The FA Cup's standing with some clubs and a lot of fans may have withered in the past decade, but it can still produce a game that leaves you engrossed throughout. At White Hart Lane on Saturday, Leeds were under siege and by the 10th minute, Casper Ankergren had made three excellent saves, including a penalty from Jermain Defoe. It was five minutes into stoppage time when Jermain Beckford, Leeds' version of the England international striker, showed him how to convert from 12 yards, thus ensuring a replay at Elland Road next week.
Beckford is 26 and was a latecomer to professional football, only joining the Yorkshire club in the summer of 2005 having played in the non-league with Wealdstone. He has only known tough times with Leeds, missing out on their glory years in the Champions League, instead observing their collapse into financial problems and relegation into League One. Playing like this under their manager Simon Grayson, however, they should reach the Championship in May and possibly the Premier League in 2011. Beckford is likely to get there a little bit sooner.
In the space of three weeks, Beckford has scored the winning goal, in the third round, at Old Trafford against Manchester United, and scored both goals against Spurs. In between, he has put in a transfer request, retracted it, and has reportedly been lined up to join Everton on a free transfer in the summer, when he is out of contract. You could say it has been an eventful month for the Londoner.
That means he should be around for the replay as well as the rest of the season to help Leeds win promotion from League One, where they are second only on goal difference behind Norwich City, having played two games fewer than the Canaries. However, Grayson did admit that a "ridiculous" offer could still prise the striker away. He said: "There is just over a week to go before the [transfer] window shuts and we are not looking to let him go. If someone offers me £10m then maybe we would want to do something."
By persuading Beckford to retract his transfer request, Leeds turned down the chance of earning something close to £2m for their player, in turn hoping he responds with the goals that take them to promotion. It is a gamble, but on this evidence one worth taking. His first strike, equalising Peter Crouch's tap-in before the break, was a classic poacher's effort, reacting quickest to squeeze the ball under Heurelho Gomes from six yards while his penalty was confidence personified. He was clearly not bothered by the pressure of the situation or that the penalty had been unjustly given. Michael Dawson had got the ball first when he tackled Beckford but referee Alan Wiley saw it differently. His earlier decision to give a penalty for Michael Doyle's challenge on Danny Rose was a fair one, even if Defoe could only hit his effort tamely to Ankergren's left.
Briefly it looked as if the Cup had thrown Roman Pavlyuchenko a lifeline at Tottenham, when he cleverly stepped over the ball and ran on to a first-time pass from Defoe to score only his fourth goal of the season. Harry Redknapp, the Spurs manager, says there is still a future for him in north London, although few believe him.
He said: "Roman can start games if he comes in every day to work, train, shows a good attitude." Selling the player bought from Zenit St Petersburg in August 2008 may have to wait until this summer. "I think he's sure to be here at the end of January. No one's spending any money and there's nothing happening really. It's pretty quiet," he added. Not in Beckford's life it isn't.
Tottenham (4-4-2): Gomes; Hutton, Dawson, Bassong, Bale; Kranjcar (Keane, 71), Modric, Jenas, Rose (Palacios, 57); Crouch (Pavlyuchenko, 71), Defoe. Substitutes not used: Alnwick (gk), Naughton, O'Hara, Dervite.
Leeds United (4-4-1-1): Ankergren; Crowe, Bromby, Kisnorbo, Hughes; Howson, Kilkenny, Doyle (Becchio, 81), Johnson (White, 88); Snodgrass; Beckford. Substitutes not used: Martin (gk), Prutton, Grella, Michalik, Robinson
Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire).
Booked: Tottenham Hutton; Leeds United Crowe, Kisnorbo, Doyle, Bromby, Kilkenny, Johnson
Man of the match: Ankergren.