Football: Williams puts paid to Spurs

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Coventry City. . . .1

Tottenham Hotspur. .0

JOHN WILLIAMS used to earn his living as a postman. Tottenham, beaten by two Williams goals at White Hart Lane last month, were left wishing that the gangling striker had remained a man of letters as he headed the deserved second-half winner which took Coventry into second place last night.

Conventional wisdom insists the Sky Blues are merely storing up points for the annual scramble to avoid relegation. Their manager, Bobby Gould, has never had much time for the conventional, and is turning such predictions to his advantage as he did at Wimbledon. But as Spurs found, there is more to Coventry's rise than simple psychology.

This was a triumph of pace over poise. Williams, who presumably sharpened his sprinting ability avoiding snarling dogs, is as quick as anyone in British football; Kevin Gallacher and the dramatically improved Peter Ndlovu, a Zimbabwean international no less, are not far behind. Between them, they eventually stretched Spurs to breaking point.

Remarkably, this was only Coventry's third home win of 1992, which began with a Gary Lineker- inspired Spurs success at Highfield Road. Though they moved the ball around sweetly at times, the new- look Spurs seldom appeared capable of repeating that victory. But then, as one of their ex-managers said before the game, they are going through tEheir third transitional period in four years.

Coventry's THER write errorchange for the better was not immediately evident, and whatever BSkyB may have been telling viewers, the first half was largely forgettable. An undercurrent of malice had been forecast in the wake of Gordon Durie's caution for feigning injury by Andy Pearce in the previous meeting. It never really materialised.

By coincidence, Pearce and Durie each had a chance to score in the opening five minutes. Thereafter, stalemate ensued. Spurs believed they had broken it in the 31st minute when Neil Ruddock headed in a Vinny Samways cross, but television revealed a sly nudge by Teddy Sheringham on Pearce.

The second half was a veritable feast by comparison. Brian Borrows reacted like the right-back he is when Ndlovu's centre found him unmarked 10 yards from Ian Walker's goal in the 50th minute, and Ruddock slid across to clear as he hesitated.

There was no such respite for Spurs 12 minutes later. The irrepressible Ndlovu, suddenly switching flanks from left to right, surged on to a Lee Hurst pass before trying a cross-cum-shot. Walker was already committed to coming for the ball when it reared up off Pat Van Den Hauwe, and back-pedalled in vain as Williams's looping header went in under the bar.

In Spurs' late flurry, Sheringham sent a diving header wide and a chipped shot just too high, while Williams was fortunate to be shown only a yellow card after kicking out at Andy Gray. Nothing, though, was going to stop Coventry, even if the deafening strains of 'Land of Hope and Glory' on the final whistle, courtesy of the satellite channel, was over-egging things a little.

Coventry City: Ogrizovic; Borrows, Sansom, Atherton, Pearce, Ndlovu, McGrath, Hurst, Rosario, Gallacher, Williams. Substitutes not used: Babb, Fleming, Gould (gk).

Tottenham Hotspur: Walker; Austin, Van Den Hauwe, Gray, Cundy, Ruddock, Anderton (Turner, 64), Durie, Samways (Sedgley, 71), Sheringham, Allen. Substitute not used: Thorstvedt (gk).

Referee: M Bodenham (Looe, Cornwall).

(Photograph omitted)