Tuesday 24 April 2018

Spurs pedigree a hurdle too high for Cheltenham

Tottenham 3 Cheltenham 0

DUNCAN WHITE

When it comes to Cheltenham, Harry Redknapp normally likes a gamble but even making 10 changes to his team was pretty low risk. Maybe if it had been closer to festival time he might have ordered his team to seek a replay. As it was his second string simply had too much for their League Two opposition.





The gap of 67 league places was matched by the gulf in class. Eight of Tottenham's team were internationals and Michael Dawson and Aaron Lennon were first-team players returning to fitness. Niko Kranjcar ran the game, while Danny Rose gave a spirited performance at left-back.

Cheltenham, who are third in the fourth tier, performed to great credit. It is not unusual for teams from the bottom divisions to play with fight but Mark Yates's side combined that determination with a commitment to passing football. They even came up with some really inventive set-pieces to keep Spurs guessing. It was telling that a significant number of home fans stayed behind to applaud the Cheltenham players off the pitch.

"I was massively proud of the team," Yates said, miraculously still in possession of his voice after his sustained bellowing from the touchline. "We created some good opportunities. We were never going to come here and go toe to toe with a team like this. We tried to keep it tight and we showed that we have decent players. Today was a reward for the hard work they have put in."

The only disappointment was that they did not come away with a goal from one of their well-crafted chances. Kaid Mohamed opted for a premature shot instead of taking on Dawson, while Russell Penn missed a great chance after Brian Smikle had nutmegged Rose. Even in the last few moments Marlon Pack would have scored if he had kept his shot down.

Mostly, though, Spurs were comfortable after the opening goal. With the visiting defence slightly out of shape, Kranjcar played a superb pass between the centre-back and right-back for Giovani dos Santos to sprint on to. The Mexican angled his run towards goal and then, when Scott Brown came rushing out, scooped the ball over the goalkeeper. That would have been his first goal in domestic football for Spurs had not Jermain Defoe gone scuttling in to nick the goal just before it crossed the line. Dos Santos did not have to wait too much longer, though.

The Mexican was involved in the build-up to the second, too. His clever pass put Defoe into space down the left and the striker squared for Roman Pavlyuchenko to finish.

Dos Santos finally scored himself with five minutes left. Rose appeared to have handled and the finish took a deflection, but after being robbed by Defoe, Dos Santos must have felt he had earned the breaks.

That may well be his last action as a Tottenham player. "We expect him to move if the right offer comes in," said Redknapp.

While Yates agonised over whether he might be able to make "one or two loan signings" in his push for promotion, Redknapp said that it would take a special player to become available if Spurs were to buy.

"Unless it is someone who can make a difference to the team then there's no point," Redknapp said. "There are one or two players around but their wages are just crazy. I'm not fussed if we sign anyone but I think Daniel [Levy] enjoys the transfer window. He likes to pull off a deal.''

On this evidence, Spurs have more strength in reserve than they might have anticipated. Rose might have Gareth Bale and Benoit Assou-Ekotto ahead of him but he is developing encouragingly, while Redknapp was full of praise for Kranjcar. The Croatian hit one volleyed pass of such vision that even his team-mates had thought he was merely thrashing the ball to safety. "It was out of this world," said Redknapp.

Telegraph

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