Tottenham may have loftier ambitions this season but they still have a taste for the Carling Cup. Winners and beaten finalists in the last two seasons, Harry Redknapp's side shrugged off the disappointment of their weekend defeat against Stoke and made light work of an Everton side playing their third game in six days.
A goal in each half for Tom Huddlestone and Robbie Keane were enough to settle it, while David Bentley made the most of a rare outing in place of the injured Aaron Lennon to suggest he may be about to kick-start a flagging career. One year on from his stunning strike against Arsenal, Bentley's probing and passing were a constant threat and he will return to the Emirates on Saturday with confidence renewed.
For Everton, without a win in five games, confidence is fast disappearing and David Moyes faces a stern examination to stop an alarming dip in form from escalating into a crisis. His team are barely recognisable from the side who finished fifth and reached the FA Cup final in May, and not merely due to the fact they are missing players and trotted out in a purple limited edition kit in support of a Merseyside youth charity. A purple patch would do.
Yet the Merseysiders, winners on their last three visits to the Lane, started brightly and Louis Saha was close to his 14th goal in this competition when his fifth-minute volley was turned over by Heurelho Gomes. But soon Bentley and the lively Alan Hutton were running at Tony Hibbert, who was an accident waiting to happen at left-back. Hibbert's replacement on the opposite side of defence, Lucas Neill, almost gifted Spurs an opener when his pass was charged down by Keane, setting Roman Pavlyuchenko free but the Russian squandered the first of two presentable first-half openings, the second of which saw an exquisite Bentley dummy in the build-up.
Everton's key problem this season has been a severely disrupted defence – how they miss the injured Phil Jagielka and departed Joleon Lescott – and the error-prone Sylvan Distin escaped further embarrassment when he lost possession to Keane who hit the post.
Spurs duly went in front after 31 minutes with the sweetest of strikes by Huddlestone, the midfielder meeting Bentley's cross with a powerful, left-foot drive into Howard's net.
Moyes introduced Jo for Saha at the interval and the Brazilian went close to levelling 10 minutes after the restart, drawing an excellent save from Gomes after being put through by Marouane Fellaini. The Belgian also made Gomes save when he was put through and the Spurs keeper had to be alert again from Hutton's errant header.
Yet by that time Spurs had one foot in the quarter-finals. Referee Lee Mason awarded a soft-ish penalty after 57 minutes as Keane went to ground easily following minimal contact from Distin. The Irishman's good fortune didn't end there; Howard saved his uncharacteristically poor spot-kick but after the ensuing mêlée, the ball again fell to Keane and this time he found the roof of the net from three yards.
It could have been worse for Everton but Spurs, and Bentley, had done enough. "Sometimes my efforts have been lacking because I haven't been fully focused," said a candid Bentley, who was making only his third start of the season, all of which have come in the Carling Cup. "But I have got that right now and I enjoyed myself tonight."
Redknapp concurred, saying: "I was really pleased tonight. Bentley had a terrific night, he was excellent. His attitude in training hasn't been as good as it could have been. Maybe he didn't see light at end of the tunnel with Lennon playing so well but when he plays like that he's no problem."
Moyes is the one with problems. There was no comment from anyone at the club, so angered were they at the fact the authorities refused to put the tie back until today.
Tottenham (4-4-2): Gomes; Hutton, Dawson, Bassong, Assou-Ekotto; Bentley, Palacios, Huddlestone, Bale; Pavlyuchenko, Keane. Substitutes not used: Button; Jenas, Naughton, Corluka, Dervite, Parrett, Kane.
Everton (4-4-2): Howard; Neill, Heitinga, Distin, Hibbert; Gosling, Fellaini, Rodwell, Cahill; Saha (Jo, 46), Yakubu. Subs not used: Nash; Coleman, Duffy, Agard, Baxter, Wallace.
Referee: L Mason (Lancashire).