Football: Spurs rediscover their fighting spirit

Tottenham Hotspur 1 Leicester City 1
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The Independent Online
TO HAVE Spurs meet Leicester when the spectre of relegation was lurking, then to see them give away a goal start, left a persuasive mid-match feeling at White Hart Lane on Saturday that a Tottenham team still disadvantaged by injuries would not realistically have a ghost of a chance. But it was a measure of an albeit still fragile resurgence that they equalised and won high praise from one of the game's most charming bad losers, Leicester's manager, Martin O'Neill.

Although spitting eloquent venom about not being awarded a penalty when Tony Cottee was intercepted powerfully but fairly by Sol Campbell, O'Neill said Tottenham's second-half recovery was "not the sort of performance you expect from a relegation-threatened side". Indeed, he predicted that they would stay up.

In a letter read on David Mellor's radio show later on Saturday, Tottenham's former manager Gerry Francis defended his achievements in difficult, injury- troubled circumstances. He rather missed the point. Achieving a fighting spirit is not something you can put on your CV. Whether it is current manager Christian Gross, or the injured but influential Jurgen Klinsmann who is inspiring a substantial hint of that spirit is less relevant than that it is there, whereas in the era of Francis you felt that Spurs lived in a permanent state of "if only".

On Saturday, Leicester were the more practical, aggressive side, and not long ago would have broken Tottenham's resolve without difficulty. Here, though, a Spurs team forced to play a frail though entertaining strike partnership of David Ginola and Chris Armstrong, with some helpful assistance wide by Ruel Fox, were inspired by surging runs from Colin Calderwood, playing an unusual but positive midfield role. It was Calderwood who, in the second half, went forward to snatch the equaliser after Leicester's capable deputy goalkeeper, Pegguy Arphexad, did well to parry Fox's hefty cross-shot.

Tottenham's own otherwise excellent replacement goalkeeper, Espen Baardsen, suffered the same fate 10 minutes before half-time when Theodoros Zagorakis, the newcomer from Greece, substituting for Garry Parker, drove a long- range, bending drive low into his hands. The ball bounced as if on a West Indian wicket and Baardsen failed to get it into his grasp. Cottee was there in an instant.

Goals: Cottee (34) 0-1; Calderwood (51) 1-1.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Baardsen; Carr, Campbell, Vega, C Wilson (Edinburgh, 46); Nielsen, Calderwood (Brady, 67), Berti, Fox; Ginola, Armstrong. Substitutes not used: Mabbutt, Dominguez, Grodas (gk).

Leicester City (3-5-2): Arphexad; Prior, Elliott, Kamark; Savage, Parker (Zagorakis, 28), Izzet, Lennon, Guppy; Heskey, Cottee. Substitutes not used: Campbell, Fenton, S Wilson, Andrews (gk).

Referee: S Lodge (Barnsley).

Bookings: Leicester Izzet, Savage.

Attendance: 28,355.

Man of the match: Calderwood.