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Everton 0 - 3 Tranmere Rovers

Half-time: 0 - 2


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FA Cup 2000-01 – 4th Round
3:15 pm Saturday 27 January 2001
Goodison Park, Merseyside
Att: 39,207
« Coventry City (a) Ref: Jeff Winter Middlesbrough (h) »
[ Matchday Calendar ] [ FA Cup 3rd Round ] [ 4th Rnd Results ]
 MATCH SUMMARY
What could be better for Everton in the 4th Round of the FA Cup?  A fixture that could kindle the fading embers of this grand old competition, pitching local rivals against each other in a top-level competitive match for just the fourth time in their history?  Or utter humiliation.

The kick-off was delayed by 15 minutes due to crowd congestion caused by ticket problems as a result of the postal strike in Liverpool.  Xavier made a return in defence for Everton, as the players suspended last week also returned.

Amidst a tremendous atmosphere of crushing noise, the match started off at great pace with Everton attacking the Gwladys Street end.  An early drive from Gravesen brought a superb save from Achterberg, and Watson blasted a shot just over.  

But it was not all one way, with Tranmere trying hard to give as good as they got as the game developed into a classic end-to-end Cup encounter.  And it was soon first blood to Tranmere as Koumas and Parkinson broke and Flynn whipped in a cross to Yeats who's looped header fooled Myhre and crept inside the post... and all of a sudden, Everton had a mountain to climb.

Campbell scored soon after but he was wrongly judged offside.  Ho hum...  Everton huffed and puffed but it was Koumas and Parkinson who exerted increasing control on midfield, and reaped the rewards when Koumas made it 2-0, with Unsworth having a nightmare.

Gravesen's response was to foul players like Koumas who were showing him up and going around him with ease.  Gravesen was duly booked just before half time, when the Everton players slumped off to a chorus of boos. 

Walter Smith did his best to shake things up at half-time, putting Gough and Moore on in place of Unsworth and Hughes, but it had little effect.  Tranmere waited patiently 'til the next good opportunity, from a corner, when Yeats headed home his second goal to underline the dreadful capitulation by this moribund Everton team.

The game dragged on to the increasing anguish and embarrassment of Evertonians everywhere, eventually petering out to a crescendo of boos as the Goodison "faithful" vented their unremitting anger on the sorry state of Everton Football Club.

 

  

 MATCH FACTS
   GOALSCORERS  
EVERTON:
Tranmere Rovers: Yates (22', 62'), Koumas (35').
   LINEUPS  Subs Not Used 
EVERTON:   Myhre; S Watson, Xavier, Ball, Unsworth (46' Gough); Gemmill, Gravesen, Pembridge, Hughes (46' Moore); Campbell {capt}, Cadamarteri (71' Tal). 
Unavailable:  Alexandersson, Cleland, Degn, Ferguson, Gascoigne, Gerrard,  Jeffers, Naysmith, Nyarko, Pistone (injured).
Simonsen, Jevons.
Tranmere Rovers: Achterberg, Hill, Jobson, Hamilton, Yates, Allen, Hinds, Koumas, Flynn (83' Henry), Parkinson (86' S Taylor), Rideout (81' Hume).  Allison, Murphy.

 

   Playing Strips  Formations
EVERTON: Royal Blue shirts; white shorts; blue socks. 4-4-2
Tranmere Rovers: White shirts; blue shorts; white socks. 4-4-2
   Yellow Cards  Red Cards
EVERTON: Gravesen (44'), Gemmill (56'), Tall (73'), Pembridge (86').
Tranmere Rovers: Allen (56').
Sports.Com Detailed Match Stats  

 

 MATCH REPORTS
 REPORTS BY EVERTON FANS
Mickey Blue Eyes White-faced white-knuckle ride
Dave Shepherd Every dog has his day
Rob Burns You only sing when you're winning
 NEWSPAPER REPORTS
ELECTRONIC TELEGRAPH Everton surrender as Koumas inspires upset
by Steve Thomson
THE SUNDAY TIMES Old-boy Rideout adds to Everton woe
by John O'Brien
THE TIMES Everton's tame surrender...
by Oliver Kay
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 White-faced white-knuckle ride
Mickey Blue Eyes
 
Being a Blue Belly is many things.  It is never boring.  Take the mad peaks and troughs of recent events: 
  • the Watford game; 
  • Derby/Tottenham; 
  • the Coventry game; 
  • the loony Wool “burglars” at The Big Yin’s gaff; 
  • an injury list the length of a John Le Carre saga; 
  • and, of course, our bid for the Kings Dock site. 

