Football: Dani buoys West Ham on debut

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The Independent Online
Tottenham Hotspur 0 West Ham United 1

Anyone who believed Harry Redknapp's global recruitment policy would weaken the club's community support should have been at White Hart Lane last night. A Croat, a Dane, a Czech, an American, a Portuguese, an Irishman. One by one, West Ham's delighted supporters acclaimed them. Like Redknapp, they are more interested in the result than the birth certificate.

However, there was also evidence for Redknapp's assertion that the influx of imports is not strangling the local talent. In the midst of his polygot team, and their inspiration for much of an ultimately rousing match, was the 22-year-old Danny Williamson, a Newham-born local.

He was not the only Dani to catch the eye. His Portuguese near-namesake, a mere 19-year-old, showed flashes of skill which lit up the night as well as scoring the decisive goal. It came four minutes into the game and condemned Tottenham to a deserved first home defeat for four months.

It was a terrible goal to give away - as Gerry Francis will doubtless underline during a prolonged video inquest at Tottenham's training ground.

Dean Austin wastefully gave away a corner with an over-hit backpass. As Williamson took it, Julian Dicks lost his marker, Colin Calderwood. Thus he was unmarked on the penalty spot when the ball arrived and able to volley fiercely at Ian Walker. He parried the shot but, as Slaven Bilic followed up, Walker palmed the ball to Dani, who diverted it in. Dani, who is on loan from Sporting Lisbon, was making his home debut.

He was playing as an attacking midfielder, one of two changes that indicated Redknapp is a better tactician than he is given credit for. Much of Tottenham's threat this season has come from Ruel Fox on the right, so Redknapp brought in Keith Rowlands to support Dicks on the left side.

It worked so well that Tottenham had one chance in the first 40 minutes, Ludek Miklosko saving to his left from Fox's shot. With Tottenham dominating possession, this led to a largely sterile half until, in the last five minutes, Teddy Sheringham twice tested Miklosko with good headers.

At half-time, Gerry Francis answered Harry's game by bolstering his left flank. On came Andy Sinton and, within a dozen minutes, four good chances were created from that wing. A Sheringham shot was scrambled away, Miklosko got his legs in front of a Chris Armstrong drive, Sheringham fired over, then Jason Dozzell swivelled well only to shoot into Miklosko's chest.

West Ham showed signs of panic, but refused to buckle, even breaking out to hit the bar when Iain Dowie's cross deflected off Gary Mabbutt. Having survived the storm, they took over and Tony Cottee, coming on for the tiring Dani, could have had a hat-trick as they played some sweeping football.

The only sour note for West Ham was the thought, as they drove away, exhausted by the energy-sapping pitch, that tomorrow they visit Grimsby for a replayed FA Cup fourth-round tie. Given their titanic effort last night, it is not much of Valentine's Night reward.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Walker; Austin, Calderwood, Mabbutt, Wilson; Fox, Dozzell, Campbell, Rosenthal (Sinton, h-t); Sheringham, Armstrong. Substitutes not used: Nethercott, Day (gk).

West Ham United (4-5-1): Miklosko; Potts, Rieper, Bilic, Dicks; Hughes (Harkes, 85), Bishop, Williamson, Dani (Cottee, 67), Rowland; Dowie. Substitute not used: Sealey (gk).

Referee: J Winter (Cleveland).

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