Ferdinand leaves Sky Blues chasing shadows

Coventry City 0 Tottenham Hotspur 2
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The Independent Football

Sequels rarely match the original, and that proved the case for Coventry City last night as an attempt to revive their greatest triumph fell disappointingly flat at Highfield Road.

The delay in staging this FA Cup third-round tie had given Sky Blues' fans an extra 10 days to reminisce over their shock defeat of Spurs in the 1987 final, but any prospect of further happy memories to alleviate the pain of last season's relegation were quickly dismissed.

Tottenham controlled the match throughout, scoring after 23 and 51 minutes through Gus Poyet and Les Ferdinand. As well as showing Coventry that the gap between them and the Premiership is widening at a frightening pace, Spurs booked a home tie against a Bolton side they have already defeated twice at White Hart Lane this season. The latter victory, in the Worthington Cup quarter-final, was by 6-0 but Bolton will presumably field a full-strength side on 26 January.

Coventry had done their best to rekindle the spirit of the '87 triumph by preceding the tie with a parade of that side. Most wore the years well, and Brian Kilcline's hair was a wonder to behold. If ZZ Top are ever short of a front-man, they know where to find him.

Headliners of a different kind were missing when the action started. Whoever is in charge at Tottenham, be it Gerry Francis, George Graham or Glenn Hoddle, they will never be alone in the treatment room. The roll-call of absent seniors stood at nine last night, eight injured and Teddy Sheringham suspended. Given the resources available to Premiership clubs, sympathy, however, should also be suspended.

Coventry were far more affected by the absence of six players, including Lee Hughes and Youssef Chippo, either injured, suspended, or in Mali with Morocco for the African Nations' Cup. While Spurs could bring in Sergei Rebrov, Coventry gave a rare start to Robert Betts.

He was among several players to attempt long-range shots as Coventry started eagerly but ineffectively. Spurs, probing through the passing of Darren Anderton and Tim Sherwood, and the running of Simon Davies, were far more polished. It was this trio which opened up the First Division side for Tottenham's opener. Sherwood and Anderton combined to free Davies on the right and his cross was nodded in by Poyet for an impressive ninth goal of the season.

Spurs continued to press and Ferdinand twice went close to doubling the lead. Coventry, unable to retain midfield possession, sought to respond by freeing Julian Joachim's pace. After 31 minutes they succeeded. A scuffed Poyet shot enabled David Thompson to break away, but Joachim's shot was weak.

Spurs had Coventry chasing shadows but they were doing the same when half-time arrived in 1987 at Wembley, only to be caught by an unexpected equaliser. Hoddle may have reminded them of that for Ferdinand, Rebrov and Mauricio Taricco had all gone close before Spurs added their second. Thompson, lively but limited, lost the ball in midfield and Spurs broke. Rebrov fed Anderton, whose cross was turned against his own post by Gary Breen. Ferdinand tapped in the rebound and a bad 30 seconds was completed for Breen when he was booked for shirt-pulling earlier in the move. Credit to Neale Barry for a good advantage.

Spurs initially eased up but, after watching Lee Carsley and Joachim both shoot over, they regained control. Unlike in 1987 they did not let it slip again.

"This could have been a banana skin for us but it was a very professional performance," Hoddle said. Of his goalscorers, combined age 69, he added: "Age is not a problem. These guys look after themselves."

Coventry City (4-5-1): Hedman; Shaw, Konjic, Breen, Antonelius (Martinez, 72); Joachim, Carsley (Quinn, 69), Betts, Edworthy, Thompson; Bothroyd (Delorge, 79). Substitutes not used: Fowler, Hyldgaard (gk).

Tottenham Hotspur (3-5-2): Sullivan; Perry, Richards, King; Davies, Anderton (Leonhardsen, 79), Sherwood, Poyet, Taricco; Ferdinand (Iversen, 72), Rebrov. Substitutes not used: Keller (gk), Etherington, Gardner.

Referee: N Barry (Roxby).

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