Dancing with Wolves

Tottenham Hotspur 1 Wilson 13 Wolves 1 Goodman 28 Attendance: 32,812
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The Independent Online
BEWARE the Wolf in winter. Yesterday the football club emulated its wild life equivalent by flourishing at White Hart Lane and striking terror into the hearts of Spurs, their alleged superiors in football's evolutionary ladder.

The richly deserved replay which Wolves earned with this determined performance put an end to the euphoria which the lifting of Uefa's one-year suspension had generated around the North London ground. One of the fronts on which Spurs might hope to advance on Europe next season is likely to come under grave threat a week next Wednesday at Molineux.

Yet the home side eased into an early lead, with Wolves suffering a self-inflicted wound that could easily have undermined their morale. But Clive Wilson's 13th-minute strike was cancelled out by a tenaciously won equaliser from Don Goodman on 28 minutes, and from that moment on Spurs were always living in fear of a dangerous replay.

Wolves' achievement owed a great deal to an all-round team effort, but also to an outstanding individual performance at the back by Dean Richards. The England Under-21 defender was at the heart of Wolves' defiance, particularly when Spurs were lumping high balls into the Wolves box in desperate search of a winner.

One tackle on Darren Caskey as he burst into the box symbolised both Richards' personal excellence and the determination of the team.

Yet after 13 minutes the Wolves defence were guilty of suicide in the first degree. Left-back Andy Thompson's square pass across defence caught both Richards and Neil Emblen by surprise but the alert Wilson intercepted the ball, moved on a few strides, and then drove a low left foot shot between the legs of Wolves keeper Mike Stowell.

The lead was everything Spurs would have wanted as it allowed them to dictate the structure of the game, inviting Wolves to push forward while waiting to hit them on the break.

But the advantage proved only theoretical as Mark Rankine's incursions down the home side's left flank created a mounting unease. And when the Spurs captain Gary Mabbutt was caught too far forward by a Wolves clearance in the 28th minute, Steve Bull's instant control and pass set up the equaliser for Goodman, whose pace allowed him to pounce on Dean Austin's mis-hit back pass. Despite an attempted tackle by Ian Walker, Goodman was able to poke the ball home to bring Wolves level.

Spurs's composure evaporated, and twice more before the interval Bull skipped past Mabbutt to announce that the Wolves scented not just parity but victory. Indeed their attacking determination continued after the interval, and it was fully an hour before Spurs wrested the initiative back from them creating two chances to take a lead.

But Teddy Sheringham's fumbled volley went unmarked at a corner and Mabbutt's insuring drive straight into Stowells's midriff hinted of the over-eager finishing which the Wolves defence had imposed on the Tottenham attack.

Meanwhile, Goodman's pace, Bull's bustle and Simon Osborn's eye for a quick pass always threatened a shock winner, and thereby limited Spurs's efforts to win the game to a hopeful cross or the high ball. But Richards stepped up to see off the threat, and to win his club the chance of a first ever FA Cup victory over Tottenham.

"We like to do things the hard way, by the look of it," Spurs' manager Gerry Francis concluded grimly after the game, but against this Wolves team his players had no other option.