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Spurs v Wimbledon, 27.01.99

WORTHINGTON CUP SEMI-FINAL (1ST LEG)
WEDNESDAY 27TH JANUARY, 1999
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0) - WIMBLEDON 0 (0)

Attendance:- 35,997

Referee:- Steve Dunn

Teams:-
Spurs (4-4-2):- Walker; Carr, Vega, Campbell, Edinburgh; Anderton, Freund, Nielsen, Ginola ( sub Sinton, 59 ); Armstrong ( sub Ferdinand, 60 ), Iversen

Subs not used:- Baardsen; Calderwood; Fox

Wimbledon (4-4-2):- Sullivan; Cunningham, Perry, Blackwell, Thatcher; Ardley ( sub C. Hughes, 88 ), Earle, Roberts, M. Hughes; Ekoku, Euell ( sub Leaburn, 84)

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

Booked:- M. Hughes

Joe Kinnear said after last Saturday's game that he thought Spurs would have been happier with the result. Well, today, he can be justifiably happier than George Graham, as the Dons will start the second leg on level terms, with "home" advantage. Spurs fans suffered yet another stalemate, and must be sick of the sight of these opponents. It has to be said that Wimbledon defended stoutly, and effectively, although Spurs, once again had the better chances to score. David Ginola went off with a hamstring injury on the hour, and was replaced by Sinton. At the same time, Graham replaced the ineffective Armstrong with Les Ferdinand, who won a lot of ball in the air, and had three good chances to score.

The teams were hardly changed from the last encounter, with Euell surprisingly fit to play for the visitors, whose only change was Ekoku for Leaburn. Spurs replaced Ruel Fox with Nielsen, who played alongside Freund in the central midfield, allowing Anderton to play on the right. The full house provided a highly charged atmosphere at the beginning of the game, but the Dons managed to quieten the crowd after about ten minutes. During that first period, Spurs were eager, and incisive, forcing several corners, but creating few direct chances. There was one clever piece of linking play between Carr and Anderton, who won a corner following a good turn. Ginola was wandering across the park, and laid a good early pass to Iversen on the left, but the opening came to nought.

Cunningham and Ardley are proving to be most effective members of the Wimbledon team, by double marking Ginola, and also getting forward and creating space on the right of the park. I felt the Spurs defence were confused on occasions, when Cunningham, the full back would take the inside right channel, allowing Ardley to occupy the flank. After that early spell, it seemed that Spurs, once again got drawn into playing the Wimbledon way, with too many long balls, which Armstrong and Iversen struggled to control or lay off. Walker was also guilty ( yet again ), of over-kicking his clearances throughout the game.

Steve Carr had an excellent game, and it has to be said, that apart from one occasion when Ekoku gave him the slip, Ramon Vega had a good game. His one slip gave Ekoku the chance to set up Hughes, whose shot was deflected for a corner. Ardley was also allowed the occasional shot by an inattentive midfield. I thought Freund played better than Nielsen tonight. The German seems more incisive in the tackle, and with his passing. Whilst Nielsen was getting stuck in, too many of his passes were quite woeful.

It was Freund who led one of the effective attacks on the half hour, when he brought the ball out of defence, had a one-two with Iversen, and then shot well over the bar. Soon after that however, Earle beat Freund to the ball to head on for Ekoku, who just failed to make contact in a threatening situation. An Anderton corner after 39 minutes went to and fro across the box, until it reached Sol Campbell. His shot was rushed, and went over. Because he was being well policed, Ginola occasionally sprayed passes from the centre to the area that he should have been occupying ! One such pass found Nielsen, whose attempted cross never looked like finding one of his team mates.

The sparring continued in the second half, and for a while neither goalkeeper was threatened. Hughes had a couple of shots on goal; Ginola played a couple of very pretty back heels, and Sol Campbell had another scoring opportunity that went wide from an Anderton free kick. Ginola was well tackled in the penalty area just before he had to leave the field.

When the double substitution came, the tackles started to fly, and Edinburgh was forced to miss some of the action, after one such fierce tackle. No doubt Wimbledon will claim there was some justice in this event. The only booking of the match came when Michael Hughes brought down Freund from behind. It was from the resulting free kick that Anderton shaved the outside of the post, having beaten Sullivan. The arrival of Ferdinand did lead to lots of endeavour, but Spurs struggled to get close to goal. Iversen won some applause for winning the ball on the bye line and then trying an audacious long curling shot.

In the last ten minutes, Ferdinand had three chances:- the first came when he passed to Anderton on the right; as they moved forward, Anderton crossed accurately into Les's path, but he just failed to get a good touch. The big centre forward then had a good pacy run, and just got his shot in, but it was well blocked by Thatcher. In the closing seconds; Vega headed a corner down, but Ferdinand headed straight into Sullivan's arms.

What's the chance of a penalty shoot out next week, and in three week's time ?

Ginola will be suspended anyway on Saturday, and I suspect that Graham will start the Blackburn game with the team that finished today. At this stage, the degree of Ginola's injury is not known, but Spurs will be hoping for his fitness for the next match of this saga.

Brian Judson's preview

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