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Spurs v Reading, 05.01.08
FA Cup Rd 3

FA CUP ROUND THREE
SATURDAY 5TH JANUARY, 2008
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (1) READING 2 (1)

Spurs scorer:-
Berbatov, 28, 49(pen)

Reading scorer:-
Hunt, 25, 78

Referee: - Mark Clattenburg

Attendance: - 35, 243

Teams:-
Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Chimbonda, Dawson, King (Capt.), Lee; Lennon, Jenas, Zokora, Malbranque (sub Huddlestone, 79); Berbatov, Keane (sub Taarabt, 63)

Subs not used: - Cerny; Gunter (wearing 44); Defoe

Booked: - Jenas, Zokora

Sent off: - Huddlestone, 82 (Violent Conduct)

Reading (4-3-2-1):- Federici; de la Cruz, Bikey, Duberry (sub Pearce, 90), Hunt (Capt.); Rosenior, Fae, Cisse; Convey, Long; Lita

Subs not used: - Hahnemann; Harper, Cox, Robson-Kanu

Booked: - Duberry, Convey

Right Royal Failures!

Spurs could and should have scored six goals again against a Reading side that made no less than 8 changes from the team which lost in the 10-goal event of last Saturday. Juande Ramos fielded his best available 11 men, and it is nothing short of a failure on their part, that insufficient goals were scored, and that Reading were allowed two. The most culpable of Spurs players was goalkeeper Paul Robinson who just about managed to catch Steve Hunt’s long range free kick on his goal-line, but then let the impetus carry him and the ball over the line. Late in the game we saw the greatest piece of irresponsibility by Tom Huddlestone, who less than 3 minutes after replacing Steed Malbranque was sent off for head butting Bobby Convey in a fracas in the south-west corner. Malbranque can be added to the list of Spurs villains, as his failure to control a simple ball in the middle allowed Convey to lead the attack from which The “Royals” levelled the scores at 2-2.

There were other Spurs men who need to reflect upon their ineffective finishing today. Robbie Keane missed two sitters. Jenas lost out in two one on one situations, and even Dimitar Berbatov failed to score his easiest chance of the day from close range. Berbatov did add two goals to his tally for the season though, one of which was as the new penalty taker, after Robbie Keane was brought down.

There was a good crowd at The Lane today, with the Spurs sections sold out, and only Reading’s allocation was not fully taken.

Steve Coppell’s changes included a completely different defence, with Stephen Hunt taking over as skipper for the day, and also filling in at left back. Hunt drew the ire of the Park Lane Spurs fans in the second half after an incident in that corner, but also of course for his two goals. It looked initially as if Reading were playing for a draw, with Leroy Lita up front on his own, but he was well supported by one-time Spurs interest, Bobby Convey, and fellow striker Shane Long, who was asked to play a wide role. Long and Convey switched flanks after a while, and I thought that Convey was one of the best of the Reading side, as he tracked back well, and showed plenty of pace and creative skills. Reading’s bench included several individuals not even listed in the squad in the programme; such was the depth of change from last week’s Premier League game. Ultimately though, Reading’s fans had every reason to be proud of their representatives who take Spurs back to the Reading stadium, but might even have grabbed a win in the closing stages against 10-man Spurs.

Hunt made a good break after just one minute, but it was Jenas who brought that attack to an end with one of several good tackles he made during the game. Lennon then made a run from the Spurs half, all the way to the Reading area, hitting his shot wide. Keane missed his first sitter after 5 minutes. Malbranque had sent a ball down the right touchline, and Bikey made a slip, allowing Berbatov to reach the ball, and set up Keane with a low cross. It’s not that Keane didn’t reach the ball, because he did get a good contact on it, with the open goal at his mercy. Robbie just put it wide when it was easier to hit the net. I wondered then if that error would come back to haunt us, and so it proved.

Two minutes after that Jenas took a free kick awarded for a foul on Berbatov, but simply put the ball to the keeper’s hands. One plus today was the fact that Ledley King played his first 90 minutes of the season, and in the first half he made runs carrying the ball into the Reading half, staying on hand for the ensuing attack. One such run after 9 minutes led to a cross by Malbranque from the left, but it caused no danger to reading at all.

