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Saints v Spurs - report

English Barclays Premiership

By Graham Hiley

Today's game went ahead after three pitch inspections. The surface was passed fit at a 10.30 inspection by referee Mark Halsey who looked at it again just before 1pm and again at 1.30 before the turnstiles opened.

However he warned more rain might pose a problem either before or during the game and a downpour at 2.15 cast a cloud of uncertainty over the fixture but with fans already in the ground the official gave it a chance and gave the match the go-ahead.

The rain stopped in the final half hour before kick-off but the pitch was still sodden with several shiny patches of mud, especially down the centre and near the corner of the Kingsland and Chapel Stands.

Saints made one change from the side which beat Sunderland with Matthew Oakley returning in place of Anders Svensson. Jo Tessem was again on the bench despite heading the injury-time winner. Brett Ormerod continued alongside 12-goal James Beattie.

Dean Richards shook off an Achilles problem to line up against his old club in the Spurs defence. Teddy Sheringham returned to the attack but Christian Ziege was ruled out by a broken leg.

Former Bitterne Park School pupil Darren Anderton was only a substitute after flu while Les Ferdinand is suspended. Gus Poyet was left on the bench.

Saints: Niemi, Telfer, Lundekvam, M Svensson, Bridge, Fernandes (Davies 90), Oakley, Delap, Marsden, Beattie, Ormerod (Tessem 45). Subs: A Svensson, Williams, Jones.
Tottenham: Keller, Perry, Richards, King, Carr, Iversen (Acimovic 87), Freund, Taricco (Anderton 67), Bunjevcevic (Poyet 67), Keane, Sheringham. Subs: Thatcher, Sullivan.
Referee: Mark Halsey (Lancs). Attendance: 31,890.

Spurs should have gone in front after just 90 seconds when Carr floated in a free-kick from the right and Sheringham was given a free header at the near post. however he failed to connect cleanly and glanced it wide of the far post.
Fernandes found Telfer on the overlap but his cross was intercepted well by King. Richards was being booed at every touch on his return to his old club.

The visitors were having the better of the early exchanges and on 13 minutes Keane caused problems as he wriggled across the top of the box from the left. He slipped the ball to Iversen in plenty of space to his right but the Norwegian was flagged offside.

Saints were looking strangely hesitant but had their first chance on 17 minutes when Delap broke from the halfway line and tried a spectacular shot on the run from 22 yards blasting high over the bar.

It lifted Saints though and three minutes later Telfer tried to catch Keller out at his near post with a fierce low drive from the right but the keeper dived to his left to save.

Saints were beginning to find their usual momentum and Marsden laid off neatly from a Telfer cross but Richards cleared. On 22 minutes Perry did well to block Ormerod's shot on the turn and the resulting corner was nodded over by Beattie.

At the other end a 20-yard shot by Bunjevcevic hit Lundekvam. Spurs appealed loudly for a penalty but Mark Halsey waved away the claims for handball.

Carr had a low drive saved by Niemi to his left and then Fernandes tested Keller from the right but once more the keeper was equal to it.

Ormerod got the better of Richards on the left and whipped over a dangerous cross but there was no-one in the middle. Richards went down in the box in a collision with Beattie but while the Spurs fans appealed for a penalty, the player did not.

Bridge hit a dangerous low diagonal ball across goal. It flashed just in front of Ormerod and Keller grabbed it before Beattie could pounce.

Michael Svensson beat Keller in the air but was judged to have fouled the keeper as Beattie went to blast in the loose ball.

Ormerod won a corner when his cross was cut out by King but the flag-kick by Fernandes was headed out by Perry three minutes before the break.

Half-time: Saints 0 Tottenham 0

Saints sent on Tessem for Ormerod at the start of the second half but it was Spurs who were first to threaten as Keane wriggled free in the box but Niemi blocked well with his legs in the opening minute.

Fernandes was just wide with a 25-yard left-foot shot although Keller looked to have it covered. Delap let fly from 25 yards but Keller pouched comfortably.

Most of the Saints efforts were hopeful ones from long-range and Fernandes was well off target from 25 yards on 50 minutes.

From a Carr corner on the left, King just beat Richards to the header but glanced wide of the far post.

A 25-yard drive by Bridge was too hot for Keller to hold but the keeper grabbed at the second attempt before Tessem could pounce.

Delap was warned for a sliding tackle on Carr after failing to get a free-kick for an apparent foul as he spun past the defender.

Keane found space through the inside right channel to run at goal. He twisted inside Lundekvam and evaded the challenges of the backtracking Michael Svensson and Bridge to whip in a low shot which flashed a foot wide of the right post.

Saints quickly carved out another opening on the hour as Tessem and Marsden combined well down the left to set up Beattie but he clipped his shot over from 20 yards.

Keane curled a 30-yard free-kick over the wall from the left of the area but Niemi got across to his right to make a fine save after 63 minutes.

The keeper kept Saints level a minute later as he reacted well to block Iversen's header across goal which would have left Sheringham with a tap-in from Keane's left-wing cross.

And as Spurs kept up the pressure, Niemi rescued Saints again with an excellent block with his legs from Sheringham after Keane had again broken well. Keane's follow-up shot was diverted goalwards by Sheringham who was flagged offside.

Spurs made a double switch on 67 minutes. Poyet came on for Bunjevcevic and Anderton replaced Taricco. Almost immediately Keane had an acrobatic scissor kick deflected over.

After 70 minutes Tessem broke well past Perry down the left and crossed deep for Beattie to come in beyond the far post behind King. But he could not get enough twist on the header which went straight to Keller.

Fernandes twisted and turned to work space for a wonderful teasing cross from the right. It picked out Tessem free in front of goal but he planted the stooping header over the bar from eight yards with 15 minutes to go.

From a Spurs corner, Saints broke quickly bit it was the unlikely trio of Telfer, Marsden and Bridge leading the charge and Marsden's lay-off for Telfer was too strong and went for a goal-kick.

Niemi just reached Lundekvam's header before the predatory Keane before Saints took the lead nine minutes from time.

Fernandes broke well and played a delightful chip through the inside right channel for BEATTIE who took it on strongly, cut sharply inside Richards and steered an angled left-foot shot into the far corner for his 13th goal of the season.

Spurs responded with their final substitution sending on Acimovic for Iversen three minutes from time.

Niemi saved well low to his right from a shot by Acimovic in the first of two minutes of injury-time. Saints used up time sending on Davies for Fernandes.

Full-time: Saints 1 Tottenham 0