Monday 22 October 2018

Amond goal seals Wembley trip as Kane rescues struggling Spurs

Newport County 1 Tottenham Hotspur 1

Pádraig Amond celebrates after giving Newport County the lead against Tottenham Hotspur in yesterday’s FA Cup fourth round tie. Photo: Reuters/Matthew Childs
Pádraig Amond celebrates after giving Newport County the lead against Tottenham Hotspur in yesterday’s FA Cup fourth round tie. Photo: Reuters/Matthew Childs

Nick Ames

Newport County's club shop stocks a book chronicling their dramatic final-day escape from relegation last season, titled The Great Escape. They came within eight minutes of accepting pitches for another astonishing chapter and a below-par Tottenham, muddied and bruised, will feel mightily fortunate not to be the subject.

Harry Kane's easy late finish means the League Two club will, at least, get a trip to Wembley but nobody would have begrudged them an even more famous win. Carlow-born Pádraig Amond's header was the least they deserved from an outstanding first half and, for long periods in the second, a meticulous rearguard action looked as it if could steer them home.

The initial impression was that, more than anything else, Spurs would have to master deeply unorthodox surroundings. Rodney Parade, its capacity boosted by 1,600 temporary seats, was designed for rugby and the extra markings on a threadbare pitch betrayed its dual use. Flanking three sides was a densely packed, intensely involved, guttural home support whose decibel level was a throwback to times none of the visiting players would have known.

What a noise they would have made if Frank Nouble had kept his composure four minutes in. Newport had rattled into Tottenham from the opening seconds, playing hard, fast and fair. When Joss Labadie showed all three qualities by barging past Eric Dier, a simple ball across the box gave Nouble an unimpeded shot from 16 yards. The former West Ham forward has had a mercurial career and, with the chance to score its most memorable goal, lost his composure, leaning back and skying a wild effort more suited to the oval-ball game.

Tottenham Hotspur's Kyle Walker-Peters (left) and Newport County's Joss Labadie battle for the ball during their FA Cup, fourth round match. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA
Tottenham Hotspur's Kyle Walker-Peters (left) and Newport County's Joss Labadie battle for the ball during their FA Cup, fourth round match. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA

Still Newport came. Mauricio Pochettino had picked a team with their physical threat in mind but the tall, broad-shouldered midfielder Labadie dominated the early exchanges. He forced Michel Vorm to clutch a stinging 25-yard drive and Spurs were dealt problems elsewhere, too. Ben Tozer's booming long throw-ins caused consternation more than once, Scot Bennett hooking wide after one had not been cleared.

The sum of Tottenham's endeavours in the first half-hour was an effort from Kane that, albeit from a more difficult position, resembled a sympathy vote for Nouble. But they gradually began to impose themselves and Kane, moving smartly onto a Moussa Sissoko cutback, would have calmed their jitters if an amber shirt had not deflected his shot onto the outside of a post.

They seemed to have exerted some measure of grip, but then the roof really did come off. Newport's attacking threat had dimmed but, after another hurled Tozer delivery, the ball was worked back to Robbie Willmott on the right. His cross was clipped perfectly; Amond's leap made statues of the Spurs defence and the din, as Vorm's net rippled, induced goosebumps.

Whether anybody had the energy for much more was moot but things almost got even better when Amond wriggled away again by the right bye-line for an angled drive that was deflected wide. When Roger East blew for half-time, Tottenham could hardly wait to get inside.

It was no surprise to see Pochettino introduce Son Heung-min at the break, switching to a back four. His decision to sacrifice brain for brawn, fielding Sissoko and Victor Wanyama alongside Mousa Dembélé in midfield, had turned out to be nothing other than a leveller. There was, accordingly, more fluidity to Spurs' movement early in the second period but chances were similarly scarce, Son being crowded out on left of the box and Jan Vertonghen floating one cross above the hitherto invisible Fernando Llorente's head. Back in their own half a hopelessly lofted ball into touch by Juan Foyth, who looked uncertain throughout, spoke of Newport's continued ability to perturb.

They had been forced deeper, but at this stage never so much as to feel under siege. As the tie ticked towards the three-quarter mark Kane failed to bring a slide-rule Sissoko pass under control; then Son, afforded space to test Joe Day, drew a sharp save from the goalkeeper's legs. It said everything that this was Spurs' first shot on target.

Tottenham's Victor Wanyama in action with Newport County's Dan Butler. Photo: Reuters/Matthew Childs
Tottenham's Victor Wanyama in action with Newport County's Dan Butler. Photo: Reuters/Matthew Childs

Respite was becoming rarer for Newport although, on one break, Labadie almost played the substitute Shawn McCoulsky, who scored their winner against Leeds in the third round, through. Their composure was rarely ruffled despite the mounting pressure and when Wanyama stubbed his toe in slicing well wide it was tempting, for the first time, to believe they had frustrated Tottenham enough to see things through.

That they did not owed everything to the ingenuity of Son, who met a near-post corner from Kieran Trippier with a pirouetting backheel that allowed Kane a simple tap-in on the other side of goal. Kane could have won it at the death, his shot deflecting wide, but at full-time the stands pulsated once more to chants of "Wembley, Wembley,".

Newport County's Padraig Amond in action with Tottenham's Eric Dier. Photo: Matthew Childs/Reuters
Newport County's Padraig Amond in action with Tottenham's Eric Dier. Photo: Matthew Childs/Reuters

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