Wimbledon v Everton

FA Carling Premiership, Monday, 1 January 1996; Selhurst Park, London

Previous Match: Everton v Leeds United

Next Match: Everton v Stockport County (FA Cup 3rd Round)

Next League Match: Everton v Chelsea

Duncan Scores Two!

Wimbledon (0) 2 Everton (3) 3
Ekoku 72, Holdsworth 54; Ebbrell 1, Ferguson 23, 25.

Wimbledon: Segers, Cunningham (Euell 88), Kimble, Jones, Leonhardsen, Earle, Ekoku, Holdsworth, Reeves, Harford (Gayle 46), Perry. Subs Not Used: Pearce. Booked: Holdsworth.

Everton: Southall, Unsworth, Watson, Stuart, Rideout, Ferguson, Horne, Ebbrell, Jackson, Kanchelskis, (Hinchcliffe 77), Parkinson. Subs Not Used: Kearton, O'Connor. Booked: Watson, Jackson.

Att: 11,121
Ref: A B Wilkie (Chester-le-Street).

Ferguson starts to make up for lost time

By Paul Hayward, Electronic Telegraph

IF THE purpose of incarceration is to terrify offenders into making better use of their talents then Barlinnie Prison in Scotland has scored a famous success with Duncan Ferguson. In Everton's 3-2 victory at Wimbledon yesterday, Ferguson's storming performance would have delighted proponents of the short, sharp shock.

In only his second start since being released after serving six weeks of a three-month jail sentence, Ferguson made the first goal after just 28 seconds and scored the next two as Everton sped to a 3-0 lead within 26 minutes.

While Ferguson worked like a man who can still hear the turn of the key in the lock, his colleagues then started to play with the urgency of a set of bookies heading for the Bahamas and almost donated to Wimbledon a share of the points.

Everton have now won their last three League matches and have lost only two of their last 11 games. On Saturday, they begin their defence of the FA Cup at home to Stockport and with Ferguson leading the attack, they look an increasingly potent force.

On occasions, they slip into an unappealingly direct approach but Ferguson, Andrei Kanchelskis and Anders Limpar (who was out injured yesterday) contribute enough skill and poise to make Everton potentially more than a mere mid-table side.

The controversy that attended Ferguson's Hollywoodesque release from prison should finally begin to subside now that he is playing to such effect. In a contest of two of football's serial offenders, Ferguson showed the kind of form that will interest the Scotland coach, Craig Brown; Vinnie Jones, meanwhile, again managed to go 90 minutes without trying to separate anyone from their legs, though he did lapse into a baby-like rage when the referee rejected Wimbledon's demand for a penalty late in the game.

It is a reflection of how much time Ferguson, 24, has wasted that these were his first goals for Everton since February.

Ferguson's prime virtue is that he is a traditional big British centre-forward with a decent first touch and an ability to see a penetrating pass.

For the first goal, he showed the uses of brute strength in hustling past Alan Kimble before racing down the right flank and crossing for John Ebbrell to score. After 25 minutes, Ferguson himself hit a fine swivelling volley - his first goal away from Goodison Park - and a minute later, he swept in a cross from David Unsworth to seemingly smother the game.

It is a reflection of how much time Ferguson, 24, has wasted that these were his first goals for Everton since February. He played the first two games of this season but then succumbed to a hernia problem before being carted off to jail. On Jan 19, he will discover at a rearranged judicial review whether the Scottish Football Association's 12-match suspension on him will be allowed to stand. Everton argue that Ferguson has already been punished for his crimes by spending six weeks in a forbidding Glasgow cell.

Without their squaddies' haircuts and bulldog mentality, Joe Kinnear's team would probably have returned to playing kickabout football on Wimbledon Common by now. They left the field to booing at half-time and returned with eyes prised open by the spectacle of flying dressing-room crockery. "In the first half, we were excellent all-round," said Joe Royle, the Everton manager, later. "At half-time, I told the players what to expect but we still got sucked into their pressure football and started giving the ball away."

Dean Holdsworth scored Wimbledon's first with a header after 54 minutes and Efan Ekoku set up a typically frantic denouement with a second 18 minutes later. Holdsworth should have equalised with a shot from inside the penalty area which Neville Southall saved. Cue much muddy goalmouth scrambling of the sort English football has always specialised in.