There’s enough drama, tragedy, laughter and tears there to disorientate Harold Pinter.  Most of us will be grateful if our heads are pointed in the right direction when they stop spinning.  Which is to say at the stars – not at the basement! 

Our bid for the Kings Dock site is the best by a country mile, details notwithstanding, and should win by an equal distance.  Alas, there are more things (and bent cash) in heaven and earth, Horatio...  No wonder only the good die young.  The rest become property “developers” or Suits, or members of the untermenschen, or readers of our right-wing press.  I show you the times, I show you the decision-making process. 

Engage the fight, my fellow Blue Bellies… or lose the Kings Dock site to yes-men like Michael Storey and the Kings Dock “Forum,” a misnomer if ever there was one.  And keep watching the admirable Mark Thomas Show on Channel 4.  Join the articulate dissidents against the Official Party Line of the One Party State.  And SMILE, Bellies... hard though it is at the moment.

Typical of our helter-skelter footy existence was the anticipation of the Cup match against Tranmere – our poor relations from over the water – known to all true Scousers as Debtors’ Retreat.  Which is gloriously irreverent considering the number of our fans who hail therefrom....  Added pique came from our quite justified hostility to Hamperfuckwit’s behaviour while he had controlling interests in our club.  When he finally falls off the perch, he won’t have any problem finding his way to hell, having made the reverse journey when he arrived.  This, of course, is the just desserts of all rednecks.

Part of the anticipation, the apprehensive bit was Rovers’ tremendous cup record of late.  John Aldridge has performed absolute miracles with resources the size of a Great Homer Street Market wheelbarrow.  Mind you, we get to be apprehensive about ANY clash these days...  Frankly I wouldn’t make book on us against Formby and District Girl Guides Athletic and Football Club.

It isn’t a question of “keeping the faith”… more like a matter of getting the prayer right and hoping The Big Blue Belly In The Sky isn’t too busy with glorious memories instead of grisly present reality.

As I said, it’s never boring.  How can it be when you live and die every kick…. especially in an FA Cup match?  And, as we all know to our interminable dismay, recent years cup matches against lower teams have perpetrated enough miserable mass torture to satisfy a General Pinochet, a Rupert Murdoch, or the Director of the CIA.

And then came the match, which – of course – we lost by more than a considerable distance.  Tranmere were easy and deserved winners.  They could have won it in the end by four or five.  Where have we heard that before?  But this time it was all too palpable, all too real, all too convincing confirmation of our worst fears.

I had forebodings when I saw Smiffy’s Rubik in action yet again in team selection.  The centre midfield two were, wait for it, The Gravedigger and Yozzer!  I looked at it glumly and had a sense of what was going to happen.  Is there any point whatsoever in asking when Smiffy is going to get it through his obdurate head that the only centre midfield pairing we have of any worth is Gemmill-Pembridge?  Every time he splits them up we end up with a débâcle.

Mind you, it opened brightly enough.... Lots of movement and attacks into the Street End.  We even had one goal disallowed.  The Gravedigger hit one tremendous left-foot shot which their keeper did well to stand firm against with clenched fists to his high right.  A goal looked likely at any minute.  But gradually it petered out until the 15th minute – by which time Rovers were steady and reasonably confident.

Then Rovers’ first attack came through a quick move down the left and an acute angled shot from just inside the box.  Tommy saved it well at mid-height on his left side....

