Whelan punishes slovenly Spurs

Tottenham Hotspur 1 Middlesbrough 1
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The Independent Online

Tottenham Hotspur 1 Middlesbrough 1

Middlesbrough, their mid-season free-fall now halted, did enough to contain Spurs yesterday. It did not take much.

When Chris Armstrong headed Tottenham into the lead with just six minutes remaining, it was more than they deserved. And it was entirely in keeping with the lack of concentration they had displayed throughout a mediocre match that they allowed Middlesbrough to equalise within a minute.

The hope of qualifying for Europe still animates Tottenham's season, and yesterday lifted them to within one place of fifth position, which their manager, Gerry Francis, believes will secure them a Uefa Cup place.

But their overall performance was a weary one despite the early promise of a concise movement involving Teddy Sheringham and Armstrong that saw the latter produce a drive which Alan Miller did well to tip over.

Middlesbrough, who lacked both Jan Age Fjortoft and Nick Barmby because of injury, began with understandable caution as they sought to extend a run which had brought them eight points from their previous four games. But as the first half wore on, the most energetic Tottenham man appeared to be the supporter literally drumming up support in the East Stand.

After the break, it was the visitors, with Juninho and Craig Hignett linking with increasing confidence, who became the dominant force. After 77 minutes, Hignett sent the 19-year- old debutant, Mark Summerbell, through, but the ball bobbled and the youngster shot over.

The consequences of that miss deepened when Armstrong struck at the far post from a corner. But Middlesbrough responded with a barrage of shots before Phil Whelan, advancing from defence, forced home an equaliser. "We deserved that," the Middlesbrough manager, Bryan Robson, said. He was right. And his young side are making a good fist of finishing the season with the same brio as they began it.

Francis was philosophical afterwards, despite having seen Sheringham leave the field requiring seven stitches above his eye after colliding with the perimeter wall. "I was disappointed that we couldn't hold our lead but the way other results went today we can still reach Europe. We are certainly doing it the hard way, though." Next Monday's game at Arsenal - one place above them - could be crucial.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Walker; Austin, Campbell, Nethercott, Wilson; Fox, Dozzell, Howells (Edinburgh, 81) Rosenthal; Sheringham (Slade, 87), Armstrong. Substitute not used: Day.

Middlesbrough (3-5-2): Miller; Whyte, Pearson, Whelan; Cox, Moore, Mustoe (Summerbell 40), Hignett, Fleming; Juninho, Freestone. Substitutes not used: Branco, Campbell.

Referee: P Jones (Leicestershire).