Football: Forest felled by Barmby

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Tottenham Hotspur. . . . . . . . . . . . .2

Nottingham Forest. . . . . . . . . . . . .1

NICK BARMBY was the architect of a victory at White Hart Lane yesterday which allowed Tottenham to build on their recent improvement in form. Forest's house, however, is built on sand and they finished the year five points adrift of the rest of the Premier League.

Spurs' success was not just a reward for the brilliance of the 18- year-old Barmby, but also for their resilience. That Forest were again left with nothing is attributable to their lack of a centre-forward. Yesterday they played the 5ft 7in Gary Crosby as a nominal target man, perhaps hoping that his nimbleness would create space which other players might exploit.

The result was a kind of black hole in attack into which Forest's hard work and often pleasing approach play disappeared. Brian Clough's unwillingness to replace the departed Teddy Sheringham, who had a solid game against his old club, smacks of a perversity which is hard to understand.

Tottenham made more out of less. With Gordon Durie again left out after transfer speculation which has irritated the Spurs management, Barmby confirmed his promise as Sheringham's striking partner.

He gave Tottenham the lead with a volley in the 35th minute after receiving an astutely chipped return pass from Sheringham and, five minutes from time, he supplied the cross for Gary Mabbutt to stab in the winner. His performance had his manager, Doug Livermore, drooling over his 'intelligence'.

There was a curious logic about Forest's 74th-minute equaliser, since it did not come from any of their elaborate, delightful yet ineffectual movements, but from a loose ball which Scot Gemmill deposited in the net off a post from 22 yards.

Ultimately, Forest's quixotic qualities foundered on the rock of Spurs' defence, where Mabbutt and Neil Ruddock showed an uncompromising commitment, and the visitors' frustration showed in an unpleasant incident late in the game when the England captain, Stuart Pearce, squared up to Spurs' substitute, Gudni Bergsson, who had not yet come on to the field and needlessly held on to the ball at a Forest throw-in.

Dean Austin did as much as anyone to deny Forest, displaying as much flair in the dribble as he did in the tackle. Austin, 22, is another talent who makes Spurs' future look bright.

Tottenham Hotspur: Thorstvedt; Austin, Edinburgh, Samways, Mabbutt, Ruddock, Howells, Barmby (Bergsson, 88), Anderton (Moran, 65), Sheringham, Allen. Substitute not used: Walker (gk).

Nottingham Forest: Crossley; Laws, Pearce, Chettle, Tiler, Keane, Crosby, Gemmill, Clough, Webb, Black (Woan, 67). Substitutes not used: Glover, Marriott (gk).

Referee: M Reed (West Midlands).