Then we collapsed in exactly the same way Coventry collapsed against us the previous week.  What goes around comes around.  This time it was us looking on bemused and white-faced as our team went from bad to worse, and even worse again.  We were awful… and that takes nothing away from Tranmere who took full advantage and played it around very well.  My concern, my only concern, is Everton Football Club.

Poor old Beloved Lard Arse had a nightmare game again at left back until he was taken off.  It wasn’t just his fault – nor was he on his own in playing badly – but the first and second goals came from his side of the park.  The first, a long cross looped in to the far right side of the goal area; Tommy left it to the defence to head clear, they didn’t, and somebody named Yates sent a looping header in which sailed high over Tommy’s head before landing behind him in the net.

Maybe 10 minutes later, another ball in from the right came to the unmarked Koumas just inside the right-hand side of the box and he hit a dead cute side-footed lob over a stranded Tommy. The boy was the best player on the park by a long, long way.

It was all over bar the shouting.

The awful signs of the other parts of the season all came together yet again. There really isn’t too much point in having a go at any individual players and, as I watched the mess unfold, I realised quite early on we weren’t going to show any fight, let alone get back in the game.

It was so awful, I did something I’ve never done before in my life… I walked out at half time!  So I didn’t see Rovers third goal or the second half mess, which, I understand, more than matched the garbage of the first half.  Nor do I regret it.  We were an utter disgrace.

The fact is, Smiffy’s time is now all but up.  True, we’ve had the worst run of injuries in living memory.  True, once the players cross the dotted line it’s up to them.  True, we’ve had plenty of other traumas and worries.  But none of that explains his ridiculous persistence with splitting up our only (relatively) decent midfield or his tolerance with the Gravedigger’s virtually incapable efforts, or the obvious lack of effort by too many allegedly capable players.  

The worst thing, the VERY WORST thing, is that they have shown they can play occasionally.  So when they play like this we are entitled to ask WHY?

I haven’t the slightest hesitation in saying that this Everton team is easily the worst I have seen since I started watching the club in 3000 BC.  And, like most of us, I don’t like the view of the basement.  It’s too dark for words.

And now we are due to play the Mancs...  Gawd save us!


   Up to Reports Index ]
 Every Dog has his Day
Dave Shepherd
 
Getting beat by Tranmere is a grand Everton tradition, but usually in the quaint traditional pre-season match.  It gives them a chance to dream.  Even Tranmere dreams sometimes come true.

Surprise loss? Only considering that Tranmere had only won 1 match away this season, and were 4th from bottom... they’ve had better seasons and we’ve lost to worse before . But then again, have you seen Bristol Rovers’ home record?

Diabolical performance?  Strangely not – it was just impotent.  A dull start (apparently the Dial-a-Seat queue was more exciting than the first 10 minutes) got a kick when a bad head across goal accidentally dropped in at the far post, but as time wore on and the lead increased Everton had no idea what to do about it.

Rover’s blinder?  Well maybe, but they didn’t really impress except in their desire and fight – which is what we needed.  Their skill display was very comparable to Bradford’s cup win.  They treated it like a cup tie.  Like a derby.  We treated it like a run out & wait for the goals to happen.

We’ve seen bad starts regularly, but this time there was no second-half revival. Substitutions didn’t help.  Buildup was too slow.  It was like a Colin Harvey team.  And even Harvey’s midfields were not as pitiful.  We HAVE no midfield in any recognisable form.  Like alcohol-free beer, they exist but have no tangible impact.

The result would likely not have changed, but Tranmere must have blessed their luck in drawing Jeff Winter as ref, because he let them get away with the most comprehensive display of cynical & physical defending since the glory days of Bruce & Pallister.  Winter got such bad press in his first seasons that he now plays the coward tactic of no cards and definitely no whistle for anything crucial.  By the time he was intimidated into getting the card out it was way too late.  By then all Rovers needed to do was stay back and waste time.

Apart from the unprecedented sight of some fans leaving before 40 minutes, the crowd did not turn on the players much.  Mr Winter took most of the anger.  Even so, the anger level was remarkably low considering it will go down in history as one of the blackest home results alongside the likes of 5-0 losses to the RS & Man Utd.

