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Everton Back from the Brink"

by Sue Mott of the Sunday Times, Sun 8th May 1994

Limping and desperate from two self-inflicted wounds, Everton revived to give their gutsiest performance of many a season and so remain in the Premier League. Two goals and one saved (missed by the referee) from Stuart supplied the means by which Everton overcame a two-goal Wimbledon lead and so leapt through the escape hatch to safety.

Stuart converts the spot-kick that begins the fightback. >>>

Wimbledon's greatest complaint after the match was that a Holdsworth header had been handled on the line by Stuart just before Horne struck the equaliser. "I won't say anything about the refereeing," said Joe Kinnear, in fine diplomatic form, "but he was definitely wearing an old Evertonian scarf around his neck."*

But it was Mike Walker's neck that had attracted the most interest during the match. A manager who has known a standing ovation in the San Siro looked poised to experience cold nights in Grimsby in the First Division next season. At 2-0 down within 20 minutes, Walker cannot have fancied his chances.

Yet Everton could not have entered the field to a more passionate welcome: cupboards, drawers and attics had been raided to unearth banners that had not been waved since the Merseysiders won the championship in 1987. Some blue and white hats were old enough to bear the legend: "The greatest football team in the world."

Wimbledon were booed and abused with a will, even before their little mascot had cleared the pitch. He stood defiant, though, a chip off the old block.

A more ridiculous, and to Everton calamitous, beginning to the match could scarcely be imagined. A Wimbledon raid ended in a corner and, as the ball winged into the area from Elkins, Limpar was visited by a strange compulsion to ostentatiously handle the ball. He bent double, head in hands, before watching Holdsworth whack the penalty into the net, despite Southall getting a hand to it.

This is what happens when pressure crushes like a vice. Even Southall, in his 601st appearance for the club, was not immune; he sliced a clearance so dramatically he was forced to chase out of his penalty area and wallop the ball upfield in restitution.

Everton were passing neatly to feet - in midfield. Up front, where Cottee and Rideout dodged among the lofty defenders, the action was strictly limited. Wimbledon were looking lively on the break, as well they might with a Sam Hammam-sponsored trip to Las Vegas dangled before them as an incentive.

But really, Everton were the orchestrators of their own misfortune. When Barton's free-kick arrived in the home side's penalty area, Clarke miss-hit a half-hearted shot towards goal. It was going wide until Ablett, perhaps beset by the same jitters as Limpar, turned the ball into his own net.

[© Lyndon Lloyd]

<<< Barry Horne: 35-yard screamer fires Everton level.

You could almost hear Everton gurgling down the plug-hole at this point but that was to underestimate the bizarre swings of fortune left in this match. No more than four minutes later, Fear felled Limpar on the edge of the area. Stuart converted the penalty and a roar unleashing all the relief and rage pent up by Everton's plight engulfed Goodison Park.

The atmosphere was incendiary, almost as inflamed as the Wimbledon team bus which had caught fire in suspicious circumstances in the arly hours of yesterday morning outside the team's headquarters in Runcorn.

At the start of the second half Stuart fired a stunning shot at the Wimbledon goal but won only a corner. It implied spirit, however, and Unsworth underlined the point, working like aTrojan in defence.

So the outpouring of joy was matched by an outpouring of young fans onto the pitch when Everton got the equaliser. Wimbledon, mean in defence, were never going to let their penalty become infested with Everton's little forwards. So Horne lashed a drive from 25 yards with the result that Wimbledon's trip to the gambling capital of the world looked seriously in peril.

Every move, every throw-in, every kick was now invested with meaning as one that might lead to the winning goal and save the axe.

Desperation was as burly an obstacle as the hod-carrying Vinny himself. But on they pressed, and it was to scenes bordering on delirium that Stuart caned the winning goal into the back of the net. Fans flooded on to the field and fell to their knees in thanks that Everton's 40 years in top-class football had not come to an ignominious end.

* video evidence has proven that the ball hit Stuart's chest and not his arm as Wimbledon suggested

"Double Whammy Rescues Everton"

by Andrew Melling of The Mail on Sunday, Sun 8th May 1994

They were hanging from trees and perched precariously on railings as Everton fantastically clung to Premiership survival.

In one of the most dramatic finales in football history an Everton team which for the most part was outclassed - if never outfought - frantically came back from two goals behind to snatch a victory which preserved their place among the elite.

[© Lyndon lloyd]Everton fans denied a position in the locked stadium used any vantage point they could to witness this most dramatic of escapes. But the massive audience audience was plunged into almost instant mourning as Everton blundered their way towards disaster.

If the situation had not been so serious it would have been laughable as Everton contrived to hand Wimbledon a two-goal lead within 20 minutes.

In a calamitous fourth minute, Anders Limpar blatantly handled a far-flung left-wing corner from Gary Elkins. Although Neville Southall reached Dean Holdsworth's penalty he allowed the ball to squirm from his grasp over the line.

Everton's dithering defence was panic-stricken at every hint of menace from Wimbledon and a further ludicrous error just had to be part of the horror script.

It was perpetrated in the 20th minute when Andy Clarke diverted the ball towards the Everton goal. Although it appeared destined to go wide, Gary Ablett tried to make sure and succeeded only in sending the ball into his own net.

The farce continued but, thankfully for Everton, in the 24th minute it was to work in their favour. Limpar executed one of his famous theatrical dives when challenged by Peter Fear.

It was authentic enough, however, to deceive referee Hart and even Everton fans might have ridiculed the penalty decision had their need not been so great. Graham Stuart sent the ball wide of goalkeeper Hans Segers to promote hopes of a revival.

But Wimbledon could have killed off both the contest and their opponents before Everton's revival. Holdsworth headed over from no more than three yards in the 34th minute and after the break John Ebbrell had to clear a Marcus Gayle header from under the crossbar.

Out of the blue came renewed hope for Everton as Barry Horne blasted a magnificent equaliser from 30 yards.

Everton provided the final twist in this most dramatic finale to the season with an unexpected winner.

Stuart was the hero with a snap shot from the edge of the area nine minutes from time that bobbled over the out-stretched arm of Hans Segers to provoke wild celebration from their relieved army of support.

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