The Ferguson affair has left its mark on Royle. When he was asked whether Ferguson would be emerging to discuss his contribution, Royle said tetchily: "No, and you can't blame him, can you?" - as if the media had put his striker in jail. "It's not the Duncan Ferguson sideshow."

"He played very well. He scored two excellent goals, but then that's what he's there for," Royle said. A sense of perspective in this saga is returning at last. The rest is up to Ferguson.

Electronic Telegraph is a Registered Service Mark of The Telegraph plc

Well, Kiss my Shirt!

David Taylor (djt@sequent.com):

The corresponding fixture last year was also played on New Year's Day --I remember it well for the hangover alone. This year, my pre-match preparation must have been the same as Dunc's -- I had a clear head and felt good for the first 45 minutes!

Last year we conceded two goals in the first 10 minutes, though PR scored a great header to make the rest of the game always in the balance. However, this year there was a different story to be told -- Jackson hit a long ball down the line which Dunc nodded onto himself, taking the ball to the byline and placing an inch perfect ball into the path of PR, whose shot was clumsily saved by Segers only for Ebbrell to net (somewhat fortuitously). 26 seconds gone.

Having arrived well before the start accompanied by my 9 year old nephew (who is unfortunately an Arse fan, but I'm trying to convert him !) I watched the lads under Willie go through an impressive workout of short sprints and one touch passing. How long have we been doing this format ? I haven't turned up for games early enough to witness this before. This sharpening up did something for us I'm sure because for the next 45 minutes we seemed inspired. Chances were being created from both wings, and it was no surprise when Dunc furthered our lead following a move from the right, which culminated in a brilliantly executed right foot hooked shot, beating Segers easily through surprise alone.

Dunc ran over to the Everton section and kissed the Everton Crest on his shirt. Nice touch Dunc!

Within what seemed like a minute, Stuart ran down the left, hit a low hard cross which PR seemed to miss, and Dunc finished clinically. 25 minutes gone, 3 up in what I thought was going to be our toughest fixture over Christmas. I don't think the rest of us really believed it -- there was of course the choruses of Dun-can, Duncan Ferguson... etc but little other singing.

We missed a handful of chances -- Dunc was a bit unlucky a couple of minutes after his second with an ambitious left foot volley -- but talk at half time was of when Dunc would get his hat-trick and whether Andrei would score his third goal in as many games.

I don't know whether JR scared the boys or what -- the second half began and we just seemed to sit back. All the good passing practiced before the game and put into effect in the first half just disappeared. It could have been the effects of 4 games in 10 days -- but 3 - 0 up away to Wimbledon you do not rest on your laurels -- they never give up without a fight and will always play for the pinball goalmouth action.

They scored after 10 minutes of the second half, and from then it was always going to be tough. Dunc looked knackered, and the fact that we kept giving the ball away so easily got him very annoyed as he ploughed a lone furrow up front. Kanch looked out of sorts after a good first half, and he too was frustrated by balls constantly going over his head when he clearly wanted them to his feet. Hinchcliffe came on for Kanch (I think they had scored their second by then ?), and suddenly we began going back to those basics practised during the warm up. Nev made a great save from Holdsworth. That took the sting out of the last ten minutes, though they were appealing for everything by this time.

We still had a couple of chances to extend the lead in the second half -- I recall Ebbrell missing one glorious chance -- but we hung on in the end.

Great result though - first half team performance 10, second half 4.

MoM: Duncan Ferguson - inspirational in the first half and at the centre of everything good. The referee (Alan Wilkie) deserves a special mention for turning down at least three penalty claims - and keeping Watson on the pitch this time.

Desparate Stuff

CarlingNet: Duncan Ferguson fired Everton to a third straight festive triumph with his first FA Carling Premiership goals for 11 months. But the Merseysiders had to battle grimly for the points after Wimbledon shook off a first-half hangover.

Boss Joe Kinnear delivered an interval cure which saw the Dons come desperately close to snatching a draw. They felt they had been harshly treated by referee Alan Wilkie, who turned down two penalty appeals and was loudly booed as he left the pitch.

