Football: Sheringham's finishing fires Spurs' desire

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The Independent Online
Norwich City . . . . .0

Tottenham Hotspur. . .2

THERE WILL be no FA Cup consolation for Norwich now that Manchester United and Aston Villa have apparently decided that the Canaries will not win the Premier League. Tottenham strode confidently past them and into a fifth-round tie at home to Wimbledon or Aston Villa yesterday with two goals in three minutes at the start of the second half.

Teddy Sheringham scored them both, feeding on two of numerous chances created to fire their season of disappointment and transition with renewed hope and belief. The capital's challenge in the competition has hardly been distinguished up to now but, in this mood, Spurs look worthy of an outsiders' wager.

Unlikely? There is no 'lucky one' at the end of the year, though yesterday was the start of the Chinese New Year - which this time round is a celebration of the Cockerel.

Having put the game virtually out of Norwich's reach, Spurs threatened to make it an afternoon of acute embarrassment for the Canaries, who took refuge in their dressing-room wondering if the foundations of their remarkable season were collapsing all around them.

They have won only once in eight games and in the final analysis could easily have gone down by five or six here. Gordon Durie returned for the visitors, having missed five matches and seen the collapse of his longed-for move to Rangers. Apparently he is now in the right frame of mind to play. He can only have been tipped off in advance. Collectively and individually, it was Norwich who did not look 'mentally right' for this fourth-round contest.

Spurs began the brighter and, save for a period before half-time when the hosts managed to find some kind of service to the wings, were always in command. They consigned Durie to a midfield role, used Nick Barmby profitably as a skilful scuttler between the midfield and attack, and left Sheringham alone up front for much of the time.

The system worked - and how. Spurs had performances to please the management everywhere; Darren Anderton is gaining in confidence and Barmby's reputation grows with every game. Vinny Samways and Paul Allen kept the wheels moving and were frequently able to advance and test Bryan Gunn themselves.

'We changed the system to get more balls into the box and that suited Sheringham,' Doug Livermore, the Spurs chief coach, said. 'It was our best performance of the season. From 1 to 11 the lads were brilliant.'

Samways it was who first threatened for the visitors only six minutes after the start, when Mark Bowen's mistake left him room for a shot that grazed the post.

Ten minutes later Chris Sutton landed a shot on target which did not trouble Eric Thorstvedt but at least required him to save, a rarity in an afternoon when, the odd cross apart, he was scarcely called upon to earn his appearance money. Without Ian Crook to supply and Mark Robins to finish, Norwich are an ineffective force.

By the sixth minute of the second half their challenge was snuffed out, as Sheringham put behind him a poor scoring run (only two goals in 11 games) which had caused many of the White Hart Lane faithful to doubt the wisdom of his pounds 2m purchase from Nottingham Forest.

In the 48th minute Durie's astute pass allowed Barmby to exploit the space behind John Polston, and his cross was steered home by Sheringham. Now the cockerel was in full cry. A free-kick out on the left was delivered superbly by Anderton and there was Sheringham again, a headed flick finding a gaping hole by Gunn's far post.

Sheringham had chances to secure his hat-trick, Justin Edinburgh and Samways also came close, and in the final minute Barmby struck a post. All the significant traffic was now one-way. Norwich long ago had given up the ghost.

Norwich City: Gunn; Culverhouse, Bowen, Butterworth, Polston, Megson, Goss (Power, 67), Beckford, Sutton, Fox, Phillips. Substitute not used: Woodthorpe.

Tottenham Hotspur: Thorstvedt; Austin, Edinburgh, Samways, Mabbutt, Ruddock, Barmby, Durie (Howells, 86), Anderton, Sheringham, Allen. Substitute not used: Van Den Hauwe.

Referee: R Dilkes (Mossley).

(Photograph omitted)