Surely Blackburn had nothing to be so wary about? Roy Hodgson's slightly surprising regeneration of their fortunes had taken a setback when they were beaten 4-3 by Leeds last week. But they quickly got that out of their system by thrashing Preston 6-0. For Spurs the seeds of dissatisfaction had been scattered more widely when they struggled to beat Carlisle 3- 2, also in the Coca-Cola Cup.
So Spurs fans were not in a mood to hear more excuses about injuries. Francis hardly needed reminding that his players are so injury-prone they could do themselves lasting damage getting off the treatment table. There was no Les Ferdinand, Darren Anderton and Steffen Iversen while Chris Armstrong was suspended.
That left a fragile attack of Paul Mahorn, Jose Dominguez and Ruel Fox. Yet Dominguez brings that lightness of touch that, traditionally, Spurs fans value. Proving it against the rugged Colin Hendry and Stephane Henchoz was an unenviable challenge but one he accepted bravely.
Having Gary Mabbutt now properly re-established alongside Sol Campbell at the back brings about stability, though here it seemed an age before Blackburn bothered to test them. Meanwhile, Tim Flowers flew across his goal to divert a humming shot from David Howells. Tottenham needed toprofit from a lot of possession in the middle largely based on David Ginola's leafing through his repertoire of trickery without creating many serious opportunities.
When proper openings did occur in the Blackburn penalty area, Flowers was adamant that none would be taken. And even after he had diverted a ferocious drive from Dominguez and was at last wrong-footed, Patrik Valery put his own foot to Howells' shot as it was about to cross the line. None of this would have come about had not Spurs been doing what over the years they have always done best - playing to feet. The question was whether those feet could make a strike for new confidence.
Blackburn's poverty of attacking ambition, only partly explained by the absence of Kevin Gallacher, lasted throughout the first half but in the second they were obliged to raise more support for Chris Sutton and Martin Dahlin. Spurs' previously stable defence shuddered, and the game finally grew up.
Had Dominguez been able to grow a few inches it would have helped enormously, but he weaved and dashed over every part of Blackburn's area without having the benefit of a shielding striker. Mahorn had the weight if not the confidence, but it said little for Blackburn's title ambitions that they were so engaged by such a makeshift attack or that they tried to subdue Dominguez so brutally. Valery cut him down and was sent off for a second bookable offence.Reuse content