With Christmas coming, everyone had better things to do than see Spurs
struggle to beat Southend United, taking extra time to do it. The
fact that it was so cold, made it all the harder to bear, even though it
means a place in the League Cup semi-final.
The success was muted as everyone made their
way home with planes, trains and automobiles all having trouble moving
around the country. Southend had rarely threatened but two headers
almost won the tie for the Shrimpers. Fifteen minutes from the
end, Sodje rose to meet a corner and headed the ball back across goal,
where it missed both the in-rushing Freddy Eastwood and the far post.
Then in extra time, Bradbury had a header knocked away from in front of
goal when danger threatened.
For Spurs, there were few plusses, but
Defoe's goal was well-taken, even though a little off-side on further
examination of TV footage. Berbatov showed a touch of class when
he was introduced and the defence did well to shackle the supposed
danger man Eastwood. In truth, I thought he disappointed after all
the hype about him. He had a couple of shots and looks both strong
and mobile, but his direct threat was not too dangerous for Spurs.
Tottenham had started fairly well, with
Huddlestone's free-kick headed into the goalmouth by Davenport, who was
in for King, but the ball was hacked away from goal and then the central
defender was back in his own box getting an important touch on the ball
as Gower's cross came in and was taken away from Eastwood. Having
hit the post against Middlesbrough from a free-kick, Benoit Assou-Ekotto
now seems the taker of choice for dead ball situations on the right hand
corner of the area. This time, he got the ball over the wall, but
there was not enough pace on it to beat Flahavan at his near post.
The Southend keeper was to have an
inspired night, keeping Tottenham at bay, but the next effort from
Malbranque was straight at him, after Stalteri and Tainio had linked
well on the right to set him up. Then it was the Spurs goalie's
turn to be tested, when former Spur Mark Gower went un-tackled on the
left, cut inside and struck a low shot that bounced in front of
Robinson, but was well gatheredin.
Halfway through the first half, Mido met
Defoe's cross and it was taken on the volley, producing a shot that
rattled the crossbar and a few minutes later, there was almost a
collector's item, when Danny Murphy ghosted in to head Stalteri's cross
inches wide. The chances kept coming and kept being missed, as has
been the story of this season. Defoe got a lot of power in his
header from 15 yards out, by staining his neck muscles to meet
Assou-Ekkoto's cross, but Flahavan showed good footwork to push off and
tip the England striker's effort wide.
Just before the break, Paul Stalteri made
a vital block in front of goal when Eastwood's effort on goal was
charged down and Campbell-Ryce drove in a shot that the Canadian
diverted wide of the goal. Following the corner, Gower tried his
luck from long range and sent a shot curling away from the goal.
The half-time interval saw no changes for
Spurs and Malbranque brought Flahavan into early second half action with
a shot that lacked sufficient power to beat the alert keeper. Six
minutes into the half, Davenport won a defensive header and as it went
beyond Sodje, Defoe was darting onto it and lifted it over the keeper,
but a bit too high and it ended up lobbing over the bar. Hud was
being urged to "shoooooooot" at every opportunity by the crowd and a 30
yard drive smacked into the crowd rather than the back of the net as the
hour approached. Some minutes later, he forced Flahavan into a low
save with a shot after making himself a ayrd outside the box to shoot.
Then came Sodje's header, which was the
closest the visitors had come, whiel Tottenham still pressed forward,
creating the chance at the death that might have won the tie, if nto for
the agility of the Shrimpers keeper. While seemingly short, he
does very well to balls heading into the top corner and when Mido
glanced a header from Huddlestone's free-kick, Flahavan shifted his feet
and took off to palm it over the crossbar to take the game into extra
time. At this point, the fans were almost frozen to their seats as
the temperature dropped both off and on the pitch.
Southend seemed to lose hope at this
stage of the evening. Rather than thinking they could win it in
the last half hour, they shrunk back and failed to test the Spurs
defence as much. An early drive dragged across the front of the
Tottenham goal from 25 yards out by captain Maher, who was also
returning to his footballing roots, was about as close as it came for
the visitors in the first period of extra time.
Tottenham really did not push forward
with any conviction and they failed to make Flahavan work very hard in
the first fifteen minutes, with only a weak Berbatov shot straight at
him to deal with. It was into the second half when it looked more
likely that Sours would come out on top. The passing was hardly
incisive, but more precise and they started to get openings. The
Southend keeper had to get to Dawson's looping header to stop it
dropping in and Mido fired a shot in on goal that caught a defender and
went just wide
The Egyptian had been taking a fair bit
of stick from sections of the crowd, as Berbatov's introduction for
Murphy saw Spurs load the front line with three players and Mido was one
who got pushed wide on the left most of the time. He was in space
with the ball on one occasion and put his cross way beyond the white
shirts in the box and out of play when he had time to size up a measured
ball in. However, with just five minutes left, Berbatov slipped a
lovely pass inside the full back to Mido, who played a low ball across
the six yard box to supply Jermain a goal on a plate, as he slid in to
get his studs to the ball and direct it over the line to give Tottenham
At the time, it looked a good enough
goal, but discussion afterwards centred around whether it was offside.
While not normally being one to defend officials, I think this was a
tough one to call, as it looked on first hand viewing that Defoe had
been behind the ball, but on TV, it looked as though he had gone a
little early to get ahead of his marker.
Having the lead, freed Spurs up a bit and
although United did have a header knocked off the line, Berbatov had a
header and a shot that should have added to the lead.
So, a win that came at length, but one
which puts Spurs two games from Cardiff's Millennium Stadium. Once
more, it was not a convincing performance, but one that was enough to
get the result in the end. At the final whistle, we prised
ourselves out of our seats and the pleasure of movement meant that the
blood flow started to permeate the extremities of our chilled bodies.
Let's hope Spurs don't freeze when they meet their semi-final opponents.