What is it with referees in north London these days? While everyone agrees that this has not been a good week for footballers, most would also accept that too many of the men in black are making the headlines. After Mr Poll's dubious decisions in midweek at Highbury, it was the turn of Mr Riley to stamp his mark on proceedings at White Hart Lane yesterday.
The questionable sending-off of Teddy Sheringham early in the second half cost Glenn Hoddle's revamped Tottenham dear, as Ipswich Town secured only their second win of the campaign with a late smash-and-grab act. The Spurs manager explained that his captain was having his shirt pulled and "therefore shrugged the defender off". He was also adamant that Sheringham had not thrown a punch and confirmed that he has asked the referee to review the incident on video.
The visitors' manager, George Burley, did not see the incident but described his team's performance as "excellent". He also pointed out that the Tractor Boys now have a chance of lifting themselves off the foot of the Premiership over the course of the Christmas fixtures. He is only too aware that no team who are bottom at the turn of the year have ever survived since the Premiership was created.
It had all started so well for Tottenham, with the excellent Darren Anderton, for whom an England recall surely beckons for the February friendly, pulling the creative strings from central midfield. It was he who started the move which led to the 10th-minute opener. A crisp interchange of passes allowed Simon Davies to break free down the centre before releasing Sergei Rebrov on the right. The Ukrainian tormented Hermann Hreidarsson and then whipped in a vicious low cross which Davies guided into the back of the net. Too simple.
While you could see why Ipswich had been cast adrift at the foot of the Premiership table for so long, at least they refused to cave in. Top scorer Marcus Stewart continued to be badly missed as John McGreal failed to convert an easy chance from an 18th-minute corner. Then, when Martijn Reuser did beat the Spurs goalkeeper, Neil Sullivan, luck intervened and the ball bobbled wide of the post.
Spurs did not heed the warnings and were beginning to think they could just sit on their lead and wait for the half-time refreshments. As the interval loomed, Hoddle's men suddenly became sloppy with their passing and lazy with their tackling.
As a result, with four minutes left to play, the unlikely happened. Reuser floated in a corner which should have been cleared and Finidi George pounced to score an acrobatic overhead kick.
In his programme notes, Hoddle spoke of his satisfaction at the way his team have been performing of late. "We are passing the ball well, and our work-rate is extremely high," he said. That was the case immediately after the break, as the home side took control. Five minutes in, Anderton collected the ball mid-way in his half and delivered the most wonderful cross-field pass into Rebrov's path. The Spurs No 11 evaded a challenge before crossing the ball into the danger area. Christian Ziege was on hand to convert from two yards, but he inexplicably hit the bar.
Spurs were making all the running and looked increasingly likely to regain the lead when their captain was sent off. Sheringham is not the violent type; it remains a mystery why the veteran striker was given his first-ever marching orders for what looked like harmless argy-bargy.
Even when down to 10 men, Spurs continued to chase the game. Les Ferdinand replaced the tiring Rebrov on the hour and his more direct style gave them the impetus they needed to press for a winner.
It failed to materialise, and it was Ipswich who, against the run of play, snatched an unlikely winner eight minutes from time. George crossed from the right and the substitute Alun Armstrong nodded the ball past Sullivan.
Tottenham Hotspur 1 Ipswich Town 2
Davies 12; George 40; Armstrong 88
Half-time: 1-1 Attendance: 36,040