Football: Francis still a frustrated man

Tottenham Hotspur 0 Wimbledon 0
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The Independent Online
For Gerry Francis the nightmare of fantasy football management continues, although reality might be just around the corner. The question is, when it finally arrives, will Francis be ready for it, or will he be carted off in a strait-jacket, completely deranged by the prospect of choosing from a fully fit squad of players?

On Saturday, with a glittering array of talent at the Tottenham manager's disposal, it was tempting to believe that, Darren Anderton apart, Spurs were at full strength for the first time since the season before last. But then you began to wonder where David Howells was, or Justin Edinburgh, and what about Steffen Iversen? Add those names to Les Ferdinand, Ramon Vega, Chris Armstrong and John Scales, all of whom were involved against Wimbledon without being fully fit, and you begin to see the extent of the problem.

Injury ruined Francis's own playing career, and he is determined not to allow the same fate to befall him as a manager. But as the semblance of a healthy squad is at last taking shape, the concern is that, after two years of temperance, Francis may be unable to summon up the appetite for the feast.

While Francis has shown admirable restraint, the fans, understandably, have given vent to their frustration. On Saturday, they lost patience 10 minutes before half-time as Spurs were unable to convert any of four decent chances and two excellent ones, missed by Armstrong and Ruel Fox.

But while goals are in short supply, the fans who sang "We want our Tottenham back" cannot really grumble at the way Francis is spending their money, on entertaining players like Ferdinand, David Ginola, and Jose Dominguez.

However, Ginola and Ruel Fox spent half their time trying to bring some order to the attack from midfield while Dominguez was left to catch the eye with some bewildering dribbling. But they were up against a Wimbledon side who, despite their indifferent start, still have as sound a defence as any, and Chris Perry and Dean Blackwell were again outstanding.

Joe Kinnear will also have been pleased with the contribution of 19-year- old Carl Cort, Wimbledon's latest tall, pacy striker. He had scored four goals in four games since his full debut at the start of this season, and he might well have had a fifth at White Hart Lane but for an offside flag. But, like Spurs, Wimbledon are missing a vital ingredient in midfield, and until they find a suitable replacement for Oyvind Leonhardsen they might struggle to match the achievements of last season.

Tottenham Hotspur (3-5-2): Walker; Campbell, Mabbutt, Vega; Carr, Dominguez, Clemence, Fox (Nielsen, 78), Ginola; Ferdinand, Armstrong. Substitutes not used: Calderwood, Scales, Sinton, Bardsen (gk).

Wimbledon (4-4-2): Sullivan; Cunningham, Perry, Blackwell, Kimble; C Hughes, Earle, Jones (Thatcher, h-t), M Hughes; Cort, Ekoku (Euell, 83). Substitutes not used: Holdsworth, Gayle, Heald (gk).

Referee: P Durkin (Portland, Dorset).

Booking: Tottenham: Ginola.

Man of the match: Dominguez.

Attendance: 26,261.

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