5 talking points as Harry Kane rescues a draw for Tottenham at Newport County

Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane, right, celebrates scoring his side’s first goal of the game against Newport County during the English FA Cup, fourth round soccer match at Rodney Parade, Newport, Wales, Saturday Jan. 27, 2018. (Andrew Matthews/PA via AP)
Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane, right, celebrates scoring his side’s first goal of the game against Newport County during the English FA Cup, fourth round soccer match at Rodney Parade, Newport, Wales, Saturday Jan. 27, 2018. (Andrew Matthews/PA via AP)

Harry Kane struck a late equaliser as Tottenham came from behind to grab a 1-1 draw away against League Two outfit Newport County in the fourth round of the FA Cup, booking a replay at Wembley.

Here are five talking points:

Newport v Tottenham – How the match unfolded

READ MORE: Kane spares Spurs FA Cup embarrassment

Mauricio Pochettino’s line-up plays into Newport’s hands

Tottenham’s manager stressed during his pre-match press conference that he was expecting a real battle against a physical side on a difficult pitch.

It was therefore no great surprise that he opted to play with three powerful central midfielders again – as he had done against AFC Wimbledon in the third round of the FA Cup.

Moussa Sissoko, Victor Wanyama and Mousa Dembele lined up across the middle of the pitch, while Eric Dier was deployed as a third centre-back and Fernando Llorente was also given the nod, theoretically providing a presence up front.

Pochettino was clearly determined to ensure that his side were not outfought – but he went a little too far in that regard. It suited Newport to have a scrap, and the Argentinian’s team selection ensured that was exactly what they got.

While Tottenham had plenty of battlers in their side, they lacked creativity in the final third and the result was that the supposed gulf in quality was negated.

Granted, seven senior players were missing from the squad, including Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela, which narrowed Pochettino’s options. And, while Dele Alli and Heung-Min Son were available, it made some sense for them to be kept in reserve given the difficulty of the upcoming fixtures – Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal in successive league matches.

However, the fact Spurs were playing with five men at the back only fuelled the feeling that Pochettino had given his opponents a little too much respect and was potentially playing into their hands. So it proved.

Fernando Llorente flops

The problem surrounding back-up strikers at Tottenham is a familiar one – they don’t get to play much because Kane is so important and consistent, so they get rusty, which then undermines their ability to make an impact when they are given opportunities.

Vincent Janssen encountered that issue, and Llorente is seemingly suffering too. The Spaniard scored in consecutive starts against Apoel Nicosia and Swansea in mid-December and early January, but otherwise he has been a big disappointment and this was a particularly poor performance.

Llorente could have been a useful asset in a game like this, when the state of the pitch makes intricate passing moves trickier. He should have enabled Spurs to play more directly, allowing them to play through or over the midfield and ensuring the ball stuck in the final third.

However, his control let him down time and again and he offered nothing. Meanwhile, Spurs were lacking a link man between their muscular midfielders and Kane.

It was clear well before half time that Pochettino needed to swap Llorente for Alli, and he duly made that change in the 66th minute. Predictably, Spurs improved.

Kyle Walker-Peters is sacrificed at the interval

The season began so well for the youngster. Having been a key member of the England squad that won the Under-20 World Cup in June, he started Spurs’ first Premier League match of the campaign at Newcastle at right-back – and was given the man of the match award.

What has followed has probably been rather frustrating. Spurs signed Serge Aurier, and Walker-Peters has only made five more starts this term, including this ill-fated outing at Newport.

Starting as the left wing-back, Walker-Peters struggled in the first half – but he was hardly alone in that respect.

Pochettino will hopefully have made that clear after substituting the academy graduate at half time to facilitate his switch to 4-2-3-1, and the introduction of Son.

The change sparked an improvement, along with the withdrawal of Llorente and the entrance of Alli, so Pochettino will feel justified in his decision.

But, as a passionate promoter of young players, he will hope he has not damaged Walker-Peters’ confidence too much, and Spurs’ supporters will feel the same.

Concerns as Spurs enter crunch period

There was nothing too disastrous about this result in itself. When the sides meet again at Wembley, on a flat and spacious pitch, Tottenham will be expected come out on top and progress to the fifth round. While the replay is not ideal, an FA Cup exit would have been far worse.

The main worry at this stage is that Spurs are looking a little off colour as they prepare to face Man United and Liverpool in the next week.

This was their second successive 1-1 draw against inferior opposition, following their similarly underwhelming trip to Southampton, and on both occasions they have had to come from behind after making slow starts.

There have been mitigating factors – both matches were played on bumpy surfaces, without Eriksen, and seven players were missing against Newport due to injury or illness.

But that is a concern in itself. How many of them will be ready to return against United, and how many will be at their best?

Spurs are certainly capable of raising their game at Wembley in a few days’ time. After all their last outing there – the 4-0 win over Everton – was one of their best of the season. But a big improvement will certainly be required after their latest displays.

Kane is at least in peak form

Spurs’ talisman was given the armband and he produced a captain’s performance. Some forwards would have bemoaned their lack of service in the first half and started to sulk, but Kane simply dropped further back to help his team-mates out.

He was scythed down by a crude tackle at one point in the first half but there was no complaint. He dusted himself down and assumed responsibility for taking the free kick.

The 24-year-old only had scraps to feed off in the opening 45 minutes but still managed to hit the post. And, while he could have done better with a second-half header which went over the bar, he was in the right place at the right time to score the 82nd-minute equaliser.

It was Kane’s fifth goal in three games, and his 11th in the last seven matches. He at least looks at the top of his game as Tottenham gear up for what could be a defining period in their season.

Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs and visit my Facebook page at