Stevenage spirit checks Redknapp's progress

Stevenage 0 Tottenham Hotspur 0

The Lamex Stadium

Just before he left Stevenage yesterday, Harry Redknapp was told that the Football Association chairman David Bernstein had been in the crowd here to watch Tottenham Hotspur held to a draw on a dog of a pitch, in an FA Cup fifth-round tie bursting with passion and short on quality.

Given that Bernstein happens to be on the look-out for a new England manager and given that Redknapp happens to be the runaway favourite to get the job, it seemed daft not to ask whether they had spoken. Redknapp, as is his way, delighted in playing up to the moment. "I think he was impressed with the football," he replied ironically. "He was probably asking, 'Who's this geezer?'"

Who indeed? Redknapp has lived a charmed life from the moment that Southwark Crown Court jury came back 12 days ago to deliver a not-guilty verdict in his tax-evasion case. Yesterday was the first time in a while events have not gone his way but win the replay and the quarter-final draw at home to Bolton Wanderers looks appealing. The bookmakers make Spurs joint favourites with Liverpool to win the competition.

Bernstein was in the crowd simply because as chairman of the FA he likes to watch matches in his organisation's competition. He will no doubt have appreciated that on a small, uneven pitch against a well-organised, hard-running League One team, Spurs will have been satisfied that they have the opportunity to take Stevenage back to White Hart Lane on 7 March.

His team were poor yesterday but Redknapp was also well-aware of the potential pitfalls. "I expected it to be tough," he said. "I came here knowing how hard it would be. To be fair the pitch was bumpy and bobbly, it was difficult to play football. Nothing surprised me. I thought it would be tough."

It was a magnificent performance from the team from Britain's first post-war new town but then they have become accustomed to such success in recent years. Stevenage have been promoted twice in two years to take them from non-league football in 2010 to a position where they are in the League One play-off positions. Since 2007, they have won the FA Trophy twice.

That success was achieved under their former manager Graham Westley who left for Preston North End last month but under Gary Smith they look just as competitive.

Yesterday their best performance was from the central midfielder Michael Bostwick who did as much as anyone to prevent Scott Parker from running the game but there were fine performances throughout the Stevenage team.

Redknapp played three centre-backs, a rare formation in English football these days. He did it to cope with the power in the air of Stevenage's strikers Chris Beardsley and Darius Charles, a converted centre-half.

Luka Modric was absent having picked up flu at the end of last week, although it is debatable whether even the little master himself would have been able to control that muddy ball on such an uneven surface. More worrying for Redknapp was the injury to Emmanuel Adebayor in training on Friday which is not the ligament damage it was initially thought to be but is nevertheless still a concern.

Factor in Benoît Assou-Ekotto's "small operation" at the start of the week, and that Niko Kranjcar, a second-half substitute yesterday, had not trained for five days and this was a Spurs team that was somewhat stretched. Ledley King was on the bench but Redknapp said the captain was not fit enough to play any part and was simply there to make up the numbers.

The replay will be a very different story and Spurs, with their non-involvement in European competition, are better placed to deal with it than others. At Stevenage the pitch was right on the minimum dimensions which denied Spurs any space down the wings and by the end it was noticeable that the sophisticated visitors had resorted to the long ball.

"Yeah, we did start lumping it," Redknapp said. "No, it wasn't part of the plan. I think the lads weren't comfortable passing the ball on it [the pitch] and we ended up going long, which was something we wanted to avoid. They pressed us and made it hard. We usually pass the ball, don't we?

"Without a doubt they earned the replay. It's a good club isn't it? It was a good Cup tie in terms of the atmosphere. The crowd weren't nasty, they came out and enjoyed the day. There was no one singing filth. That's what it's all about, isn't it?"

There were fine performances from Jon Ashton and Mark Roberts at the heart of Stevenage's defence who survived one penalty appeal from Louis Saha that the referee Phil Dowd turned down. The former Arsenal academy player Luke Freeman on the left wing also looked like a decent player. On the opposite side, Lawrie Wilson posed a threat throughout.

Saha had a goal disallowed on 55 minutes when the ball struck Parker on the goalline in an offside position. Other than that Spurs were largely restricted. Gareth Bale, operating in a more central position, had a shot saved a minute after half-time but otherwise he did not get much of a sight of goal. At the other end Joel Byrom had a couple of decent efforts.

Smith, the Stevenage manager, has had success before, winning the MLS Cup with Colorado Rapids in 2010. "That was a fantastic achievement and it was a moment in my life that I will never forget," he said. "It is comparable [with yesterday] but both games are slightly different. You can't look past the atmosphere and the sheer passion of the FA Cup. It is a wonderful competition and I am really pleased we are still in it."

It is a short trip south to White Hart Lane for the replay where all those Stevenage locals who have a fondness for Spurs will have their loyalty tested. Stevenage's is a lovely FA Cup story but the competition is undoubtedly opening up for Tottenham.

Match facts

Stevenage: DAY 6/10; HENRY 6; ASHTON 6; ROBERTS 7; LAIRD 6; WILSON 7; BOSTWICK 8; BYROM 7; FREEMAN 7; CHARLES 5; BEARDSLEY 6

Spurs: Cudicini 6; KABOUL 6 NELSEN 6 DAWSON 6; ROSE 4; BALE 6; LIVERMORE 5; PARKER 6; WALKER 5; DEFOE 4; SAHA 5

Substitutes: Stevenage May 5 (Beardsley, 66), Cowan (Charles, 73), Edwards (Freeman, 87). Tottenham Hotspur Kranjcar 5 (Walker, 64), Lennon (Rose, 81).

Booked: Stevenage Byrom.

Man of the match Bostwick.

Match rating 6/10.

Possession: Stevenage 43% Tottenham 57%.

Attempts on target: Stevenage 7 Tottenham 5.

Referee P Dowd (Staffordshire).

Attendance 6,332.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...