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Spurs v Stevenage, 07.03.12

(7.30 P.M.)

Spurs scorers:-
Defoe, 26, 75
Adebayor (pen), 55

Stevenage scorer:-
Byrom (pen), 4

Attendance:- 35,757

Referee:- Mr. M. Oliver
Assistants:- Mr. A. Garratt & Mr. S. Ledger
Fourth Official:- Mr. J. Moss

Spurs (4-4-1-1):- Cudicini; Kaboul, Dawson (Capt.)(sub Walker, 9), Nelsen, Rose; Lennon (sub Adebayor, 38), Parker, Kranjcar (sub Livermore, 81), Bale; Van der Vaart; Defoe
(Armband to Parker)
Subs not used:- Friedel; Gallas; Modric, Giovani

No Bookings

Stevenage (4-1-4-1):- Day; Henry, Ashton, Roberts (Capt.), Charles (sub Myrie-Williams, 62); Bostwick; Wilson, Shroot, Byrom, Laird; Beardsley (sub Reid, 62)

Subs not used:- Julian; Edwards; Long, Winn; May

Booked:- Bostwick (foul on Rose), Roberts (foul on Bale – penalty)

Defoe breaks Stevenage dream

The 4,000 Stevenage fans had a whale of a time. Their team went 1-0 up within 4 minutes, thanks to a penalty decision by referee Michael Oliver, and held onto that lead for another 20 minutes too. During that time, Spurs failed to penetrate the strong and resilient Stevenage defence. They struggled to even get a shot on goal, whereas the blue-clad Stevenage players were buzzing and often had more players than Spurs in any area of the field. Cudicini did have work to do, and until Jermain Defoe levelled the scores in the 26th minute, a shock did look on the cards.

Spurs woe was acerbated by the early loss of skipper Michael Dawson, who fell awkwardly when challenged by Beardsley, winning a foul, but having to be stretchered off the pitch, with knee and ankle damage that looks like keeping the plucky defender out for the rest of the season. Kyle Walker got a whole 9 minutes rest, and Kaboul moved inside to cover Dawson’s absence. Spurs had also missed the presence of a big man up front, and when Aaron Lennon also fell foul to injury (another hamstring ), Adebayor came on. From this point on, Spurs looked stronger and more likely to win their way through to the quarter final against Bolton in 10 days time.

Harry Redknapp made 9 changes to the team which had lost against Man Utd, but fielded a strong team, with both Bale and Lennon threatening on the wings. Scott Parker seemed to take a little while to find his rhythm, and once he did, Spurs were able to be more resistant to the regular forward foraging by Stevenage. Kranjcar’s presence in central midfield was not helping Spurs ability to keep the likes of Bostwick and Byrom at bay.

Spurs had a nasty shock at the Paxton Lane End after only two minutes, when referee Oliver instantly aw1arded a penalty for an alleged foul by Nelsen on Byrom as he advanced down the right of the area. I’ve heard that Nelsen got the ball first, but sometimes that doesn’t matter these days. It was a shock, and Spurs protested within the bounds of decency, before Byrom himself slotted the ball past Cudicini. The visiting crowd (which probably contained a good deal of Tottenham support) were set for a great night.

Within minutes it got worse for Spurs, as Dawson suffered that injury, and had to be carried on. I remarked ironically at the time that it was all going so swimmingly well for Spurs. Gallas was on the bench, but it was Walker who came on playing his usual position, allowing Kaboul to move inside. Funnily enough, there were still times when Kaboul would go charging down the right flank, leaving Walker to cover behind him.

Bostwick was allowed too much space after 17 minutes and tried a shot from some 28 yards, which passed wide of the post. Kranjcar committed a foul on Wilson towards the left flank, and Byrom swung the ball in. Stevenage centre-back Jon Ashton had a great chance but headed wide.

Spurs had not even managed a shot on target, but went level in the 26th minute. Bale hit over a long cross from the left, and Defoe controlled superbly with his right before firing low to Day’s right with his left foot. It was Defoe’s 14th goal of the season in just 18 starts, and there would be more to come. Bale had again been wandering quite a bit, but this cross, delivered from the left showed the sort of results that arise when he does play in an orthodox way.

