Sir Alex Ferguson believes that Tottenham are playing the best football in the Premier League at the moment – but nothing like their finest was needed to see off Cheltenham.
Or at least that was the way Harry Redknapp saw it. Following his policy in the League Cup and Europa League, the Spurs manager chose a weakened XI for this FA Cup tie. That led to premature elimination from both those competitions but that was never likely to be the case against the League Two side. Only Jermain Defoe was retained from their last Premier League game, the victory against West Bromwich Albion.
Cheltenham tried hard but bridging the 67-place gap on the league ladder, especially away from home, was asking too much. However, they did produce the best moment of the match, at least from a schadenfreude point of view.
Brian "Junior" Smikle, on for his 24th substitute appearance of the season, ran at Danny Rose, and nutmegged the left-back in front of the 5,000 Cheltenham fans. The cheers were rapturous but would have cranked up another notch had Russ Penn converted Smikle's cutback. Unfortunately, he hoofed over from 12 yards.
For Redknapp this was a chance to bring Aaron Lennon and Michael Dawson back into action after injury. It was especially important for Dawson, playing for the first time since the 5-1 mauling by Manchester City at White Hart Lane at the end of August.
Defoe opened the scoring after 23 minutes. On the counter-attack, Niko Kranjcar found Giovani Dos Santos, who scooped his shot over Scott Brown, the goalkeeper. The ball was going in but Defoe decided he wanted the glory and got the final touch on the goalline, for his 10th of the season. Redknapp said Defoe claimed the shot was going wide.
Dos Santos, two minutes before the break, then found Defoe intentionally, whose cross made it easy for Pavlyuchenko from six yards out.
Yet things could have been more interesting a minute later had Kaid Mohamed put more power on his shot when he was on the edge of the area. Mark Yates, the Robins' manager, complained that was a good chance wasted.
Dos Santos, who is set to join Seville this month, at least bade farewell with a goal. Collecting Rose's pass three minutes from time, he turned and with the help of a deflection, his shot looped over Brown.
Tottenham (4-4-2): Cudicini; Livermore, Dawson (Carroll, 88), Bassong, Rose; Dos Santos, Kranjcar, Pienaar, Lennon (Bostock, 82); Pavlyuchenko, Defoe (Falque, 77).
Cheltenham (4-4-1-1): Brown; Jombati, Bennett, Elliott, Garbutt; Low (Smikle, 58), Summerfield, Pack, Mohamed; Penn (Goulding, 77); Spencer (Duffy, 62).
Referee Lee Mason.
Man of the match Dos Santos (Tottenham).
Match rating 6/10.Reuse content