Colin Todd's second match as Derby County's manager might well have proved as demoralising as his first, the 5-2 Worthington Cup defeat by Fulham last Wednesday. With Teddy Sheringham turning in an inspirational performance in front of the England manager, Sven Goran Eriksson, Tottenham looked good for at least five goals early on. By the end of the night, their 28 attempts had produced no more than three, which was just about the only statistic from which Derby could derive any consolation.
They have now lost their last five games, conceding 16 in the process and are only as high as 18th because West Ham's defence has been even more lacking in the "mental toughness" Todd has demanded. Last night Jim Smith's successor admitted that the only route open to him now was to sell one of his talented young Englishmen to fund the purchase of "three new faces".
"My three centre-backs are very young and when it goes against them, they can sink very, very early," Todd added. Last night, the visitors might have been out of contention as early as the first 10 minutes, but somehow found themselves level at 1-1 after quarter of an hour. Sheringham's 20-yard shot, curled wide, and Christian Ziege's volley over the bar warmed the crowd up, and Sheringham tapped in Les Ferdinand's pass, but was given offside all that in the first eight minutes. Two minutes more and Ian Feuer, the goalkeeper brought in on loan from Wimbledon, was again beaten, legitimately this time. Ledley King, rampaging forward, had a fierce drive blocked by Danny Higginbotham, the rebound falling to Darren Anderton, who crossed for Ferdinand to score.
Having barely escaped from their own half, Derby equalised five minutes later. Deon Burton slipped a pass forward that King was favourite to reach but Ravanelli somehow clipped it past the defender and beyond Neil Sullivan into the far corner.
Tottenham controlled the rest of the half and deservedly regained the lead shortly before the interval. Sheringham, whose sublime touch had been a part of almost all their best work, played another delicious ball inside the retreating Simo Valakari and Ziege's finish, with the outside of his foot, matched the approach. The wing-back's fifth goal in eight games, establishing him as Spurs' leading scorer, was one "made in Heaven" according to Glenn Hoddle.
The entertainment continued after half-time, except that Derby managed to keep the rampant home side further away from Feuer. Todd sought some flair of their own with the introduction of Georgi Kinkladze, but although another substitute, Malcolm Christie, had a glimmer of a chance following Anderton's error, it would have been a travesty had they drawn level again. Poyet rounded off the night in more appropriate fashion with a wonderful 35-yard chip over the 6ft 7in Feuer, after Youl Mawené, one of the young defenders, slipped in possession.
It all left Hoddle purring: "The football was very much in the best traditions of this club. The movement of Teddy, Les and Gus that we'd been working on was sensational at times."
Tottenham Hotspur (3-4-1-2): Sullivan 5; Perry 5, Richards 6, King 7; Taricco 5, Anderton 6, Freund 6, Ziege 8; Poyet 8; Ferdinand 7 (Rebrov, 87), Sheringham 9. Substitutes not used: Keller (gk), Sherwood, Thatcher, Davies.
Derby County (3-5-2): Feuer 6; Mawené 3, Riggott 4, Higginbotham 4; Valakari 4, Burley 5, Murray 4 (Kinkladze 6, 61), Powell 4, Johnson 4; Burton 4 (Christie 6, 70), Ravanelli 6. Substitutes not used: Oakes (gk), Elliott, Boertien.
Referee: M Halsey (Herts) 7.Reuse content