Football: Mabbutt moulds a vital victory

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Everton. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

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

Sedgley 70

Attendance: 23,580

TOTTENHAM'S seemingly inexorable descent has been checked, the crowding doubts curtailed. To their undisguised relief, Spurs doubled their points tally for 1994 at Goodison Park yesterday, securing their first Premiership win since 28 December with a Steve Sedgley goal midway through the second half.

Sedgley was not the only hero in what Ossie Ardiles called a 'battling performance' as his side rose above Everton into 16th place. The Tottenham manager singled out Gary Mabbutt and Ian Walker for their prodigious displays. Mabbutt played a captain's part, holding the defence together with composure. 'Gary is an incredible man and an incredible player,' Ardiles said. 'It's his best game since he came back (from injury).'

Behind Mabbutt, Walker denied his father's team with a thoroughly alert performance, capped at the death by a stunning tip-over from Anders Limpar. 'He is a young man with a very bright future,' Ardiles said. The goalkeeper's agility and defiance earned him a warm handshake from his father and the loud approval of the visiting contingent, particularly when he kept thwarting Limpar, Everton's expensive new recruit from Arsenal.

Throughout the afternoon the pounds 1.6m winger threatened to turn a promising debut into a goalscoring one. The Swede, clearly delighted with his new licence to roam, nearly began in spectacular fashion. Spotting that Spurs had not fully adjusted to the departure of Kevin Scott with a cut lip, the sprightly Limpar ran through the heart of the visitors' defence before demanding a sharp save from Walker.

Limpar then slipped down the left before checking inside and crossing right-footed to the far post where John Ebbrell just failed to slide the ball in.

A second half full of defensive errors offered a succession of opportunities but the days when a striker of Gary Lineker's stature graced either club's attack are long gone. Ronny Rosenthal resembles a marionette whose strings are being manipulated by a drunk, while Paul Rideout is not the man Everton need in attack.

The game swung undramatically from end to end and soon Southall was called on to display his enduring class with a point-blank stop from Rosenthal. The Spurs striker then squandered another chance and it seemed neither side would score until the 70th minute when David Kerslake crossed from the right. Matt Jackson's slight hesitation allowed Sedgley to nip in and head down past Southall.

Limpar nearly levelled late on with a low drive and a lob but Walker was equal to both. Despite the setback, Walker senior felt his Everton side would not go down. 'A lot of other teams below us have to play each other,' the Everton manager said. 'I think they will cut each others' throats.'