Football: Graham rues luck of draw

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The Independent Online
Tottenham Hotspur 0

Coventry City 0

Attendance: 34,376

SINCE HE was appointed Tottenham manager, George Graham has avoided drawing comparisons between the fortunes of his side and those of Arsenal, whom he managed with distinction. On the day Arsenal scored four, Tottenham's shortfall in the striking department glared in the spotlight as they failed to take any of the chances that came their way.

Yet Graham, ever the optimist after ten games unbeaten, came away in positive mood, stating: "I thought we looked the team most likely to win and the chances were there."

Coventry, however, are a different matter and if there was any doubt as to their Jekyll and Hyde nature, one week after beating Liverpool they scarcely endangered Ian Walker's goal. Their manager, Gordon Strachan, was succinct: "We didn't play well, but that was also due to Tottenham playing well themselves."

On a bad day for Tottenham strikers, with Steffen Iversen forced to play despite a hip injury, the best chances came from Graham's midfielders, who were outstanding. And it was their display that will have given the pounds 3m signing Tim Sherwood food for thought as the former Blackburn captain started his Tottenham career on the bench, coming on as a last-minute substitute.

It was Darren Anderton who went closest for Tottenham in the first half as Coventry's Roland Nilsson accidentally deflected the ball into the England international's path and his first-time shot crashed against the post with Magnus Hedman grasping thin air.

Yet Coventry always presented a threat, notably through Gary McAllister's vision, and twice the Scot put Darren Huckerby through with neat passes only for Huckerby to fail in front of goal. With 19 minutes gone Huckerby beat his marker but, just outside the penalty box, his control let him down. Then 11 minutes later, Huckerby received another McAllister pass inside the box but Walker made two sharp saves both with his feet to deny the striker.

But the final word in the half almost belonged to Andy Sinton, as the left-winger picked up the ball on the edge of the box in injury time and curled a sublime shot that hit the post and crossbar and bounced away.

Then, only 35 seconds after the restart, Les Ferdinand received the ball in space from Allan Nielsen and the England striker twisted into the penalty area before shooting inches past Hedman's right-hand post. Proof it was not Tottenham's day came seven minutes later as Steffen Iversen scuffed Freund's cross over the bar from inside the six-yard box and, for all Tottenham's work, the siege on Coventry's goal still failed to bring any reward.

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