WORTHINGTON CUP THIRD ROUND
TUESDAY 27TH OCTOBER, 1998
NORTHAMPTON TOWN 1 (1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 3 (1)
Armstrong, 39, 83
Referee:- Graham Poll
Northampton:- Woodman; Gibb, Frain, Sampson, Hodgson, Hill (sub Witter), Hunt, Wilkinson (sub Warner), Corazzin, Freestone, Parrish
Spurs:- Baardsen; Carr, Edinburgh, Calderwood, Scales, Campbell, Anderton, Nielsen, Armstrong (sub Allen), Iversen, Ginola (sub Clemence)
Striker Chris Armstrong is backing new manager George Graham's powers of positive thinking to steer Tottenham back to the glory days.
Armstrong scored twice as Spurs weathered the plucky challenge of second division strugglers Northampton on a treacherous, rain-sodden pitch at Sixfields to come from a goal down and go into the last 16 of the Worthington Cup.
As results go it was hardly cause for major celebration even though the battling Cobblers had booted West Ham out of the competition in the previous round.
Not so long ago Tottenham might also have succumbed to this kind of character test _ but not now with demanding Scot Graham in charge.
Armstrong said: "A while back our heads might have gone down after conceding the first goal in a game like this but you can already see things turning round since George arrived.
"We were starting to put a pretty good run together even before he came but now you can sense a new determination and his positive ways have brought a response from everybody.
"It's a long time since this club won anything but we believe we can change all that and we certainly want to do well in this competition.
"Against Northampton conditions were terrible, with a lot of surface water on the pitch and it's a test when you go behind _ especially to the sort of goal we let in.
"But I managed to knock in an equaliser fairly soon afterwards and George was just so positive in his half-time team-talk. He just told us to go on doing what we were doing and once we scored again right at the start of the second half we never had any doubts we could go on creating chances and win it."
Graham said: "Northampton scored with their first shot but I thought we controlled the first half fairly well.
"I was delighted with the commitment and attitude the boys showed. Some people might have thought this game was a banana skin we could easily have slipped up on but the performance was typical of the response I've had from the players in just a short time here.
"People keep asking when I will buy to strengthen the squad and that's not surprising when you think Spurs were almost relegated last season and the same players are still around.
"But there is not that much quality available on the market wherever you look and while that's the case my objective is to get the best out of the players I already have."
Referee Graham Poll passed the soggy Sixfields pitch fit for play just an hour before kick-off despite a day-long downpour that continued throughout the game and made good football, almost literally, akin to walking on water.
And when big Norwegian goalkeeper Espen Baardsen suffered a bizarre loss of concentration to give Northampton a 29th minute lead, the 7,000 home crowd began to believe in another miracle result.
Baardsen looked totally disorientated when a back-pass from Allan Nielsen stuck in the mud in his six-yard box.
At first he shaped to pick it up but then realising he was not allowed to handle it, he improvised a desperate attempt to kick clear and landed the ball at the feet of Northampton midfielder Sean Parrish who promptly chipped the ball back over the the stranded keeper from 20 yards.
If Northampton defender Ian Sampson had not made a hash of a clearance at the other end eight minutes later, allowing Armstrong to equalise with an easy tap-in, Spurs might have been submerged in familiar self-doubt.
But skipper Sol Campbell fired them in front from a David Ginola corner two minutes after the interval, with his fourth goal in six games.
And even though Woodman saved the Frenchman's penalty with 75 minutes gone there was a sense of inevitability about a third Spurs goal which Armstrong finally headed in from Darren Anderton's cross nine minutes before time.
Graham won this competition _ then called the Littlewood's Cup _ in his first season in charge at Arsenal 12 years ago and repeated the feat in 1993 but he will not tempt fate by suggesting that Tottenham's name is on the cup.
"If you begin to think that way you can easily end up flat on your face," he said. "I'm just happy we are in the draw for the fourth round and we'll take it from there."
· Brian Judson's preview
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