Football: Hammers show their mettle after Lomas dismissal

Tottenham Hotspur 0 West Ham United 0
Click to follow
The Independent Online
EVEN ANOTHER sending-off for West Ham, their fifth of the season so far, proved insufficient incentive for George Graham's Tottenham, who spent over 45 minutes trying to score what proved to be an elusive goal against 10 men at White Hart Lane.

In an age of managerial feuds and squabbles, it was refreshing to hear Graham and his counterpart, Harry Redknapp, both express support for the unfortunate West Ham right-back, Steve Lomas.

Redknapp claimed afterwards that his player's first booking, in the words of the linesman involved, was for "showing an aggressive manner towards his opponent" Jose Dominguez. Whether or not Lomas had crossed the line separating competitiveness and unsportsmanlike intimidation, his second yellow card was more than debatable.

As Dominguez, once again, backed into him, Lomas swung at the ball and missed. He was then sent from the field for kicking his opponent, becoming the third West Ham player to be sent off in the last three matches between the sides.

Graham described the decision as "a bit harsh", Redknapp labelled the offence as "absolutely nothing. If he'd brought his leg up and kneed him, I'd be the first to hold my hand up," he said.

Graham, meanwhile, bemoaned a missed opportunity. "We had 45 minutes to get it right. We probably needed a bit of luck in the finishing but their goalkeeper was magnificent." Shaka Hislop had to be just that to contribute to the first goalless draw between the side since 1946.

As the first half unfolded it became clear that goal attempts would be elusive, as both sides gave the ball away at will. As the shape of the game emerged from untidy origins, it was Spurs who settled into a pattern, prompted by the simple distribution of Tim Sherwood at the heart of their midfield.

The teenager Joe Cole emerged as an equivalent influence in the West Ham midfield, twisting around a low centre of gravity and caressing the ball neatly to his colleagues.

The half concluded with the dismissal of Lomas, leaving Spurs with something of an unfair advantage as the second period commenced. Sherwood, David Ginola and Steffen Iversen all could have scored, with the latter being the most guilty of the three after directing a weak volley wide.

For West Ham, an increasingly frustrated Paolo di Canio sat comfortably in the pocket of Chris Perry, while Trevor Sinclair on the left of midfield was adept, if not the inspirational figure that his side required.

Spurs were dominant for most of the second half, aside from a shot from Mark-Vivien Foe from two yards' range which was deflected behind off the legs of Ian Walker.

Sherwood and, before that, Iversen might both have scored with close- range efforts. The Norwegian was unfortunate when a clear chance fell just behind him on the six-yard line, while the Englishman's sharply taken strike was well saved by the excellent Hislop.

As play swung back and forth, the substitute Chris Armstrong had a match- winning chance when he launched himself with gusto at Ginola's cross. A magnificent save from Hislop was perhaps the second most impressive feat of a mediocre evening. The most impressive, though, was a stunning left-handed block by the same player from the increasingly influential Ginola.

There was one final moment of controversy. At the end, Graham appeared to throw a plastic water bottle at the referee, Graham Poll, to vent his anger at only two minutes of injury time being added. "I thought there should have been at least five or six minutes of stoppage time," the Spurs manager said.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Walker; Taricco, Campbell, Perry, Young; Freund, Sherwood (Nielsen, 73), Dominguez (Armstrong, 80), Leonhardsen; Iversen, Ginola. Substitutes not used: Baardsen (gk), Vega, Clemence.

West Ham United (4-4-2): Hislop; Margas (Potts, 63), Ferdinand, Ruddock, Lomas; Sinclair, Foe, Cole, Lampard; Kitson (Minto, h-t), Di Canio (Wanchope, 82). Substitutes not used: Forrest (gk), Keller.

Referee: P Jones (Loughborough).