Tottenham Hotspur. . . . . . . . . . . . .3
Southampton. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0
NO MORE self-delusion. No more silly talk of being too good to be relegated: Tottenham needed three points even more than Southampton yesterday and an inspired Vinny Samways finally brought out an ability to fight their way beyond the claws of relegation.
Ossie Ardiles had received the poisoned accolade, his chairman's vote of confidence, when all he really wanted was a bit of luck at the end of a season full of misfortune and occasional defeatism.
Seeking a change of fortune against a team who last weekend took Blackburn Rovers to pieces yet remained in need of points, seemed like unfortunate timing. This, though, was a Southampton without the inspiration of Matthew Le Tissier, the defensive strength of Francis Benali and the forward foraging of Ian Dowie (all suspended). So the outcome depended to a large extent on Southampton's resilience and the skill of Tottenham's Southampton-born Darren Anderton who, like Ardiles, says he is staying at Spurs come what may. His task was to overcome a Southampton side predominantly defensive in line-up.
Not that the quality of that defending gave much cause for Spurs to be concerned when, hardly four minutes into the game, the three Southampton central defenders moved as one in the wrong direction. Samways had distracted them with a delicate header that Teddy Sheringham equally subtly headed to the left and as the ball bounced, none of the defenders reacted. Steve Sedgley noticed their indecision and immediately half-volleyed a shot that Dave Beasant saw only after it was too late to react.
Southampton's reaction to conceding the early goal was to tighten up a little on Sheringham but without the ingenuity to frustrate his turning with the ball and his ability to leave Ken Monkou and Kevin Moore looking at the space he left.
Considering the height and weight of the Southampton central defence - so impressive against Blackburn - here they were hesitant and constantly concerned by anything in the air. That concern revealed itself again when a high centre from Dean Austin should have been turned to good effect by Nick Barmby but a panicky nudge by Steve Wood deprived him of possession. A penalty seemed justified but the referee disagreed.
Southampton's attitude to their situation was to remain defensive and counter-attack only when Spurs were fully committed. As a result, their chances were few, though after 34 minutes, a massive 30-yard drive by Tommy Widdrington smashed against the foot of a post.
There was no question of Tottenham not being totally committed to survival, but Southampton gradually pulled themselves together and by half-time were beginning to create some pressing moves that with greater forward power would have been more profitable. None the less, Samways remained the game's most inventive player, always prompting from an advanced midfield position and never short of long-distance shooting power. Indeed, early in the second half, he speculated from 30 yards and forced Beasant into an important, low, palming save that deprived Spurs of the cushion of a second goal that they badly needed.
Trying to reinforce their forward strength, Southampton withdrew Steve Wood from defence and put Nicky Banger up front. The change enhanced their ability to worry Spurs' defence. Yet that very change contained danger. Having reduced their defence and pushed men upfield, they opened themselves to the counters of Samways, in particular.
So, after 66 minutes, another neat pass by the industrious Sheringham gave Samways possession well outside the penalty area. Again Samways gambled with a long shot, which he drilled accurately inside the far post.
For most of the second half, Samways had been bothered by a leg injury that he concealed bravely. In the end, he had to leave the field, but to an ovation that at times in his career at White Hart Lane he must have thought he would never hear. Conversely, the popularity of Sheringham has never been in doubt and yesterday his enormous contribution in being the target for almost all of the Tottenham attacks was invaluable. His understanding with Anderton, who added Tottenham's third two minutes from the end with another low-driven shot inside the far post, is something to give Spurs hope for next season.Reuse content