FA Cup 4th Round
Saturday 23rd January
The Cup is dead! Long Live the Cup! The cup was dead after the Saturday of the 3rd round (traditionally one of the highlights in the calendar of course), poorly attended fixtures with no giant killing left us longing for the days of Ronnie Radford, Sutton United and Tim Buzaglo to re-ignite the flailing passions in the grand old competition. The romantic British sporting public needed a hero of a similar ilk and just when it seemed all hope was lost we were blessed with 2! Step forward Jermaine Beckford and Rafael Benitez who were the stars of the subsequent 3rd round upsets and breathed new life into this year’s competition much to the delight of neutrals everywhere and relief of ITV sport executives.
Steve Ryder welcomed us and introduced the panel of ex Spurs and Leeds Goalkeeper Paul Robinson and familiar ITV face Andy Townsend. He immediately fell into the common trap of asking a footballer a question while giving him the answer at the same time by putting to Robbo that he must have split loyalties tonight. Robbo didn’t let us down: ‘Yep, split loyalties. Just hoping for a good game of football.’ Townsend then told us that since Leeds win at Old Trafford they hadn’t won another game since, all of which they’ve been favourites in but tonight, being underdogs ‘makes them dangerous again.’ More gibberish followed when ‘Appy Arry’ was interviewed and asked if it was going to be pretty straightforward for Spurs tonight. ‘Straightforward?’ he responded while half-laughing in bemusement. ‘I’ve never seen a cup tie that’s straight forward yet.’ This prompted me to wonder what he was doing for his teams 3rd round tie against Peterborough and if he wasn’t there why didn’t someone tape the 4-0 win for him?
Commentator Peter Drury gave us the team news and seemed most excited that Spurs included ‘a delicious full 1st team debut for Leeds United Academy product, Yorkshire’s own Danny Rose.’ In the few minutes before kick-off we got shown a few crowd shots and the camera focussed on a bare-chested Leeds fan before finding three more just a few moments later. At this point I decided that for your benefit I’d do a running total of shirtless Leeds fans we were ‘treated’ to but after numbers 2, 3 & 4 there was a resounding drought so unfortunately here’s where this ‘fun’ feature begins and ends readers!
A whirlwind start to the game where other than an opportunistic effort from round 3 hero and all-around livewire Jermaine Beckford, the famous Tottenham Hotspurs are absolutely battering their League 1 opponents. It’s not long before Spurs pressure looked to have paid off as Rose was clearly caught in the box and Allan Wiley, stood just yards away inevitably pointed to the spot. Defoe stepped up but put a decently struck penalty far too close to Casper Ankergren who made a good save. This predictably got the travelling four and a half thousand travelling support giddy but Drury was going somewhat OTT when he described them as ‘celebrating like they’d won the cup.’
Spurs continued to create chances and you could tell the home fans clearly thought they weren't in any danger of not winning as there wasn’t the discontent crowds get when their teams missed a pen with a game still at 0-0. I’m not saying this is particularly wrong as they’d fancy their chances at home to anyone and that obviously includes a team two divisions lower. I do have to be honest though, at this point (and all points since the draw was made) I found myself hoping Leeds United would win through this particular round of the Football Association Challenge Cup.
After another run and shot from Defoe, Drury tells us ‘Tottenham could be over the hills and far away’ and Spurs fans can clearly be heard singing their elongated version of ‘oh when the Spurs go marching in’ which (if you’re interested) I think is one of the best versions of a traditional classic heard in our stadiums folks. How Spurs aren’t in front at this point really is a mystery as Ankergren’s goal is being peppered from all angles. Great mate Shoegl, shamelessly pimping himself for a mention in this blog txt me at this point with ‘If this was a boxing match…’ which in fairness is a great cliché and subsequently he’s achieved his aim.
22 minutes in and Defoe is put clear through and when appearing to hesitate, gets tackled from behind by Leeds defender, Jason Crowe. Co-commentator and former Leeds fullback Jim Beglin didn’t think Crowe ‘got a huge amount of the ball.’ At this point I disagreed with him as on first viewing it appeared he’d cleanly taken the ball. The replay then proved why Jim Beglin is paid to give his opinions about football and I’m not paid to write mine down and publish them on a sparsely-read blog as it clearly should’ve been a 2nd pen to the lilywhites. Leeds best spell of the game so far then followed with chances for Robert Snodgrass and Beckford who were clearly their most dangerous players.
