Tottenham 2 Reading 2: Hunt hounds Robinson

England goalkeeper makes two costly errors as Reading reserves earn replay
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The Independent Online

Paul Robinson will pray that Fabio Capello does not get a video recording of this. The England and Spurs goalkeeper will be acutely aware that his two errors, the first a horrendous aberration, when he carried the ball backwards over the line, contributed in significant measure to his side failing to overcome Reading reserves.

Robinson's manager, Juande Ramos, clearly prefers to attribute any goal conceded to collective responsibility. But pressed on what the new England manager would make of his goalkeeper's performance, Ramos added: "It's up to Capello to say, but I don't think you can judge any player by a performance in one game." The problem is, of course, that these are by no means isolated incidents over the last year. It represents a huge problem for Capello when that first squad, to face Switzerland in early February, is named.

Robinson's assistance to Reading's cause meant that despite the visiting manager Steve Coppell, the FA Cup refusenik, putting out a team largely consisting of players who make up the squad numbers, he will have ended up being the more disappointed of the two. Not that Coppell saw it that way.

"I've got 20 players who I consider to be part of the squad, to be used at any time," he said. "They needed to show they were all up to speed, and they did so with their commitment. We made sure it was never easy street for them."

For all Tottenham's art and class, they constantly failed to accept the invitations that came their way. All, that was, apart from Dimitar Berbatov with a brace a total of six goals in eight days against this opposition which brought Tottenham to 2-1 after they had been that first freakish goal down. He could have had a hat-trick, too, but for some excellent goalkeeping from Adam Federici. But it all changed late on when Reading's captain for the day, Stephen Hunt, scored his second and Spurs' substitute Tom Huddlestone was dismissed two minutes after taking the field.

Coppell, more concerned about the "17 FA Cup finals to play in the League", had made eight alterations to the team defeated 6-4 here in the League a week ago. There was no sign of Dave Kitson, who has claimed in lavatorial terms that he was, well, not greatly fussed with the FA Cup.

Strangely, Spurs, for all Aaron Lennon's examination of Reading on the right, failed to profit, and it was the visitors who went ahead when Hunt's deep free-kick from way out on the right flank was caught under the bar by Robinson, who then carried the ball behind the line.

It provoked a swift reaction from Tottenham. Lennon found Berbatov unmarked in the area and he controlled the ball beautifully before unleashing a venomous effort past Federici, off the far post. The bane of Reading's life last week, with four goals, then went close with a scissors kick before Jermaine Jenas was foiled by Federici.

Just after the break, Robbie Keane was felled in the area by Liam Rosenior and Berbatov easily converted the spot-kick. Then Berbatov forced a splendid save from Federici, and although Keane netted the rebound, he was caught offside.

Just after the hour, Keane was replaced by Adel Taarabt, and though Spurs evidently believed they had the match won, with 13 minutes remaining, Leroy Lita cut in from the left and scorched Robinson's hands with a fierce drive. The keeper let it slip and Hunt nipped in to turn the ball home. It was Reading who ended the stronger and may have won it after Huddlestone got involved in some silliness with Bobby Convey, and appeared to butt the American.

Coppell won't be dreaming of Cup glory just yet. "If we get to the semis or final, I'll still pick the same team but maybe I might wake up before then," he remarked wryly as he departed.

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