Hunted down by Fox

Tottenham Hotspur 3 Sheringham 51, Fox 52, 65 Coventry City 1 Dublin 21 Attendance: 26,808
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The Independent Online
THE IRONY will not be lost. For the first time in their 29 years in the top division, Coventry have lavished large sums on players, yet their place looks as precarious as at any time during that period, if not more so.

Results yesterday conspired to take them down another peg, to within one place of the bottom, but they needed little help. Their captain, Dion Dublin, gave them a lead, then squandered two chances in quick succession. Breached soon after, Coventry then folded too easily for confidence to be high that they can repeat last season's effort when they escaped relegation in the penultimate game.

Tottenham, though well below their flowing best, took full advantage of the reprieve, with the ever influential Teddy Sheringham's 24th club goal of the season and Ruel Fox's brace furthering their own cause for a place in next season's Uefa Cup.

How differently it began. There was no sign of the lack of commitment in Coventry that Andy Gray had alleged on Sky TV after Monday's defeat at Southampton, an assertion that so angered an increasingly tetchy Ron Atkinson. Perhaps Atkinson, who has spent pounds 13m in 14 months in charge, had demanded some payback from the players. "We battled our cobblers off," he admitted of a satisfactory first half.

Peter Ndlovu, restored in place of John Salako, made one wonder why he had been left out for so long when he dashed past the vulnerable Dean Austin but shot wide, before Paul Williams forced Ian Walker into a good save.

Then came a splendid goal. Noel Whelan was forced into a corner on the left but cut the ball back to Kevin Richardson. His chip to the far post over Stuart Nethercott found Dublin, who instantly sent a sweet volley flying into the roof of Walker's net. "Are you watching Andy Gray?" sang the Coventry fans. When Ndlovu, after another incisive run, sent his low shot too close to Walker, and Tottenham, though stuttering, created a series of chances, Coventry should have been forewarned of the need for another goal. Dublin, back helping in defence, deflected a shot by Andy Sinton over the bar, and Liam Daish was fortunate to escape a penalty award when he upended Chris Armstrong.

Another goal should have followed at the start of the second half. First Dublin turned wide Jess's clipped ball from the right, then shot straight into Walker's arms after being put through by Whelan. Suddenly the psychology of the game changed; Spurs' minds were concentrated, Coventry's beset by doubt. "We were robbed. It all hinged on that little spell," said Atkinson.

The shortcomings in finishing, though, were of their own making and the scoreline, too, was changed all of a sudden with two goals in a minute. First, after Brian Borrows had cleared Jason Dozzell's shot off the line, Sheringham popped up to head home. Then Richardson could only help on Howells's free-kick and Fox drove home.

A third was not long in coming, Tottenham now with a more assured swagger to them, Coventry so uncertain of themselves as they contemplated a third consecutive defeat. Fox removed any doubt about the outcome when he steered home after Armstrong had found him alone in a vacant visitors' defence.

Money matters more and more in this Premiership, but clearly it is not always the answer.

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