Football: Barmby eases the pressure

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Tottenham Hotspur. . . . . 1

Barmby 56

Ipswich Town. . . . . . . .1

Kiwomya 12

Attendance: 26,653

WHITE Hart Lane. A long time ago they called it White Hot Lane. For weeks there has been neither heart nor heat, and in an untidily scrambled, though valuable draw yesterday, the most audible passion was that of jeers from disgruntled Spurs supporters.

For Ossie Ardiles the point perhaps saved his skin, at least for the time being, and last night, instead of repeating his familiar line - 'I've never said relegation was impossible' - at least he was talking of 'fighting for everything', while cautioning that desperate football was 'not the way we play'.

After most of Tottenham's recent matches, whispering Ossie had been saying that Alan Sugar was not putting him under pressure. He talks about knowing what he and the team have to do. But knowing and doing something about it still seem distantly related. The root of his season's problems have been injuries to Teddy Sheringham and Gary Mabbutt. Lose your best striker and most reliable central defender and you can paint pictures in midfield without ever getting in the frame.

His unnerved team are still hovering on the edge of quicksands while trying hard to believe that the imminent return of Sheringham and the reappearance of Nick Barmby can give them something to which to cling for safety. Yesterday that slightly overlooked the fact that while Ipswich are not a power in the land, they can bring people down to earth - they had drawn six away games and conceded only 15 goals outside Portman Road. They hardly needed the extra advantage of a goal presented to them after only 11 minutes.

By not intercepting several early thrusts down the left side by Gavin Johnson, Spurs failed to identify the main source of danger. When Johnson made 20 uninterrupted yards, and squared low to the similarly unencumbered Chris Kiwomya, a goal was inevitable.

If Spurs always knew Ipswich would be hard to break down, the combination of an early setback and the fact that Darren Anderton's persistent probing along the right edge usually ended lamely with Ronny Rosenthal losing possession, made the task all the more daunting.

At half-time there was a ripple of derisory slow hand-clapping and boos from a demoralised crowd. It was not as if Ipswich were anything more than efficient and quick to close their defensive gates.

Hopes that Barmby would return after injury in sharp form were clearly unrealistic, but in truth, even when fully fit he has not been the player who last season promised so much. Clive Baker, in the Ipswich goal, was not called upon to make an important save until the 54th minute, when Anderton's centre was met first time by Darren Caskey, whose shot Baker turned away. That chance achieved, Spurs raised a couple of minutes' steady pressure, culminating in Rosenthal drifting in a high cross which Jason Dozzell headed back across goal. Barmby was hardly stretched to deflect in the equaliser.

Still Ipswich remained dangerous from breakaways, one of which saw Mabbutt apparently bring down Kiwomya in the penalty area. The referee had a clear view and clearly but surprisingly felt there was no intentional foul.

Ipswich retaliated first with flashes of temper, then with a fine breakaway by Kiwomya, but Paul Mason sliced his shot and Spurs immediately exerted another brief period of pressure in which two hard, close-range shots from Barmby and Rosenthal were expertly blocked in rapid succession by Baker.

(Photograph omitted)

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