The team that humbled Real Madrid at the national stadium three months ago now gets to take on Rochdale on one of the worst surfaces in the professional game after Dan Butler’s unfortunate own goal opener set Tottenham up for a comfortable victory.
Not that Mauricio Pochettino, the Tottenham manager, will be giving Spotland’s shortcomings much thought right now as Arsenal are due at Wembley in the Premier League on Saturday lunchtime.
But the Argentinian, who declared before kick-off that it would be ‘Houston we have a problem’ if his side hadn’t won this FA Cup fourth round replay, was pleased enough to see an own-goal and Erik Lamela take Spurs through.
Newport probably already knew it wasn’t going to be their night given that midfielder Sean Rigg quit just hours before kick-off to become a tattoo artist. They looked exactly what they are; a useful League Two side.
Heung-min Son blasted an early sighter wide from an angle to the delight of almost 8,000 Newport fans, who had thoroughly enjoyed the 1-1 draw at Rodney Parade that earned them this replay.
A much-changed home line-up featured Juan Foyth in central defence alongside Toby Alderweireld, who was playing for the first time since being hurt in that win over the Champions League holders on the first day of November.
It was an error from the young Argentinian, who turned 20 last month, that led to Victor Wanyama‘s name being the first in the book, for a late challenge on County captain Joss Labadie.
The free-kick came to nothing but there was a nervy moment when Padraig Amond, Newport’s scorer in the first game, headed a clear chance over, although the flag was up.
Tottenham went close a couple of times before Butler’s misfortune in the 26th minute. Danny Rose found the sidenetting after Moussa Sissoko found him at the back post and a Lamela overhead kick attempt connected only with Newport’s Ben Tozer.
Fortune favoured Sissoko when his attempted cross clipped the back of Butler’s leg to gove goalkeeper Joe Day no chance.
Referee Stuart Attwell used VAR to check that Robbie Willmott hadn’t impeded Rose in the box before Day excelled with a double save to deny Lamela and then Son.
The latter set up the former for Tottenham’s 34th-minute second, with Lamela finishing calmly despite two defenders sliding in simultaneously, and the half ended with another VAR check that came back as ‘as you were’ after Serge Aurier caught Frank Nouble on a foot.
The second half was less of a spectacle, although Foyth repeatedly demonstrated that he was actually as player who is perfectly comfortable on the ball. Tottenham attacks came to little however, mostly because the ponderous Fernando Llorente was up front and Harry Kane, whose late goal had saved Spurs from defeat in south Wales, on the bench.
Christian Eriksen replaced Son after the hour mark and Llorente did well to put Lamela into the perfect position for a third only for Day to save again. Eriksen then failed to finish a sweeping, passing move as Newport began to ebb away.
Llorente would have had to score a triple hat-trick to have even a chance of supplanting Kane on Saturday but the big Spaniard should have had found the net at least twice. Instead he headed a simple chance wide (while offside) and then volleyed the wrong side of the far post.
He wasn’t the only one; Delli Alli came off the bench to race through and ping the top of Day’s crossbar. It didn’t matter.
Newport’s only real chance came in stoppage time but Amond fired wastefully straight at Michel Vorm.