Football: The heat is still on for Ardiles: Mark Burton sees Spurs forsake fantasy football in favour of something more down to earth

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The Independent Online
OSSIE ARDILES was a little optimistic in suggesting that his side's 2-1 victory would relieve the pressure on him.

The Spurs manager has mastered idiomatic English sufficiently to whisper after the match, in his breathy South American way, about having to stand the heat in the kitchen. He would have felt much less secure had he poked his head round the door and peered into the hall. To judge from the rumours, the rest of the house was ablaze and Alan Sugar was skulking among the gathering voyeurs with the Swan Vestas still rattling in his pocket.

Last week's theory was that Joe Kinnear, Ardiles' adversary on Saturday, was being lined up to replace the Argentinian, had Wimbledon extended Tottenham's losing streak in the Premiership to four games. Hampered by injuries and suspensions, Kinnear cobbled together a side that had a fair stab at it but it is difficult to believe that one result could seriously make that much difference to a businessman's thinking about the security of his investment.

The other theories involved the appointment of Graeme Souness, who could be seen as a bucket of cold water big enough even to douse the fire of the most ardent Spurs fans, or the arrival of Franz Beckenbauer as a football overlord on the board. But the inrtoduction of either could lead to more of the personality powerplay that cost Terry Venables his job.

Meanwhile, those preferring to concentrate on what is actually happening on the pitch would have spotted that Spurs had forgone fantasy football and made something of a return to reality. Defenders do not come more down to earth than the much maligned Kevin Scott, who was reinstated at the centre of defence alongside Gary Mabbutt among four changes and made a virtue of doing those unfashionable things Ardiles has been calling for, like tackling.

Even when Spurs made their customary lapse at the back, Scott was not to blame. He must be one of very few defenders to have made two goal-line blocks in the space of three seconds, the first from Peter Fear and the second from Steve Talboys' follow-up, only for the ball to go in anyway.

That was just two minutes after Spurs had gone ahead through Teddy Sheringham, who provided some relief for Ardiles by overcoming his goal-shyness. He kept well away from the penalty spot, closing in at the near post to volley Darren Anderton's low corner sweetly past the admirable Hans Segers in the Wimbledon goal.

There was more encouragement, too, when Gheorghe Popescu, bought to anchor the midfield, joined the attack in the alternative role of Paprika Gica, the Hotspur Hotshot, to seal Tottenham's victory with a scorching drive. His first goal for the club was set up by successive sharp passes by his fellow Romanian, Ilie Dumitrescu, and Jurgen Klinsmann.

One win is nothing like enough for Ardiles, but while the manager is sweating away, he and others should remember that the kitchen is also where all the stirring goes on.

Goals: Sheringham (27) 0-1; Talboys (29) 1-1; Popescu (62) 1-2.

Wimbledon (4-4-2): Segers; Barton, Fitzgerald, Reeves (Perry, 25), Kimble; Fear, Talboys, Elkins, Ardley (Clarke, 74); Holdsworth, Harford. Substitute not used: Sullivan (gk).

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Walker; Kerslake, Scott, Mabbutt, Austin; Anderton, Dozzell, Popescu, Dumitrescu (Hazard, 82); Sheringham, Klinsmann. Substitutes not used: Barmby, Thorstvedt (gk).

Referee: M Reed (Birmingham).

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