...as Blackburn find life tough without Shearer

Blackburn Rovers 0 Tottenham Hotspur 2
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The Independent Online
There may yet be life after Shearer but the discovery of life on Mars might prove an easier quest for Ray Harford. After drawing an opening blank, set against a background rumble of discontent and home fans' chants of "Dalglish", Mars might seem an inviting haven for the Ewood manager.

For Tottenham supporters, to pose the question "Will you ever score again?" as a succession of Blackburn chances were wasted, was twisting the knife. One option for the Blackburn manager is to buy a suitable replacement. There is, after all, money available to burn holes in the most sturdy of pockets.

Gerry Francis, therefore, after purring over a performance of classic counter-attack, should not be too surprised to receive a polite inquiry about the availability of Chris Armstrong. His speed of reaction in the penalty area and his predatory instincts - qualities evident in both his goals - are the same qualities lacking in the Blackburn attack.

Harford has high hopes for the return of Chris Sutton, facing a lengthy lay-off with an ankle ligament injury. With a testing opening schedule to compound the situation, a more immediate remedy is pressing. "Chris Sutton is in-house. The crowd like him, the players like him and know how good he is. We were not as confident up front as we should be, with too many touches on the ball," Harford said. There was no disguising their deficiencies. The Greek debutant "George" Donis tormented Justin Edinburgh with his stealthy pace on the wing, and frequently produced a telling final ball.

Blackburn dominated the early stages until Tottenham suffered a double injury blow. Gary Mabbutt, after being treated off the field after a crunching but fair tackle on Fenton, heard the bone crack when weight was placed on the leg. His replacement, Stuart Nethercott, lasted just nine minutes before suffering a deeply gashed shin.

With Sol Campbell filling the central defence's void and the second substitute Clive Wilson offering another offensive outlet, Spurs began to threaten and showed more polish in possession. David Howells provided a precise cross for Armstrong to dive at full stretch, having escaped the attentions of the Blackburn defence for the opening goal. His second, after the interval, was also a close-range effort, another right-wing cross from Ruel Fox, converted at chest height with the whites of Tim Flowers' eyes in clear view.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Flowers; Berg, Hendry, Coleman, Kenna; Donis, Flitcroft (Warhurst, 71), Sherwood, Ripley (Pearce, h-t); Gallacher, Fenton. Substitutes not used: Marker, Croft, Given (gk).

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Walker; Campbell, Mabbutt (Nethercott, 19; Wilson, 29), Calderwood, Edinburgh; Fox, Anderton (Dozzell, 69), Howells, Sinton; Armstrong, Sheringham. Substitutes not used: Rosenthal, Baardsen (gk).

Referee: P Jones (Loughborough).

Bookings: Blackburn: Coleman. Tottenham: Edinburgh, Sinton.

Man of the match: Howells. Attendance: 26,960.

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