Now Spurs went on the attack more, and Parker often got forward too. He fed the ball to Lennon and Charles did well, happy to concede a throw. Chris Day did well to block and save a couple of efforts from Defoe, and a Spurs cross from the left passed dangerously across the goalmouth. Defoe had also threaded a nice ball into the box where Spurs had an unsuccessful penalty appeal when a player went down. Now Lennon limped off, and Spurs reverted to a 4-4-2, with Van der Vaart operating from the right. He was to become more and more instrumental in later attacks by Spurs, with some lovely long cross-field balls.

Bale led a Spurs break with a powerful run through the middle and a decent build-up ensued. The attack fizzled out though, as Bale hit a right foot shot far too wide. Defoe went on a run and fed Adebayor, who teed up Van der Vaart, but his shot too drew Stevenage laughter as it went way over the target. Bostwick found space between Kranjcar and Nelsen at the other end and got in a shot that went wide of the far post. Spurs had a little pressure going into half-time with Van der Vaart and Defoe crosses, and an Adebayor header which was cleared for a corner.

Spurs came out with a bit more gusto, and within a minute of the restart, Adebayor was jinking into the area, hitting a shot which rebounded and was popped up hitting a Stevenage arm. There was no penalty. Bostwick took an early booking for stopping Danny Rose in his tracks, and after 47 minutes, after combining with Kaboul down the right flank, Kyle Walker got almost to the bye-line sending in a low cross, which Defoe met at the near post and back-heeled into the net. He was given offside though, despite the fact that Walker himself was surely only a yard or two out from the bye-line.

Stevenage kept having a go, and there was a scramble in the Spurs area after a corner, where Beardsley was offside anyway. Van der Vaart took a corner in the north-east corner, and Bale’s glancing header reached the back post, where Defoe could only hit the ball the wrong side of that post.

Spurs took the lead with a 55th minute penalty. Van der Vaart had sent a great ball across to Bale, who had started on the left and cut in. he got into the box and was heading for the line himself, when he was fouled by Roberts. Mr. Oliver looked to his assistant for guidance, but the clear decision was a penalty and a yellow card for Roberts. There was little protest, and Adebayor stepped up to fire home with a low driven shot, after Day had moved the wrong way.

Spurs could have won by m ore, but both teams hit the woodwork in the remaining time. Bale took a pot shot from 25 yards at an angle on the left and his dipping shot had beaten Day all ends up, but rebounded firmly off the bar back into play. Kranjcar crossed and Adebayor hit a header which was blocked for a corner. Kaboul challenged at the corner, and the ball fell for Kranjcar who shot wide. Stevenage made a double substitution, and still sniffed a chance to get back on terms. They had, after all, nothing to lose. After a Stevenage throw, Cudicini had to push out a good shot by Bostwick for a corner. A second corner followed for the visitors and from this corner a Roberts headed hit the bar above Cudicini’s head and bounced down in front of the line, before Kaboul cleared.

At the other end Van der Vaart pushed on a Bale cross and fed Defoe, whose effort was saved, but guess what – he was offside anyway! Walker did well to bring the ball out of the Spurs half, and carried the ball for a good distance, feeding Defoe, who won a corner, but that was wasted by Van der Vaart, being over-hit. Spurs lead became more comfortable with fifteen minutes to go, after Bale took a quick and powerful throw, directing the ball for Defoe, who got goalside, and cut inside before firing with his right foot beyond Day’s left hand. It was a great goal.

Stevenage hadn’t given up, and another Bostwick effort was just outside the right post. Spurs were now finding more space, and Bale was sticking to the left flank, offering more and more threat. On the other side, Walker advanced and Van der Vaart hit a pass to Adebayor on the edge of the box. Adebayor almost accidentally controlled the ball, but his right foot shot went over anyway. Cudicini had to parry a shot at the other end by Reid, as Stevenage provided more goalmouth action.

Bale made a great advance down the left side and cut the ball back, but both Van der Vaart and Defoe lost their feet and failed to convert the clear chance. We were into added time, and after another run Bale exchanged passes with Adebayor, before his shot was saved. Adebayor tried to cut the ball back from beyond the goal for Scott Parker, but he couldn’t quite reach the pass.

There was great respect between the teams at the final whistle. Stevenage had a great game, and shirts were exchanged. Ronnie Henry savoured the moment and the whole Stevenage team were generously applauded as they went to greet their fans, who were still singing their hearts out. They could all be very proud, but it’s Spurs who go on to meet Bolton at home on Saturday March 17th in the FA Cup quarter-final.

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