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Watford v Spurs, 27.01.12

(7.45 P.M.)

Van der Vaart, 42

Attendance:- 15,384

Referee:- Chris Foy
Assistants:- Mr. S. Beck & Mr. J. Collin
Fourth Official:- Mr. P. Walton

Watford (4-4-2):- Loach; Hodson, Nosworthy, Mariappa, Doyley; Deeney, Eustace (Capt.), Buaben, Murray (sub Yeates, 67); Sordell, Garner (sub Whichelow, 80)

Subs not used:- Bond; Dickinson, Forsyth, Jenkins, Iwelumo

Booked:- Hodson (foul on Lennon)

Spurs (4-4-2):- Cudicini; Walker, Dawson (Capt.), Kaboul, Rose; Van der Vaart, Livermore, Parker, Modric (sub Lennon, 46); Defoe (sub Pienaar, 80), Adebayor (sub Pavlyuchenko, 90)

Subs not used:- Friedel; Bassong, Assou-Ekotto; Kranjcar

No bookings

Spurs go through, but PHEW!

Spurs became the first team to go through to this year’s fifth round of the FA Cup, thanks to Rafa van der Vaart’s 42nd minute goal, but Watford and their connections can hold their heads high, thanks to a performance that made them look like the pedigree team from the Premier League and made Tottenham look like the Championship strugglers. On this performance, one wonders why Sean Dyche’s Watford are sitting in 18th place in the lower league. Harry Redknapp made the dash from Southwark Crown Court to pick the team, but perhaps he left his inspiration behind. Spurs fielded a stronger team than I expected, but perhaps Harry and his team knew what a tough contest lay ahead.

Michael Dawson skippered the team, and was partnered by Younes Kaboul, who had been described as a doubt. In fact the Spurs team was really only five players short of what would have been a first choice line-up (Friedel, King, Assou-Ekotto, Bale and Lennon). The trouble was that the team was missing vital ingredients, such as genuine wide play; a calm presence at the back; their best and one of the best left backs in the country, and of course the pace and skill of Gareth Bale. Those absences nearly proved to be too much for Spurs, whose defenders kept slipping over, struggling to deal with the movement and angles of the passes of the “Hornets”. Too often there was too much space in the central area in front of the Spurs area, and Carlo Cudicini must have felt as protected as he did earlier in the season in one or two Europa League matches when Spurs played their kids. Perhaps the kids would have given more to this game than did those selected.

It was a big night for Watford, who charged a princely £4 for their programme, which did pay a fair homage to their guests. The attendance was good, but the capacity at Vicarage Road has long been affected by the condemned and now partially dismantled East Stand. Spurs fans filled the Vicarage Road stand. Most of the entertainment for the visiting supporters came from a few of the chants. The Rookery End sang “Stand up if you pay your tax”, whilst Spurs chanted “Harry’s Dog’s a millionaire” and “He’ll pay what he wants, Harry Redknapp, he’ll pay what he wants”. I hope the jury wasn’t watching, because the crowd did not care too much for subjudicy here.

As for the football, it was mostly a case of watching Watford’s yellow horde marching forward, whilst the Spurs team played as if they didn’t know each other. Kaboul managed a good tackle midway after 5 minutes, but had to recover as Watford’s top scorer Marvin Sordell ran for goal. Sordell tested Cudicini, who held the shot. Two minutes later, Murray had a shot which Cudicini parried, and Spurs managed to clear. Some of the Spurs defence were having trouble keeping their feet at times. Walker made a defensive header that fell for Watford skipper Eustace, whose shot was high and wide. Deeney crossed from the right hand side, and Sordell met the ball at the near post, but couldn’t hit the target. Carlo was in close attention anyway, which was just as well.

Another Watford cross by Denney was met by Garner, but his shot was comfortable for Cudicini. Spurs hadn’t had a shot yet, but did manage something after 28 minutes, when Adebayor managed to get the ball to Defoe, who hit a half lobbed shot that was held by goalkeeper Scott Loach. Out of the blue, Van der Vaart gave Spurs an undeserved lead with minutes to go before the break. Walker had fed the ball from the right, and Rafa beat Loach with a 20 yard dipping shot that the keeper really should have reached. Spurs fans chanted “One shot, we’ve only had one shot!”. They’d forgotten Defoe’s effort, but the irony was well placed.

Apparently, Luka Modric had been feeling unwell, which begs the question, “Why was he picked?” He had certainly been quite ineffective, and was replaced at half-time by Aaron Lennon, who played down the left side and offered some width. Watford though defended well in numbers, and always seemed to have two or three players around a potential Spurs danger man. Adebayor was quite anonymous for a lot of the night.

I can’t begin to recount the chances that Watford had in front of their fans, who tried to suck the ball into the net. Luckily for Spurs, the woodwork, Carlo Cudicini, and a trait of profligacy ensured they kept a clean sheet. Three minutes into the second half, Murray hit a shot that rebounded off the far post. Deeney fired wide in the follow-up. Kyle Walker got forward to good effect and was brought down about 5 yards outside the Watford area. Van der Vaart’s free kick was wide. Soon after that came Adebayor’s best piece of play, as he fed the advancing Danny Rose, whose cross was met by the head of Walker and tipped over the bar onto the net by Loach. Spurs had at least upped the tempo and showed a desire to put the game out of Watford’s reach. A Walker cross ran to Rose beyond the goal area, and he fired in low and hard just in front of Jake Livermore. Defoe was released to make a run from half way, and found Lennon who passed inside to Van der Vaart, whose shot rebounded powerfully off the Watford bar.

Watford replaced Murray with former Spurs man Mark Yeates, playing on the right wing. From here on in, it was a case of backs to the wall by Spurs, who in fairness did defend what came at them quite well, with vital blocks by Dawson, and decent interventions by Livermore and Parker, not to mention a Cudicini save or two! A Yeates cross was headed by Eustace against the outside of the Spurs post, and Cudicini made a great point blank save from a Nosworthy effort from another delivery by Yeates. Danny Rose blocked another shot by Buaben.

For all the efforts and chances by Dyche’s side, Spurs held on to their slender advantage to go through to the fifth round, but it was very much a case of – phew, we made it! Everton beat Fulham on the night as well, but as they kicked off later than us, we became the first team into the hat for Sunday’s draw. Look out for number 10, and hope for a better performance in next Tuesday’s game against Wigan, and in the continuing FA Cup campaign.


In Sunday's 5th Round draw, Spurs drew Stevenage away.

It's a great draw for Stevenage, who have former Spurs Chris Day in goal, and Ronnie Henry at right back.

The club is naturally followed by a lot of Stevenage based Spurs, Arsenal, Chelsea and West Ham fans, which is one reason why their average crowd is not great.

I've followed them a bit, having seen all of the Spurs friendlies there, and the Spurs Reserves games that used to be played there.

I went to Wembley for their last FA Trophy win, which was the first competitive game at the new Wembley, and I was at Old Trafford last year for their League Two play-off win against Torquay.

Spurs will under-estimate this team at their peril, but obviously should win.

It's a great cup tie and a great draw for the home side, whose enthusiasm is understandable. Remember they have just achieved two successive promotions from Conference level, and have another one in sight.

Don't knock them. I would anticipate Spurs getting 1400 tickets which is the capacity of the away end at Broadhall Way. I'll have a full preview of the Stevenage v Spurs game nearer the game, and I'll include details of the day Steffen Freund scored a goal for Spurs!

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