Sunday, January 27, 2013
ESPNsoccernet: January 29, 4:45 PM UK
Team of the Week
This FA Cup fourth round weekend has been a memorable one so Team of the Week is not about the likes of David Silva, Javier Hernandez or Olivier Giroud, despite their fine performances. It's about those players and teams to whom the spotlight is not familiar having their moments of football glory.
No team enjoyed more glory than Luton Town, who became the first non-league team to knock out top-flight opposition since 1989 when they won at Norwich - a triumph they thoroughly deserved. The foundations of the 1-0 victory were laid by Norfolk-born goalkeeper Mark Tyler, who made two crucial saves when the score was 0-0. Norwich may have been feeble but, had Simeon Jackson and Grant Holt not been superbly denied, they might also have been through.
Brentford very nearly did go through against Chelsea at Griffin Park, with Uwe Rosler's hugely admirable team denied only by a late touch of class from Fernando Torres. Their energy, bravery and complete refusal to be fazed by big-name opponents was embodied by right-back Shaleum Logan, with the Manchester City academy graduate solid in defence, tenacious in the challenge and a useful augmenter of the attack.
Another terrific collective effort came from Leeds, for whom young centre-back Tom Lees was a tower of strength as they knocked out Tottenham at Elland Road. Neil Warnock's side stood firm in the face of almost everything Spurs could produce, and Lees' strength in the air and timing on the floor were a major reason for that.
Alongside him is Millwall's Danny Shittu, a pivotal figure in his side's Friday night win over Aston Villa at The Den. Shittu defended stoutly as the Midlanders huffed and puffed, and changed the game by coming forward to thunder in the header that brought the Lions level at 1-1 and gave them the momentum to go on and win.
Reece Wabara was one of many Oldham stars in their stunning 3-2 win over Liverpool at Boundary Park. The Latics full-back - on loan from Manchester City - played his full part in what was a heroic defensive performance, with block after block denying Liverpool as they tried to salvage their FA Cup hopes. But, even more crucially, his wonderful header, powered past Brad Jones, had given League One strugglers Oldham the two-goal lead that proved enough for them to round off a great Cup weekend in style.
It's fair to say that the way in which MK Dons came into being is a divisive issue at best. But it was hard to argue with the quality of their performance at Loftus Road, where they scored four times before an hour had elapsed. The fourth of those goals came from Darren Potter, a neat snap shot that was fitting reward for his industrious and skilful performance on an afternoon that saw MK Dons outpass, out-think and outfight ragged Rangers.
Industrious and skilful can be used to describe the contribution of Brentford's Harry Forrester, whose verve was central to his side's superb performance against the reigning champions of Europe. Constantly willing to take people on and make things happen, his saved shot led to Marcello Trotta's opening goal, and he kept his cool wonderfully to steer home the penalty that had the Bees 2-1 in front and daring to dream.
Michael Brown rolled back the years against one of his former clubs, producing a tenacious display to help frustrate Spurs as Championship Leeds went through to round five. Winning a whole heap of challenges, he used the ball well when he got it and typified the strong work ethic of Neil Warnock's men.
Pride of place up front has to go to Luton Town's Scott Rendell. He may have only been a substitute at Carrow Road, but his was the sort of moment of which proper FA Cup days are made. Only ten minutes remained when Rendell was the man in the right place at the near post - one deft finish later, he and his delirious team-mates were celebrating in front of thousands of extremely happy Hatters fans. A great Cup moment (unless, of course, you're a Norwich supporter).
Oldham's brilliant performance was crowned by a two-goal contribution from physical striker Matt Smith, whose header was helped over the line by Martin Skrtel to put them one up and who tapped in to put his side 2-1 in front just before the break. Other than that, he never stopped giving the Liverpool defence plenty to think about until being forced off by injury - the Latics' main man on an afternoon that will go down in club folklore.
And finally, Middlesbrough under Tony Mowbray have been doing things quietly, progressing both in the Championship and in the FA Cup. They had to overcome a spirited performance from League Two Aldershot, who would have had a replay had it not been for Lukas Jutkiewicz, the second of whose two-goal contribution arrived in the 90th minute, hot on the heels of Aldershot's equaliser.
No contest for manager of the week - it's Paul Buckle, who guided his non-league Hatters to victory at Norwich. Buckle, as he showed in his spell at Torquay United, gets his teams playing constructive and neat football, and their approach at Carrow Road put some of the home side's aimless hoofing to shame. Buckle deserved everything he and his players got in Norfolk on Saturday. Don't be surprised to see Luton back in the league soon.
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