Manager on Monday

Gianfranco Zola has praised his team after they edged in front against high-flying Tottenham Hotspur only for the visitors to claw their way to victory.

Having seen Jermain Defoe and Aaron Lennon capitalise clinically to wipe out Carlton Cole's magnificent 49th-minute strike on the volley, the manager had every justification for feeling the home side deserved more than they got from what was at times a pulsating London derby.

Zola said: "A draw would have been the correct result. Until we scored and when we scored, we looked in control of the game, so I thought we were going to win the game. But that's football, especially when you play at high levels, one mistake can be very costly."

The win took Spurs to the top of the table but the manager in particular refused to blame Cole for his errant pass that led to the visitors equalising his outstanding opening goal. "Carlton played an unbelievable game," he said. "In the second half, on his own, and also in the first half, he troubled their whole defence. For me, he played a great game and it was unlucky that he made a mistake.

"He lost his concentration for a second and it was very costly, but that doesn't change the story for me. He played a great game and, when he plays like that, he plays such an important role for us."

Cole was disconsolate at the end but the manager was at pains to pick his No12 up. "I told him to stop feeling sorry about himself. Yes, he made a mistake for their first goal, but he created our first goal with something unbelievable. He has to stop that.

"He made a mistake. He lost his concentration for a second and that will be something good for the future. He will have to learn that if he wants to be playing on a regular basis for the national team, he has to avoid those blackouts. He knows, he's an intelligent boy, he is determined and ambitious and he will learn from that.

"Tottenham are a very good team, they are playing well, they are well organised and they have a lot of players who can change the game. That was the story. We were standing up against them, then we made two mistakes and they punished us. That tells you a lot about their team."

Zola, who confirmed that Dean Ashton was "still doing his rehabilitation" on his long-term ankle problem, said Kieron Dyer had sat out with "tightness in his muscle" and should be OK for Blackburn Rovers away on Saturday. Valon Behrami and Terry Dixon are also set to train fully later this week meaning the only other absentees are Herita Ilunga (jaw) and the long-term Luis Boa Morte (knee), while Savio has been unwell this week.

Regardless of the squad situation, the manager felt his side more than held their own against expensively-assembled opponents who have also seen off Liverpool and Hull City this season. "That was the most encouraging thing and that's what I told the players. We matched them in everything they did.

"In the first half they started very well and gave us difficulty. They were in control of the game, but we stood our ground and kept our composure and every time they had a chance, we had a chance as well.

"In the end, we were creating more chances than them, we got the goal and we were controlling the game. Then we made the two mistakes, but what is important is that we can face anybody and we can play at the same level as teams like Tottenham. We just need to mature.

"The reason why the Premier League is considered so good around the world is because there are such good players that when you make a mistake, they punish you. That was the case. We will learn from this, trust me, and we will get better and better."

Zola added that attempts to strengthen the squad were ongoing. "Defensively we are covered. In defence I have eight players I can choose from. In attack, I can only choose from Carlton Cole and myself! Sorry, with no disrespect towards the young players. Obviously, we have two young players who are doing well but they need time. We cannot pretend that they are on the same level as the others."

Ultimately he would not be drawn on speculation about incomings and outgoings, only to say that he would focus only on those he has available for the immediate task in hand of Millwall in the Carling Cup second round before the trip to Blackburn. "I have to make sure that everybody I have in my team is used in the best way."