FA PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 16TH JANUARY, 1999
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0) - 0 (0) WIMBLEDON
Attendance:- 32, 422
Referee:- M. Reilly
Spurs (4-4-2):- Walker; Carr, Calderwood ( sub Vega, 75 ), Campbell, Edinburgh; Sinton ( sub Fox, 19), Freund, Clemence ( sub Tarrico, 71 ), Ginola; Armstrong, Iversen
Subs not used:- Baardsen; Dominguez
Wimbledon:- (4-4-2) Sullivan; Cunningham, Perry, Blackwell,Thatcher; Roberts, Earle, Ardley ( sub Kennedy, 74 ), Hughes; Gayle ( sub Ekoku, 74 ), Hartson ( sub Leaburn, 85 )
Subs not used:- Bakke (GK); Kimble
Booked:- Hartson, Cunningham, Roberts
One of the most interesting questions at the recent Spurs fans forum related to the risk of friction between players building up, and being carried over in the sequence of games against Wimbledon. On the evidence of today's game, one of the biggest areas of contention will be between the Wimbledon defence and David Ginola, who was accused after the game by Joe Kinnear of "only falling in the box - diving left, right and centre". In truth, this was one of those days when Ginola's theatrical falls worked against him,and when he did have what looked like a genuine penalty claim in the last minute, referee Mike Reilly snubbed him, and had to be escorted off the pitch, whilst he was roundly booed by the home crowd. George Graham on the touchline was as livid as his French star, and said after the game that "we had four genuine penalty appeals", adding that at other Premiership grounds such appeals would have been granted, and complaining that Spurs had not had one penalty at home in the premiership. Ginola was booked towards the end of the game; not for a dive, but for his antagonism towards Cunningham after a challenge. The Frenchman was really fired up, and had similar misgivings against another defender who had the audacity to halt his progress. This time, he got away with "a word " from the referee.
The other area of contention would involve debutant John Hartson, if he were eligible to play in any of the forthcoming cup games. Hartson, as an ex-Arsenal player was the butt of abuse for the home fans throughout the game, and may have been lucky to stay on the pitch, after getting booked for a crunching tackle on Sinton ( who did not recover from this knock), and then standing on Steffen Freund's ankle, causing the German to realise the full physical nature of the English game.
As far as the football was concerned, this took some time to emerge. Both teams will field different line-ups in the ensuing games, and one had the impression that for much of the time, the combatants were only putting feelers out in this, potentially, the least important of their clashes.
It took Hartson's fouls to get the crowd, and the home side going. Fox came on for Sinton, but mysteriously did not appear much on the wing. His instructions may have been to tag Robbie Earle. As is so often the case,any adventurous, and penetrating football was to come from the feet of Ginola, who switched between left and right today. He produced his first piece of magic after 23 minutes, cleverly back heeling and working between two defenders, taking the ball to the line ,and getting a low cross into the danger area.
Shortly after that, Ginola from the right, sent a long cross to the far post, where Armstrong headed against the woodwork. A similar build up, involving Clemence, Ginola, and Chris Armstrong led to a corner soon after.
Wimbledon didn't have any clear cut chances in the first half, but their physical strength and presence was always being felt !
Cunningham got booked for fouling Ginola in the middle of the park. Ironically, the ref called play back for the free kick, when Armstrong had taken the ball to the edge of the area on the break. Two more Spurs attacks from the right led to chances for Iversen, and Armstrong which gave hope of goals to come. It was, after all, Sullivan who was having to make the better saves. It should be noted that Ian Walker's distribution was noticeably improved on several occasions today, as he found Ginola and Armstrong with long throws, and utilised his full backs more.
Wimbledon came out of their blocks the stronger in the second half, and Gayle and Hartson had half chances. Earle also headed over the goal, but Walker was never forced to make a direct save. Armstrong had an early run, but once again, his need to get on the right foot deprived him of his chance on goal.
It was fifteen minutes into the second half before Ginola started working again. He found Armstrong with a long cross, and Sullivan had to take the ball off the striker's head. Even Justin Edinburgh tried to get in on the scoring act, as he was fed by Ginola, and had a good run into the box, which culminated in a cross-shot which ran agonisingly across the goalmouth to safety.
Tarrico came on for Clemence, and played in midfield. He had a promising start, passing and creating well. Freund is one of those players who don't always get noticed. Some of his passing was dodgy today, but overall, he looks a good acquisition. He had a couple of speculative shots from outside the area, and his reaction to Hartson early in the game showed that he has some grit.
Ramon Vega got a run out towards the end of the game, and it has to be recorded that he nearly came a cropper in injury time, but his captain came to his rescue, when making the interception that the Swiss international should have managed against a threatening run.
Ginola's best penalty claim was in the dying seconds of the game, when a truly sparkling run past three defenders took him into the area, and to the ground. Was it a penalty ? I think so. I look forward to the TV evidence.
Spurs move above Leicester as a result of this draw, as a result of the crushing victory by ManU at Filbert Street (6-2).
I would just like to pay homage to one of the most under-rated, and un-recognised players in the Premier league today. I refer to Steve Carr, who is an ever present in the Spurs side this season; who kept Wimbledon danger man, Michael Hughes fairly quiet this afternoon; and who continues to defend, and attack tigerishly. Full international honours cannot be far away for this lad.
Just to finish on a couple of positive notes for the club; we have not lost at home since that disaster against Middlesborough four months ago, and we kept another clean sheet!
· Brian Judson's preview
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