Armstrong relies on Fox's guile for decisive finish

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The Independent Online

Middlesbrough 0 Tottenham Hotspur 1

Chris Armstrong's fifth goal for Tottenham in six games preserved the Premier League's only unbeaten away record, as Middlesbrough suffered their first defeat at their new Riverside Stadium. It may have taken the Spurs striker time to find his feet, but more than a few defences are now being shown a clear pair of heels.

The victory propelled Tottenham into fifth place, the form book showing just one defeat in their last 11 matches. And without Darren Anderton, too.

"We lost a lot of good players during the summer and have had one or two out injured recently, yet we're on a great run," the Tottenham manager, Gerry Francis, enthused. "Not bad for relegation candidates."

For his Middlesbrough counterpart, Bryan Robson, there was little to savour, save for a place in the club's record books. A first-half replacement for Jamie Pollock, who received 12 stitches after a clash of heads with Dean Austin, Robson became at two months short of his 39th birthday - the oldest player to appear for Middlesbrough in a League game. Some consolation.

As big a headache as the loss of Pollock was the way Tottenham's well- drilled defence denied Juninho the space in which he thrives. A chilly Tuesday night in November down by the Teesside docks would, claimed the cynics, soon sort out the boy from Brazil. A more real handicap was the imposing presence of Gary Mabbutt.

Only once did the South American shake off his markers. Four of them, to be precise, on an amazing burst from half-way, with Ian Walker's instinctive save spoiling the party piece. That was a rare flash of brilliance on a night which exposed Middlesbrough's European aspirations in a clearer light. Jan Age Fjortoft was afforded barely a sniff of the ball while Nick Barmby, facing his erstwhile colleagues, was no less anonymous. All very frustrating for a crowd of 29,487.

Tottenham, while understandably pleased with the points, might pause to consider why it took them until the 70th minute to prise open a nervous defence. As early as the third minute, Ruel Fox should have put them in front, but he headed straight into the arms of Gary Walsh from six yards out.

In the end they needed a helping hand from Middlesbrough's Craig Liddle, whose slip gifted the ball to Fox, and the nearside linesman, who ruled that Armstrong was onside when he received the winger's centre. A quick two-step took him around Walsh and the kill was swift.

Middlesbrough (4-1-3-1-1): Walsh; Cox, Pearson, Vickers, Morris; Liddle; Pollock (Robson, 23), Juninho, Stamp; Barmby; Fjortoft (Moreno, 79). Substitute not used: Moore.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Walker; Austin, Calderwood, Mabbutt, Campbell; Fox, Dozzell, Howells, Rosenthal; Sheringham, Armstrong. Substitutes not used: Edinburgh, Day (gk), McMahon.

Referee: M Reed (Birmingham).