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Spurs v Carlisle United, 17.09.97

"It was Twenty Years ago today!"
article published 17th September, 2017, but first written in 1997 by the late Brian Judson

Wednesday, September 17th, 1997
Coca-Cola Cup 2nd Round 1st Leg

Spurs scorers:-
Fenn, 1
Fox, 73
Mahorn, 78

Carlisle scorers:-
Couzens, 40
Aspinall, 45

Attendance : 19,255.

Referee : Mr G Ashby (Worcester).

Tottenham Hotspur : Walker; Scales, Campbell, Mabbutt, Edinburgh; Howells, Clemence, Neilsen, Ginola; Fenn (sub Mahorn, 47), Dominguez.

Substitutes *NOT* used : Calderwood, Carr.

Booked : Clemence, Dominguez.

Carlisle United : Caig; Barr, Varty, Pounewatchy, Archdeacon, Harrison (sub Dobie, 69), Couzens, Aspinall, Jansen, Prokas, McAlindon.

Substitutes *NOT* used : Miligan, Bowman.

Booked : Varty.

Many Tottenham fans travelled to this match hoping to see Tottenham lose. Behind this odd aspiration was a line of thinking that if Tottenham *did* lose to Carlisle, it would undoubtedly lead to Gerry Francis' dismissal as the circumstances would mirror the swift dismissal of Ossie Ardiles in 1994 following an abject display at Notts County. I was not one of those who travelled in that mood. I always travel in the hope that Spurs will win.

Travelling from my new home at Berkhamsted, in Hertfordshire, allows me more time to ponder about the match. Firstly, there is a school of thought that demands Tottenham play in style. But we have not got the players for that. They are beginning to emerge as more and more youth team players begin to emerge from their chrysalis of youth team football. But we have to be patient a bit more longer for it to fully flower.

Another school of thought believes that Francis is not the right manager for Tottenham. Yet, unless my memory deceives me entirely, there were few voices of dissent when Francis replaced Ardiles in November 1994. And no one has yet come up with anyone who could do a better job than Francis. Bobby Robson has started to look forward to retirement. Bryan Robson has managed to make a pig's ear of the job at Middlesbrough (I have a contact who supports Middlesbrough, who is scathing about Robson.) There are few managers qualified to succeed Francis : those that are are tied to contracts. Keegan? We would make the same mistake with him as we did with Ardiles.

At any rate, I arrived at Tottenham, aware that we had never beaten Carlisle at Tottenham. I wondered who would replace the injured Armstrong. Virtually all the other strikers were injured. Tottenham decided to recall the promising Neale Fenn and pair him with Dominguez. Tottenham's faith in Fenn was quickly repaid when he struck in the first minute when Carlisle were slow to react.

Spurs evidently decided that Carlisle would roll over and began to be careless in their approach to the game. Ginola was most unenthusiastic about the game and, once or twice, over-reacted to some of the tackling, presumably in the hope he would be substituted.

As time wore on, Tottenham's supporters were becoming restless. Tottenham were making so many unforced errors that they were allowing Carlisle to come back into the game. Campbell was having a nightmare of a game whilst his England colleague Walker consistently over-kicked the ball upfield to his strikers. One sighed for the commonsense approach of Ted Ditchburn. He eschewed the hoof upfield, instead rolling the ball to the hovering Ramsey, who prodded the ball on to Nicholson and thus in this way Spurs reached the halfway line still in possession of the ball.

It has been said push and run would never work in present day circumstances. Those critics are probably right IF ONLY BECAUSE THE PRESENT SPURS SQUAD ARE SO BLOODY LAZY WITH RUNNING OFF THE BALL. Push and run only works if people work hard at running in support off the ball.

I suspect few people were surprised when Carlisle equalised in the 39th minute. McAlindon crossed the ball for Couzens to volley it in with the side of his foot. Well might the three coach-loads of Carlisle fans loudly celebrate.

Five minutes later, the Tottenham defence was as static as pillars of salt when Caig made a long downfield punt. The back four assumed Walker would win the race to the ball and left it to him. Aspinall, the former Portsmouth striker, won the race and Carlisle were 2-1 ahead. Not surprisingly, the team was booed off the pitch at half-time but there were also chants of "WE WANT FRANCIS OUT!".

I would have loved to have heard what was said in the dressing room during the interval because Tottenham emerged looking more determined. But within two minutes of the resumption, Fenn had been carried off and Mahorn had come on as substitute. Mahorn has been on the fringe of the Tottenham squad for a long time but has never made the breakthrough. This probably represents his final chance of doing so. Not surprisingly Mahorn tirelessly sought possession of the ball.

But Carlisle were starting to look as if they had done enough to take a 2-1 lead back to Brunton Park. Tottenham were hopeless in front of goal. Their worst offender was Allan Nielsen, who managed to miss the ball from three yards out with the goalkeeper stranded.

But soon after, Fox struck in the 72nd minute and Fox threaded his way through the packed Carlisle defence to drive home the equaliser. Soon after that, Ginola stirred himself long enough to jink down the wing and place an inch-perfect centre for Mahorn to head home with a decisive thump from close range.

Providing Tottenham ride out the initial Carlisle storm in the return game, they should manage to find some gaps to exploit and increase their advantage. But more displays of this kind will be unacceptable to the supporters who travel to Tottenham. Yet I bear in mind the words we so often heard from George Graham when at Arsenal. He used to say in effect that the mark of a good team was in winning games when they played badly, no matter who the opposition were.

Cheers, Brian

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