Football: Ginola's standing takes a dive

Tottenham Hotspur 0 Wimbledon 0 Attendance: 32,422; Card greets debut for pounds 7.5m Hartson as the misery deepens for his old pals at Upton Park
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JOHN HARTSON'S ordeal by fire at the Wimbledon training ground on Friday was nothing compared to the sufferings of David Ginola during and after this match.

The Frenchman, who tormented Wimbledon's defence all afternoon but never succeeded in breaching them, was ignored by the referee Mike Riley on his frequent trips to the deck and vilified afterwards by the visiting manager, Joe Kinnear.

The most spectacular of Ginola's falls came in injury time but Mr Riley waved that one away as he had done all the others. At the end Ginola complained loud and long, the referee needed an escort and there were reports of a scuffle involving Ginola in the tunnel.

"We had four genuine appeals for a penalty," the Spurs manager George Graham said. "We should definitely have got the last one, it was an absolute certainty. Referees should be brave and give what they see."

In Kinnear's opinion the referee earned 10 out of 10. "For somebody with so much talent it is amazing Ginola only falls when he is in the penalty box," he said. "He was diving right, left and centre, putting the referee under all sorts of pressure. I have looked at the incidents again on TV and I'm furious. In the last minute Ginola threw himself into the box. Stumble, stumble and down he went. It has got to be cut out."

Kinnear was on less controversial ground in praising his pounds 7.5m signing. "Hartson is a good line leader, holds the ball up well. We will make him a good player."

Having paid out so much to bolster their attack, Wimbledon needed to rely on their ability to defend heroically for long spells, particularly when Ginola was on the rampage. But Hartson did enough before being taken off near the end to show he will be a power and a threat in his new side.

His one black mark was an early foul on Andy Sinton which left the Spurs midfielder limping so badly that he came off five minutes later. Hartson was shown a yellow card for that, and might have received a red one. "Andy had six studs down his shin," Graham said.

Hartson was effective in more positive ways as Wimbledon controlled the early stages of both halves and it needed Sol Campbell at his impressive best to stifle his energetic efforts.

But it was Ginola who took the stage and held it after 20 minutes or so of each half. In the first, he twice popped up on the right, bamboozled a couple of defenders and swung over inswinging crosses. Chris Armstrong headed the first one against an upright and his second header was clutched low down by Neil Sullivan. Between those threats the Wimbledon goalkeeper had to be sharp to beat Steffen Iversen to Stephen Carr's low centre.

A stooping header that Ian Walker blocked just after the interval was the closest Hartson came to a goal. As Tottenham's defence indulged in a spot of dithering, a Robbie Earle header and Marcus Gayle's shot were Wimbledon's best efforts.

Then Ginola took over again. With the crowd baying every time he stumbled or toppled, Wimbledon needed all their experience to hold on. One superb backheel from the Frenchman sent Justin Edinburgh in from the left for a toe-poke which flew past the post.

Then the Argentinian Mauricio Taricco, on for his debut in place of the injured Stephen Clemence, slipped a neat through ball to Ginola who fell to loud appeals. Mr Riley awarded a corner and soon after booked Ginola for aggression towards the Wimbledon defender Kenny Cunningham.

Ginola set up Iversen for a header that just cleared the bar but it was his spectacular tumble in the dying moments which incensed all sections of the crowd and had Graham rushing to the touchline. Tottenham fans wanted a penalty, Wimbledon's chanted "Cheat, cheat".

Now the teams meet twice more in cup competitions in the next 11 days and Wimbledon will be without the cup-tied Hartson. Kinnear had the last word on these games. "I just hope referees take Ginola's behaviour into consideration for our next two matches."