With Forecast on the bench – young Tommy of that surname being the 21-year-old Tottenham reserve goalkeeper – and given Reading's apparent, though protested, public indifference to this competition, it was predictable enough that Spurs should win and earn a fourth-round FA Cup tie away to Manchester United. It was all the more predictable because, with Juande Ramos as their head coach, they have a man who has not lost a cup tie for two years.
The Spaniard, with two Uefa Cups to his credit, and going for a hat-trick, had to think hard when asked when he had last experienced a knock-out defeat. "It was a King's Cup tie, away to Cadiz," the former Seville coach said. Certainly the cup king is fighting on all fronts with Spurs alive in everything they have entered even if Ramos fears that a price is being paid.
"The problem is we are playing the same players so there is a build-up of injuries and tiredness," he said, confirming that Ledley King has suffered a setback with a knee injury, that Darren Bent is still injured and Dimitar Berbatov has gone down with flu. Paul Robinson, who wants to leave, was absent as his wife gave birth on Monday.
Sir Alex Ferguson was here, as was Fabio Capello, England under-21 coach Stuart Pearce and, intriguingly given the involvement of Jermain Defoe, afforded a start, apparently Harry Redknapp. The Pompey manager would love to sign the striker, and had proposed a loan deal, but straight cash is all that is interesting Spurs should Defoe, who came close with one fierce volley which was well saved by Adam Federici, go this month.
But it was his partner, Robbie Keane, who struck decisively, his 15th goal of the season and the 99th of his Spurs career, to earn a replay victory.
Whether or not Defoe does leave, and the signs are that he will eventually sign a new contract, Spurs are pressing ahead with the acquisition of Stewart Downing from Middlesbrough for £8m. "I've known him for years," Ramos said, while attempting to deny a bid had been made, "since he played in the Uefa Cup final for Middlesbrough."
One new signing, Chris Gunter, on his Spurs debut, made a fine start with an overlapping run forcing a corner from which Younes Kaboul headed across goal only for Defoe to nod over. Another corner and, once more, Kaboul was aggressive, his header cannoning off the crossbar and falling to Keane who hooked it into the net.
It undid the planning of Reading manager Steve Coppell. He had hoped to contain, with Ulises de la Cruz deployed to man-mark Keane, but the defending was lame with 19-year-old Alex Pearce, the home side's own debutant, exposed and withdrawn at half-time. Coppell maintained that was always the strategy, claiming he had sent out a team to win, rather than preserve his resources for league games which include United, at home, this Saturday. Nevertheless he admitted of his team: "It is more or less a patchwork quilt with a couple of days training to gel them together."
That desperation didn't emerge until late on although Leroy Lita, Reading's own want-away striker, wasted a host of half-chances and failed to capitalise on an unconvincing display by goalkeeper Radek Cerny. One break supplied Stephen Hunt whose shot from the area's edge rebounded off the bar. The final word went to Spurs, however, when Keane hooked a cross back to Steed Malbranque whose spectacular volley also crashed back off the bar. No matter, the cup king had won again.
Reading (4-4-2): Federici; De la Cruz, Pearce (Cox, h-t), Ingimarsson, Shorey (Hunt, 66); Rosenior, Cissé, Harper, Convey; Lita, Long. Substitutes not used: Hahnemann (gk), Doyle, Henry.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Cerny; Chimbonda, Kaboul (Stalteri, 82), Dawson, Gunter; Boateng, Tainio (O'Hara, 76), Jenas, Malbranque; Keane, Defoe (Lennon, 61). Substitutes not used: Forecast (gk), Taarabt.
Referee: M Riley (West Yorkshire).Reuse content