January 28, 2018 / 12:01 AM / 4 months ago

Kane's Newport rescue act critical for Spurs' season

LONDON (Reuters) - Harry Kane has scored far better goals among the 30 he has netted this season - but none of them had the critical feel of the tap-in at little Newport County on Saturday that may yet transform Tottenham Hotspur’s season.

Soccer Football - FA Cup Fourth Round - Newport County vs Tottenham Hotspur - Rodney Parade, Newport, Britain - January 27, 2018 Tottenham's Harry Kane celebrates scoring their first goal REUTERS/Rebecca Naden

For not only did Kane’s 82nd-minute gimme spare Spurs from potential FA Cup humiliation in their fourth-round tie at the League Two club, the resulting 1-1 draw also salvaged their best chance of winning silverware in a crucial campaign.

Mauricio Pochettino’s stylish side continue to be much admired but the lack of Spurs silverware - their last trophy was the 2008 League Cup - as they prepare to move into their gleaming new London home next season is increasingly glaring.

Being on the wrong end of a Cup sensation may only have cranked up the pressure on the Argentine, which is why he was once again indebted to his alpha striker for converting Son Heung-min’s brilliant flick with embarrassment looming.

Soccer Football - FA Cup Fourth Round - Newport County vs Tottenham Hotspur - Rodney Parade, Newport, Britain - January 27, 2018 Newport County manager Mike Flynn and Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino after the match Action Images via Reuters/Matthew Childs

Pochettino’s strong-looking selection had suffered such a dismal, lethargic off-day against a side 72 places below them on the league ladder that the manager was forced to admit he was “a little bit relieved...well, a lot” by Kane’s late saver.

He sounded most alarmed about why his side had performed so poorly, even if the Rodney Parade experience - battling to avoid defeat in a tight stadium on a pitch shared by two rugby teams - really did look like a culture shock to some.

Soccer Football - FA Cup Fourth Round - Newport County vs Tottenham Hotspur - Rodney Parade, Newport, Britain - January 27, 2018 Tottenham's Harry Kane in action REUTERS/Rebecca Naden

“The team didn’t really show they want to go next stage of the FA Cup. That is what has disappointed us,” Pochettino said after Padraig Amond’s first-half header had given Newport the scent of a genuine sensation against the eight-times Cup winners.

“The theory is to win trophies, and it’s easy to talk about that. But I think we missed a massive opportunity to show we really want to win a trophy.

“I’ve heard in my years here that the FA Cup between a Premier League team and a League Two team is magic. But if I’m honest, I didn’t see much difference.”

For Pochettino recognised this had really been Newport’s day. Their reward for such a striking effort? The chance for the 10,000 who crammed into Rodney Parade to now move on to the grandeur of Wembley’s 90,000-seater arena for the replay.

“Wembley is something else for the club to look forward to. We were nearly there, we could taste it but we switched off for a minute,” said Newport’s proud but frustrated manager, Mike Flynn. “I’m gutted because we conceded so late.”

Reporting by Ian Chadband, editing by Ed Osmond

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