THFC1882 returns from it’s Christmas and New Year break. Whilst we were off, Tottenham Hotspur collected 7 points from Norwich, Swansea and West Brom, happy days. Today, the FA Cup 3rd round was the focus and we have a special guest reporter for you. Here’s Danny Carrier from the Camden New Journal with his report:
This was the chance for Harry Redknapp’s fringe players to step up to the plate and show what they could do – as well as give Michael Dawson and Aaron Lennon some much needed game time to get their match fitness back.
It meant we were treated to the unlikely central midfield pairing of Niko Kranjcar and Steven Pienaar, and while you would worry where the tackles were going to come from, in this thrid round tie their guile, speed and vision were far too much for Cheltenham Town of League Two, and the lack of bite went unnoticed.
And while you’d expect a comfortbale stroll against lower league opposition who offered plenty of effort but were caught short in the quality stakes, those with points to prove didn’t hide.
Roman Pavlyuchenko, so often criticised for his work rate, knitted things together, while Niko Kranjcar underlined what a class act he is: Harry’s request for a centre midfiled shift was met and at times he looked from a different planet than the League Two huff-and-puffers around him. The same has to be said for another fringe player, who will leave this January if an acceptable bid comes in: Gio Dos Santos had his best game in a Spurs shirt, and was instrumental in the opener.
Speaking after the game, Harry Redknapp said he was pleased with the performacnes of those who do not normally get a look in.
“Games are never straight forward and this might not have been easy, but we stuck a couple of chances away and always looked cofmfortable,” he said.
And he praised his side for their professionalism.
“There were a few players out there who needed games under their belt – Steven Pienaar, Niko Kranjcar, Michael Dawson and Aaron Lennon – and they all did marvellously well.”
He also joked that he had told Jermain Defoe that his opener was being given to Gio Dos Santos, after the poacher helped it over the line as it was going in.
“Defoe swore it was going wide,” said the boss. “We’ve told him we’ve taken it off him.”
In a midfield muddle caused by Cheltenham’s cramming tactics, the craft and guile of Kranjcar came to the fore. He was instrumental in the opener, on 20 minutes. His instinctive ball out left to Dos Santos cut the Cheltenham defence in half and the Mexican did well to stride goalwards and then beat the keeper with a classy lob. As he turned to celebrate, Defoe, the goal poacher, slid in to make sure. His was the final touch and it was Defoe’s name on the score sheet – but this was the out-of-favour Mexican’s goal all the way.
It had been coming: from the off, this second string side were far too good for their guests. Pavlyuchenko set the tone on 10 when he jinked himself some space after good work by the lively Lennon on the right. Dropping a shoulder he sent his marker one way and then curled a lovely effort on to the roof of the net. Spurs continued to build up a head of steam and with Dawson and Bassong marshalling things at the back, when poor Cheltenham did get forward they lacked the competence to get round Tottenham’s internationals. The closest they came in the first period was a long ranger on 20 from midfielder Russ Penn, but his hasty swipe sent the ball skywards where it as gleefully caught by the crowd behind the goal.
Yet for all of Tottenham’s possession, a tendency to over elaborate when approaching the Town box meant the game wasn’t safe until the 42nd minute. However, it was worth waiting for: the second came in the shape of a super team goal. Steven Pienaar, enjoying his run out in an unaccustomed central role, flipped the Town defence backwards with a neat reverese pass out to Defoe. The striker, perhaps aware that he had already pinched a goal from the toes of a team mate, strode forward and drew the keeper – before uncharacteristically squaring the ball for his strike partner Pavlyuchenko to tap home from close range.
The second period saw more of the same: Spurs pressing when the mood suited them, and the back four that inlcuded Jake Livermore as a full back more than capable of keeping their visitors at arms length.
The third, which the sell out crowd helped by £5 deals for kids were calling for, came at the death. Dos Santos tee’d himself up on the edge of the D and his shot took a deflection to spin in. It was all he deserved.
Before the final goal, Pavlyuchenko had gone close with a header, and then tried an audacious, Hoddle-esque lob, while Defoe also tested Town keeper Scott Brown on 56. Brown earned his performance fee with a double save from Kranjcar and Dos Santos on 71, and it was partly down to his heroics that the score line was kept sensible.
So job done and a fourth round draw to look forward to. Redknapp was content with his charges, but admitted the man of the match, Dos Santos, would in all probability not be here for later rounds.
“Gio needs to play, get fit and train hard,” he said.
“In all honesty I expect he will move on in the transfer window. We had a big bid for him in the summer from Italy but he did not want to go there. He was keen on a move back to Spain. But he is an international so the offer has to be right for us before we sell.”
His potential transfer will not undermine this squad – as Redknapp pointed out, he could field eight internationals against Cheltenham, and his current first XI are flying. He will be looking forward to the fourth round draw tomorrow.
Danny Carrier ( Follow Danny on Twitter @dannycarrier )
Follow this blog on Twitter and ‘Like’ it on Facebook, click the links on the right hand panel.