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Posted on 20 December 2006  - 12:00

Jermain Defoe saw to it that we avoided the prospect of penalties with his late winner against Southend United on Wednesday night.

Jermain Defoe saw to it that we avoided the prospect of penalties with his late winner against Southend United on Wednesday night.There was just six minutes of extra time remaining when the penalty box predator pounced to book us a place in the Carling Cup semi-finals for the first time since 2001.

The opening exchanges were typical of a cup tie of this nature - frenetic, full-blooded but lacking a precision of delivery. There were no shots on goal to speak of until the 10 minute point when Steed Malbranque was tripped outside the area allowing Jermain Defoe a free-kick on goal, before Malbranque himself stung the palms of Darryl Flahavan in the Southend goal with a powerful hit from distance.

There was a moment of distinction half way through the opening period when Defoe, forraging down the left flank, floated in a cross that Mido pulled out of the air and on the volley fired goalwards. The ball, not doing complete justice to the effort, cannoned off the underside of the bar and was cleared to safety.

Danny Murphy was then not far away from starting up our account for the evening when he managed to plant his head on an excellent cross from Paul Stalteri. Flahavan was beaten, but so was the post. Michael Dawson was in the wars after a collision with Flahavan and arose clutching his shoulder before the goalkeeper reacted sharply to a goalbound Defoe header that was the result of a measured cross from Benoit Assou-Ekotto.

The flow of the first half was predominantly in one direction - towards Flahavan who was guarding the Park Lane goal - but a breakthrough proved elusive.

Murphy and Malbranque combined leading to the Frenchman testing Flahavan in our opening gambit of the second half. The football was neat and clever, with Murphy dictating much of the play in tandem with Huddlestone. Stalteri shot over before Defoe stole in behind Efetobore Sodje and attempting to lift the ball over Flahavan, but it was a big ask with the keeper so quickly off his line.

The introduction of Edgar Davids was the first change of the game, the Dutchman replacing Teemu Tainio, who appeared to be suffering from a knock. Southend were being stobborn though and were defensively strong as a unit, allowing good football to happen in front of them, while not letting it creep behind.

Murphy tried his luck from long distance but, again, Flahavan was equal to the task set to him in front of a crowd of 35,811. The fans were calling for Dimitar Berbatov and their wish was soon granted, but not before a high alert at our end when a Sodje header flashed across the face of the goal.

Berbatov made his entrance with 15 minutes left on the clock - Murphy making way - but Southend were gaining in confidence and pushed forward in the final ten. It was Flahavan in the next most significant action when he was forced into a superb save from a Mido header with just two minutes remaining.

There was danger from Defoe in stoppage but, for the second tie running, we headed into an extra 30 minutes. In the first three former Spur Kevin Maher fizzed in an effort from distance as the visitors showed no obvious signs of wilting, despite Berbatov being the clear threat.

A drive across goal from Assou-Ekotto could have unlocked the door as half-time in extra time approached and the forward thrusts of Calum Davenport were becoming a frequent feature.

It was a Dawson header which next stretched Flahavan and tension was rising rapidly inside a freezing cold Lane. Mido could have sealed it when the ball landed at his feet to the left of the six yard box, but the goalkeeper again managed to get a body part in the way.

With six minutes left the scoreboard was finally indicated a goal to the good. Berbatov cleverly played in Mido down the left flank and the Egyptian fizzed the ball across goal and Defoe pounced at the far post to send a little warmth through the Spurs majority in the crowd.

Southend were looking a good bet to take the tie right through to penalties, but that scenario was thankfully avoided and we can now look forward to the draw for the semi-finals on Saturday.