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Jermaine Beckford and Roman Pavlyuchenko impress in Cup

Jermaine Beckford
Beckford's late penalty earned a replay for Leeds United

By Sam Lyon
BBC Sport at White Hart Lane

As the dust settled on Saturday's FA Cup fourth-round 2-2 draw between Tottenham and Leeds, a lot of the talk surrounded two frontmen - Jermaine Beckford and Roman Pavlyuchenko.

Both had played their part in an intriguing game. Beckford twice dragged Leeds from a goal down to ensure the sides must go again in a 2 February replay, while Pavlyuchenko's impressive late cameo came so close to earning Spurs victory in front of a capacity crowd.

Two quality performances from two quality performers - and yet the future for both is far from certain.

While Beckford is attracting interest from the upper echelons of the English league as a result of his superb form in League One this year, Pavlyuchenko has looked every inch the forgotten man at Tottenham.

Beckford's match-saving brace against Tottenham comes after his match-winning strike in the last round against Manchester United, and he has scored 22 goals from 32 games already this season.

He looked a good player, dangerous. I'm sure he could be a threat in the Premier League

Redknapp on Beckford

And the fact the 26-year-old will be available on a free contract when his current Leeds deal expires in the summer only adds to the clamour for the frontman.

Newcastle, Everton and Arsenal are among those said to have cast admiring glances in his direction.

Leeds boss Simon Grayson insists Beckford will be going nowhere, at least until the summer, but if his display against Spurs is anything to go, the suitors will only continue to swell in the coming months.

Spurs boss Harry Redknapp was certainly impressed.

"He looked a good player, dangerous," said Redknapp. "He played on the shoulder, got into good positions, and he was always a threat.

"I'm sure he could be a threat in the Premier League. As a free transfer at the end of the year, you couldn't go wrong with him."

Beckford was a constant thorn in Tottenham's side. More often than not finding himself as the lone front-man, he was always looking for the ball over the top and a chance to exploit the space left behind the hosts' high defensive line, and he ran the channels well whenever Leeds broke forward.

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Despite being a tall man - at 6ft 2in - he is not a naturally gifted hold-up player, and his first touch could certainly use work.

But while these skills can be acquired with time and experience, he has the one ability that professionals still call the "hardest part of the game" and that is sticking the ball in the net.

His first goal at White Hart Lane was all about opportunism as he pounced on Jermaine Jenas's poor attempt to clear a corner before spinning and squeezing the ball under keeper Heurelho Gomes.

The second displayed another vital trait if he is to succeed at a higher level - character.

To score a penalty 96 minutes into a game to earn your side a replay requires no little skill and considerable mental strength, and Beckford showed it all as he slammed it home.

Conversely, it's a lack of mental strength that appears to have been Pavlyuchenko's problem.

The Russian arrived at Tottenham with a big reputation and for a big price. Having impressed alongside Andrey Arshavin at Euro 2008, he was expected to bring strength, guile and a cutting edge to a Spurs frontline that had been shorn of Dimitar Berbatov and Robbie Keane in the close season.

Roman Pavlyuchenko
If he played every week like he did when he came on he'd be an automatic starter

Redknapp on Pavlyuchenko

Instead, he has more often than not proven a source of frustration for both Redknapp and previous incumbent Juande Ramos.

A record of five goals in 32 league games tells part of the story, but it is more the player's approach that seems to rankle so much.

On the face of it, Pavlyuchenko has all the qualities needed to succeed anywhere at the highest level - and his display as a 71st-minute substitute on Saturday hinted at just what the 28-year-old is capable of.

His finish to put Tottenham 2-1 up was made to look easy and was as impressive as the clever step-over and run into the box that had preceded it.

He showed his ability to hold up play as Spurs tried to kill the game late on, displayed a flash of pace and movement in a fine move involving Gareth Bale down the left, and underlined his ability with the ball with a defence-splitting pass that almost played in Keane.

As Redknapp said after the game: "If he played every week like he did when he came on he'd be an automatic starter."

But, instead, far too often Pavlyuchenko, much like the Bulgarian he was bought to replace, looks diffident, uninspired, sulky even.

And Redknapp did little to disguise his dissatisfaction at the player's efforts in training when he replied "erm, he's OK, yeah, OK" when asked after the game about Pavlyuchenko's commitment out on the practice pitches at Chigwell.

That Pavlyuchenko asked to be left out of Tottenham's squad for their Carling Cup tie against Manchester United in December because he was not "mentally right" only underlines his fragile character.

Strangely, Tottenham fans love him.

While Pavlyuchenko is looking to salvage a career, Beckford is looking to build one

Maybe they believe in his talent, maybe they understand his frustration, maybe they wish only for him to be given a fair crack of the whip with a string of games.

Redknapp continually insists publicly he is happy to retain his four strikers at least until the end of the season, and if Pavlyuchenko were to keep putting in cameo displays like that against Leeds, the manager - not one to bear a grudge - would surely give him his chance.

All the same, for very different reasons, both Pavlyuchenko and Beckford could soon be on the move.

But while the former is looking to salvage a career, Beckford is looking to build one.



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see also
Tottenham 2-2 Leeds United
23 Jan 10 |  FA Cup
Grayson rules out Beckford move
23 Jan 10 |  FA Cup
Beckford still in Grayson plans
07 Jan 10 |  Leeds
Beckford puts in transfer request
06 Jan 10 |  Leeds
Manchester Utd 0-1 Leeds United
04 Jan 10 |  FA Cup
Beckford apologises to Leeds boss
23 Dec 09 |  Leeds
Three clubs in chase for Beckford
15 Jul 09 |  Leeds
Beckford taken off transfer list
17 Jul 09 |  Leeds


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