Football: Le Tissier crosses the class gap

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The Independent Online
Southampton. . . . .1

Tottenham Hotspur. .0

WHO says supporter power does not work? The Dell got what it had demanded yesterday: a team of artists, strutting elegantly round the pitch. Pity that it was Tottenham who were painting the patterns.

Ian Branfoot has been sniped at for the prosaic methods his team employ but on this occasion the Southampton manager's tactics were precisely what was required.

Spurs were pretty but had the cutting edge of a sponge while the less-sightly Saints had the will to take the victory their bottom-three circumstances demanded. 'I'm very, very unhappy,' Ossie Ardiles, the Tottenham manager, said. 'We have a lot of quality players but we lack one thing that is of paramount performance importance in football: passion. All my players are comfortable with the ball - I wish I'd had as much ability - but you have to win the right to be able to play.'

Game, set and match to Branfoot who could not have received a better endorsement for his team's commitment. 'We've got points in four out of the last five matches which is important in our position,' he said. 'The temptation against a passing team like Spurs is to sit back and watch, but Peter Reid showed that you need to do the opposite, chase and harry them into mistakes.'

To be fair to Branfoot, Southampton are not the outfit of route-one robots of their followers' description. They played attractively enough yesterday to stand comparison with the Busby Berkeley precision of Micky Hazard and Vinny Samways' passing and in Matthew Le Tissier they had the player most likely to spoil the choreography.

He managed it on the hour, producing a cross from the right-hand edge of the area that had just the right arc and angle to leave Erik Thorstvedt in the Tottenham goal with no option to go for the ball and yet allowed Neil Maddison the luxury of making his header from four yards. The midfield player charged in and from that range could hardly miss.

Which was not how you would describe Tottenham, who hit the post twice and squandered several other chances. Steve Sedgley, who was the unfortunate who found the woodwork either side of half-time, stood apart from the profligacy but how Hazard and Darren Caskey failed to score from the rebounds was probably another reason why Ardiles spent nearly an hour dissecting the defeat.