Anger and embarrassment did not preclude the half-full stands from giving the visitors recognition at the end, as they had minutes earlier when the Dogs of War cup hero Paul Rideout was subbed.  How low have we sunk...?  So low that we could really use a Dog or three in the team now.

If we need to fight for points at the end of the season, we are toast... because this squad don’t know how to go about it.  I don’t question their dedication, only their ability to fight.  They don’t have the ‘overpaid & lazy’ look, they just don’t know how to dig themselves out of a hole other than to throw the same dice again and again and hope.

They also don’t play like a team who have lost faith in the manager.  Sacrificing a scapegoat won’t help.  We need money.  Let’s hope someone back there in lounge-land has more aptitude to fight their way out of the financial crisis than the players showed today as they died clueless on the pitch.  If not we’ll be dropping Z-Cars for the Laurel & Hardy theme.  

Tranmere’s Dream or Everton’s Nightmare?


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 You only sing when you're winning
Rob Burns
 
If Everton are to be labelled a "Jekyll & Hide" team, then the mysterious green liquid which transforms the good doctor can only be likened to the Everton fans who deserve congratulations for the way that they turned on the team this afternoon and ensured that the battle of the Mersey ended in a massacre.

For so long we have debated how the Blues can look at once both world-class and frightened rabbits in the same 7-day period.  Today, the true culprits stood up and took their bows.  Everton's opening play looked as if it would truly outclass a Tranmere side so out of form in the First Division in recent months, and chances for Campbell, Cadamarteri and Gravesen in the opening 10 minutes were surely a sign of things to come.

But sharks can sense blood in the water from miles away, and the distinctive dorsal fins, albeit adorned with the One-to-One logo, were clear for all to see as Unsworth made his first misplaced pass.  Tranmere outmuscled the Premiership side on a couple of occasions and suddenly a witch-hunt had begun...  Roundley booed on every touch, the defender's game went from bad to distinctly worse.  

Beaten by sheer power and pace on an exposed left hand side, Unsworth was a clear second-best to Andy Parkinson on two occasions: the first time, he found Flynn whose cross was convert with a looping header from Yates; the second supplying Koumas who placed the ball over a stranded Myhre.  

Having killed off the Chorley-boy, the attentions of this fickle crowd turned to the rest of the team:  Myhre, who looked decidedly out of form; Gravesen, who beat himself with every trick his over-exuberance could conjur up; and Pembridge who uncharacteristically was outfought in the middle of the park, losing tackle after tackle and giving the ball away with an alarming frequency.

That said, Walter's team selection was hardly a surprise as he restored Xavier to the centre of defence, Watson resuming at right back, and Ball continuing in the centre.  He also brought back Gravesen and Hughes in place of Tal and the injured Alexandersson.  

But surely even Walter Smith must now be giving due consideration as to whether Tommy Gravesen was a passenger on the Titanic, or a resident of Pompeii, as he seems to be contributing to our demise with every appearance.  True, we have seen his class, but it seems that he is just not the man for Everton FC.  The choice of Hughes on the left must be questioned, as it seemed from my position in the Upper Bullens that his wandering inside left Unsworth very exposed.  Similarly, Gemmill found the right flank unprofitable and his generally slow, thoughtful game was simply not appropriate for the position in a frantic cup tie.

Smith gave in to the fans – there was simply no choice – and replaced Unsworth with Gough for the second half.  Stephen Hughes left the field to be replaced by Joe-Max Moore – reputed fantasy of Posh Spice – on the right hand side. 

Moore had little impact; Gough and Xavier were slow to rise to the challenge as Yates stormed in for a free header from a right-hand-side corner that ended safely nestled in the Everton net.  Game over, and – for the hound dogs amongst us – a chance for the final kill.  Unfortunately for me and my big mouth, it was not the players or the management who bore the brunt.  There was a distinctive weight advantage – me weighing in at a mere 15½ stones, them a good 20, 16 and 14.  Who said we didn't want WWF at Everton's ground?

