Shearer steals show

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The Independent Online

Tottenham Hotspur 2 Blackburn Rovers 3

Don't you just wish Alan Shearer would glory in his goal-scoring feats for once and not be so damned modest? On Saturday, after yet another destructive individual display, yet another hat-trick, he said upon leaving White Hart Lane: "I could not have done it without my team-mates."

It did him a disservice as did Gerry Francis's contention that Tottenham had given Shearer his chances. It is true, Francis's seriously impoverished rearguard was no match for him but a greater truth is that we witness dodgy defending like that every week without such ruthless punishment.

Shearer seldom misses. He is the best England have and there was an unmistakable warning for every other Premiership defence when Ray Harford observed that his talismanic striker is still improving.

"His all-round game is getting better," the Blackburn manager said. "If anything, his performance in midweek against Leeds was better because he made two really top-class passes. And when he gets wide he is as good a crosser as there is."

Shearer began the path to his season's fifth hat-trick early, from a penalty, after Colin Calderwood had bundled him over. The Scot, stricken by sickness, soon gave way to Jason Cundy, thereby compounding Spurs' concern in the absence of both Gary Mabbutt and Sol Campbell.

Cundy, in his first appearance for three years, moved in alongside the hesitant Stuart Nethercott. Every time Rovers crossed the halfway line after that Francis trembled with foreboding.

Nethercott was back on his heels as Shearer raced away to beat Ian Walker so clinically. Two down and out of sorts, it looked unlikely that Tottenham could respond, especially as Tim Flowers was also declaring his worth, saving splendidly from Ruel Fox and Chris Armstrong.

Given Blackburn's own depleted resources, perhaps it was inevitable the home side would respond. Back they came through Teddy Sheringham and then Armstrong to hoist their first season's goals partnership to an impressive 40.

They are rightly proud of the statistic yet Shearer himself is only six away and, when everyone else had settled for a 2-2 draw, there he was, in injury time, reacting quickest to Chris Sutton's hopeful overhead kick. Yes, the marking was once again lax, but the control, pace and finish were immaculate.

It gave Blackburn only their second away win and, rising to sixth, they are close to a European return. And, despite Shearer's protests, so much is down to one man.

Goals: Shearer (pen 8) 0-1; Shearer (35) 0-2; Sheringham (62) 1-2; Armstrong (81) 2-2; Shearer (90) 2-3.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Walker; Austin, Nethercott, Calderwood (Cundy, 20), Edinburgh; Fox, Howells, Wilson, Sinton; Sheringham, Armstrong. Substitutes not used: Slade, Thorstvedt (gk).

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Flowers; Berg, Hendry, Coleman, Kenna; Fenton, (Sutton, 86), Marker, McKinlay, Gallacher; Shearer, Newell. Substitutes not used: Holmes, Gudmundsson.

Referee: P Durkin (Dorset).

Bookings: Tottenham Cundy, Armstrong. Blackburn Rovers: McKinlay.

Man of the match: Shearer.

Attendance: 32,387.