Pleat reshapes Spurs into winning force

Coventry City 0 Tottenham Hotspur 3
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The Independent Football

David Pleat's latest stint as Tottenham's caretaker manager began with a comfortable passage through to the third round of the Carling Cup last night - and a small measure of revenge for Coventry's victory over his Spurs side in the FA Cup final at Wembley 16 years earlier.

Stepping in for the sacked Glenn Hoddle, Pleat saw Robbie Keane mark his return to Highfield Road by making an early goal for Freddie Kanouté and adding a swift second himself. Spurs' third, a fierce 20-yard drive by Rohan Ricketts in the 85th minute, was harsh reward for Coventry's second-half improvement.

Pleat later refused to discuss his own possible interest in the vacancy or progress in securing any other candidate, saying: "As a member of the board, I'm not going to betray any confidences. It's only three days [since Hoddle left]. Who knows what the future may bring?"

Keane, fit again and starting a game for the first time since the season's opening day, came in for special praise from Pleat. The Republic of Ireland striker had shown "cleverness, trickery and audacity", he suggested, adding that Kanouté also worked hard for the team.

Pleat commented on Spurs' commitment but said he was "not necessarily" implying it was lacking under the previous regime. In place of Hoddle's cherished 3-5-2 formation, he matched the 4-4-2 of his Coventry counterpart, Gary McAllister - once his player at Leic- ester - and gave a full debut to Jonathan Blondel, the Belgian midfielder neglected by Hoddle.

There was no sign of Martin O'Neill, Klaus Toppmöller, Raddy Antic, but any would-be manager would have been impressed by Spurs' approach to a potentially tricky tie on First Division territory. Establishing a 2-0 lead midway through the first half, they soon made the home fans choke on their mocking refrain of "There's only one Gary Mabbutt" (Coventry's unwitting match-winner in that 1987 final).

Keane, having exchanged hugs and high fives with the backroom staff of his former club, then led them a merry dance. When Coventry's Dele Adebola was dispossessed in midfield in the 13th minute, he speared a through-pass to Kanouté, who buried a low shot.

Ten minutes later, a measured build-up from the back cut through Coventry's defences. After leaving Muhamed Konjic trailing at the start of a twisting run, Keane then turned his compatriot Steve Staunton inside out before angling the ball beyond Scott Shearer.

Coventry were never embarrassed but lacked the finesse McAllister might have provided had he not decided to stick with the team that won at Reading last weekend. The Scot felt the "belief was never quite there", but conviction was certainly evident in the run and shot from 20 yards with which Ricketts completed a productive night for Pleat.

Coventry City (4-4-2): Shearer; Shaw, Konjic, Staunton, Warnock; Mansouri, Safri, Suffo (Barrett, h-t), Doyle (Jorgensen,h-t); Morrell, Adebola. Substitutes not used: Arphexad (gk), Whing, Davenport.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Keller; Carr, Richards, Gardner, Taricco; Anderton, Poyet, Bunjevcevic, Blondel (Ricketts, 63); Keane (Postiga, 79), Kanouté. Substitutes not used: Burch (gk), Dalmat, Doherty.

Referee: M Jones (Cheshire).