the only other notable chance of the first period of extra time, as the ball ran loose to him, lurking in acres of space. Ekotto’s shot had strength, but not accuracy.

There is no question that Spurs dominated as far as clear-cut chances go, but once again, the crowd became nervous as penalties loomed, with every Southend attack having the home fans on edge. Spurs had a bit of pressure after 111 minutes, with a couple of corners, the second of which was headed towards goal by Dawson, but saved again! The goal came at last, when Malbranque passed through the middle to Berbatov, who found Mido on the left. For once Mido did hit a decent cross, beyond the far post, and Defoe slid in to finish off in front of the Paxton Road crowd. The relief of all those with Spurs connections was plain to see, and that gives nothing but kudos to the Southend team and their fans. Good luck to them in their quest for Championship survival.

In a frantic finish, Paul Robinson had to make a good save from shot at his right post; Malbranque crossed and Berbatov’s header was saved; Davids had a shot from 20 yards saved by Flahavan; Berbatov deceived Sodje, but hit the side netting with his shot; and a last minute Southend corner was cleared Southend was quite rightly applauded off the pitch by home and away fans alike.

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