Football: Injury time hurts Spurs

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The Independent Online
Oldham Athletic. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

Tottenham Hotspur. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

IAN OLNEY, with a glancing header in injury time, snatched a victory that dented Tottenham's revival but was wholly deserved on an icy Boundary Park pitch. Oldham's recent defensive record is dreadful, but if they considered a more cautious approach the thought was a fleeting one.

The result turned the form- book on its head. Tottenham, early season strugglers, have been much more upwardly mobile of late, but they were stretched by Oldham's broad attacking sweeps and might have been well beaten long before the last minute had the home side accepted some clear opportunities.

Ahead inside half an hour, by virtue of Graeme Sharp's goal, also a header, Oldham could have extended their lead two or three times. Given fine service by Neil Adams and Mark Brennan, the flank players, Olney and Sharp each had good chances in the air, especially Sharp, clearly anguished afer failing to convert an Adams cross on the hour.

These looked wasteful moments indeed when Tottenham, beaten only once in eight starts previously, drew level through a goal that did much to explain why Oldham had conceded eight in their last two matches. Paul Allen's cross from the right found substitute Nick Barmby at the far post, but his knockdown should have been cleared before Teddy Sheringham was allowed a simple tap-in.

Joe Royle, the Oldham manager, admitted his defenders were caught sleeping then, but was otherwise rather better pleased with their efforts that he had been after their 5-2 defeat at Wimbledon eight days ago. Royle gave the 21- year-old Craig Fleming his first Premier League run in the centre of defence, dropping Steve Redmond, an expensive summer signing from Manchester City. Neil Pointon was also out, through suspension.

'We did not defend well against Wimbledon and our one lapse today cost us a goal, but otherwise we defended better,' Royle said.

Nonetheless Tottenham might have led in the 13th minute when a move involving David Howells and Vinnie Samways caught the back four hopelessly square. Paul Gerrard, a 19-year-old making his home debut in the Oldham goal, was lucky to deflect Sheringham's shot with his right boot. Moments later he had to make a proper save to snuff out Samways.

Oldham were having to defend on the worst section of the frost- affected surface. They needed some good fortune but were worthy of the lead Sharp gave them. Justin Edinburgh, booked already for a foul on Sharp, might have been dismissed for upending Adams, but Oldham were happy enough with the outcome when Richard Jobson nodded down Brennan's free kick and Sharp applied the finishing touch.

Tottenham, who had to make adjustments in the first half, when Nayim limped off, will be concerned that set-pieces produced both Oldham goals. It was from another Brennan free kick, following Durie's clumsy foul on Adams, that Olney made them pay.

Oldham Athletic: P Gerrard; G Halle, A Barlow, P Bernard, R Jobson, C Fleming, N Adams, I Olney, G Sharp, M Milligan, M Brennan. Subs not used: S Redmond, A Ritchie, J Keeley (gk). Manager: J Royle.

Tottenham Hotspur: E Thorstvedt; D Austin, J Edinburgh, V Samways, G Mabbutt, N Ruddock, D Howells, G Durie, Nayim (N Barmby, 37 min), T Sheringham, P Allen. Subs: G Bergsson, I Walker (gk). Coach: D Livermore.

Referee: R Milford (Bristol).

Goals: Sharp (1-0, 29 min); Sheringham (1-1, 67 min); Olney (2-1, 90 min).

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