Football: Carbone's wisdom is wasted

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The Independent Online
Sheffield Wednesday 0

Tottenham 0

Attendance: 28,204

SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY may want an independent doctor to examine their stay-away Italian Paolo di Canio but Danny Wilson will be probing the deepest recesses of his own mind for a solution to how his side did not clinch victory over a below-par Tottenham.

Time and again the Spurs defence was breached only for a combination of woeful finishing and last-gasp heroics to thwart the home side, who were lucky to keep their own clean sheet.

Although Wednesday enjoyed the lion's share of possession, Tottenham showed glimpses of ambition and did enough to forge good opportunities that would, on any other day, have contributed to a feast of goals.

Wilson, however, is pragmatic enough to differentiate between a point gained and two lost. "I am not too disappointed if I am honest," he confessed. "The fact we didn't score goals is frustrating but overall I thought we played very well. Over 90 minutes I thought we totally dominated the game and the chances they had were very isolated. We have been commanding games but the chances didn't necessarily fall to strikers."

George Graham, faced with choosing two from three strikers, opted to leave out Chris Armstrong in favour of Steffen Iversen and Les Ferdinand, but he was forced to introduce Armstrong anyway as a substitute after his first-choice pair clashed while competing for the same header, and Ferdinand twisted a knee in falling awkwardly. Darren Anderton was another early casualty, but Wednesday had already exerted their domination.

The roving, drifting and scintillating work of Benito Carbone often left Ritchie Humphreys, who retained his place when Andy Booth failed a fitness test, in a lone striking role. This, combined with a Tottenham defence which pressed high up the field, created a wealth of space behind the back four which Wednesday repeatedly exploited.

Dejan Stefanovic and Niclas Alexandersson were the two main culprits, lashing wildly wide and over the target when their late runs were found by Wim Jonk.

The majority of Tottenham's chances, created on the counterattack by David Ginola - once again involved in his regulation "dive or penalty" debate - fell to Iversen, who failed to provide a proper test for Pavel Srnicek. As Spurs tightened their defence in the second half, Ginola's influence waned and he was eventually sacrificed when Graham, who was pleased with the debut of his new German acquisition Steffen Freund in a midfield anchor role, decided it was time to settle for a point.

The Tottenham manager adopted a philosophical attitude to the result. "If you are going to advance, you've got to learn that when you are not at your best you don't lose. We were under a lot of pressure, especially in the first half, but in the second half I thought we tightened up a little bit. We could have scored a couple ourselves," Graham observed.