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Wimbledon v Spurs, 16.02.99

TUESDAY 16th FEBRUARY, 1999
WORTHINGTON CUP SEMI-FINAL 2ND LEG
WIMBLEDON 0 (0) - TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (1)

Spurs scorer:-
Iversen, 38

Attendance:- 25,204

Referee:- G. Willard

Teams:-
Wimbledon:- (4-4-2) Sullivan; Cunningham, Perry, Blackwell, Thatcher; M. Hughes, Roberts, Earle, Euell (sub Kennedy, 79 ); Ekoku ( sub Leaburn, 80), Gayle

Subs not used:- Heald (GK); Kimble; Ardley

Booked:- Roberts, Earle, Thatcher

Spurs (4-4-2) Walker; Carr, Vega, Campbell, Edinburgh ( sub Sinton, 64); Anderton, Freund, Nielsen, Ginola ( sub Young, 85 ); Ferdinand, Iversen

Subs not used:- Baardsen; Fox, Armstrong

Booked:- Ferdinand

"Wemberlee! Wemberlee!
We're the famous Tottenham Hotspur,
and we're going to Wemberlee,

Wemberlee! Wemberlee!

'Allo! 'Allo!
Tottenham are back, Tottenham are back!
'Allo! 'Allo!"

The sense of glory, and the sight of those magical twin towers beckons, as Spurs fans celebrated a magnificent fighting victory over the Dons last night. A nonchalant, and composed chip by Steffen Iversen after 38 minutes, coupled with some terrier like defending by all eleven white-clad men at times, was enough to give success-starved Spurs fans a long awaited trip to Wembley on March 21st. They have to wait until tonight to find out who their opponents will be, but under George Graham, this team have already been transformed into a unit that is afraid of nobody, and that is becoming extremely un-generous at the back, keeping another clean sheet.

Graham was forced to re-instate Allan Nielsen for the cup-tied Sherwood, and the Dane was one of the outstanding players on the field, with some outstanding ball-winning skills, and effective passing, and box to box running. He was most definitely battling for his place in the next game, and gives the manager the sort of problem he will relish. Ramon Vega was also brought in, as expected, and had another effective game. It has to be said that all the Spurs players were heroes. One regret for me was the pitch invasion by the celebrating fans at the end of the game, which although good-natured, deprived the rest of us of the chance to applaud our team in the manner they deserved.

This was not a pretty game to watch; as semi-finals rarely are, but the game was a typical physical bustling cup-tie, with the referee perhaps being a little too generous for much of the first half, as he allowed a lot of licence in the middle of the park. Joe Kinnear was adventurous in his choice, leaving Ardley on the bench, and playing Euell in midfield, with Gayle, and Ekoku up front. Hughes played most of the game on the right. In my view, Ardley has been one of the most impressive of these opponents in our series against them, but who am I to criticise the opposing manager ?

The Spurs crowd were vocal throughout proceedings, and the atmosphere was terrific. It was like a home match. The ball was in the air for much of the early stages, and the first real threat to goal came from Wimbledon with a goalmouth scramble after 9 minutes. Spurs responded 5 minutes later, when an Anderton free kick was headed down to Ferdinand in the box. Les turned sharply and got a good shot on target, which led to a corner.Wimbledon counter-attacked, and Euell forced Walker to tip a powerful shot over the bar.

Gayle was proving a handful, and won many headers during the game. For Wimbledon, their midfield duo of Earle and Roberts combined well, but the energetic Freund, and Nielsen were their equals. I think Freund is settling in really well, and showed very high determination in this match. Passing was difficult on this rough pitch, but Ginola still managed to weave his tapestry of skills, having several long shots, and really being the most effective weapon in the Spurs armoury, although both Ferdinand and Iversen were full of running. I have worked out now that Anderton will form part of a midfield three behind Ginola, and there will be less emphasis on filling the void on the right flank. This was a shame, because several times, Daveed had the ball in the middle, and there was acres of space on the right, begging to be filled. When Steve Carr did manage to get forward and combine with Anderton and/or Nielsen, there was more penetration.

Around the half hour mark, Spurs had some good quality pressure, with Anderton, Freund, Carr, and Iversen combining to send a difficult cross aimed at Ferdinand. Spurs were starting to overrun their opponents, and a goal did look on the cards, and it came after 38 minutes. Les Ferdinand pressured a defender (believed to be Cunningham) to send the ball back towards his goal, but only to turn into a fine pass to Iversen, who was in a marginally offside position, but of course, had been played onside. Iversen from the edge of the area, coolly measured a lob shot to leave Sullivan stranded as the ball dropped into the net. Iversen stood still to receive his colleagues' admiration. The Spurs crowd was naturally ecstatic, and remained in good voice thereafter.

Wimbledon tried to come back before half time, but failed to penetrate George Graham's defensive wall. It's hard to imagine talking about Spurs in these terms, isn't it, but the confidence has really returned to this side in a very short time. Spurs didn't create much in the way of direct chances in the second half, but Ferdinand held the ball up well, and ran tirelessly for the cause. He and Ginola shared some good passing early after the restart, but no chance followed.

Wimbledon gave it their all, as you would expect, but for the most part, when they did approach our area, they were forced to shoot from distance. The most threatening moments came from Hughes free kicks on the edge of the area, and one or two shots from Earle and Gayle. Spurs held on to their slender advantage magnificently. Sinton replaced the injured Edinburgh ( another transformed player under Graham ), and in the latter stages, George once again shored up, by replacing Ginola with Luke Young.

Towards the end of the game, Freund did have a good scoring opportunity from outside the area, but he hit well over the target. In the closing minute, Robbie Earle had a super shot from 25 yards that just grazed the top of the bar, with Walker helplessly looking on. After some agonising extra minutes of play, the final whistle was blown, and the celebrations started in earnest. This time last year we were battling relegation in earnest, who would have thought we would make Wembley so soon ?

Brian Judson's report
Brian Judson's preview of this tie

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