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Back to the Lane...

Posted on 6 March 2010  - 12:00

For the second time this season it finished goalless down by the Thames - this time in the FA Cup quarter-final - and we will play it again at the Lane for a place at Wembley in the semi-finals.

Back to the Lane...

For the second time this season it finished goalless down by the Thames - this time in the FA Cup quarter-final - and we will play it again at the Lane for a place at Wembley in the semi-finals.

It was a contest of few clear opportunities, Heurelho Gomes making the most athletic save on the stretch in a game where his central defenders stood tall and Wilson Palacios in front of them gave a typically all-action, combative - yet very disciplined performance.

As widely anticipated, Benoit Assou-Ekotto slotted back into the side at left back with Gareth Bale moved further forward, while Luka Modric was pushed inside to compensate for the loss of Tom Huddlestone. Roman Pavlyuchenko and Peter Crouch formed the starting strike partnership, with Jermain Defoe fit enough to take a place on bench.

The early sparring was fairly frenetic as you would expect from an early evening cup tie, the pitch was a little bobbly and the players needed to be sure-footed on the surface. The early thrust was from Fulham, while the early composure was from the team in all blue, who attempted to inject some calm inventiveness into proceedings.

Niko Kranjcar tried his luck with a free-kick from 40 yards before the lively Bobby Zamora burst into the penalty area and forced Gomes into a smart save low to his right.

Referee Mr Clattenburg elected to play on when Simon Davies tripped Bale just outside the penalty area before Niko Kranjcar forced Mark Schwarzer into his first work of the afternoon from distance, work that he did not carry out altogether convincingly. A downward header from Crouch off a Vedran Corluka cross the goalkeeper was more impressive dealing with.

Assou-Ekotto brilliantly put the brakes on Zamora in front of goal, Dawson doing likewise moments later with a vital interception off the toe of the rangy striker.

At the other end a low Bale cross in the direction of Crouch was cut off by Brede Hangeland after a passage of play involving Pavlyuchenko and Palacios. The game was close and cagey and clear opportunities were at an absolute premium in a first half that was keenly fought and higher in endeavour than match-changing quality.

The opening moments of the second half were marked by a magnificent save from Gomes, reacting athletically to a Zoltan Gera header after Zamora had nodded across the penalty area in his direction. The Brazilian's outstretched arm tipped the ball away from his left-hand upright.

Gomes then reacted smartly to save a Dickson Etuhu header from a Davies corner as the home side looked the livlier after the re-start.

There was a strong claim for handball in the area against Hangeland, but referee Clattenburg was having none of it, later penalising Pavlyuchenko for the same offence in pretty much the same spot.

A sustained spell of pressure followed with a succession of corners - and a thumping hit on goal from Dawson which, if on target, would probably have displaced the netting.

Damien Duff fired wide at the other end after a loose clearance from Assou-Ekotto and the cup tie was coming nicely to the boil.

The many thousands of Spurs fans in a crowd of 24,533 were bouncing to the beat of the game as the hour mark passed.

Gomes made a clean and solid stop in picking off a Duff effort on goal after clever shielding work from Zamora before Pavlyuchenko tried an overhead kick from a long throw into the danger zone by Bale.

Fulham bought on another big man in the shape of David Elm - Davies making way - in a bid to add some muscle and height in support of Zamora in attack, giving Dawson and Sebastien Bassong something else to think about. The two central defenders formed a superb barricade, both operating with great authority.

Bale teased in a low cross that Hangeland did well to scoop away in front of goal and it was time for Defoe, the striker taking over from Pavlyuchenko. The ever-excellent Bale set him off on a run on goal, where it looked like he might have been up-ended, but the referee decided otherwise.

Zamora was sent scampering away on the counter with five minutes remaining and thankfully his radar was askew and his dragged shot drifted off towards the corner flag. A deep free-kick just before stoppage time was deflected inches wide by the leg of Corluka as nerves began to jangle.

The three minutes added time passed without further alarm and we can look forward to part two of this FA Cup meeting.