Football: Barmby's lifeline for Ardiles

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The Independent Online
Tottenham Hotspur 1

Barmby 79


Impey 45

Attendance: 25,799

TOTTENHAM'S leaking defence was yesterday beginning to stem the flow of goals that had left Ossie Ardiles struggling in deep water, when the man they brought in to act as stopper, Kevin Scott, got himself sent off along with England's Les Ferdinand. They soon after gave away another home goal and the future of Ardiles seemed even more bleak.

Eleven minutes from the end, rescue, or maybe a reprieve, for the somewhat unfairly besieged manager, came when the ever-watchful Jurgen Klinsmann and the promising Danny Hill exchanged passes. Klinsmann headed the ball forward into the penalty area and Nick Barmby lifted the equaliser over the advancing goalkeeper, Tony Roberts.

After another of those one- thing-after-another weeks in which he watched as his defence conceded three goals to Watford, who only a few days before had themselves conceded three to Charlton, Ardiles had called everyone in for extra training. Klinsmann was far too diplomatic to say 'not before time', but did point out that before coming to England he thought it normal to train morning and afternoon at least twice a week.

The point of the extra exercise, though, had nothing to do with fitness and a lot to do with fitting together a defence that would allow Ardiles himself to make out a case for holding on to his job and perhaps eventually being recognised as one of the more enlightened coaches in Britain. For the moment, though, he was in the gloom of uncertainty which, when you think in north London terms, is curious since Spurs have had a more successful League season so far than Arsenal, but George Graham's future is not being discussed at a board meeting this week. Ardiles's is.

But there was no getting away from the fact that Spurs badly needed to beat struggling Rangers with a team deprived of Ilie Dumitrescu and

Gheorghe Popescu (both playing for Romania yesterday) and the injured Darren Anderton. Gary Mabbutt, the club captain, became the scapegoat for a defence that had conceded 22 goals. Scott, strong but unsubtle, was deployed to take care of Ferdinand, but the plan was to close the gaps in midfield, which resulted in the attack having virtually no width.

Spurs' overall objective seemed to be patient quelling of Rangers' early initiative, then the promotion of attacks through the overlapping Justin Edinburgh and David Kerslake. It hardly made for excitement. In the circumstances, though, Ardiles's confession that a few mundane 1-0 wins would not go amiss was not something with which the faithful would argue.

The policy brought about what for nearly 40 minutes was by today's standards a quiet game (only two booked). Even so, Ferdinand had been getting increasingly unhappy about Scott's rough marking. He had just been booked for swearing at the referee when he turned on Colin Calderwood in retaliation for another awkward challenge by Scott. Calderwood, Scott and Ferdinand got involved in pushing and shoving, half a dozen others joined in, and the referee rightly sent off the central characters, Scott and Ferdinand.

The sudden infusion of action, albeit unwanted, brought life to the game as well as space, and within a few minutes Rangers were attacking powerfully down the left side. When Trevor Sinclair centred high there was no Scott to clear. Andrew Impey found himself in unexpected and welcome isolation and had a free header in.

Ardiles's reaction after half- time was to risk having only three at the back with Sol Campbell playing centrally and Micky Hazard in midfield. Yet Spurs' problem remained that of feeding Klinsmann when Steve Yates was not swarming all over him. In fact, the first serious shot the German was allowed came early in the second half.

Barmby had been trying to take advantage of the attention being afforded Klinsmann, but he, too, had to wait until the second half to get his first opportunity - a header from Teddy Sheringham's centre that Roberts brilliantly pushed away. His second effort was more accurate and, for Ardiles, infinitely more valuable. 'Relieved?' Ardiles said: 'Of course; we showed a lot of courage but we paid a heavy price for having Scott sent off for a minor incident.'