Football: Anderton arrests the slide

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The Independent Online
Tottenham Hotspur. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

Leeds United . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

IN A WEEK when introspection overtook the normally unreflective world of English football, here was a match that seemed less of a contest between two clubs on the fringe of the Premiership race than a clash of philosophies. Respectively the purists' favourite and the realists' choice for Graham Taylor's job, the idealistic Osvaldo Ardiles and the pragmatic Howard Wilkinson personify the crucial division in the English game.

Darren Anderton's 80th- minute goal for the home side, nullifying a 53rd-minute strike by Brian Deane that had seemed likely to prove conclusive, meant that neither side could claim victory in the debate. But Wilkinson's admirers, who saw Leeds complete a run of 10 unbeaten games, would have drawn the greater comfort from a display which often seemed likely to overwhelm a lightweight Tottenham side.

At White Hart Lane, of course, certain beliefs are embedded in the club's DNA. Before yesterday's match, the players and crowd stood silent in tribute to Arthur Rowe, author of the great push-and-run side of the Fifties. Rowe laid down principles that have been faithfully observed by all his successors, not least the little Argentinian, who also embodied them as a player.

In Wilkinson's Leeds, however, they encountered a team with the energy and the organisation to set the tempo of the game. With five men in his rearguard, Wilkinson demanded the utmost of Gary McAllister, Gary Speed and David Rocastle in midfield. For long periods their physical presence dominated the Spurs quartet of Anderton, Vinny Samways, Steve Sedgley and Micky Hazard, while the nippy runs of Rod Wallace and the looming menace of Deane provided a constant threat.

Wallace had already missed one clear chance, outpacing Justin Edinburgh and rolling the ball wide of Erik Thorstvedt's left-hand post, when he initiated the goal. A scintillating run down the right culminated in a cross and a tangle from which the ball broke to Deane, who struck it home.

Leeds would have been worth a clearer lead when both McAllister and Noel Whelan, a 76th-minute substitute for the tiring Rocastle, hit the post. But Ardiles's decision to switch the roles of Hazard and Samways in the midfield formation paid off.

Wilkinson's view of the equaliser was unprintable. When David Wetherall got into trouble under pressure, there were two interpretations of his action. One, belonging to the referee, Joe Worrall, was that he played a back-pass. The other, adopted by Mark Beeney, was that he had tried to clear the ball. When Beeney picked the ball up, the division of opinion became apparent. 'Sometimes you get those decisions,' Ardiles said, 'and sometimes you don't' When Samways rolled the resulting free-kick to Anderton, the young winger's shot took a deflection off Deane's heel and completed Beeney's misery.

Wilkinson, who declined to discuss the England job, expressed his satisfaction with the team's performance and in particular with that of McAllister, his captain. 'He's interested in his job, wants to know more about it and works hard to improve. There's not much more you can ask.'

For Ardiles, after two Premiership defeats, there was pleasure in a hard-earned point. 'All our players are good going forward,' he said. 'Now we have to learn to share the defensive responsibilities.' A concern that his young striker, Nick Barmby, carried off after a tackle by John Pemberton, would join Dozzell, Sheringham and Kerslake on the injured list was eased when an X- ray revealed only bad bruising to his lower leg.

(Photograph omitted)