Spurs Too Hot To Handle
By Robert Nichols
Wednesday 15 Jan 2020 10:35:00
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Boro bowed out of the FA Cup last night after gifting Spurs two early goals but thankfully we made a fight of it late doors. Conceding a goal through an error after only a couple of minutes is not the best way to begin a cup tie but hopefully it was an experience as positive for the mix of young and more seasoned Boro pros as it was for the fans that flocked to the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. We can now set about building a team to return and do battle in the league in the very near future.

Boro fans took to trains, buses and other automobiles to make it a full scale exodus down to the smoke. A mid-week sports special at the gleaming navy blue dome that is the new home of Spurs. The half hour walk up from Seven Sisters tube sees the lights looming ever closer as you inch your way forward towards the space ship that has landed in north London. It is a bit of a lengthy schlep afterwards mind, yet this is big match time and so reminiscent of playing in Europe but the newest ground in Europe.

We almost lapped the stadium, to reach Entrance 11, before queuing twice to pass through the double ticket scan. Then it was it was through the security doors and into and then out of the crowded cashless concourse and into the seats. Rail seats. And not locked. But the navy blue seats are in an upwards position so we were effectively safe standing, officially safe sitting, with a waist height rail in front. The future. Not a backward step but a safer step.

Jonathan Woodgate had a few surprises in his team selection. Tomas Mejias was retained as our cup keeper. Young midfielder Ben Liddle looked tenacious when coming on late at Leeds and now he would get a baptism of fire in front of 50 000. Loan signing Lukas Nmecha made his first start up front alongside the scorer in the Riverside tie, Ashley Fletcher. No Tav, no Roberts and Johnson rather than Coulson, the latter is often the way away from home.

Sadly, even before we had time to settle Tomas Mejias made a costly error passing the ball straight to Spurs, the gift horse was duly accepted and the finish was lethal from Celso. What a terrible start.

Boro did have a chance to get on equal terms, Spence broke free down the right, fed Nmecha who cleverly turned his man and was free in the box. His shot lacked the conviction of Celso's strike and the Gazzaniga was able to beat the ball away from goal.

But the home team were very much on top and with a quarter of an hour gone were 2 up. Howson, who otherwise was magnificent, lost possession and McNair was not clinical enough in clearing and Lamela waltzed through and finished past Mejias. The two stand in defenders had been guilty of trying to play the ball out of danger rather than getting it kicked away.

Spurs probably looked a cut above for the rest of the half with Eriksen purring and goalscorers Celso and Lamela leading our midfield a merry dance. In saying that we kept on snapping in attack. Spence and Fletcher never let their back line or keeper have any peace. Right on half time, Fletcher actually had a chance to reduce the deficit but headed Marvin Johnson's free kick wide.

Boro competed far better after the break, Lewis Wing forced a finger tip save from Gazzaniga, after curling a free kick around the wall. To be fair to Jose's team they had a 2 goal buffer and at times they stroked the ball around imperiously.

George Saville came on for Ben Liddle and almost immediately saw a deflected shot hitting the roof of the net. He would make a bigger impression than that after we brought on Rudy and Tav to increase the tempo. Finally something to really cheer as Saville placed a shot past the Spurs keeper into the corner of the net to set up a grandstand finish.

The Boro fans raised their voices, Howson and co. lofted the ball into the wind. Tav beavered down the right and Gestede launched himself into the night sky.

With time running out Spurs almost hit us on the break but Mejias made amends with one fine save, followed by a brave dive into flying bodies. Time for one last Boro chance, Clayton won out on the left, Johnson sped forward and Gestede almost glanced it inside the far post.

Final score 2-1 and Boro players and coaching staff took a bow. No disgrace in that scoreline. We gifted them the start but in the end fought back to make it a tense finale. We will be back in London on Friday night, down by the Thames at Fulham but for now we have plenty of memories of a big cup tie night in north London.

What might have been if we had started with the team we finished with? On the other hand it doesn't matter what team we played you cannot hand your opponents, Champions League finalist opponents, a comfortable early lead. And how might Ben Liddle and Lukas Nmecha grow from this first footing in the white heat of a cup tie at a ground very near White Hart Lane? And how well did Djed Spence compete, playing with no fear. Howson was imperious again and Johnson a constant threat down the right. The whole team played extremely well but it was always a big ask after that first 15 minutes.

Out of the cup but plenty of pride and memories.

Come On Boro

 

Spurs 2-1 Middlesbrough - Saville



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