The Leeds fans then thoughtfully start singing ‘are you blogging Manchester?’ Which I thought was some nice recognition of my work although Drury seems to mistakenly think they’re singing ‘are you watching Manchester?’ In either case the answer is yes and it’s nice that they thought to enquire about my activities during such a big match for the fallen giants. Then, just as I begin to think they’re looking good to repeat the previous round heroics, Peter Crouch easily hits in a rebound after Nico Krankjar has a shot saved and dispels these thoughts.
The Spurs fans predictably break into their famous FA Cup Chas’n’Dave penned classic as half time approaches. No, not 1991’s ‘It's lucky for Spurs when the year ends in 1’(or to give the accent effect ‘Its Laaaaaarckey for Spurs when the year ends in wann!’) But ‘Ossie’s dream’ and ‘Spurs are on their way to Wembley’ reverberates around ‘the Lane.’ Jermaine Jenas leans back and sky’s what would’ve been a belting 2nd goal and that’s it. Half Time, Tottenham Hotspurs 1 Leeds United 0.
Leeds start the second half with real purpose and are gifted an opportunity almost immediately as Beckford intercepts a poor Jenas backpass but his touch is too heavy and it rolls out for a goal kick. Leeds manager Simon Grayson has clearly put something in his players’ half-time cup of tea as pressure leads to another corner, from which the ensuing scramble sees Beckford skilfully put the ball under Mario Gomez to equalise. ‘Rockingham Road, Old Trafford, White Hart Lane’ Peter Drury decides to shout out the grounds Beckford’s bagged at on the road in this years competition.
Leeds who really could’ve been beaten in the 1st 20 minutes are now on-top and seemed to be flowing with confidence. ‘By the way’ Beglin begins his point as if he’s going tell us he’s going for a pint after the game and ask if anyone fancies it ‘are Leeds up for this now!’ which was a rather disappointingly bland ending to his sentence/statement/question. It also seems the home crowd are becoming somewhat agitated which is welcome viewing as each misplaced pass or lost tackle is met with the not unfamiliar White Hart Lane groan. Beglin does however seem worried that his former club wont want a replay as another game could upset their promotion hopes. Fortunately for him a moment or so later Roman Pavlyuchenko produces a moment of quality as he dummies a pass which takes a defender out of the game allowing Defoe to put him though easily and he places past Ankergren to make it 2-1. In quite a unique celebration the goalscorer runs to the fans behind the goal, takes off his gloves and throws them into the crowd. I’m surprised that some 4 days after the FA haven’t yet issued a directive to referees that all glove chucking celebrations will now result in a booking.
In the same way ‘do-gooders’ watch programmes they know will outrage them so they can clog-up the switchboards and write to points of view, I watch Spurs cup ties (well any cup ties as it gets shown regardless) to get irked at mentions or clips of Ricky Villa and would you adam’n’eve it, on 78 minutes Peter Drury refers to ‘that’ goal. If your reading this Peter, I can do without the constant (once in 90 minutes) reference to a goal that still haunts me to this day (I should point out was only 1 year old at the time.)
Everyone appears content with Spurs seemingly progressing to the 5th round and Leeds on their way out but ‘having given a good account of themselves’ which appears to be the only thing you have to do as a lower-league underdog in a cup tie. Chances come to both Bale and Jenas to get the 3rd goal and put the tie out of sight and despite a lot of effort Leeds don’t look like creating the chance to get a second equaliser. Extremely deep into injury time Beckford gets the ball in the Spurs box in a one on one situation with Michael Dawson. Just as I’m urging him to shoot he runs at Dawson and lures him into a challenge that sees Beckford going to ground and appealing for a penalty. Wiley delays his decision and dramatically points to the spot which prompts me to shout ‘he’s give it!’ despite the fact I was in the flat on my own.
After a seemingly huge wait Beckford stepped up to take the dubious pen he’d just earned. This was a pressure kick yet Beckford showed composure ahead of his years to hit a perfect and unstoppable pen into the roof of the net. Predictably this sent the travelling Leeds fans into raptures and the game could only re-start for a few seconds more before Wiley brought it to a close and the Leeds players celebrated their unlikely draw and impending Elland Road replay. What a game! Its 2 in 2 for dramatic late goals on this blog’s featured games so far and lets hope this is a sign of things to come eh TV sports fans!
Crystal Palace v Wolverhampton Wanderers
FA Cup 4th Round Replay
Tuesday 2nd February
Leeds United v Tottenham Hotspur
FA Cup 4th Round Replay
Wednesday 3rd February