Francis is switched on

Football: Tottenham Hotspur 3 Southampton 1
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The Independent Online
These two sides can consider themselves lucky that even these days, when seemingly trivial ``offences'' can lead to punishment by the authorities, there is no charge of misleading the public.

They conspired to produce a result that suggested Spurs had exerted a modicum of positive influence on the course of the game, but it was Southampton who had the most effective players on the pitch in Eyal Berkovitch, Claus Lundekvam and Jim Magilton. Goals aside, the only way of calling this result reasonable would have been to judge it on the balance of defensive shortcomings, a problem Spurs resolved in the second half by giving John Scales his debut and switching from 4-4-2 to 3-5-2.

Southampton, having allowed Steffen Iversen to tap-in his first goal for Spurs after less than a minute of his fourth game for them following a cross by Stephen Carr and a shot by David Howells, never came to terms with the ball across the face of goal. The response of their manager, Graeme Souness, was pointed. "The first thing on which you build a side is good defending and we are just not defending well," he said. "Unless we stop giving goals away we will go down."

Souness was more or less right when he said: "Tottenham didn't do anything particularly clever to beat us." Although their players did not, Gerry Francis, their manager, did. His second-half switch to a three-man defence released Clive Wilson to man-mark Berkovitch and restrict the influence of the Israeli international, who exuded the subtlety and speed of thought that was sorely missing elsewhere.

Tottenham's most incisive move had given them a two-goal advantage after half an hour. When Teddy Sheringham chipped a pass over Southampton's back line, belated attempts to prevent Andy Sinton from trying a lob that Dave Beasant did well to paw away resulted in Iversen being unmarked to score his second.

Six minutes before the break, Southampton were rewarded for pushing Spurs back for much of the half. Matt Le Tissier, who returned as a substitute after a six-game absence through injury, turned the ball home at the far post after Ian Walker had missed a cross from the right by Alan Neilson, who then hit the woodwork with a fierce drive.

It seemed the Saints would earn something from the game, but Francis's changes worked, even though Spurs continued to concede much of the possession. It was typical of this contrary contest that it was Tottenham who wrapped up the points, their Allan Neilsen taking the reward his hard work by heading their third from Carr's free-kick. A chant of "There's only one Allan Nielsen" would have been too sensible for the wacky world of White Hart Lane yesterday.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Walker; Carr, Calderwood, Campbell, Wilson; Fox (Scales, h-t), Howells, Neilsen, Sinton; Sheringham, Iversen. Substitutes not used: Dozzell, Bardsen, Rosenthal, Austin.

Southampton (3-4-1-2): Beasant; Van Gobbel, Lundekvam, Benali; Maddison (Robinson, 6), Slater (Hughes, 66), Magilton, Neilson; Berkovitch; Watson (Le Tissier, 26), Ostenstad. Substitutes not used: Basham, Moss.

Referee: G Barber (Warwick).