Middlesbrough. . . .2
TWO Tottenham goals in three minutes during the second half and an inspired performance by Gordon Durie turned a match that Middlesbrough curiously and carelessly allowed to be taken from their grasp.
Middlesbrough's misfortune this season has been to have Newcastle as neighbours, grasping what they would say is a disproportionate amount of attention in the north-east. Had it not been for injuries, they might have taken even more advantage of the Premier League's early domination by the less auspicious clubs.
They will not often receive a more encouraging start than they did yesterday when, after one minute and 45 seconds, they made capital from one of those defensive errors that seem endemic at Spurs. Chris Morris planted a high ball into the penalty area, and David Tuttle's attempt to head clear only resulted in his lifting the ball over Paul Wilkinson to Robbie Mustoe who lobbed over Ian Walker.
Much as Durie was, by a distance, the most accomplished player on either side, Tottenham started out by serving him poorly, and their defence continually lapsed into square susceptibility. Mustoe and Wilkinson had no difficulty in breaking through and were both moving into dangerous positions when, after 32 minutes, a dangerous long ball towards Wilkinson from Wright caused Neil Ruddock to thrust out a foot and deflect into his own goal.
Much as one always has to take into account their loss of Gary Lineker and Paul Gascoigne, Tottenham's rebuilding seems hampered by an inability to extract the best from available talent. Darren Anderton continues to look like a teenager making his first visit to the big city, and expecting him to move into the centre of the attack and interchange with Durie simply adds to his burdens.
Middlesbrough's buffer of two goals allowed them to settle into a steady if unremarkable routine. That offered Tottenham more possession and brought them their best phase in the early stages of the second half when Teddy Sheringham should have done better than shave the face of the Middlesbrough goal with his header from Pat Van den Hauwe's long throw, and Ruddock cracked a seering free-kick just inside the far post where Steve Pears performed a remarkable deflection.
Tottenham's pressure eventually prevailed, but it took a penalty given away by Kernaghan's nudge in the back of Sedgeley to provide the impetus. Once Sheringham had converted, Tottenham took advantage of Nayim's improvisation and gave Durie help by bringing on Nick Barmby. Durie benefited from Barmby's ability to draw defenders towards him. His splendid run and avoidance of three tackles ended with a pass across goal for Barmby to slide in the equaliser.
But for another stunning, leaping save by Pears from Sheringham's powerful late shot, Tottenham would have been better rewarded for some shrewd second- half redeployment of their limited resources.
Tottenham: I Walker; J Edinburgh, P Van Den Hauwe, V Samways, D Tuttle (Nayim, 55 min), N Ruddock, S Sedgley, G Durie, D Anderton (N Barnby, 64 min), T Sheringham, P Allen. Sub not used: E Thorstvedt (gk).
Middlesbrough: S Pears; C Morris, J Phillips, A Kernaghan, D Whyte, J Gittens, B Slaven (C Fleming, 73 min), R Mustoe, P Wilkinson, T Wright, M Proctor. Subs not used: G Kavanagh, A Collett (gk).
Referee: P A Durkin (Dorset).
Goals: Mustoe (0-1, 2 min); Ruddock og (0-2, 32 min); Sheringham pen (1-2, 71 min); Barnby (2-2, 74 min).
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