NORTHAMPTON ON a very, very wet Tuesday night is the sort of place where Tottenham sides of the past might have faltered, especially after receiving a figurative kick in the Cobblers as they did after half an hour of this Worthington Cup third-round tie when Sean Parrish gave the Second Division side the lead.
However, the Tottenham players who laboured in torrential conditions at Sixfields last night did so under the intense scrutiny of a new manager who does not take any kind of collapse kindly. As the bulk of the 7,224 crowd rose to acclaim Parrish's deftly taken goal, George Graham - positioned in the stand - remained seated, his arms folded, giving a faintly discernible shake of his head.
It was, in truth, a bad goal to give away. Tottenham's goalkeeper, Epsen Baardsen, moving towards a back-pass by Allan Nielsen, appeared to forget momentarily that he could not pick the ball up and then, under pressure from incoming forwards, made an inadequate clearance which slowed to a halt in front of Parrish. He picked his spot from 25 yards out to return the ball high over the keeper's head.
For a while it seemed that the visitors might be going the same way as their Premiership near-neighbours, West Ham, beaten by Northampton over two legs in the previous round. Tottenham's torment, however, lasted less than 10 minutes as they levelled the score through Chris Armstrong, who rounded off the evening by adding a second goal seven minutes from time to ensure Tottenham's progression.
It was a highly satisfactory evening for the Spurs striker, who now appears clear of the injuries which have dogged him for the past two seasons. "I just want to forget all that and get back to playing at 100 per cent fitness," he said. He went on to testify to the galvanising effect which Graham's arrival from Leeds has had on the side. "Everyone has responded very well," he added. "We all worked hard tonight, chasing and closing players down. We want to do well in this competition."
On a pitch that was only passed fit for play an hour before kick-off, Tottenham had to work hard to avoid getting bogged down. But once Armstrong had equalised following a sequence of defensive errors, the result was never seriously in doubt.
With Graham perched in the dugout at the start of the second half, Tottenham pressed forward with fresh conviction, forcing a corner straight from the kick-off. That gave their towering central defender, Sol Campbell, the opportunity to put them ahead with an effort that went in off the post via defender John Frain.
Thereafter David Ginola began to produce the meandering runs and flourishes for which he is celebrated. His efforts culminated 12 minutes from time when another of his advances was halted in the penalty area by Northampton's Ian Sampson. The challenge looked legitimate, but the Frenchman made the most of it, only to miss the resulting penalty.
Armstrong's simple headed goal seven minutes from time effectively ended the contest, but Northampton had enough passion to almost force a second goal in the dying minutes as Dougie Hodgson's back-heel stuck in the mud just short of the Spurs goal line and was hastily cleared. Almost immediately a header from Carlo Corazzin bounced away off the inside of the post. Northampton may have been out but they were far from down.
Northampton Town (4-4-2): Woodman; Gibb, Sampson, Hill (Witter, 60), Frain; Hunt, Parrish, Corazzin, Hodgson; Freestone, Wilkinson (Warner, 70). Substitutes not used: Lee, Wilson, Turley (gk).
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Baardsen; Carr, Scales, Campbell, Edinburgh; Anderton, Calderwood, Nielsen, Ginola (Clemence, 90); Iversen, Armstrong (Allen, 90). Substitutes not used: Sinton, Vega, Walker (gk).
Referee: G Poll (Tring).
More reports, pages 28 and 29
Results, page 28Reuse content