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John Ellis's "third eye" report on Newport v Spurs, 27.01.18

John Ellis is known to many Spurs fans and we have over 450 mutual friends on Facebook. I am pleased to add this "third eye" feature article written by "El Gringo". This time John offers his thoughts on our close escape at Newport.

John invariably comments after every Spurs game on his Facebook page, and I usually agree with everything he writes. That applies to John's detailed eye-witness report on this game, which is published below, with kind permission:-

Newport County 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur

Newport's Rodney Parade ground

The romance of the FA Cup came to Rodney Parade and for the neutrals all of the ingredients were there for a seismic FA Cup shock. The pitch still had the markings of the recent rugby match. The surface was cut up and likely to deteriorate in the wet and windy conditions in front of the TV cameras and being under standing floodlights always adds an atmosphere to the occasion.

Earlier in the day, the fervour in the town centre was evident for all to see with yellow and black balloons outside many a shop. The local hostelries were full of anticipation and excitement with “Amber Army” echoing around the town centre streets. The big city slickers from London were in town and boy did Newport County want to topple the mighty Tottenham Hotspur and claim a massive scalp.

Just a few years ago this was a club which having fallen out of the Football League was on the road to oblivion in the non league. Remarkably a supporter won the National Lottery and did what many of us would dream of doing. He invested in his passion, his football club and dragged them up by their bootlaces back into the respectability of the Football League. What a remarkable story!

In the darkest of those hours, this was a night their long-suffering fans could never have imagined and a tie they thoroughly deserved. This was the hottest ticket in town and an extra temporary stand had been erected behind the goal to squeeze in as many fans as possible. The magic of the FA Cup was alive and kicking.

Pochettino and his coaching staff have previously been subjected to criticism by the fan base for disrespecting the domestic cup competitions but not tonight. They recognised the signs and having seen Leeds United humbled in the third round, they respected their lowly fourth tier opponents by fielding a very strong side.

And so to the eagerly awaited kick off. It is fair to say, the travel-hardened Spurs' faithful were also delighted to be here for the novelty of playing at a new stadium in a proper 4th round FA Cup tie. Newport made the early running and created a number of opportunities. One break was particularly threatening with the Spurs defence exposed, a free strike from the edge of the box with the whole goal to aim at fortunately sailed high and wide. A free kick from the left was whipped in and any touch would have been very dangerous but thankfully flew through into the grateful arms of Vorm.

Half an hour had sailed by with Spurs hardly creating a chance. This was going to be a battle. Newport were up for it and with a mixture of endeavour passion work rate and a fair degree of skill were taking the game to their illustrious opponents. Spurs were struggling to adapt to a poor surface, the wintery conditions and their unusual surroundings. This was evidenced by Llorente with his back to goal being unable to retain possession, Kyle Walker-Peters on a couple of occasions mis-controlling, resulting in the ball going out for a throw-in.

A good move instigated by Sissoko ended with Kane bringing a diving save from the keeper who tipped the effort around the post for a corner. This only stung Newport forwards and in the 38th minute they made a break down the right which initially involved drive and skill. Spurs cleared for a throw-in but eventually it led to a cross and the unthinkable, unimaginable horror... David rose up high and stoned Goliath smack bang in the eye. Newport County 1-0 Tottenham Hotspur and it was no more than the the plucky hosts deserved for their endeavours.

Shortly afterwards a problem nearly became a crisis but Vorm was alert to keep an effort out at the near post. Spurs went in at half time a goal down and deservedly so. One can only imagine the words imparted by Pochettino during his half time team talk. If he is a cup thrower, Spurs will be receiving a bill for a whole dinner service on Monday morning.

The next 45 minutes were likely to go very quickly or very slowly for the different sets of supporters. Son came on for Walker-Peters at half time with Vertonghen filling in at left back in a move to a back four. In the early stages of the second half, the Spurs fans tried to rouse their team. It has to be said though, given the high level of loyalty points required to get a ticket for this match, those present didn’t show the passion expected from such hard core support. The support did however seem to inspire the players and a great chance was created but Dier unmarked headed high over the bar. It was by far Spurs best chance of the match.

Further reinforcements were called on in the shape of Dele who came on for the ineffective Llorente. Immediately the congestion of the static Llorente was lifted and there was far more space to be found in our attacking third. A Dele inspired move put Son through on goal but the keeper blocked his shot up and over the bar.

The clock was running down. As the belief began to soar amongst the home fans, in equal measure it seeped away from the Spurs fans. Thoughts were turning towards the remorseless banter given to Arsenal fans after their defeat to Nottingham Forest in the previous round. The week ahead was looking full of misery, embarrassment and endless taunting.

As the home side tired, Spurs dominated the possession but a goal looked as likely as a Donald Trump welcome in Mexico City. The game moved into the final ten minutes and the Spurs away section were watching in stunned disbelief. The team were abject with few players performing anywhere near to even half their best. An almighty shock was not only on the cards but looking more and more likely. Spurs were slipping out of the cup with merely a whimper.

The usual moans about Sissoko were permeating amongst the fans but he was by no means our worst player. Dier gave the ball away several times as did Wanyama. Dembele had dwelled far too long on the ball. The only player to be emerging with credit was Foyth who put in an assured performance at the back. This young man is a fine footballer and it is easy to see why clubs such as PSG fought for his signature.

Spurs continued to huff and puff but couldn’t blow the Newport defence down. The game moved into the 82nd minute when Spurs forced a corner from the left from which there was a flick on from Son and there was just the man you would want to be there, Harry Kane "Johnny on the spot" to level the scores. Amongst the collective roar of the 1600 Spurs fans amongst a 9800 crowd could be heard an enormous exhale of relief!

Spurs pushed forward in search of a winner but still Newport threatened on the break. The match moved into four minutes of added time with the game still very much in the balance. The Newport fans were singing of going to Wembley but the players were not on the same wavelength. Newport forced a corner...Surely not? Much to the relief of both sets of fans, the referee blew the final whistle and Spurs lived to fight another day.

Newport deserve their day out at Wembley. The lottery winner almost scooped the equivalent of another lottery win and along with the management team and players deserves to see his beloved Newport County team play Tottenham Hotspur in the 4th round of the FA Cup at Wembley Stadium as well as enjoy the anticipation of the 5th round draw. Well done Newport County!

As for Spurs, we are in the hat for the 5th round draw and at the end of the day that is all that matters. History is littered with such stories of trans riding their luck on the way to winning the FA Cup. Let’s hope this year is our year! And so on to Wednesday and a packed house for the visit of Manchester United which could well break the record for the highest ever attendance for a league game in the history of English football. The occasion will be somewhat different to the emotionally charged historic last visit of Manchester United in the finale at White Hart Lane. The same scoreline wouldn’t go amiss!

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El Gringo's Once in a Lifetime - John Ellis's account of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

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