Football: Stuart lays on welcome for Webb

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The Independent Online
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Arsenal. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

THEIR fall has been as spectacular as the one that rendered Tony Adams an onlooker for this London derby but last night, in David Webb's homecoming, the new Chelsea manager saw his side end their sequence without a victory at the 14th time of asking.

Webb proved to be the returning hero with a tactical change nine minutes from time that was immediately rewarded as the 12th man, John Spencer, seized with both hands the chance to impress the governor.

Spencer, who came on for Mick Harford, received the ball from Graham Stuart, showed an appreciation of time and control beyond the means of many others on the field, and delayed his pass until his colleague had continued his run into the penalty area.

Stuart's finish through the legs of David Seaman was an appropriate climax to a second half in which Arsenal had dominated, yet spurned the best opportunities and were clearly fated to finish second-best. 'Yes, it was a smashing way to come home,' Webb said. 'It was a performance of guts from everybody and was particularly welcome after last week's display at Blackburn.'

Another David, the goalkeeper Beasant, was another focus for the congratulatory handshakes after two second-half saves that denied Arsenal the lead their revival merited. While the hesitancy of Mark Flatts and Kevin Campbell was in his favour, and his handling was never too sure, he deserved every assistance that came his way.

'He proved no one is forgotten in this game,' said Webb, who had no hesitation in recalling Beasant after his predecessor, Ian Porterfield, had declared back in September that two abject errors against Norwich were his last as the Chelsea No 1.

Besides Adams, resting at home after a tumble down a flight of nightclub steps produced a cut above his eyebrow requiring 29 stitches, Arsenal were also missing Ian Wright and Anders Limpar, although their manager George Graham is hopeful all three will be available for the FA Cup quarter- final at Ipswich on Saturday. Both sides made five changes but while Arsenal's were injury-induced, Webb's upheaval was done for tactical reasons.

The new men, and indeed those of old, bearing in mind the horrible run which had dropped Chelsea from fourth to 14th, had much to prove and they began the more urgent and determined. Their previous three games had all finished goalless and the pattern seemed to have taken root. Stuart was prominent on the right yet little was to come from his scuttling up and down the line. Harford sent a tame header at Seaman and Gareth Hall had two efforts high and wide.

Lee Dixon freed Flatts and Merson picked out Campbell yet neither were good enough to beat Beasant, leaving Graham to lament: 'We should have won, Chelsea had one chance and took it.'

Seaman's night was nearly complete when he dashed out of his area in a chase with Spencer and brought the striker down. Sensibly the referee Tony Ward decided a yellow card would suffice.

Chelsea: Beasant; Hall, Sinclair, Townsend, Johnsen, Donaghy, Stuart, Fleck, Harford (Spencer, 81), Newton, Barnard (Matthew, 85). Substitute not used: Hitchcock (gk).

Arsenal: Seaman; Dixon, Morrow, Hillier (Lydersen, h/t), Linighan, Keown, Jensen, Campbell (Carter, 85), Smith, Merson, Flatts. Substitute not used: Miller (gk).

Referee: T Ward (London).

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