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.

Arts & Entertainment
A stranger calls: Martin Freeman in ‘Fargo’
tvReview: New 10-part series brims with characters and stories

Arts & Entertainment
Shaun Evans as Endeavour interviews a prisoner as he tries to get to the bottom of a police cover up
Review: Second series comes to close with startling tale of police corruption and child abuse
Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
football Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
Arts & Entertainment
Schwarzenegger winning Mr. Universe 1969
arts + entsCan you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
The star of the sitcom ‘Miranda’ is hugely popular with mainstream audiences
TVMiranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
News
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth-II by David Bailey which has been released to mark her 88th birthday
peoplePortrait released to mark monarch's 88th birthday
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
Sport
Manchester United manager David Moyes looks on during his side's defeat to Everton
footballBaines and Mirallas score against United as Everton keep alive hopes of a top-four finish
Sport
Tour de France 2014Sir Rodney Walker on organising the UK stages of this year’s race
Arts & Entertainment
Jessica Brown Findlay as Mary Yellan in ‘Jamaica Inn’
TVJessica Brown Findlay on playing the spirited heroine of Jamaica Inn
News
YouTube clocks up more than a billion users a month
mediaEuropean rival Dailymotion certainly thinks so
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents The ad shows Prince Charles attired for his coronation in a crown and fur mantle with his mouth covered by a criss-cross of white duct tape
Arts & Entertainment
‘Self-Portrait Worshipping Christ’ (c943-57) by St Dunstan
books How British artists perfected the art of the self-portrait
Sport
Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring in Liverpool's 3-2 win over Norwich
Football Vine shows Suarez writhing in pain before launching counter attack
News
People White House officials refuse to make comment on 275,000 signatures that want Justin Bieber's US visa revoked
News
Sir Cliff Richard is to release his hundredth album at age 72
PEOPLE
Sport
Lukas Podolski celebrates one of his two goals in Arsenal's win over Hull
football
Arts & Entertainment
Quentin Tarantino, director
film
News
The speeding train nearly hit this US politican during a lecture on rail safety
news As the saying goes, you have to practice what you preach
Sport
Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain (front) drives ahead of Red Bull Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia during the Chinese F1 Grand Prix at the Shanghai International circuit
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter: The man who could have been champion of the world - and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him

The man who could have been champion of the world

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him
Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is genius

Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is a stroke of genius

Series is brimming with characters and stories all its own
The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

In Iraq, mafiosi already run almost the entire oil output of the south of the country
Didn’t she do well?

Didn’t she do well?

Miranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
Before they were famous

Before they were famous

Can you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players