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Stevenage v Spurs, 19.02.12

(2 P.M.)

Attendance:- 6,332

Referee:- Phil Dowd
Assistants:- Mr. D. Cann & Mr. M. McDonough
Fourth Official:- Mr. A. Taylor

Stevenage (4-4-1-1):- Day; Henry, Ashton, Roberts (Capt.), Laird; Wilson, Bostwick, Byrom, Freeman (sub Edwards, 88); Charles (sub Cowan, 73); Beardsley (sub May, 67)

Subs not used:- Julian; Long, Myrie-Williams; Reid

Booked:- Byrom (foul on Parker)

Spurs (3-5-2):- Cudicini; Dawson (Capt.), Nelsen, Kaboul; Walker (sub Kranjcar, 64), Parker, Livermore, Bale, Rose (sub Lennon, 81); Defoe, Saha

Subs not used:- Friedel; King, Khumalo; Luongo; Dawkins

No bookings

Spurs fail to wing it

This result was rightly heralded by the home fans as a moment of glory, as their team featured in the FA Cup quarter-final draw for the first time in their history. Their team gave a typically Stevenage stalwart performance, with plenty of fitness and strength demonstrated, succeeding in making it difficult for the thoroughbred Premier League side to demonstrate their true potential in front of a sell-out crowd of just over 6,000.

Harry Redknapp revealed in post-match interviews that players such as Assou-Ekotto, Modric and Adebayor were not absent by his choice, but because they were either ill or injured. In Assou-Ekotto’s case this was because of an “operation”, but hopefully this was of a minor nature and he will be in action at The Emirates next week. Whilst Ledley King was on the bench, this was allegedly to make up the numbers, because he too was not fit to play.

The absences go some way to explain the experiment that Redknapp deployed, in starting with a 3-5-2 line-up. Ryan Nelsen made his full debut between Dawson and Kaboul, and defensively, Spurs were solid, with Cudicini rarely being tested. In theory, Kyle Walker and Danny Rose were the wing-backs, but in this style, aren’t both wing-backs supposed to get forward? Danny Rose did make several advances, and was often the recipient of good long balls, including from Walker. However, Kyle didn’t seem to spend so much time in the opposition half, as he did last week against Newcastle. It's not as if he was occupied by the threat of Stevenage’s man of the match, Lawrie Wilson, who was operating on Rose's flank. Mind you, Luke Freeman gave Walker something to think about too.

The Spurs midfield three lacked creativity, with Bale the only one likely to offer any guile, but also using his license to roam fully. Playing a more advanced role, Scott Parker disappointed somewhat. Maybe some of the players on the pitch were also under the weather. The fact is that Spurs also failed to test the keeper – former Spur Chris Day – sufficiently, although he was the busier of the two.

The game was played in bright sunshine, and Cudicini was in the shade for the first half, in front of the away stand, who spent the first five or ten minutes cheerfully decrying their rivals from the wrong end of the Seven Sisters Road. As predicted “We want you to stay, Arsene Wenger, we want you to stay” got its premiere. As the game wore on though, the Spurs fans were quietened, and the home fans sniffed the outside chance of a goal to steal the game.

Spurs were the team under pressure from the kick off, with Stevenage getting an early free kick on the left of the area, which led to a corner. From that, Dawson made a clearance, and the home fans begged Phil Dowd for a handball in the box, but their appeals were waved away. There had been no threat on either goal in the first quarter of an hour. Finally, after 15 minutes, Bale fed the ball back to Livermore, just in his own half, and he sent Danny Rose away down the left wing with a good ball. Rose sent in a low cross to the near post, where it was met by Defoe, who shot wide from a narrow angle. At the other end , Freeman lifted a cross over from the left and Nelsen got in a clearing header, which Bale ultimately cleared.

After 23 minutes, Bale fed Livermore again, and he hit a good pass to Louis Saha, who was on the left of the area, but fired wide across the goalmouth. One of those balls to Rose came from the feet of Walker, and it was a great pass. Danny cut inside and tried a right foot shot, but it was woefully off target. After 33 minutes, Bale hit a great ball to Rose, whose cross was actually met by the head of Walker at close range, but hit wide. Defoe and Livermore then exchanged passes before Saha tried a chip shot, but it was half-hit and easy for Chris Day near his right post. Bale made a good break from half-way and made a good pass to Saha, who was fouled. The Spurs free kick was blocked and cleared. Two minutes later, with Spurs on the attack, Dawson had a powerful header cleared in front of the line by Bostwick. Stevenage broke with power, and Bostwick had a shot on goal, which was well blocked by Jake Livermore.

Kyle Walker gave away a clumsy free kick out on the flank, and Carlo Cudicini had to scramble to push the ball over for a corner. Defoe was fouled a couple of minutes before the break, and Kaboul took a free kick which was wide of the far post.

After the break, and within a minute of the re-start, Bale made a run from the half-way line, hitting a shot which Day was happy to push round the corner to his left. Nothing came of the corner for Spurs though. In the 55th minute, Livermore did well to come out of a midfield battle with the ball, feeding it to Parker. Parker sent Rose away down the left, and his cross was converted by Saha. Sadly, the Spurs celebrations were halted, because Saha’s shot had struck Parker as he stood on the goal-line, behind the defence. Technically, it was a correct decision, but so cruel, because had Parker managed to avoid the ball letting it go into the net, the goal would probably have stood.

Rose again crossed and fed Saha, who hit a right footed shot wide. Byrom had Stevenage’s best effort with a rising shot that tested Cudicini, but passed over the target.

Spurs now replaced Walker with Kranjcar, and reverted to a 4-4-2, with Kaboul moving to right back, Bale to left wing, and Kranjcar on the right. Stevenage replaced both their strikers. After 74 minutes, Spurs broke out of their own half, through Parker, Bale and Defoe. Bale ran ahead of Defoe for a return pass, and when he crossed inside, Saha could only scuff the ball to Chris Day. Danny Rose took a knock after a battle to the bye-line with Wilson, and he was replaced by Lennon. At this point, Bale moved to left back.

With only 4 minutes left, Lennon led a good Spurs move down the left flank, with Kranjcar, Defoe and Saha all chipping in. Defoe had the final shot on goal, but it was a weak and wide effort.

The Stevenage pitch was difficult and has frozen a couple of times recently, causing the last two home games to be postponed. There was an overnight frost before this game, and both sides complained about the ball bobbling, but of course it bobbled for both sides. Stevenage live to fight valiantly another day, and it ought to be a lucrative game for them at White Hart Lane. A home quarter-final against Bolton awaits the winners, which of course ought to be Spurs, but you never quite know, do you? After all, Stevenage will seek to stem the flow of football from spurs in the same way.

The replay is provisionally scheduled for Wednesday March 7th, due to International Friendlies on February 29th. That means we will have the Arsenal and Man Utd games played by then, but will we have a first choice team fit and able to play them?

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