Football: Graham objects to referee

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Tottenham Hotspur. .1

Arsenal. . . . . . .0

GEORGE GRAHAM, the Arsenal manager, will contact the FA this week requesting that Alf Buksh, who refereed yesterday's foul-strewn derby at White Hart Lane, not officiate another Arsenal fixture this season.

'We cannot criticise referees,' Graham said, 'but I will definitely be writing to the FA.' The Dollis Hill referee, in fairness, is one of the game's fittest officials and kept up well with the frenetic play, but little vendettas seemed to go unnoticed. Certainly, Graham's centre-forward, Ian Wright, was lucky to stay on the field after forcing his palm at speed into David Howells's face midway through the second half.

Howells, who anchored Spurs' midfield admirably throughout, protested vigorously in Wright's direction and Buksh eventually stepped in to administer a quick lecture. The temperature, as ever in derby games, started high up the scale and rose further, particularly after 20 minutes when Paul Allen scored for Spurs and Arsenal were forced to chase the game more forcefully.

Graham's team, desperately searching for a win after three successive defeats, could have been ahead within two minutes on a ground where they have not won since September 1988. Ray Parlour, who started promisingly as Arsenal's most creative player, was brought down by Dean Austin, the Spurs full-back, as he homed in on Erik Thorstvedt's goal. Buksh waved play on to the consternation of the visiting contingent.

Spurs, whose spirits never flagged as they sought to give their fans the win they prize most, settled the game after 20 minutes. Thorstvedt, who gave another outstanding display between the posts, fielded a loose ball with his feet in his six-yard box, adeptly dribbled around Wright before transferring possession to his relieved captain, Gary Mabbutt.

The former England centre- half swept forward and freed Allen, who in turn increased the tempo with a sprint to the halfway line. As Arsenal's midfield scampered about to close him down, Allen flicked the ball wide to Gordon Durie on the right.

The Scottish striker set off, gained some ground before crossing low to where his team-mates were arriving on the edge of the box. Pal Lydersen, Lee Dixon's replacement at right-back, failed to cut out the ball properly, and Allen nipped in to thread a skimming shot between David Seaman and his left-hand upright.

The home fans, disappointed by the departures of Gascoigne, Lineker and Stewart, had been buoyed by Tottenham's recent form, but this win was the one they wanted. 'We're delighted for our fans, who have been magnificent during what is a transitional period,' Doug Livermore, the Spurs first-team coach, said.

They certainly voiced their delight. 'We beat the scum 3-1,' came the chant from the home ranks, a cruel reminder to their north London neighbours of that Gazza- driven FA Cup semi-final defeat.

After Allen's moment of composure in the box, the game degenerated slightly with a series of tit-for- tat, over-the-top tackles. Steve Bould, otherwise excellent in Arsenal's back four, was the first of the infamous five to have his name taken by Buksh for his third challenge from behind on Teddy Sheringham. Durie levelled the booking scores in the 27th minute when he tripped Parlour, although the England under-21 midfielder almost gained revenge seconds later when his low cross from the right was nearly turned in by Paul Merson. Arsenal finished the half on a high, Thorstvedt saving brilliantly from Bould's hard header.

The name of Adams (T) was written down moments after the re-start for a clumsy touchline challenge on Durie. Adams's Essex neighbour Neil Ruddock, who had another solid game, then went into the book for a foul on Parlour. John Jensen completed Buksh's collection of names when he upended Vinnie Samways.

The lack of a strong hand, pre- empting such incidents rather than reacting to them, disfigured the game and it will be interesting to see Lancaster Gate's reaction to Graham's request. The bookings, and other fractious moments, detracted from the game's better moments, like when the 18-year-old Nick Barmby ran from the halfway line to shake Seaman's bar in the final minute. The memory, though, will be of a match teetering on the brink of lawlessness.

Tottenham Hotspur: E Thorstvedt; D Austin, J Edinburgh, V Samways, G Mabbutt, N Ruddock, D Howells, G Durie (N Barmby, 75 min), Nayim, T Sheringham, P Allen. Subs not used: G Bergsson, I Walker (gk). Coach: D Livermore.

Arsenal: D Seaman; P Lydersen, N Winterburn, D Hillier, S Bould, T Adams, J Jensen (A Limpar, 79), I Wright, K Campbell, P Merson, R Parlour. Subs not used: D O'Leary, A Miller (gk). Manager: G Graham.

Referee: A Buksh (Dollis Hill, London).

Goal: Allen (1-0, 20 min).

(Photograph omitted)