Spurs spiked by Le Tissier

Southampton 1 Tottenham Hotspur 1 Le Tissier 64 Fox 25 Half- time: 0-1 Attendance: 15,204
Click to follow
The Independent Online
TO USE the catchphrase of TV and radio presenter Richard Littlejohn, "You couldn't make it up". Journalist tries to buy football club? You really must be joking, he might have said with his customary ebullience, if the offer to buy out Tottenham's chairman, Alan Sugar, had come from anyone but his consortium. But these are desperate times for Spurs on the field as well as in the boardroom and they proceeded to illustrate that point graphically by generously dropping a point into Southampton's charity bowl.

Without a new home to move into, pointless before the game and, during periods of first-half Tottenham dominance, guileless, there was rejoicing at the final whistle not heard at the Dell for many a month in recognition of a point gained and a point proven.

Almost inevitably, the scorer of Southampton's equaliser after Tottenham had threatened to inflict further misery on Dave Jones's team, trapped on the bottom of the Premier League like a wrecked hulk on the floor of the Solent, was Matthew Le Tissier. The favourite son of the Saints' faithful may look as though he has supped on a surfeit of fatted calf, but the Channel Islander is always liable to make a dramatic entrance on occasions such as this, even though until his 64th minute intervention he had been relatively anonymous.

It was the 200th goal of a turbulent, unpredictable and entertaining Southampton career, and his manger conceded: "He's not as fit as I'd like him to be. He's admitted himself that he's carrying a bit of extra weight and he'll never be slim, but once he's mentally fit, he will become physically fitter. That goal will have done him the world of good."

Until that point, Hans Segers, in the Tottenham goal, had been something of a bystander. Sorry? Yes, that's correct - the very same Hans Segers, one month short of his 37th birthday, who made umpteen appearances for Wimbledon before making several in the dock at Winchester Crown Court on match-fixing charges - of which he was acquitted last year, along with Bruce Grobelaar and John Fashanu - and was employed by the club ostensibly as a goalkeeping coach.

But faced with the absence of Espen Baardsen, absent with a virus, and Ian Walker, named as substitute but not fit enough to start because of a bad back and a chill. Their manager David Pleat had no option but to press the Dutchman into Premiership service for the first time since the 1 January 1996. As Pleat explained the dilemma, remarkably straight- faced: "We brought him in to get us out of jail."

Segers did precisely that, sparing his team further embarrassment in the closing minutes by blocking Kevin Gibbens header with his knee when it looked certain to elude him by the near post. "I loved every minute of it and I was very pleased with my performance, especially as I was lucky enough to help us get a point of the game," Segers said.

If they had failed to achieve even that, you could have imagined Sugar, who strode into the ground grim faced before the game, accepting Littlejohn's pounds 85m offer there and then.

In the first 20 minutes both Egil Ostenstad and Gibbens might have punctured the North Londoners' morale. Instead, Sugar and the vociferous travelling Spurs supporters were treated, in a week of tales about escaping mink, to the spectacle of a free running and thoroughly dangerous Fox. Stephen Carr created the opportunity, but it was Ruel Fox who turned in an instant at the edge of the home area and struck a low, supremely precise shot past keeper Paul Jones.

Quite why Spurs did not extend their advantage, only the culprits can explain. At one stage, the expression on the face of Southampton's striker Mark Hughes resembled that of a man who has just arrived on an alien planet, as he surveyed a lack of understanding all round.

Ginola, in impish mood, displayed scintillating pace to outstrip the home defence and managed to round both Carlton Palmer and keeper Jones before the ball ran wide and the chance was lost. From the Frenchman's resulting corner Nicola Berti's header rebounded off the bar.

But the Saints, perhaps sensing their cause was far from lost, revitalised with a vengeance and Hughes release Le Tissier, who evaded Ramon Vega and beat Segers with a powerful finish.

"You have to kill teams off, but we were just not capable of it," Pleat said resignedly. "But by the law of averages Southampton were going to win their first point or points sometime." Somehow, you just knew it would be Spurs at the receiving end. Sorry, Richard, but that fact needed no making up whatsoever.

Comments