'Lucky' Redknapp sees Spurs cling on

Watford 0 Tottenham Hotspur 1

Vicarage Road

Last Sunday a brave performance against the league leaders ended in traumatic defeat. Last night a farcically bad performance against Championship opposition ended in victory: a strange end to a strange week for Tottenham Hotspur.

Spurs might be the third-best team in England but at Vicarage Road they were comprehensively out-played by the 38th. Watford dominated the first half, harassing Spurs into errors, and creating a good set of chances before Rafael van der Vaart scored with Tottenham's first proper shot. Not dispirited, the home side pressed and pressed in the second half, and hit the woodwork twice, but somehow could not force a replay.

"How we won that game I'll never know," said a baffled but relieved Harry Redknapp, who made it to the ground for kick-off after another day at Southwark Crown Court. "It's better to be lucky than good sometimes, and we were lucky today. Amazing: we just never played. We passed and gave it away, they pressed us and won it back. We just never got going."

Watford, in 18th place having lost three Championship games in a row, played confident and authoritative football from the start. "If they played like that every week they'd be top of the league," Redknapp added. "You need a future in your performance," said the Watford manager, Sean Dyche, "and that has a future."

Dyche's hard-working team pinned back Spurs, provoking uncharacteristic errors in possession from Younes Kaboul, Luka Modric and Scott Parker in the opening spell. Marvin Sordell forced Carlo Cudicini into a near-post save after six minutes. Joe Garner and Prince Buaben, supporting Sordell from midfield, threatened before Sordell could not quite convert Troy Deeney's near-post cross.

Tottenham's system was not helping. With Gareth Bale absent, and Aaron Lennon and Benoît Assou-Ekotto on the bench, Spurs were shorn of the wing-play that makes them so dangerous. All of their starting front six were instinctively central players; in those rare moments when they did have the ball there were few options.

But in something as English as the FA Cup, class obviously matters. Three minutes before the break a Watford attack broke down, Kyle Walker surged forward and found Van der Vaart in space. The Netherlands international turned and, from 25 yards out, struck the ball into the bottom corner. "We've only had one shot," crowed the Spurs fans.

Addressing the imbalance of his team at the break, Redknapp replaced Modric with Lennon, although without the hoped-for impact. "I thought maybe the system wasn't working," he explained, "so I changed it [from 4-3-1-2] and went to a [midfield] four, how we always play, and that was even worse, so I thought: 'that's good, it's not my fault.' We tried everything, really."

The pattern of the first half continued. Watford pressed quickly and soon created a double-chance. An incisive passing move ended with Sean Murray curling a shot onto the far post, before Deeney, from a good position, skewed the rebound wide.

Even with the comfort of a lead, Tottenham could not take control of the game. The Spurs defence was powerless after 67 minutes when John Eustace, described as "outstanding" by Redknapp, met Murray's corner but headed it against the post. Another corner, from the lively substitute Mark Yeates, was headed wide by Murray himself.

Watford continued their assault: a long free-kick presented a chance to Nyron Nosworthy, which was saved, and one to Sordell, which was blocked. Yeates was the next to threaten, but this time the shoulder of Michael Dawson intervened.

An extra body in midfield was required, with Lennon suffering with another hamstring pull, and Steven Pienaar came on for Defoe, who, like most of his team-mates, struggled to impose himself on the game. "At the end it was hanging-on time, just hanging on," said Redknapp.

In the final minutes it was only Kaboul who saved his colleagues from the distraction of a replay, blocking and tackling like a man who already has plans for a week on Wednesday that do not include playing Watford at White Hart Lane. Thanks to some remarkable good fortune, they will not have to.

Match Facts

Watford: Loach, Hodson, Nosworthy, Mariappa, Doyley, Deeney, Buaben, Garner, Eustace, Murray, Sordell

Spurs: Cudicini, Rose, Kaboul, Dawson, Walker, Van Der Vaart, Livermore, Parker, Modric, Adebayor, Defoe

Substitutes: Watford Yeates (Murray, 67), Whichelow (Garner, 80). Tottenham Lennon (Modric, h-t), Pienaar (Defoe, 80), Pavlyuchenko (Adebayor, 90).

Booked: Watford Hodson Man of the match Sordell

Match rating 6/10

Possession: Watford 45% Tottenham 55%

Attempts on target: Watford 12 Tottenham 4

Referee C Foy (Lancashire)

Attendance 15,384

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Harry Redknapp. Mark Hughes and Ryan Shawcross
footballNews and updates as Queens Park Rangers host the Potters
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
New Articles
i100... with this review
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
New Articles
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam