Second out for Spurs

Tottenham Hotspur 2 Sheringham 54, Armstrong 71 Bolton Wanderers 2 Green 76, Bergsson 79 Attendance: 30,702
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The Independent Online
IT DIDN'T rain at White Hart Lane yesterday, it poured. And it was Tottenham who ended up the more bedraggled. They missed a multitude of chances and, above all, the opportunity to go second - which would have been their highest position since September 1987 - by surrendering a two-goal lead to a brave Bolton side who took their first away point of the season. Other results, however, conspired to leave them five points adrift at the foot of the Premiership.

It was a curious but entertaining match. Tottenham were coasting with 14 minutes left, thanks to goals by the developing striking partnership of Teddy Sheringham and Chris Armstrong - 23 goals now between them this season. They seemed secure, bearing in mind that they went into the match with five consecutive clean sheets to their credit.

Then complacency set in and Bolton struck twice in three minutes - tangible reward both for their spirit and for some neat approach work inspired by the energetic and skilful Serbian Sasa Curcic. They may still have the look of a Swindon Town or Leicester City about them - both teams promoted in recent years only to go straight back down - but this match should offer them at least a little encouragement. "I think we came of age today," the Bolton assistant-manager, Colin Todd, said.

They are also immediate beneficiaries of the relaxation on Friday of the three foreign players rule in the aftermath of the Jean-Marc Bosman case, and yesterday they ended the game with four on the field. "It certainly helps us but it might be hard for the younger kids to come through," Todd admitted.

Bolton may be happy that the goalposts have moved metaphorically, but the Spurs striker Ronny Rosenthal would have been pleased had the real things been shifted. Just before half-time, in time-honoured fashion, he shot against one when confronted by an open goal.

It came in the middle of a spell of Spurs pressure that should have seen them go into the interval in the lead. Armstrong, put through by David Howells and profiting from Gudni Bergsson's slip, had a shot parried by Keith Branagan's legs. The plucky goalkeeper, injured in a collision with Armstrong shortly afterwards, also did well to keep out Clive Wilson's shot before diving at Howells' feet.

However, Bolton's relief at having survived the first-half onslaught lasted for only eight minutes after the interval. From Ruel Fox's corner, Stuart Nethercott - who had replaced the injured Howells - headed goalwards, and after Branagan had scrambled the ball on to a post, Sheringham bundled it home for his 15th goal of the season.

When Armstrong lobbed in direct from an Ian Walker punt, Spurs' fans were celebrating not just another win but a remarkable turnaround under Gerry Francis, whose organisational abilities have been behind his team's stealthy ascent of the table. When the giant screen picked out their former player Nayim sitting in the stand, they gleefully sang: "Nayim from the half-way line" as homage to the Real Zaragoza man whose amazing goal had seen off Arsenal in last season's European Cup-Winners' Cup final.

But as Francis was to say: "Football never ceases to amaze me. We could have won this game 6-0." Justin Edinburgh dwelt too long on the ball and Scott Green nipped in to dispossess him before running on to clip over Walker. Then Curcic escaped on the right, crossed low and Bergsson was on hand to drive home from close range against his former club.

Spurs may have created the greater number of chances, but Bolton had also contributed to the goalmouth entertainment. John McGinlay had curled just wide; Nathan Blake, on his debut after his pounds 1.5m move from Sheffield United, shot just over. In Richard Sneekes, who replaced the injured Andy Todd, they also had an industrious foil for the creative Curcic.

Though a win would have served both sides better, the draw will keep one team's feet on the floor and lift the other's morale from it. Spurs are not yet ready to reign, and cold water should not be poured on Bolton.

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