Football: Nielsen touch drums up support

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The Independent Online
Tottenham Hotspur 1

Nielson 29

Sheffield Wednesday 1

Nolan 16

Attendance: 30,996

Despite, or perhaps because, this game appeared to have little significance to the outcome of the Premiership, it was a refreshingly open spectacle for which both sides deserve credit.

They will also take equal consolation from the share of the points, with the draw extending Wednesday's run to nine games without defeat, while Spurs' patchy home form will probably bring them lesser rewards in games when they go down to a goal early on.

The only downside of an expansive match was that it drew as much attention to the vices of both sides as it did to their virtues. Spurs, who gave a home debut to their Norwegian import Steffen Iversen still ended up looking short of punch up front, while their midfield without Darren Anderton is stronger on guts than guile.

Wednesday, whose explosive start to the season raised false hopes for their supporters, are now stealthily recovering, but they, too, are short of a cutting edge and, as Teddy Sheringham proved yesterday, their defence is vulnerable to a forward with aerial ability.

The best of the game was the first half when both sides showed a commitment to attack. Iversen had a great chance to register his first goal for his new club in only the second minute, but he directed his header from Sheringham's looping flick wide of the post. Guy Whittingham's early chance was probably even easier, as he managed to volley Steve Nicol's curling cross over the bar from less than six yards. But the overture was distinctly promising and a pleasing contrast was established between Spurs' direct style and Wednesday's neat passing through midfield.

"I wasn't unhappy with the result," the Wednesday manager David Pleat said afterwards. "We had to defend the ball in the air a lot, but I can't remember Spurs cutting us up too much."

Pleat's enthusiasm was a fair reflection of his team's early momentum in which Nicol, anchoring midfield, Orlando Trustfull and Benito Carbone put together some splendid moves. Just before Wednesday took the lead, Mark Pembridge had somehow failed to turn home Trustfull's low cross. When the ball came back in from the other wing, Pembridge was able to lay-off to Ian Nolan, whose low left- footer skimmed inside Ian Walker's right-hand post.

Wednesday, driven on by their travelling band and its base drum, tried to consolidate their lead but Spurs came back in determined fashion as they slung long balls into the corners of Wednesday's half. The pressure told and Sheringham was able to hook in a cross and Iversen out-jumped Peter Everton to head down for Allan Nielsen, who bundled the equaliser past Kevin Pressman.

A Tottenham drummer opened up now, and Sheringham nearly snatched the lead with a shot on the turn which came back off the post, while Pressman had to be alert to keep out Iversen's poked shot after Des Walker's only mistake of the match. The second half was nowhere near as fluent as Spurs' midfield closed down their Wednesday counterparts. Regi Blinker livened affairs up as substitute, but Spurs - via David Howells and Sheringham - had two clear-cut chances to win the game but couldn't hit the target. The Wednesday fan who danced bare-chested throughout the game despite the freeze had presumably put his shirt on the draw.

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