Referee Bernie Winters gave a comical performance, Everton collecting a number of yellow cards – Tranmere demonstrating some of the best player-splitting challenges from behind but remaining unpunished.  Gravesen gave him plenty of opportunities to shine however, including a back-tackling mid-air karate kick, and a lovely grip on the collar of Parkinson.

Up front, Campbell did not win a header and Cadamarteri's best chance in the second half should have been a through ball to Moore – instead, a glory-hunting long-shot that rolled tamely into the arms of Achteberg.  

3-0 and we see the arrival of Tal – too little too late.  The boy showed little but frustration and managed to collect a booking for a mystery foul inside 2 minutes.  Everton showed little after the first 5 minutes of the second half, and there was a clear view of many blue seats as the final whistle went – Tranmere deservedly applauded off.

In recent weeks, we have talked frantically of the ground move – some have argued misplaced priorities; others sharing the Kenwright enthusiasm that this is 'the future'.  To me the best ground move we could make would be to College Rd to share with Marine, or even to Anfield to play in front of the Koppites.  The type of support that we are seeing at Goodison is no worse than the redshite can dish out, and frankly the fewer Evertonians that venture into the King's Dock stadium the better for the future of the club.  The assassins should be as ashamed of themselves as they keep reminding us that the "thirty grand-a-week" players should be after shambolic and heartless performances like today's.

Rob, looking forward to watching with the real fans at Old Trafford next week...


   Up to Reports Index ]
 Old-boy Rideout adds to Everton woe
by John O'Brien, The Sunday Times
 

FOR so long the poor relations on Merseyside and cut off from the colour and passion of the local derby, Tranmere were determined, above all, to enjoy this occasion.  Now they have a taste, how they will want more.  They ran out 3-0 winners – and it was every bit as authoritative as the scoreline suggests.  

When the fifth-round draw is made Tranmere will fear nobody.  Liverpool at Anfield?  Thank you very much.  The real shock was in the manner of victory rather than the actuality of it.  Over the past two seasons Tranmere's cup victims have included Leeds United, Sunderland and West Ham, and not even a spluttering first 10 minutes could derail them in their efforts to acquire another illustrious scalp.

Nothing told the day's story better than the after-match demeanour of the managers.  John Aldridge entered the room, looked at an empty bottle of Perrier and asked when the champagne was arriving.  But it was not a time for gloating.

"I always knew that the lads are capable of doing it on their day," he said.  "This is another great victory.  All that Liverpool stuff is in the past now.  Lots of my friends are Evertonians and Walter [Smith, the Everton manager] is a great guy."

A little while before, Smith had appeared, quietly spoken and heavy lidded: "Once they got the first goal we had to chase the game.  We weren't able to handle it and they always looked dangerous on the break.  It suited the way they wanted to play the game."

It wasn't much of an explanation but, in truth, one wasn't really needed.  Everton simply were bereft of ideas, out-muscled and outwitted by a side hovering dangerously close to the First Division relegation zone.

For Smith, this was nothing short of abject humiliation.  The stewards had to work overtime to keep disgruntled fans from spilling onto the pitch to vent their spleen.

And for Tranmere?  With no money to spend, Aldridge admitted that he has come close to packing it in on more than one occasion.

But he has braved it out and, once again, his team were a credit to their manager's resilience and organisational skills.  There is little mystery to Tranmere.  They are a motley collection of hardened veterans and willing youth, mostly picked up in the bargain basement.  But when the blend works, as it did yesterday, it can be explosive.

In midfield, the 21-year-old Jason Koumas pulled the strings and hauled his team back into the tie after their uncertain start.  Yet without the experienced Sean Flynn and Steve Yates alongside him, Koumas's control might not have been so decisive.

Up front, similarly youthful Andy Parkinson ran his legs into stumps.  Alongside him, the former Evertonian Paul Rideout was less dynamic but equally troublesome with his deft flicks and physical presence.

