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Purse and his fellow Bluebirds earn their Spurs to force replay.

Byline: By Terry Phillips South Wales Echo

Skipper Darren Purse and his Cardiff City team showed a pride and passion which had Premiership Spurs hanging on at Ninian Park.

The Bluebirds went head-to-head with Spurs physically and mentally, earning an FA Cup third round replay at White Hart Lane.

City made a mockery of the charge that they haven't performed since the heady days of October when they were surging ahead at the top of the Coca-Cola Championship.

It's true Cardiff haven't won for 11 matches. It's also true they have only lost once in their last nine games - and twice in the last 11.

Right now they need a touch of luck to turn draws into wins.

And City almost dumped Spurs out of the competition.

Michael Chopra's darting run onto a poor defensive header by Young-Pyo Lee left England goalkeeper Paul Robinson in trouble.

Chopra was there first and touched the ball past a despairing challenge, but his hurried effort ran wide of goal.

Then, after the interval, Riccy Scimeca and Willo Flood combined to tear the Spurs back four apart.

Scimeca started the move, swapped passes with Flood and chased into the penalty area unchallenged.

The experienced midfield player went for goal and fired wide when Chopra was unmarked inside him and a simple square pass would have opened up the goal.

It's far too easy to be ultra-critical from the sidelines, but that was a chance carved out by flowing football.

This was a physical, bruising confrontation.

But it was also fairly contested and referee Howard Webb from Yorkshire, who took charge of Cardiff's 2003 play-off final victory against QPR, did not have to caution a player from either side.

Spurs started with England international Jermaine Defoe and Bulgarian goals ace Dimitar Berbatov running at Cardiff.

Then they sent on England's Aaron Lennon to spice up the Tottenham attack before replacing Defoe with Irish international Robbie Keane.

Every one of them came up blank. Cardiff defended solidly, tackled ferociously and Spurs rarely looked like scoring.

Defoe flashed a shot across goal and wide of target after 11 minutes and goalkeeper Neil Alexander had to move smartly a couple of times, but Spurs simply did not do enough to warrant a goal.

Purse and Glenn Loovens in the centre of defence was magnificent, while full-backs Kerrea Gilbert and Kevin McNaughton both shone.

Flood was a constant menace to Spurs wide in midfield, while Chopra and Thompson worked hard in attack.

Chopra simply needs a goal, a touch of luck, to rekindle the belief and confidence that made the most feared striker in the Championship earlier this season, while Thompson gave Tottenham's big defenders a tough time in the air and linked well.

One glancing header flew across goal and brought a sprawling save from England goalkeeper Paul Robinson.

The visitors are cup experts, having swept into the semi-final of the Carling Cup and the last 32 of the Uefa Cup.

They have a big tradition of achievement in the FA Cup, but wobbled on occasions at Ninian Park.

The atmosphere was intimidating, home supporters roared their team forward and City players responded with a stirring, high tempo display.

Yet all of this will mean nothing if Cardiff City don't repeat the passion and pride when Southend United arrive at Ninian Park on Saturday.

A capacity home crowd of more than 20,000 spectators packed into Ninian Park and with Sky television showing the match live this was a big pay day for the cash strapped Bluebirds.

And they will earn another windfall from the replay in London.

But manager Dave Jones and his team are striving for promotion to the Premiership.

They are focused on that prize and the cup clash with Spurs is no more than an enjoyable sideshow.

Spurs expected to beat the Bluebirds and went home thankful they have a second chance.

Jones now needs to bring in the strikers, midfield player and maybe even a left-back he is chasing to bolster a squad which is currently far too thin for the challenge ahead.

Too many players are automatically in the starting line-up. Steadily, though, that will change if Jones gets his men.

Neil Alexander now looks ready to sign his new contract after stalling for some time and the arrival of former West Ham keeper David Forde from Derry City will add to the pressure on City's number one.

Now Jones wants to increase numbers up front to give Thompson and Chopra a new challenge and bringing in a quality midfield player who will push Scimeca and Stephen McPhail.

If he succeeds - and the signs are looking good - then Cardiff City can still chase down the clubs above them and earn a play-off spot at least.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 8, 2007
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