Football: Ginola fixes it for Spurs

Tottenham Hotspur 3 Nielsen 6, Ginola 12, 18 Barnsley 0 Attend ance: 28,232
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The Independent Online
When David Ginola was substituted five minutes from time, White Hart Lane rose to acclaim him in relief and gratitude at his decoration of this Christmas three. Tottenham Hotspur were desperately in need of some seasonal cheer, and were brought some by the Frenchman's two goals, tangible reward for his virtuoso, if sometimes typically indulgent, performance.

Ginola struck after the industrious Allan Nielsen had ignited an opening salvo that ended the game as a contest a quarter of the way through.Spurs finally realised how serious their plight was becoming after conceding 10 goals in their previous two matches as part of a run of six defeats in seven matches.

Not that they should get too carried away. They remain in the bottom three and have some difficult matches coming up in the next three weeks, notably against Aston Villa, Arsenal and Manchester United. In addition, woeful Barnsley, who remain rooted to the bottom, are barely any yardstick to progress.

Christian Gross is staying calm. "It was the right and good response to the last two games we had," the new Spurs coach said. "Determination was important today. But we still have a lot of work in front of us." Starting all over again this morning with a training session.

It should be less sombre than recent Sundays after early events yesterday. The danger, said the cynics, was complacency - for Barnsley that is, given Tottenham's run and their own improvement that has seen them draw with Newcastle and beat Liverpool at Anfield. "We thought we would come down and stifle them and maybe they would get nervous, but we never gave ourselves a chance," lamented Barnsley's honest manager, Danny Wilson.

"Going down," was the chant early on, and initially it was difficult to determine which set of fans was singing. After a mere five minutes, though, we knew for which team it is more likely - indeed, probable. Sloppy, naive defending of the sort punished readily in the Premiership was the determining factor.

First, Darren Anderton picked out Nielsen in space on the edge of the Barnsley area, and the Dane spun to clip a shot over Lars Leese - who went to ground too quickly - and into the net. Soon after, Ruel Fox'scross was nodded down by Nielsen to Ginola, who controlled well and sent in a low shot from 20 yards that Leese allowed to slip under his body.

A more organised Tottenham were now rampant, confidence coursing through them anew. Fox again sent in a left-footed cross from the right and Ginola was unmarked at the far post, where he glanced home an easy header. It was the 50th goal Barnsley had conceded in the Premiership, one that had Ginola racing to the bench to claim the bottle of champagne Gross had promised him if he scored with his head.

At the break, with the game won, Gross took off Les Ferdinand, who has been suffering from a virus, and told his team to concentrate on not conceding a goal - 26 of the 32 let in this season having come in the second half. "I prefer that we win 3-0 and everybody see that we still have a lot of work than we win 6-0," he was to say. Wilson sent his men out early to stew over their shortcomings.

Fox sent a header at Leese and Nielsen hit the outside of a post with a powerful shot but Spurs were content to cruise. And Barnsley, save for the persistent Neil Redfearn, did little to disturb them.

Ginola could not resist a few back-heels, prompting taskmaster Gross to comment that "he had some excellent moments but can do better." Though Ginola could be forgiven yesterday, the same goes for Spurs as more difficult games approach.