TUESDAY 2nd MARCH, 1999
FA CARLING PREMIERSHIP
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 3 (1) SOUTHAMPTON 0 (0)
Referee:- Alan Wilkie ( replaced by linesman - S. Tomlin after 23 minutes )
Spurs (4-4-2):- Walker; Carr, Young ( sub Vega, 89), Campbell, Taricco; Nielsen, Freund, Sherwood, Ginola ( sub Dominguez, 89 ); Armstrong, Iversen
Subs not used:- Baardsen; Fox, Sinton
Southampton (4-4-2):- Jones; Hiley, Lundekvam, Benali, Colleter; D. Hughes ( sub Le Tissier, 46 ), Bridge ( sub Kachloul, 55 ), Marsden, Oakley; M. Hughes, Beattie ( sub Ostenstad, 78 )
Subs not used:- Moss (GK); Marshall
Booked:- Le Tissier
George Graham was able to afford the luxury of resting Darren Anderton for this game. This was both a benefit to the individual, but also a major psychological boost to a team that six months ago was still in the doldrums, but is now rapidly developing into a major player in the premier league. Let there be no doubt that Graham's team are on target for his declared aim of making them a top six team by the end of next season. Whilst Southampton were allowed to push the ball around in the middle of this match, Spurs won comfortably, and played within themselves for much of the time, with telling goals from Armstrong, Iversen, and little Jose Dominguez, with just about his only touch of the game in the last minute.
It was a wild, wet and windswept night at the lane.The Spurs pitch is holding up incredibly well in comparison to poor surfaces at some grounds, not least of all, Old Trafford, and despite the conditions, there was some good football on display, which included plenty of wing wizardry from Ginola despite sometimes three markers, together with some top class passing from Sherwood, who has settled in really well, and is already becoming a favourite. Sherwood will be missed in the forthcoming Worthington Cup Final, and it is therefore important that Allan Nielsen gets some games in before then. The Dane slotted into Anderton's position, and whilst he worked hard, the difference in class between him, and Anderton as well as Sherwood is very evident when it comes to passing ability.
Armstrong was obviously determined to make an impression, and had a number of attempts on goal; and used his pace to good effect throughout the game, having the final pass which led to Dominguez's goal. After 7 minutes, Armstrong had a strong run down the right flank, which ended with a cross-shot, which goalkeeper Jones stopped comfortably. Soon after that there was an effective build up involving several Spurs players on the right. The ball was fed to Armstrong, but his low cross was too far behind Iversen in the box.
Southampton were reduced to long range efforts for the most part, and a long ball was met by Beattie after 13 minutes, but he headed straight into Ian Walker's arms. George Graham was clearly not over impressed with his team, as he was down on the bench within 17 minutes, to gee them up. Both Stewart Houston, and Chris Hughton were "on parade".
The presence of the "Sergeant Major" had a quick impact. After 18 minutes, Sol Campbell was brought down just outside the penalty area. Ginola took a well-worked free kick, suggesting in the build up that either a direct shot, or a long cross was to follow. Instead he slid the ball to the right of the wall, and Armstrong ran onto the ball, and fired home from a sharp angle. Soon after the goal, Armstrong was passing to Nielsen in a shooting position, but the ball went wide. Referee Alan Wilkie had to leave the field for treatment, and during the intermission, George Graham could be seen giving very lengthy instructions to Nielsen.
After 31 minutes, Paul Jones was grateful that Iversen's first touch let him down, as the goalkeeper miss-kicked, straight to the Norwegian, who taken by surprise, was unable to control the ball for what should have been a simple opportunity to score. Soon after this, Ginola and Iversen shared passes, before Armstrong had another goal-scoring chance, but he shot at the goalie again.
Nielsen passed the ball to Armstrong on a counter attack, and then nicked the ball from Chris's feet to try a shot himself, but once again the ball was off target. Just before half time, a glorious long pass by Sherwood from the right found Ginola on the left. Ginola went on one of his exciting runs, and his powerful right foot shot was tipped over the bar by Jones.
Le Tissier replaced David Hughes at half time, and Southampton came out fighting. There were one or two scrambles, and the Saints were allowed a fair amount of possession during this spell, but Walker was rarely troubled. After 49 minutes, a Sherwood corner was cleared to Carr, whose cross found Armstrong un-marked at the far post. He should have scored - but - yes - he fired at the goalie yet again. It sounds boring, but there were many times when a left leg would have enabled Armstrong to score.
A rare mistake by Sherwood gave Marsden a shooting opportunity, but it went straight to Walker. Around the hour mark, Sherwood fed Ginola in the middle of the park, and the Frenchman was obstructed on the edge of the area. He took the free kick, and Nielsen should have made contact with his head. Le Tissier got booked for an uncharacteristic bit of petulance when a decision didn't go his way.
After a period of midfield domination by the visitors, Spurs increased their lead with a casual looking goal after 67 minutes. A Ginola corner went well beyond the back post, and Iversen headed the ball high over the goalie, and it dipped into the goal. I noticed that whilst most of the team were celebrating, Freund was taking lengthy guidance from Graham. This conversation looked a two-way affair, and was a sign of the professionalism that has entered the Spurs camp.
Arsmtrong forced a great short range save from Jones after 71 minutes, and Spurs started to relax on the ball, and overwhelm their guests. Carr showed some great wing play, and Sherwood's class was coming to the fore. He made a good run to the right of the area, and his cross was met by Iversen with his back to the goal. Some referees may have penalised the attacker for his determined battle to hold off the defender, but Iversen held the ball well, turned, and forced a decent save,
With three minutes to go, Steve Carr put Ginola clear with a superb long cross field pass. Ginola got into a goalscoring position, but didn't make the most of his chance. The next piece of French skill gave Iversen another chance which was spurned.
So came the late substitutions for Spurs. In injury time, Nielsen, within his own half sent a long ball down the line on the right. Armstrong showed blistering pace even at this late stage, and beat his defender easily. He put over a super cross which found Dominguez unmarked at the far post. Jose scored with a powerful left foot strike, and followed up with a super double somersault celebration. He's had quite a good few days!
With this win, Spurs move into the top half, at tenth place AND a positive goal difference. If Sheffield Wednesday win or draw against Wimbledon tomorrow ( Wednesday ), they will overtake us, but I think Mr Graham has every intention of making a permanent base in the upper echelons.
· Brian Judson's preview
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