Freed from their Shackel(ls), Burnley suffer White Hart pain

Would a good cup run lead to positive results in the league, as it had done in 2008/2009, or had the Premier League campaign now assumed such importance, that no risks should be taken in this fixture in the most famous of cups?

 Sean Dyche had shown the competition plenty of respect, naming as strong a team as possible in the original fixture, but, sandwiched in-between two league fixtures against direct relegation rivals, made five changes for this replay. No risks were taken with players either ill, or with minor injuries left out, with the squad being rotated. Captain Jason Shackell was left out due to the calf problem he sustained at Newcastle, and was replaced by the returning Michael Duff, who rightly picked up the armband too. In midfield, George Boyd and Dean Marney were replaced by Ross Wallace and Michael Kightly, with Scott Arfield partnering David Jones in the centre. The strike force was also completely changed, with Sam Vokes, making a long-awaited first start since injuring his cruciate ligament, deployed alongside Marvin Sordell. Spurs, whilst making changes themselves, still looked to have put out a very strong side in opposition.

After a stirring build up, where past Tottenham FA Cup glories were played at high volume on the big screen and over the PA, it didn’t take long for the game to explode into life. The game kicked off, with Burnley playing towards the corner where the travelling Clarets were gathered. Barely 2 minutes had passed on the clock, when the visitors found themselves a goal ahead. A hopeful long ball from the back from Trippier sailed between the centre back paring of Kaboul and Vertonghen. Marvin Sordell gambled and found himself through on the edge of the area, with Vorm to beat. He did so spectacularly, lashing the ball on the half volley with his left foot, over the advanced ‘keeper, and into the back of the net, scoring his first goal for the club in the process. It was a poor piece of play by the Spurs club captain, who has turned in some shocking performances against us over the years, but this shouldn’t take anything away from the marvellous quality of the goal. Sordell wheeled away to celebrate, wisely choosing to run to the opposite corner from the over active steward who had manhandled Ashley Barnes in the league fixture on the same ground.

A good performance and a first Burnley goal for Marvin Sordell

The goal had given both Burnley and Sordell a huge shot of confidence, and they carried on attacking right from the re-start. Sordell beat the offside trap down the right, and slammed a low cross over, but there were no takers in the 6 yard box. Just a few moments later, and the Clarets fans were on their feet again. The ball broke free on the edge of the Spurs box, and Arfield recovered it. He did well to maintain possession and was brought down whilst turning back towards his own goal, about 30 yards out. Wallace and Tripper both assessed the situation, before Trippier moved away, leaving it for the Scot. Wallace stepped up and hit a left footed free kick into the wall, but a deflection off Soldado changed the direction of the ball, taking it away from Vorm and seeing it trickle into the opposite corner. Ironically, this was to be Soldado’s most accurate effort towards goal in the entire game. Just seven minutes gone, and the away side found themselves two goals to the good, with the game being played exclusively in the Tottenham half.  However, this wasn’t to last, and the visitors were dealt a body blow just two minutes later.

Spurs attacked down their right, with Andros Townsend taking full control of the ball. In what was to become a regular pattern throughout most of the rest of the game, he got the better of Ben Mee, and was allowed to float in a ball from the corner of the box. Soldado beat his man in the air, got the faintest of flicks to the ball, which fell into the path of Paulinho, who had run beyond the striker. The World Cup semi-finalist was able to take the ball on his chest, before volleying right footed past Heaton, from no more than two yards. A few Burnley defenders vainly appealed for offside, but the goal rightly stood and Spurs were back in the game. This was poor defending by the Clarets; the first ball should never have been allowed to come in as Mee and Kightly stood off the England winger, and Paulinho had managed to get so close in to the goal without his run being properly tracked.

From this point, Tottenham immediately began to exert more pressure. Townsend again cut in from the right, onto his favoured left foot, dragging his subsequent shot wide. A few minutes later, he was at it again, ghosting past Mee and putting another decent ball across the area. Trippier was calm at the back post, and headed it neatly to Heaton to avoid further danger.  Townsend continued to threaten and put a low cross in on this occasion, with Duff having to stretch to block the ball and slide it away. Next to try his luck was the Frenchman Stambouli, who following another cleared low cross, smashed the ball wildly over the bar and into the top tier of the stand.

