FA Cup Preview: Giant Killers Stevenage's Incredible Defence Can Stifle Spurs

Still yet to concede a goal in this season’s FA Cup, giant-killers Stevenage will be relying on their defence to win the game against Tottenham tonight.
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Still yet to concede a goal in this season’s FA Cup, giant-killers Stevenage will be relying on their defence to win the game against Tottenham tonight.

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As if one game against Tottenham this season wasn’t mouth-watering enough, Stevenage have managed to land themselves another crack at them after a hard-fought 0-0 draw at the Lamex. The solid performance against a strong Spurs side led to a well deserved result and left many fans pondering – can Stevenage get a result at the Lane? And although it may seem improbable, it is certainly not impossible.

Messer’s Gareth Bale, Rafael Van Der Vaart and Luka Modric are all thought to be available for selection for tomorrow night’s game and it goes without saying, these three pose the biggest threat towards Stevenage. At the Lamex, with Harry Redknapp opting for width in the middle after adopting a 3-5-2 formation found his wingbacks in Danny Rose and Kyle Walker somewhat counter-acted and both had a relatively quiet game. In comparison, the pitch dimensions are similar so it will be interesting to see if Redknapp tries the same formation again or if he seeks to adapt a different policy.  It could be inferred from his pre-match comments, that Redknapp knows Stevenage are a valid threat and that he seeks to put out the strongest side possible to ensure a place in the 6th round. Emmanuel Adebayor who missed the first game due to injury could well play a part in the tie after featuring for Tottenham against Man Utd at the weekend.

As was said in the build up to the original tie, the game will be won in the middle of the park. The imperious Michael Bostwick who was at his best alongside the ever present Joel Byrom this season formed a formidable resistance to the Tottenham midfield and nullified any threat offered by the free-roaming Bale. With Luke Freeman missing two games in the last week due to injury, Robin Shroot has stepped up to the plate and scored two goals in his last two games to put himself somewhat in the forefront of Gary Smith’s mind. In all honesty, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Stevenage employ a similar plan to that of the first game however with Chris Beardsley doubtful for the game due to injury an extra man may well be employed in the midfield or Don Cowan could be in line for a rare start. Injuries to key players namely Chris Beardsley, Luke Freeman and Jon Ashton in the last two weeks or so have seen Smith tinker with the formation and look to put his own spin on things for example the 4-5-1 at Charlton where he looked to play Lawrie Wilson in behind Beardsley in front of a four man midfield. A return to the more recognised 4-4-2 in the draws to Huddersfield and Exeter saw tactical stability resumed however whether or not he’ll look to tweak the formation again to counter-act specific threats is yet unclear.

With Stevenage defensively solid in the first tie (still yet to concede a goal in this season’s FA Cup) it was business as usual however with a lack of a quality finisher evident up front it could well be this area that seeks to be a thorn in Stevenage’s side once more. To win the game, Stevenage will need to play with the same belief, desire and determination that were ever present in the original tie but yet just offer that little more quality up front that could see them nick a goal and book their place in FA Cup history.  Lawrie Wilson whose pace was a constant nuisance to the Tottenham midfield and Rose at wingback fully deserved his man of the match award and may well find himself the spearhead of the Stevenage counter-attack. Much like they did against Newcastle in the 3rd round last year, if Stevenage want to win the game, they need to make Spurs uncomfortable, take them out of their comfort zone and instil the controlled tempo that was evident at the Lamex and get Tottenham playing their game rather than the other way round.

The imperious Michael Bostwick who was at his best alongside the ever present Joel Byrom this season formed a formidable resistance to the Tottenham midfield and nullified any threat offered by the free-roaming Bale.

The cup run, which started at Hartlepool in a 1-0 win followed by a 3-0 win at Stourbridge, was rewarded with a 3rd round tie and a chance for revenge at Reading. An efficient performance which turned out to be Graham Westley’s last game in charge of the club saw Stevenage turn out 1-0 winners in another tight but engaging cup tie. The fourth round tie at home to Notts County was a game that left much to the imagination. Physical, dirty and gritty from the start, it was decided by a OG that saw Stevenage into the 5th round for the first time in their history.

To be a Stevenage fan is these circumstances is somewhat, thrilling. From Conference to League One in two seasons, back to back promotions and with a third successive promotion possible it’s certainly the right time to jump on the Stevenage bandwagon. With nothing to lose and 4200 fans cheering them on it will be interesting to see just how the ‘Boro approach this game. Will they sit back, try and hold off the Spurs attack or will they – much like they did at the Lamex, take control of the game, play it at their own pace and build from therein? Either way, the tie promises to be a proper, old-fashioned cup tie. Who said the FA Cup was dead?

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