Football: Ardiles snubs investments to reap reward: Champions' talisman turns title defence their way in Manchester derby while Tottenham find some respite in relegation struggle

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The Independent Online
Tottenham Hotspur. . .3

Southampton. . . . . .0

A 'GIANT STEP' was how Ossie Ardiles greeted the victory which gives Tottenham a leg up on the safety ladder and the manager the chance to peer round the corner towards a new Premiership challenge. He should not look too far ahead: this time last year Terry Venables was doing much the same thing, and remember what happened to him.

To go forward and darken Southampton's own survival prospects Ardiles turned White Hart Lane back to the past, excluding from his XI all six players he had brought to Spurs in favour of those who had fired Venables's optimism.

While there is sympathy for the way injuries have sabotaged his efforts to maintain initial success - Spurs were fifth on 3 October when they last won at home in the League - the case against Ardiles is focused on his recruiting policy.

Of those he has signed, Ronny Rosenthal and Micky Hazard made the substitutes' list, Jason Dozzell and Kevin Scott were omitted while, in a full hand, Colin Calderwood and David Kerslake seemingly do not figure at all - pounds 4m worth of wanted talent now deemed expendable.

Ardiles said the result justified the selection and stressed he had not lost confidence in those he had paid good money for. 'It has been difficult for them to acclimatise, but next season will be crunch time for them all,' he explained. This was 'crunch time' of the immediate kind, the pressure at its most extreme even for the two World Cup winners sharing rival dug-outs. 'It was one of the most important games this club has played for quite a long time,' Ardiles said, 'certainly since I first came here.'.

In the event the tension lasted a good four minutes for the home crowd before Steve Sedgley strode on to Teddy Sheringham's header and stretched the netting. The faithful could relax at that point, safe in the knowledge that Southampton were never going to score, a consequence of three suspensions which robbed them, crucially, of Matthew Le Tissier and Iain Dowie and exacerbated by Alan Ball's unfathomable line-up.

The Saints manager, who had promised to go on the attack, armed himself with not one recognised striker, leaving Nicky Banger and Craig Maskell on the bench until well beyond half-time.

'I have gone from euphoria (beating Blackburn) to scratching my head in seven days,' said Ball, who may yet be rescued by the failings of others. By plunging Ipswich, stuttering Everton or by the fact that Oldham have still to play both Tottenham and Sheffield United.

Tottenham could be in trouble with the FA over Mitchell Thomas's move from Luton to Spurs in July 1986. It is alleged that Spurs paid Thomas a pounds 30,000 signing-on fee which is double the amount they claim was paid in papers submitted to the Football League at the time.

Goals: Sedgley (4) 1-0; Samways (67) 2-0; Anderton (89) 3-0.

Spurs (4-4-2): Thorsvedt; Austin, Nethercott, Mabbett, Edinburgh; Anderton, Howells (Hazard,68), Samways (Rosenthal, 79), Sedgley; Barmby, Sheringham. Substitute not used: Walker (gk).

Southampton (4-5-1): Beasant; Monkou, Wood, (Banger, 59), Moore, Charlton; Kenna, Allen, Widdrington, Magilton, Heaney (Maskell, 76); Maddison. Substitute not used: Andrews (gk).

Referee: P Durkin (Dorset).

(Photograph omitted)