Football: Premier pair plead poverty

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The Independent Online
Southampton. . . . .0

Tottenham Hotspur. .0

NO TWO sides are more likely to prove the widely held prediction that the Premier League will turn out to be old wine in new bottles.

Having sold their vintage players, the squads of both Southampton and Spurs had the look of mid-table wine. Neither did anything yesterday to disprove that pre-season presumption.

Early-season rustiness may be some excuse for the poverty of quality at The Dell yesterday, but that will wear thin before too long.

With Barry Horne, Neil Ruddock and Alan Shearer departed, Southampton have only Matthew Le Tissier left for inspiration.

Spurs, meanwhile, have rarely begun a season looking so anonymous. No Gascoigne, Lineker or Stewart, and the absences showed. Doug Livermore, the coach, will retain the pass-and-move style but will need a bit more beef in midfield: leaving their new signing Andy Gray on the bench in favour of 17-year-old Andy Turner was a curious decision.

Darren Anderton could prove to be something of an impulse purchase at pounds 1.7m from Portsmouth, as he looked far from the finished article alongside Gordon Durie.

The Scottish international had one of the visitors' two clear chances when, seconds into the second half, goalkeeper Tim Flowers snatched the ball at his feet after a Jason Cundy long ball had put him well clear.

Cundy, one of four old Chelsea players on show, combined well at the back with Neil Ruddock, the Spurs captain, bought from Southampton for pounds 750,000.

For a player aiming to reform a poor disciplinary history, Ruddock's 14th-minute booking for a tackle from behind was hardly the best start, but later on his solidity held Spurs together.

Southampton should have been ahead at half-time, but in the 35th minute Micky Adams scuffed an excellent opportunity after Speedie had set him up, the latter himself sending a fair chance flying over minutes later.

Their manager, Ian Branfoot, seems to have abandoned the kick- and-rush style that last season brought the club's worst league position (16th) in five years, though another relegation scramble may bring a change of policy.

Glenn Cockerill, his indefatigable captain, prompted most of the positive moves and sent a header just wide from a Le Tissier corner in the 77th minute. The much-travelled Speedie, a pounds 400,000 buy from Blackburn was full of old tricks - getting Vinny Samways booked for not retreating in time, and complaining like an old harridan.

Though a live-wire throughout, he rarely connected with Kerry Dixon as he did at Chelsea. When the two finally combined effectively in the 85th minute, Speedie spooned the ball into Ian Walker's arms from six yards out.

As the game came belatedly to life, Dixon had a header cleared off the line and Richard Hall's volley was tipped over by Walker.

Almost immediately, Paul Allen, clear through at the other end, dragged his cross behind two free team-mates. A goal then would have been far more than Spurs merited.

Southampton: T Flowers; J Dodd, M Adams, T Hurlock, R Hall, S Wood, M Le Tissier, G Cockerill, K Dixon, D Speedie, F Benali. Subs not used: I Dowie, J Kenna, I Andrews.

Manager: I Branfoot.

Tottenham Hotspur: I Walker; T Fenwick, J Edinburgh, D Howells, J Cundy, N Ruddock, A Turner (A Gray, 74min), G Durie, V Samways, D Anderton, P Allen. Subs not used: D Austin, E Thorstvedt.

Coach: D Livermore.

Referee: V Callow (Solihull)