Football: Weighty Wegerle

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The Independent Online
Tottenham Hotspur. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

Caskey 43

Coventry City. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2

Babb 25, Wegerle 77

Attendance: 26,015

IT PROMISES to be the biggest year in Roy Wegerle's footballing life. Not many players have the honour of leading the host nation's attack in a World Cup, but that is what Wegerle will be hoping to do for the United States this summer. And even if his country remain 50-1 outsiders, Wegerle need not be an also-ran among the world's leading strikers.

Wegerle's skill has always been prodigious, but his detractors believe he is something of a lightweight. If he has a tendency to drop out of games, he did not show it yesterday when he scored the goal that capped a fine Coventry performance and inflicted on Tottenham yet another home defeat.

Tottenham have not won a Premiership match at White Hart Lane since 3 October and have only 14 home points to show from a possible 36. It was just the start to the new year that they did not want after the troubles that continued to afflict them in 1993.

Coventry, meanwhile, are entering their 28th consecutive year in the top division, a record bettered only by Arsenal, Ever

ton and Liverpool. Few outsiders have noticed them much during that time, notwithstanding, of course, their FA Cup final victory over Tottenham in 1987. An echo of that splendid afternoon will be heard whenever these teams meet, giving rise to the hope that something comparable might materialise.

The match had quality - even if most of it was only coming from one side. With Chris Marsden superb in midfield and Peter Ndlovu helping Weg

erle light up their attack, Coventry were full of enterprise, going ahead after 25 minutes when Phil Babb headed home strongly from Wegerle's corner. Wegerle nearly made it 2-0 four minutes later after a defensive blunder left him with only Erik Thorstvedt to beat, but having slipped the keeper beautifully, his shot was blocked.

Tottenham were giving what their manager, Ossie Ardiles, afterwards described as one of their worst performances of the season, and not even the opportunistic strike with which Darren Caskey unexpectedly equalised in the 43rd minute could disguise it. As Coventry's defence allowed itself to be distracted by a penalty appeal, Caskey whacked the ball in from the edge of the area. But Tottenham still missed Teddy Sheringham. His return after injury could happen at Sheffield Wednesday tomorrow.

Neither did Tottenham really compete in midfield, where Marsden, on loan from Huddersfield Town, provided Ndlovu with a rich supply of ball. It was Ndlovu's chip forward in the 76th minute that sealed it, giving Wegerle another chance to get round Thorstvedt. Again he did so, and this time nothing was going to get between him and the net.

(Photograph omitted)