Sheffield Wednesday. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3
THINGS have come to a pretty pass at Tottenham, traditionally the home of them. As their run without a League win at White Hart Lane stretched to 18 weeks, substantial swathes of Spurs' support turned against Vinny Samways, the epitome and epicentre of Ossie Ardiles' passing strategem.
The player Ardiles has used the most has become the most abused. After Samways' well-intentioned attempt to dribble out of defence had backfired, so leaving Spurs three down on the hour, opprobrium followed every subsequent move by the 25-year-old midfielder.
'Fans are fickle but I was still shocked,' he said of the boos and calls of 'Get Samways off'. 'It's never happened before. But the more stick I got, the more I wanted the ball, to shut them up.'
A rift between team and terrace is worrying anywhere but for a club unused to scrapping for survival - the growing predicament of a Spurs side only eight points above Swindon - such negativity is doubly damaging. 'If they turn against us it will make it very difficult for us to stay up,' Ardiles said. 'The fans are our 12th player.'
An Ardiles rallying call lacks the potency of one delivered by a Bassett or a Royle, but the Spurs manager did briefly come over all Churchillian when he spelt out the way forward: 'We have to learn to fight very quickly.'
It took an hour on Saturday, and by then a far hungrier Wednesday side were out of sight, thanks to three defensive errors and a breathtaking display of athleticism and awareness by Kevin Pressman.
The away support chorused 'England's No 1' as Pressman thwarted Ronny Rosenthal and Steve Sedgley from close range - music to all the visitors except, perhaps, the substitute, Chris Woods.
The Owls' singing, orchestrated by their half-naked Tango Man, swelled further after 17 minutes when Simon Coleman arrived at the far post to sidefoot Chris Bart-Williams' free-kick past Ian Walker. 'We watched them at Portman Road last week and knew they had problems at set-pieces,' Trevor Francis, the Wednesday manager, said.
Mark Bright dominated the start of the second period. He reacted quickest after Walker and Dean Austin collided, rolling the ball into the net as Spurs players lay pole-axed around him. Then came Samways' aberration, Bart-Williams stealing the ball, striding past Kevin Scott before squaring for Bright to tap home.
Spurs, to their credit, refused to submit. 'They had no fear then,' Francis pointed out. As they drove forward in a stirring final half-hour, Pressman twisted his frame to deny all-comers until Rosenthal finally scored with a well-flighted header from Darren Anderton's corner.
With Pressman in imperious form behind a diligent outfield, Wednesday look an excellent bet for success in the cups. Tottenham, meanwhile, face a struggle to stay up. 'It's the biggest challenge of my life,' Ardiles said.
Goals: Coleman (17) 0-1; Bright (54) 0-2; Bright (62) 0-3; Rosenthal (66) 1-3.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Walker; Austin, Nethercott, Scott, Edinburgh; Anderton, Samways, Caskey (Gray, 77), Sedgley; Barmby, Rosenthal. Substitutes not used: Campbell, Day (gk).
Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2): Pressman; Nilsson, Pearce, Walker, Coleman; Bart-Williams, Hyde, Palmer, Jones (Briscoe, h/t); Bright, Watson (Hirst, 67). Substitute not used: Woods (gk).
Referee: D Frampton (Dorset).Reuse content