The game, which was being played at breakneck speed, then swung the other way. First, Sordell was flagged offside, with another neat pass having been slid in between Kaboul and Vertonghen, which led to a very public spat between the two, with heated words exchanged; perhaps indicative of the pressure Burnley’s front two were applying to them. Burnley themselves looked threatening in wide areas, and at this point, looked much quicker in thought than their expensively assembled opponents, making full use of quick free kicks. Vokes was proving to be a pest, and was linking well with Sordell, with both strikers holding the ball up well at times. Sordell was next to fashion an attack, breaking down the right, and finding his cross being headed harmlessly wide by Kightly at the far post.  Tottenham went straight up the other end, and a cross to the edge of the box saw Stambouli have another attempt to find his range, but this time guided his shot a long way wide. Burnley comfortably held Spurs at long distance for a 10 minute period before Townsend collected a cross from the left and hit the same area in the top tier that Stambouli had earlier with his shot. Given the nature of the game, it was no surprise to see Burnley respond in kind with an attack of their own, which was halted by an over-zealous linesman in front of the Burnley fans, who in a ridiculous decision, flagged for a free kick against Wallace, in spite of him clearly being pulled back by Davies.

With half time approaching, another dangerous cross from the right from Townsend was well defended by Trippier, this time at the near post. The resulting corner led to the ball cannoning around the Burnley box, before Kaboul lashed the ball wide of Heaton’s post. At the other end, Kightly caused Chiriches all sort of problems, taking the left-footed right back onto his weaker foot and gliding past the big Romanian, with the Spurs defence grateful to eventually concede a corner. Burnley sent up all their big men, and had good numbers in the box. When the corner came in, it was cleared to Arfield on the edge of the box. As he tried to get it fully under control and get his head up to assess the situation, he was caught out, with Paulinho breaking from midfield. Arfield tried to recover from his error by dragging him back on the half way line with a deliberate foul, but the Spurs man was able to resist and carry on his run, with the referee playing advantage. The ball was predictably played wide to Townsend, who had plenty of time to pick out the perfect low ball across the 6 yard box. Soldado came steaming in at the far post, and with Heaton already beaten, managed to crash the ball against the bar from no more than three yards out. It was an absolutely incredible miss, and needs to be seen to be believed. Burnley had survived, and the referee walked back to rightly caution Scott Arfield. Surely that would be the last action of the half?

Incredibly, it wasn’t. Craig Pawson had indicated two minutes of stoppage time, and it was in the first of these that Tottenham managed to fashion their equaliser. Mee was caught out yet again by Townsend, and the ball was worked across pitch to the far side. Davies had made a promising run from full back and managed to get the ball to the bye line, pulling his cross to the edge of the box, where Etienne Capoue ran onto the ball much like his compatriot midfielder had twice earlier. However, he made no mistake on this occasion and drilled a low, powerful shot down the centre of the goal and past Heaton to equalise. Heaton may have been unsighted, there were a lot of bodies in the way, but given how close the ball was to him when it went in, he may well be a little disappointed to not have kept the shot out.

Burnley had blown their lead, and an even first half had ended with the score line level, and with both teams looking dangerous on the attack and woeful in defence.

Into the second half, and Spurs were full of purpose from the kick off. Chiriches worked some space down the Burnley left and got a cross in which was flicked away to safety by the Burnley defence. Just 2 minutes later, a ball was played through the channel between Mee and Keane for Townsend to run on to and put in another testing ball, which missed everybody. Sean Dyche mentioned this in his post match comments but it really was hard to see who got a touch, and no Spurs players even appealed. Nevertheless, the referee pointed for a corner. The corner was a dangerous in swinger, and Heaton failed to cover himself in glory, flapping at the cross and getting nowhere near it. Chiriches came running in at the far post and managed to use his body to force the ball over the line and into the net, sparking the inevitable ‘Spurs are on their way to Wembley’ chants from the home faithful. It was another piece of poor defending, and was the worst start to the second half imaginable.

