Armstrong on slipway

Tottenham Hotspur 1 Armstrong 67 West Ham United 0 Attendance: 32,999
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The Independent Online
When Spurs meet West Ham, it inevitably prompts discussion of the style and grace of teams past. The tradition of talking about them has become as deep as the tradition itself. This is probably as well since there was precious little else to mull over at White Hart Lane yesterday.

For much of the match it seemed that the sides were intent on creating a niche of their own in footballing folklore in which blandness and sterility will reign supreme. Spurs won while creating rather less than the Hammers, who were much bolder and more inventive but deficient in the areas where it mattered. If a goal was to be scored - and it was not the first thing you expected - it was not likely to be Spurs who scored it.

Their winner arrived in the 68th minute in what by then was the only conceivable fashion. Having been starved of possession throughout the afternoon, it was to Chris Armstrong's credit that he was alert when the defensive lapse came along. Slaven Bilic slipped momentarily on the edge of the area. In a trice Armstrong was past the otherwise exemplary defender and put his shot wide of Ludek Miklosko. Which, as far as Spurs were concerned, was that. There was no intention on their part of trying to build on the lead. Perhaps they lacked the wit to do so.

It was left to West Ham to attempt frenetically to save the game. Hugo Porfirio had demonstrated his midfield deftness and speed throughout. He ought to have put his side ahead early in the second half when Iain Dowie flicked adroitly in his direction but he proceeded to find it difficult to finish what he had started. But while he was around, working his way behind the Spurs defence, there was scope for at least a point.

Two golden chances emerged within seconds of each other towards the end. The first fell to Bilic who, in trying to atone for his slip, unfurled a thunderous drive from 20 yards which struck the inside of the post. Then Porfirio worked his way inside, found the space to shoot - a rarity in the Spurs penalty area with Sol Campbell lurking about - after appearing to set himself well, but still failed to make the target.

Porfirio will be a constant headache for opponents in midfield and the defence if he can come to terms with the long English winter which lies ahead. West Ham will play worse and win, though theirs could not have been mistaken for a vintage performance.

Harry Redknapp, their manager, perhaps over-rated their skills but was adamant in saying: "We have been playing very, very well of late." He was also wholly accurate about Spurs: "Until they scored they hadn't had a shot in the second half. I would have been disappointed at that stage with 0-0." Rightly so.

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