Crouch frustrated by 'strange' United loss

The Tottenham striker Peter Crouch believes the Carling Cup defeat by Manchester United was just a blip and they can bounce straight back against Everton on Sunday.

Crouch, who came off the bench in the second half, was frustrated by the manner in which Spurs were knocked out of the competition at Old Trafford on Tuesday.

With Tottenham lying third in the table and United fielding a number of inexperienced players, Harry Redknapp's side looked to have the edge going into the quarter-final tie.

However, their hoodoo continued – they last won at the ground 20 years ago – with two first-half goals from Darron Gibson seeing the holders advance to the last four.

Redknapp was so upset he did not attend the post-match press conference after claiming the match atmosphere was flat and resembled a friendly. Instead, his assistant Kevin Bond fielded questions.

A close-range effort from David Bentley, which was superbly parried by Tomasz Kuszczak, was as close as Spurs came to scoring.

And Crouch, like his manager, was baffled by the way they performed at the home of their Premier League rivals. "It was a bit of a strange game," he said. "We started really well in the first half-hour and if we'd have scored first it might have been a very different game. But they got the first goal and at Old Trafford it's very hard to get that back. It was disappointing.

"Everyone was frustrated with how it went because it was the quarter-finals of the Carling Cup. We all wanted to progress and we have a good history in the competition that we wanted to continue."

While Spurs are flying high in the league, Everton have been struggling to pick up points. Crouch added: "We have done fantastically well so far this season, this was a disappointment and hopefully it's a one-off. We now have to focus on the league and the FA Cup, starting with Everton on Sunday."

The new Portsmouth manager, Avram Grant, has been handed a major boost with the news that David James' calf problem is not as bad as first feared. England goalkeeper James suffered the injury in the warm-up before the defeat at Stoke last month and was initially expected to be out until Christmas.

However, he has made good progress and Grant is monitoring the 39-year-old ahead of Saturday's Premier League match against Burnley. "David James' recovery is much quicker than we thought because he's professional and working every hour of the day, doing his best to be fit," Grant said. "We thought initially it would be four weeks, but it will be a lot less."

The Burnley match at Fratton Park is seen as a must-win game by Pompey's players after they were knocked out of the Carling Cup by Aston Villa on Tuesday night. "We have to believe and be positive," said the veteran striker Kanu. "We've got to lift our heads up and get the result we need.

"We've got to come away with the points against Burnley because that's the game that's going to determine what's going to happen in the league. It's a winnable game. We can play football, but sometimes you have to play less football to win games. That's the difficult thing. But let's keep playing football and hope our luck changes."

Midfielder Richard Hughes added: "Saturday's the biggest game of the season so far. We wanted to progress in the Carling Cup. We had to win three matches to get to this point, so it's not as if we haven't been focusing on it.

"When you get to the quarter-finals Wembley is in your sights. We had a great experience there two seasons ago and the fans all wanted to go back there. But we can't dwell on it because Saturday's too important for that."

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