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West Ham v Spurs, 28.11.98

FA PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 28TH NOVEMBER, 1998
WEST HAM UNITED 2 (1) - TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (0)

West Ham Scorer:-
Sinclair 38, 46

Spurs scorer:-
Armstrong 71

Attendance:- 26,044

Referee:- Dermot Gallagher

Teams:-
West Ham:- ( 3-5-2 ) Hislop; Sinclair, Pearce, Ferdinand, Ruddock, Lazarides; Berkovich ( sub Potts 40 ), Lomas, Lampard; Kitson, Hartson

Subs not used:- Sealey (GK); Breaker, Margas; Abou

Booked:- Kitson, Potts

Spurs:- (4-4-2) Baardsen; Carr, Young, Campbell, Sinton; Anderton, Nielsen, Clemence ( sub Fox 68 ), Ginola; Iversen, Armstrong

Subs not used:- Walker (GK); Wilson, Thelwell; Gower

Booked:- Armstrong, Sinton

A below strength Spurs side took nothing home despite a good attacking, and battling performance. Anyone that feared nothing but defensive humdrum from the advent of George Graham should be well pleased at everything but the result today. Trust me, all the papers tomorrow will say we deserved at least a point from this stirring game. Referee Gallagher must take as much credit as anybody for what was a thoroughly entertaining second half, as I can't recall him blowing his whistle! It was true end to end stuff. The fact that Spurs lost is really due to missed opportunities; a spilt save from Baardsen; and a defensive error in midfield, together with Trevor Sinclair's finishing power.

Graham was forced to improvise, as he missed four defenders who might otherwise have played:- The suspended Calderwood, and the injured Edinburgh, Vega, and Scales. The manager maintained an attacking stance, and his formation could almost be described as 4-3-3, as he used Iversen and Ginola on the flanks to counter the West Ham wing backs, who didn't get out of their half until the injured Berkovic was replaced by Potts, enabling Sinclair to take on a more attacking role.

Debutant Luke Young comes out of this game with nothing but credit. He nearly scored in the second half battle for an equaliser with a cracking shot that was tipped onto the bar by Hislop, and as the game wore on, he looked more and more cool in defence, making considered passed clearances.

In the early stages, Iversen and Ginola were making plenty of advances down the flanks, whereas West Ham looked sharp through the middle. Sol Campbell had to make three important interceptions in the opening three minutes. Sinton was weak in defence, and Sinclair enjoyed his forays forward, whilst suffering at the other end at the hands ( I should say feet ) of Ginola.

Referee Gallagher showed his yellow card 4 times - all in the first half, and Armstrong was first in the book for a foul on Ferdinand. Chances were a rare commodity in the opening stages. Ginola shot wide after 14 minutes after receiving a flick on from Armstrong following a Sinton cross. On this and other occasions throughout the game, Daveed was to be found on the right of the park, although predominately working his usual left wing. In the second half, I suspect he had some instruction to release the ball a little earlier, but whatever the delivery, the finishing was very frustrating today. The count will show we had at least 12 shots off target. One of our first transfer deals should be a left foot for Chris Armstrong, who had the goal at his mercy twice in the second half, but failed all because of that useless object below his left knee!

Spurs' best chance in the first half fell to Iversen from a Ginola cross, but his firm header was well saved by Hislop. Sinton was booked for a deliberate hand ball after about 20 minutes, and had a close shave shortly after when he fouled Sinclair on the very edge of the area. Berkovic's free kick caused a little panic in defence, but was safely cleared.

Kitson got himself booked when he clashed in the air with Nielsen, who spent a little time off the pitch, both to recover, and to find some contact lenses!

West Ham were guilty of presenting the ball to Tottenham quite often in dangerous positions, but Ginola and Anderton were guilty of putting good shots wide of the target.

As is so often the case, missed chances are punished, and Sinclair took advantage 7 minutes before half time. He and Berkovic combined to give Kitson the ball on the right of the penalty area. His cross was fired goalwards by Lampard. It looked like Baardsen had made a good save, but unfortunately, the shot spilled forward a couple of yards, and Sinclair was on site to punish the error with a simple tap-in.

Soon after that Potts replaced Berkovic, and was booked almost straight away. Just before half time, Ginola ended a super run by putting a tempting low cross in front of the forwards, but it agonisingly passed everybody.

Only 70 seconds into the second half, Clemence was second best in a midfield tussle, and the ball was pushed between the Spurs centre backs. Sinclair ran onto it, and hit a powerful right foot shot into the top corner, leaving Espen with no chance this time.

To their credit, Spurs did not buckle, and made a fight back in similar vein to that against Aston Villa, taking the game to West Ham. Whereas too many of his passes were going astray in the first half, Anderton became more consistent, and Spurs attacked strongly down the flanks. Ginola teed up Iversen nicely, when the Frenchman brought the ball across the are from the left, then reverse-passed the ball to Iversen, who shot just wide.

The traffic was not all one way however, as Ruddock had a header cleared off the line by Stevie Carr. A powerful Anderton cross shot was pushed clear by Hislop, and Sinton had a couple of shots at goal. Ruel Fox was brought on for Clemence, and almost immediately after that Armstrong shot wide from a Ginola pass. The Spurs goal came with 19 minutes left on the clock, when Chris Armstrong rose well and headed home powerful from a Ginola corner. The battle was well and truly on!

Sinton had a reminder of Sinclair's abilities when the Gerry Francis old boy ( sorry - I had to mention it ! ) left him in his wake and had a shot that glanced the woodwork.

Luke Young's super effort came with 15 minutes left. The ball fell to him on the edge of the area following a corner, and he hit a piledriver shot that truly rocked the bar. What a goal it would have been, and what a debut!

Towards the end of the game, Kitson turned cleverly to beat Stevie Carr. He passed to Lampard, whose shot was well saved by Espen, who had to save spectacularly from Kitson before the game was over. The only other decent chance to fall to Spurs was a header by Neilsen from a chipped Fox pass, which fell comfortably into Hislop's arms. Fox also had a powerful shot deflected at the final whistle.

West Ham are in second place overnight, which is their highest ever placing in the premiership. Spurs fell back into the bottom half, and will need a result next Saturday against Liverpool in the next of a tough sequence of fixtures.

The atmosphere is sure to be hot on Wednesday night, as I understand that Teddy Sheringham will be playing for the reds in the league cup quarter final.

Brian Judson's match preview

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