Just two minutes later, and the game was a good as over. Scott Arfield lost the ball on the right of midfield, and it was played inside to Stambouli. He lofted a simple ball out to the Spurs right, over the top of Mee and into the space behind him. Soldado was free to run on to it, and he looked up, drilling a low cross along the 6 yard box. Michael Duff failed to react, and Danny Rose slid in to put the ball in the net and end the tie. The fact that 3 of the goals, along with Soldado’s missed chance, all came from no more than 5 yards out, is an indication of just how badly the Clarets defended in the whole of the game. My mind raced back to my last two visits to the ground, where I had seen us ship 4 goals in the cup, and five in the league, and felt a sense of dread and of history repeating itself, with 39 minutes still to play. Spurs were now comfortable, and Burnley seemed shell shocked.

Spurs proceeded to bring on Chadli, who by all accounts had already had 2 good games against us this season. He was soon proving influential, with his quick feet perplexing Trippier, leading to a low cross being flashed across the goal, which went just inches away from the far post. Burnley responded with their only real threat of the second half, when a Vokes flick on from a direct ball set Sordell free. He looked to have potentially been pulled down in the box by Kaboul, but the referee waved away the forward’s claims for a penalty. In this instance, it seemed the correct decision, and the defender was simply too strong for him. Soldado, desperate to make up for his first half miss, was next to have an attempt on goal, picking up the ball deep, and driving towards the Burnley back four, before a shot from the edge of the area which caused Heaton few problems.

It was at this point, where Burnley effectively declared. Reid was brought on to give Trippier’s tight hamstring a rest. Wallace had one effort where he cut in from the right, stepped over the ball and fired just wide. Kightly had a promising run on the left, squeezing between two players on the byeline before being sandwiched to the ground, earning Chiriches a yellow card. Yet, it wasn’t long before Tottenham regained control. Mee resorted to unsubtly fouling Townsend on his latest foray forward, and was fortunate not to go into the referee’s notebook. Capoue had another good shot from the edge of the area blocked by Keane, with the follow up shot safely going wide. Dean Marney was introduced at his old club, to polite applause, with Jones’ legs getting a rest ahead of Saturday, before Spurs replaced the excellent Townsend with youngster Josh Onomah. There was no doubt that Mee would have been delighted to see this happen, as the winger had given him the complete run-around for the previous hour. Chiriches was replaced by Dier soon after. Even with the game effectively over, Tottenham continued to press, and  Capoue tried his luck from range for a third time and Soldado missed another glorious chance when a volley from the penalty spot following a Chadli run and cross ended up more akin to a back-pass to Heaton.

There was just enough time for Boyd to replace Wallace, before the referee brought the game to a close. In truth, it had been finished in the 5 minutes after half time, the second half was one of toil for Burnley, with Vorm hardly troubled, and Spurs were through to play Leicester in the 4th round.  

Whilst both sides made changes, the difference in the strength and depth of the two squads was clear for all to see. In his post match comments, Sean Dyche suggested that we made mistakes, but I’d go further than that; our defending was terrible throughout the match. Ben Mee had been playing well, and particularly impressed when moving to centre back against Newcastle and in the home game against Spurs, but turned in by far his worst performance since his early days of being paired at centre back with David Edgar. If anyone was in any doubt as to the vital role Jason Shackell has played in this team, both with his form and his leadership skills, then this game highlighted it in spades. However, the last season and a half have been ones of positivity, and that’s the way this report should be ended. It must not be forgotten that Tottenham are a big club, with an expensively assembled, deep squad, who managed to put five past an excellent Chelsea side this month. We managed to score 2 goals away from home against them, and were positive in the way we started, clearly making an effort to progress in the cup. Marvin Sordell produced his second good performance in North London this season, and scored a great first goal for the club, giving us an insight into his talents as a centre forward. Sam Vokes got ninety minutes of football as he continued his recovery, and that will be of huge benefit as we move through the league season. Many of the squad managed to get either a complete rest, or at least didn’t play a full 90 minutes, ahead of a huge game this weekend, and defeat actually means a weekend off for our small squad, where some vital recuperation can take place, ahead of the push for survival; goodness knows, with the effort and application they have put in so far, they deserve it.