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+The Monday Verdict

Posted on 21 February 2005  - 12:00

Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs) Football Club is located in North London. The club is also known as Spurs. Tottenham's home ground is White Hart Lane. The club motto is Audere est Facere (To dare is to do).

A trip to the City Ground a week on Wednesday awaits following the 1-1 draw at the Lane on Sunday. It really could have gone either way in the end and a replay is probably about right when you look back on the 90 minutes.

Nottingham Forest belied their lowly league position and gave it a real go - defended stoutly and attacked brightly. It was an afternoon that goalkeeper Colin Doyle will not forget in a hurry, the 19-year-old debut maker made a ghastly error to gift us the lead on the stroke of half-time, but had recovered his composure by the end to the extent of striding off his line to catch a cross on the penalty spot when late pressure was being applied.

The mood among the players afterwards was one of slight disappointment at not getting the job done at the first time of asking, but certainly one of there is a job still to be done and it will have to be done at their place.

The subject of pitches - or rather the condition of them - has been something of a talking point in recent weeks. Several have resembled ploughed fields hardly conducive to free-flowing football. This is certainly not the case at White Hart Lane and Darren Baldwin and his team deserve credit for producing a such a fine playing surface for our team to perform on.

It was a packed house at the Lane for the visit of Gary Megson's side with an incredible 12,000 tickets being snapped up on Wednesday. It demonstrates the meaning of the competition to Spurs people and also shows the level of support the team enjoys from game to game. You only have to look at some stadiums on Cup days, where season tickets are not valid, banks of empty seats are visible and the gates do not reflect the magnitude of the games being played.

Not a chance of that here, with Forest also selling all of their allocation, there was a real Cup buzz in the air prior to kick-off. Reminders of past encounters with the City Ground side were played on the Jumbotron before a man who made an indelible mark on the competition was welcomed back to the Lane - the one and only Ricky Villa.

Martin Jol made two changes to the team that started the last game against West Brom, Noureddine Naybet returning at the back for the injured Anthony Gardner, while Simon Davies slotted back into the right side of our midfield with Robbie Keane reverting to the bench.

The game had a real cut and thrust to it early on and the best scoring chance fell to Forest after just five minutes. A raking cross field ball from Kris Commons was accepted on the chest by Alan Rogers high up on the left flank, he bustled past one challenge and, with a good sight of goal, blasted his effort over the bar.

Forest was operating with vigour and purpose. Our boys were yet to shift through the gears to really make inroads into the visiting defences. Jermain Defoe came close as the 20 minute mark approached and Brown then tried his luck from 20 yards but failed to test young Irish keeper Colin Doyle.

Four minutes later, Paul Robinson was forced into a vital save with his feet after the lively Commons worked his way through our rearguard before firing in a low shot. Davies was the next to come close just after the half hour mark when his crisp drive from 25 yards was only just clawed round the post by Doyle.

Minutes later Michael Carrick and Defoe attempted to work another free-kick routine following a foul by Wes Morgan on Naybet just outside the area. This time Carrick shaped to shoot before rolling the ball sideways for the little striker to take aim for the top corner - and he was not too far away.

A couple of minutes before the break there was a very strong claim for a penalty when a Reto Ziegler dash into the area was halted by John Curtis, the defender then went to ground and swept the ball away with his hand. To be fair to ref Steve Bennett, it would have been very difficult to give the decision as Curtis had his back to him. The loose ball was then lashed against the post by Brown.

The lead was secured in the next attack and it was not a goal young keeper Doyle will care to dwell on. Morgan conceded a free-kick on the edge of the area which Defoe took and struck fairly straight. The keeper flapped at what look a routine catch and the ball dropped just over the line.

The second half began with Robinson's reflexes being tested by Commons before, from a Carrick corner, Brown took a pot shot from the far left side of the area that dipped just over the bar.

On 55 minutes the story of the game took a twist. Rogers picked up possession down the left and launched the ball forward towards the edge of the area where Robinson came to meet. Gareth Taylor managed to touch the ball with his head and diverted the ball away from the stranded goalkeeper and was left with the simple task of rolling the ball into an empty net.

The script had been altered and the boys needed to regroup and improvise - or maybe Martin would juggle his cast list as Mido and Keane began the warming up process.

Mido was duly introduced for Kanoute, with Keane making it a double change for Ziegler on 66 minutes. It was Forest who next nearly troubled the scorers when a Commons cross had to scooped away from the top corner by Robinson. Defoe then smashed the ball into the knees of Doyle after being found in the area by Brown. It was real Cup tie stuff

Ledley King so nearly produced a show-stopper on 81 minutes, surging forward towards the right with the ball before hitting it on the run with the outside of his boot. The ball went out and in, but not in enough and it ended up flying just wide. Mido then nearly won the game after a scramble in the area, his shot on the turn fielded by Doyle.

Robinson then saved the tie from our point of view with a save from Commons after the lively middleman embarked on another mazy run. More goalmouth scrambles followed in the final seconds but we need a second game to settle this one.