Football: Fox steps into the Tottenham void

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The Independent Online

Tottenham Hotspur 3 Aston Villa 2

Two goals by Les Ferdinand may grab most of the headlines this morning, but it was Ruel Fox who made the difference as Spurs gained a result that once again was more comforting that the all-round display in their second home win in four days.

For Aston Villa, who had looked the more accomplished team for most of the night, it is now four games and four defeats, but with Stan Collymore and Dwight Yorke both on the scoresheet and Andy Townsend and Mark Draper back in harness in midfield, there is no need for them to panic even though the cups already look their best chance of success this year.

"At the moment we are being punished for little things," Brian Little, their manager, said, "but we have got to believe we'll win a game soon - because we really need to."

His Tottenham counterpart, Gerry Francis, seemed in no doubt about Villa's pedigree. "Villa are a good side and I am certain they will recover and be a force," he said. "So I think it makes our win tonight that much better."

The injury jinx that blighted Spurs' last campaign has struck early again this time, with David Ginola and Jose Dominguez joining their lengthy injury list. Had either been fit, however, it is doubtful whether Fox would have played.

Roaming free just behind the front two, Fox made both goals for Ferdinand and scored the winner himself. Before that, Yorke had scored Villa's first goal of the season to equalise and Collymore, the most expensive signing of the English summer, opened his new account to put Villa ahead.

But it was Ferdinand who was first to show, with three chances in the opening five minutes, the third of which he took from Fox's precise pass, after the winger had run through the heart of Villa's defence.

Ferdinand should have increased the lead after 12 minutes but he was denied by Mark Bosnich. The Australian goalkeeper denied Ferdinand once more before Spurs were made to pay for their profligacy as Draper's through ball was steered home by Yorke for Villa's first goal of the season.

Collymore thought he had scored his first for Villa on the stroke of half-time but his chip into an empty net was ruled out for an earlier foul on Ian Walker - but he did not have long to wait. After some Yorke trickery was thwarted by Walker's block, a Steve Staunton corner was headed back across goal by Ian Taylor for Collymore to hook the ball into the roof of the net.

That prompted the first appearance of Gary Mabbutt in the Spurs' defence since breaking his leg on the opening day of last season, and within eight minutes Spurs were level, Fox again picking out Ferdinand, this time with a beautiful curling cross which the big striker buried with a thunderous header past Bosnich.

Fourteen minutes from time, with Villa's confidence draining away, Ferdinand turned provider for Fox to steer the ball wide of Bosnich for what proved to be the winner, as the visitors could find nothing but bustle in the dying minutes.

Tottenham Hotspur (3-4-1-2): Walker; Scales, Calderwood, Edinburgh (Mabbutt, 58); Carr, Howells, Clemence, Sinton; Fox; Ferdinand (Fenn, 82), Iversen. Substitutes not used: Nielsen, Clapham, Bardsen (gk).

Aston Villa (5-3-2): Bosnich; Charles, Ehiogu (Curcic, 85), Southgate, Scimeca, Staunton; Taylor, Draper, Townsend; Collymore, Yorke. Substitutes not used: Milosevic, Wright, Nelson, Oakes (gk).

Referee: M Riley (West Yorkshire).