There are few failures more humiliating for a Premiership team than a defeat away at Grimsby, but for his Tottenham team's crime of crashing out of the Carling Cup at Blundell Park Martin Jol was selective in his punishment last night. He dispensed with Robbie Keane, dispatched to the substitutes' bench, and reasserted his faith in the combination of Jermain Defoe and Mido, the Egyptian striker who returned from suspension.
White Hart Lane's fear of a season heading towards derailment was allayed by Defoe's seventh-minute goal, a relief after five previous games in which Jol's side had managed just one goal. It was simple in its creation but there was further evidence that the England striker has a better understanding with Mido, who was unfortunate not to score himself on 27 minutes.
The goal came from Ledley King's long ball, swept forward and between the two Fulham centre-backs, which gave Defoe exactly the kind of opportunity that his side have, of late, struggled to create for him. The England striker accelerated away from Carlos Bocanegra and dispatched a low shot past Tony Warner.
It was a calamitous moment of hesitation from the Fulham back four, but they were powerless to stop Defoe and Mido creating an opening for the Egyptian on 27 minutes, with four passes between the two players. Warner did well to tip the shot over the bar.
There were 11 changes in Fulham's line-up from the side that needed extra time to beat Lincoln 5-4 in the Carling Cup last week. They rarely looked uncomfortable against Tottenham and had just one serious first-half attempt on goal.
The half-time guest at White Hart Lane was David Ginola and the warmth of his reception hinted at a longing among the home fans for a similarly swashbuckling talent in this Tottenham side. In Aaron Lennon there is the hint of such promise. He is a winger built to the same scale as Shaun Wright-Phillips and the former Leeds United trainee has a turn of pace to match. The 18-year-old winger's hobbling exit on 70 minutes removed the match's one truly entertaining element.
Fulham's attacking options dwindled in the second half and their best chance was a low cross that skimmed in from the left that Tomasz Radzinski, just yards from goal, conspired to hit straight at Paul Robinson.
Unlike so many of his peers, Chris Coleman continues to place his faith in a 4-4-2 formation away from home but even a formation reckless by the current standards of the Premiership failed to yield his side a significant period of pressure. They lie just two points from the bottom of the table and their regret will be compounded by the evidence last night that the quality of some of those sides near to the top is hardly overawing.
Tottenham (4-4-2): Robinson; Stalteri, King, Naybet, Young-Pyo; Lennon (Reid, 70), Jenas, Mendes, Davids; Mido (Rasiak, 88), Defoe (Keane, 74). Substitutes not used: Cerny (gk), Kelly.
Fulham (4-1-3-2): Warner; Volz, Knight, Bocanegra, N Jensen; P B Diop; Malbranque, C Jensen, Boa Morte; Radzinski, McBride (John, 74). Substitutes not used: Crossley (gk), Elrich, Christanval, Leacock.
Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire).
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