Yet the very thing Aldridge feared before the game soon unfurled before his eyes.  Twice, Kevin Campbell, an FA Cup-winner with Arsenal in 1993, came close to latching onto through balls, only to be denied by John Achterberg's alertness in goal.  After six minutes, Achterberg had to dive to his left to tip away a fierce Thomas Gravesen drive, and eight minutes later the Dutch keeper was relieved to see a thunderous 25-yard Steve Watson volley just loop over the bar.

Then, buoyed by Koumas's promptings, Tranmere went ahead.  It was a lead they were worth and it came courtesy of a fine header by Yates, who towered above Watson from Flynn's deep cross.

Afterwards, Watson needed treatment but his pride would have been hurt more than his head.

Strangely, Everton's response was minimal.  Danny Cadamarteri wasted a good opportunity on the left of Achterberg's goal after 30 minutes and they would regret it five minutes later when Tranmere nosed further ahead.  Again, they were worth the score.  Rideout's deft chip beyond Thomas Myhre's reach was beautifully executed.  When Parkinson picked him out, Rideout did not seem to have much on.  [Rideout??? You Jurno idiot: it was Koumas!!!]

But, summoning his vast experience, the 36-year-old spotted that Myhre had stepped a yard too far off his line. Beaten twice by looping finishes, it was not a comforting day for Myhre.

For the second half, Smith introduced an extra striker and brought on the veteran Richard Gough, but it made no significant impact.  Campbell emerged a poor second best in his physical duel with Graham Allen.  When Cadamarteri tumbled over in the box 10 minutes in, the stadium bayed for a penalty.  But the referee, Jeff Winter, waved play on and Everton's frustration began to reach boiling point.

All that was left then was a Tranmere encore.  Again it was provided by Yates who came charging in to head home Koumas's 72nd minute corner.  "Easy, easy, easy," sang the 6,000 Tranmere fans massed over in the far side of the ground.  That hardly began to tell the story.

Report © The Independent

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 Everton surrender as Koumas inspires upset
Steve Thomson, Electronic Telegraph
 

TRANMERE BROUGHT a new meaning to the words `Pride of Merseyside' as the Division One strugglers from across the water in Birkenhead dumped Everton unceremoniously out of the Cup.

The team managed by former Anfield favourite John Aldridge made their Premier League hosts look embarrassingly inferior and were full value for their handsome margin of victory courtesy of two headers from free-transfer defender Steve Yates and a superb strike from the outstanding Jason Koumas.

The 21-year-old was the inspiration behind their impressive approach play while his midfield partner, Paul Rideout, 16 years his senior and Everton's match-winner in the 1995 final, must have been especially delighted to mark his return to Goodison Park with a win.

The links between these sides run deeper than the Mersey tunnel.  Not so long ago Peter Johnson, the erstwhile Everton chairman, had a bigger stake in the ownership of both clubs than was permissible.  That all changed with a Goodison takeover led by impresario Bill Kenwright just over a year ago.

Since then their Premiership fortunes have not improved appreciably as the huge investment needed to strengthen the squad failed to materialise.  Even so, they began well enough against their neighbours, Thomas Gravesen testing the goalkeeper with a fierce volley and Steve Watson firing just over.

But there was still an aching lack of craft in midfield and Tranmere's increasing confidence was rewarded when they took a shock lead in the 21st minute following a flowing move instigated by former Everton defender Graham Allen.  He sent Andy Parkinson scampering to the byeline, the ex-Liverpool junior cut the ball back for Sean Flynn to curl over a deep cross that enabled Yates to guide a looping header over Thomas Myhre.

Worse was to follow for Everton 11 minutes before the break.  Flynn's pass again exposed the floundering David Unsworth on the right, Parkinson once more supplied the knock-back and Koumas chipped a delightful first-time shot beyond Myhre from 15 yards.

Walter Smith shuffled his pack at half-time, bringing on veteran Richard Gough for Unsworth and sacrificing midfielder Stephen Hughes for an extra striker in Joe-Max Moore.

