Whether or not Ryan Mason and Harry Kane have earned themselves places for the north London derby will be revealed on Saturday afternoon. But their brilliant cameos did drag Tottenham Hotspur into the fourth round of the Capital One Cup.
Spurs will host Brighton and Hove Albion in the next round - a relatively generous draw - all thanks to the late interventions from the bench of Mason and Kane, aged 23 and 21, in the final half hour.
Those two came on for Paulinho and Benjamin Stambouli in the second half when this was not looking like an enjoyable evening for Tottenham or for Mauricio Pochettino. It was, in fact, far too similar to Sunday afternoon, when a very different Spurs team produced a remarkably one-paced, limp performance and were beaten here 1-0 by West Bromwich Albion.
Pochettino described Sunday as a “big hit in the face” which his team needed, but the players did not look as if they had learned very much. For the first hour, Spurs were out-run and out-fought by a Nottingham Forest side which was nowhere near full-strength itself.
Ben Osborn nearly put Forest ahead in the first half, dancing through the tackle of Federico Fazio before curling his shot onto the underside of the bar. Spurs struggled to settle at the back and Fazio, making his home debut, had to stick a desperate leg out to stop Lars Veldwijk from scoring soon after.
West Brom manager Alan Irvine spoke on Sunday evening about how the atmosphere had turned and the same thing started to happen early in the second half. It was approaching five hours of football since Spurs last scored and the fans started to jeer every pass that did not go forward.
The atmosphere got worse, of course, when Forest scored, after an hour. Jorge Grant - much like James Morrison on Sunday - was unmarked from close range, with an easy finish. Veldwijk was free down he left, and he pulled the ball back into the box. Stephen McLaughlin got a touch and it fell to Grant, unmarked in between Fazio and Vertonghen, to roll the ball in.
It was three minutes later when Pochettino made his double change, desperately trying to find some spark, imagination and goals. It was a gamble but one that was entirely vindicated. Mason and Kane won Spurs the game.
Mason, who had never scored for Spurs before, found the net with his first meaningful contribution. The young midfield took the ball 30 yards from goal, looked up and curled it into the near top corner of the net, far beyond the reach of Dorus de Vries.
Suddenly it was a very different game and something in the atmosphere had been released. Andros Townsend even hit the bar with a free-kick from 20 yards.
The next attack, again inspired by Mason, won Spurs the game. The 23-year-old back-heeled the ball to Townsend in space. He dragged his 20-yard shot but it fell straight to Roberto Soldado, quiet up until then, and he turned the ball in.
If Kane felt left out by Mason's exploits, he made amends in added time. Erik Lamela, another late substitute, slipped a delightful reverse pass through. Kane ran onto it and finished into the far bottom corner.
Man of the match Mason.
Match rating 5/10.
Referee A Marriner (West Midlands).
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