Lennon had a left foot shot straight to the keeper, and then Reading started to get forward more, clearly seeking to test Lee more than Chimbonda. I thought that Lee had one of his better games defensively today, and I even saw him hit one of his best crosses in the second half! In fairness this was not a lofted cross, but a low direct ball into the danger zone. Pretty much against the run of play, Reading took a 25th minute lead, when Hunt took a free kick from the deep, and Robinson made that horrible mistake. In my view the assistant referee was clearly correct to signal a goal. Ironically, it was one of the few times when Robbo did manage to hold the ball, but as I say, he stepped too far backwards. Another irony of course, is the fact that the referee today was Mark Clattenburg, whose assistant at Old Trafford had been unable to signal Pedro Mendes’ goal against Carroll. Oh, we Spurs fans never forget, you know!

Spurs made almost immediate amends, when Lennon ended a run with a piercing pass into the box for Berbatov, who hit a great rising shot from the right side, at an angle, that hit the net after the underside of the bar. Berbatov had another chance five minutes later from a deep corner, taken from the right by Jenas. Berbatov (now cup-tied of course for any potential English club!) hit his shot just outside the far post. Then Lennon fed Jenas, who was one on one with Federici. The goalkeeper came off best.

Robinson made a save at the feet of the advancing Lita, and then Lennon got a second chance to cross from the left hand side. Aaron successfully passed inside to Berbatov, who teed up Malbranque, but the shot was hit over the bar. Keane made a run to retrieve a Robinson long ball, and after exchanging passes with Lee, passed inside to Malbranque, who hit a shot on the turn, but it was too weak, and straight at the keeper. As half-time approached, Lennon again put Jenas through, but Jermaine’s low shot was saved one-handed by Federici.

Duberry got the first yellow card of the game early in the second half, for about his third or fourth tough challenge, and then Dawson sent a good long ball which Keane chased into the box, where he was brought down under a challenge of two players, but specifically Rosenior. Having failed to convert in his last two penalty attempts, Robbie was replaced by Berbatov, who also used the hesitancy trick, then just managed to beat the dive of Federici with a spot kick that was not the most convincing.

The chances continued to come for Spurs to increase their lead, and following yet another foul on Berbatov, Lennon crossed the ball low, and the ball reached Berbatov on the edge of the box. His shot was saved, and Keane followed up to put it in the net, but had been flagged offside. Keane’s next chance came after 62 minutes, when Lennon passed from the left back to Malbranque inside him. Steed fed the ball across the area, and Berbatov picked out Chimbonda with a ball inside the defence. Chimbonda’s cross was given a glancing touch by Keane from close range, but he hit that wide too. Next to fail at close range was Berbatov himself, meeting Lennon’s cross, but struggling to get the ball from under his feet where it just stuck for long enough for Reading to clear. Lennon and Malbranque had shots blocked after a Lee cross, and then substitute Taarabt cut in from the left side and had his shot saved. I personally felt that the replacement of Keane with Taarabt was the wrong substitution by Juande Ramos. Spurs were only 2-1 up, and surely needed as much strike power as possible to try and increase the lead. Therefore, Defoe would have been the more effective replacement, wouldn’t he?

Spurs paid the penalty for their profligacy in front of goal, when Steed failed to trap the ball in the middle, and it ran to Convey, whose quick ball sent Lita away in a chase with Ledley King. Lita got a shot in which was well saved by Robinson, but (as so often) only parried, and Hunt had followed up to fire home across the keeper to the far corner.

After Huddlestone’s short-lived stay on the pitch, it really was a case of Spurs trying to hold out for a replay, as Reading now sniffed a chance of a win, and pressed hard. Spurs just about succeeded, and the fact that we must go to reading in 10 days time (date to be confirmed) means that the provisional scheduled game at Chelsea will have to be brought forward to next week-end. Jenas’s fifth booking in domestic competitions means he will miss that game, whilst Huddlestone will also miss the Arsenal game on Wednesday, and this replay.

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