Tottenham avenged one of the worst embarrassments in their cup-fighting history in last night's protracted Carling Cup fourth-round tie, though not before Port Vale threatened to emulate their finest giant-killing feat. Tom Huddlestone was Spurs' hero, the 19-year-old midfielder scoring his first goals for the club after Leon Constantine had put the League One side ahead midway through the second half of normal time.
Both Huddlestone's shots were diverted in by Vale players, the first taking the tie into extra-time and the second finally giving Spurs the lead eight minutes into the additional half-hour. Jermain Defoe confirmed their quarter-final place after 106 minutes, which was harsh on Mark Goodlad, who performed brilliantly in the visitors' goal.
This was atonement, after a fashion, for in the fourth round of the FA Cup in 1988, a Vale team also halfway down the third tier of English football had vanquished Terry Venables' Spurs on a swamp in the Potteries. Venables was criticised for resting Ossie Ardiles; here it was taken as read that Martin Jol would field a reserve XI.
It was a measure of Vale's resistance that the Dutchman had to send for the £10.9m Dimitar Berbatov and Chelsea's tormentor, Aaron Lennon, to break them.
"The ingredients were there for another cup upset," said Jol, who saw his team go out to Grimsby last season. "They had an outstanding goalkeeper and were well organised. But we made a lot of chances and I felt we kept believing. Our quality gave us the edge."
Spurs, who gave debuts to Andy Barcham and Dorian Dervite, took the game to their opponents from the outset, clearly intent on avoiding Manchester United's fate. Goodlad, who is in his sixth year at Vale after being freed by Nottingham Forest, was equally determined to make the most of his evening in the spotlight and made one stunning save after another.
The tone was set when Barcham rounded Goodlad in the second minute but was forced too wide to shoot; Lee Young Pyo's drive drew a fine save at the near post; and Defoe's chipped shot had him scrambling backwards to make a flying, one-handed stop.
There was more to Vale than desperate defence. From less possession, they also created chances during the first half. Jeff Smith fired into the side-netting, while Constantine's chest control let him down after Smith's cross cut out both centre-backs. Increasingly, though, Spurs' superior touch and movement held sway. Only a last-gasp sliding tackle by George Abbey halted Danny Murphy after a fine lofted pass by Huddlestone, and another brave save by Goodlad prevented Defoe scoring as half-time loomed.
The siege resumed after the break. Defoe, embarking on another of his twisting runs, speared a low shot that seemed bound for the far corner. Instead, in a blur of yellow, Goodlad touched the ball behind.
Vale's growing optimism brought lusty renditions of their anthem, Elvis Presley's "The Wonder of You", cascading from their 2,900 fans in the Park Lane End. Jol sent on the wonder of N17, Lennon, but instead of Spurs being transformed, they fell behind on 63 minutes. The ball was worked into the box for Constantine, a £25,000 buy from Torquay, to poke his 11th goal of the season through Radek Cernys legs. Even after Huddlestone's first goal, a floated free-kick from 35 yards which crept in via Constantine's arm and an upright, Goodlad produced his best stop to keep Berbatov off the scoresheet.
Vale, however, were weary after a night of chasing, which allowed Lennon, who needs no encouragement, ample scope to reprise Sunday's trickery.
Berbatov's lay-off set up Huddlestone's second, a 25-yard drive for which Goodlad was wrong-footed when the ball took a deflection off Danny Sonner. When Defoe at last took one of his myriad opportunities, turning in Phil Ifil's cross at close range, Vale knew the game was up.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Cerny; Ifil, Dawson, Dervite, Lee; Murphy (Ghaly, 69), Huddlestone, Davids, Malbranque (Lennon, 63); Barcham (Berbatov, 65), Defoe. Substitutes not used: Fulop (gk), Ziegler.
Port Vale (4-4-2): Goodlad; Abbey, Walker, Pilkington, Miles; Whitaker, Sonner (Gardner, 104), Harsley, Smith (Cardle, 104); Constantine, Sodje (Husbands, 104). Substitutes not used: Anyon (gk), Prosser.
Referee: S Bennett (Kent).Reuse content