Lament for White Hart lame

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The Independent Online

You could put up an argument for praising Spurs for retaining their unbeaten home record at White Hart Lane yesterday which, in a way, continued their best start for many a season. You could, but you wouldn't. At the end of a dreadful performance, worsened by City's dreary defiance, the demand of the home crowd was for the head of George Graham.

You could put up an argument for praising Spurs for retaining their unbeaten home record at White Hart Lane yesterday which, in a way, continued their best start for many a season. You could, but you wouldn't. At the end of a dreadful performance, worsened by City's dreary defiance, the demand of the home crowd was for the head of George Graham.

Graham himself remained adamant that the high position of the team was the logical answer to criticism. "City had played well away before this season - they stop you playing, but we had the majority of it," he said. City's manager, Joe Royle, had some cause for satisfaction since his side had to play the last 24 minutes with only 10 men after using up all of their substitutes. However, he conceded: "We came to do a job and did it." Both were satisfied with a point and entirely missed the point of professional football - entertainment.

The only excuse was that after a disagreeable week, both clubs were perhaps in need of some reassurance. City had struggled to get a draw with Gillingham in the Worthington Cup, which may be an important target for them but which their former World Player of the Year George Weah would not have high on his list of essential remaining ambitions. Yesterday should have been more to his liking, back on one of the biggest stages, but once again he started on the bench.

Spurs were also unhappy after having Sol Campbell injured. He had an operation yesterday for a dislocated shoulder inflicted on him in a rough-and-tumble match with Brentford, also in the Worthington Cup. Ramon Vega is not exactly his word-perfect understudy yet was beyond criticism yesterday.

The problems of midweek were difficult to shake off. Tottenham's lack of midfield imagination and pace allowed City to escape and consolidate after a second-minute scare in which Les Ferdinand had a powerful, near-range shot cleverly deflected onto the post by Nicky Weaver, and Steffen Iversen had his resulting header cleared off the line by Alfie Haaland. In truth, for the game's sake, a successful conclusion to the early chances would have been welcome. It might have brought some shape and meaning to a lot of inconclusive endeavour.

Vega depleted City by clattering into Steve Howey, but belligerence notwithstanding, the Swiss international had a sound first half, especially when intercepting high balls intended for Paulo Wanchope, who looked thoroughly unhappy with the attention.

Spurs' shooting reflected the quality of the game - mediocre. Sergei Rebrov, Iversen and Ferdinand were all culpable, allowing City to maintain their interest. Indeed, when Wanchope did at last get away from Vega's marking just before half-time, he achieved one of the game's few shots on target, which Neil Sullivan dived to push away.

Ironically, in view of the low esteem in which Vega is widely held, he became the most influential of the Spurs players at both ends of the pitch. Rising high over defenders, he headed onto the crossbar, but City's counter-attack saw Chris Perry clumsily bring down Wanchope on the edge of the area. Typically, City gained nothing more than a corner.

Weah was brought on after an hour and Vega welcomed him with a kick on the back of the leg. But as the game wore on, the ball was not often in their territory. Spurs pressed forward almost incessantly yet their finishing was extraordinarily poor. When Oyvind Leonhardsen did at last hit a low shot accurately, Haaland got himself in the way.

When the substitute Lee Crooks had to be carried off after an awkward fall, City were reduced to 10 men, having used up all of their allocation from the bench. Even so, it was they who, after 69 minutes, had the day's simplest opportunity when Weah slid an inviting pass to Wanchope, who slewed his shot wide.

Spurs did get the ball in the net when Rebrov, their most insistent but wasteful player, beat Weaver only for Vega to be adjudged offside. That, though, was far from compensation for those who paid such high admission money.

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