It made little difference.  After a brief flurry of rapid-fire attacks, Everton ran out of ideas and Yates dealt them a crushing blow just past the hour, flying in unopposed to net his second goal with a thumping header from Koumas's corner.  Two irate fans immediately invaded the pitch but, when accosted by stewards, offered little resistance.  Just like the team they support.

Report © The Electronic Telegraph

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  Everton's tame surrender leaves supporters in a state of shock
by Oliver Kay, The Times
 

AS A player, John Aldridge was once condemned for his heartless goading of Brian Laws, the Nottingham Forest defender, who had just scored the own goal that sent Liverpool into an FA Cup Final.  As manager of Tranmere Rovers, who enjoyed one of the greatest days in their history on Saturday, he was required to show a little humility and compassion to a friend in need.  

Walter Smith, the Everton manager, is renowned for his perfect poker face, whether in victory or defeat, but this result left him shaken.  If most of the past 14 years have been hard for a once-great club, this was surely the bitterest pill.  Humiliating cup exits are nothing new for Everton, but this, their first defeat at the hands of Merseyside’s poor relations, was catastrophic.

It was too much to take for the supporters.  Many left in a state of shock long before the end and a handful tried to invade the pitch to vent their fury.  The majority, having somehow summoned the good grace to applaud Tranmere off the pitch, produced a deafening chorus of derision towards Smith and his players.

As the manager conducted a painful inquest, supporters gathered outside the Bullens Road Stand to protest, with the board, the manager and the players all coming in for some fearful abuse.

Nobody seemed sure of a solution to the latest crisis, but Aldridge took no pleasure in seeing Everton, his great rivals when growing up as a Liverpool supporter, in such a sorry state.

“All the stuff about me being a Red, that’s in the past,” he said.  “I don’t like seeing Everton struggling.  I think Walter is a great guy and a very good manager.  This season has been topsy-turvy for him but he’s the man for the job.  I know managers always stick together, but you just have to look at what he’s had to put up with.  Under the circumstances, he has done a great job.”

Smith has had to contend with horrific injury problems, but, to his eternal credit, has never attempted to use them as an excuse for his team’s plight.  “You have to look a wee bit deeper than injuries when something like this happens,” he said.

Even without the services of nine senior players, Smith was able to field what looked like a strong team.  Why that team should, having started reasonably well, capitulate the moment that Tranmere took the lead is a mystery.  “If anything, it was a lack of self-belief when we went behind,” Smith said. “But we’ve never shown that we lacked morale before.  How do you explain that as a manager?”  One simple explanation was that they were comprehensively outfought by a Tranmere side who, despite being threatened by relegation to the Nationwide League second division, always looked confident that they could upstage their more celebrated neighbours who, collectively, were shambolic.

Paul Rideout, the Tranmere forward who scored Everton’s winning goal in the 1995 FA Cup Final, could scarcely believe his eyes.  “They just fell apart, opened up and played straight into our hands,” he said. “About 60 per cent of Everton’s players let themselves and the fans down in front of a full house.  They should have shown passion and they certainly didn’t do that.  I really couldn’t believe how easy it was at times.”

Steve Yates scored Tranmere’s first goal with a looping header in the 22nd minute and Jason Koumas, with an audacious chip, extended the lead soon afterwards.  Everton briefly made a fight of it early in the second half, but their fate was sealed by a second Yates header after 62 minutes.

“The first thing the boss said when we came in afterwards was that we’ve got to take that form into our league matches,” Clint Hill, the defender, said.  “I’ve since heard Grimsby won and we’re now in the bottom four.”

For Everton, though, the big problem is how to recover from this latest setback.  They face Middlesbrough and Manchester United, the Premiership’s two in-form teams, in the next five days and Smith recognises that the supporters’ patience is wearing thin.  “We have to start winning games.  That’s the only way we’ll win them back,” he said.

If it is too late for some Everton fans, they could do worse than to change allegiance to Tranmere.

Report © Times Newspapers Ltd
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