Football: Mabbutt injury adds fuel to long-running feud

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The Independent Online
Tottenham Hotspur. .1

Wimbledon. . . . . .1

THE FACE of Gary Mabbutt bore testimony to the recent history of ill-feeling between these clubs after just seven minutes of last night's match. Tottenham's captain was stretchered from the pitch with a fractured cheekbone after an aerial challenge with John Fashanu. Video evidence showed that Fashanu's left elbow connected with Mabbutt's face.

However, post-match opinion varied on an incident which was the latest in a line of similar unpleasantnesses between two sides regarded respectively as the capital's toffs and lower orders. It appears to be a form of class warfare.

Wimbledon's manager, Joe Kinnear, said: 'I think Fash caught him with his knee as Mabbutt was leaning down. Fash is a good mate of Mabbsy, so he shot off to the hospital to see him . . .'

When told of Fashanu's actions, the Tottenham manager, Osvaldo Ardiles, blew out his cheeks before saying quietly: 'No comment.' His grim expression was comment enough. 'It was a terrible injury,' Ardiles said. 'The only thing I can say is that I am very disappointed with Keith Hackett, who is one of our most experienced international referees. If he failed to see certain things, what chance do we really have in the game?'

Spurs, seeking their first win in six Premiership games, started ideally with a fifth-minute goal from Nick Barmby, who turned in a cross from David Howells at the near post.

The home side reorganised capably after Mabbutt's traumatic departure, but as the game became increasingly fractious, they began to lose their grip and conceded an equaliser in the 72nd minute when Dean Holdsworth nodded the ball in after Fashanu had headed back a deep cross from Steve Talboys.

The casualties were not restricted to one side. John Scales needed nine stitches in a head wound after a first-half challenge with Howells, who appeared to be a target for retribution for the rest of the match. Howells nearly had the satisfaction of earning three points, however, when his 25-yard volley five minutes from time hit the post.

In truth, Spurs would not have deserved the win on what was a depressing evening. 'I think probably sometimes Tottenham are a little bit frightened of us,' Kinnear said. 'We don't mind that. It's a physical league, it's the hardest league in the world. We play to our strengths. It's as simple as that.'

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Thorstvedt; Edinburgh, Calderwood, Mabbutt (Caskey, 7), Campbell; Sedgley, Samways, Hazard, Anderton; Barmby, Howells. Substitutes not used: Walker, Hendry.

Wimbledon (4-4-2): Segers; Barton, Scales, Joseph, Talboys; Jones, Ardley, Earle, Berry; Fashanu, Holdsworth. Substitutes not used: Sullivan, Fitzgerald, Clarke.

Referee: K Hackett (Sheffield).