But Wimbledon only had themselves to blame as their holiday revival came to a dramatic end. Boss Kinnear had said in his programme notes that he hoped not too many people had hangovers - but he was not thinking about his players, who found themselves trailing by a goal after only 28 seconds.

The lightning strike was orchestrated by formidable striker Ferguson, who was starting only his second game since August following a hernia operation and then six weeks in a Glasgow jail. He is currently free to play after Everton lodged an appeal against the player's 12-match ban, and Ferguson showed his value when he superbly went past Chris Perry by the right-hand touchline before sending over a cross which had Wimbledon in total disarray. Paul Rideout saw his shot come back off goalkeeper Hans Segers and it was John Ebbrell who finally found a close-range finishing touch.

Graham Stuart, Barry Horne and Rideout all missed chances to add to Everton's lead before Ferguson looked to have put the outcome beyond all reasonable doubt with two goals in the space of three minutes.

The first, after 23 minutes, was a superb strike as he took a pass from Matt Jackson on his chest, then swivelled and fired a right-foot volley into the top left-hand corner from 20 yards. And Wimbledon had barely recovered from that blow when Rideout dummied a cross from David Unsworth and Ferguson produced an emphatic finish from eight yards. The big Scot had not scored since the Premiership game against Manchester United at the end of February - and he looked on course for a hat-trick after 29 minutes, but his volley was just too high.

The second half saw a remarkable transformation as Wimbledon staged one of their famed fight backs. And Dean Holdsworth gave them further impetus with a 54th-minute far-post header after Oyvind Leonhardsen had crossed from the left.

Nigerian striker Efan Ekoku added a second after 72 minutes when he held off Jackson to slide a shot under Southall and send Everton into a state of panic. Centre-back Dave Watson, sent off on Saturday after only 19 minutes, was fortunate to escape with just a booking when he tripped Ekoku three yards outside the area.

And Wimbledon's penalty claims were turned down when Joe Parkinson launched a tackle on Holdsworth and later when the same defender looked to have handled the ball. But in the end Everton survived thanks only to a superb reflex save by keeper Neville Southall, who denied Holdsworth.

Royle Salute For Two-Goal Fergie

PA News: Duncan Ferguson was tonight saluted by Everton boss Joe Royle for his match winning performance at Wimbledon. Ferguson scored twice in the 3-2 victory and Royle said: "It will have done him the world of good to have got those goals. They were his first away goals for the club -- two crackers."

Ferguson is currently free to play for Everton after a 12-match suspension, originally imposed by the Scottish FA, was recently put on hold after an appeal. That judicial appeal is on January 19. Royle added: "Ferguson is a good player but he is a long, long way off being match fit. It might be the best part of a month before we see him really fit. We had to take a chance with him and its been justified."

It was only Ferguson's second league start since August following a hernia operation and six weeks in Barlinnie prison. "I don't know what is going to happen," added Royle. "I've been puzzled all along over the whole affair. Whatever happens on January 19, we'll know better then. But all Duncan is concerned about is getting match fit."

Ferguson faded after the break, when Wimbledon staged a two-goal comeback. "I warned the players at half-time what was to come," said Royle. "Wimbledon neither disappointed nor surprised me. They came back strongly and at the end we were hanging on. "But hang on we did and that was my first victory here as a player or a manager. I'm delighted. The first half we were really top class and we deserved to win on that performance alone."

Ferguson did not talk to reporters while Wimbledon manager Joe Kinnear failed to put in an appearance at the post-match press conference. But Wimbledon were clearly unhappy with some second half decisions by referee Alan Wilkie, whom they felt denied them at least one penalty award.

Royle, however, said: "I thought the referee was excellent. In a siege situation in the second half it would have been easy for a less experienced referee to crack but he was excellent throughout." Wimbledon striker Dean Holdsworth admitted: "We were all sick with this result, especially after playing so well at Arsenal." On the Dons' penalty claims, he said:

"Marcus Gayle was tripped by Watson, I was tripped in the box. But what really hurt us was the hand-ball, which was blatant.

"We all thought that Paul Rideout was rolling the ball out. It was unbelievable that we were not awarded a penalty.

"It is the second time in a few weeks that something so blatant has not gone our way. Against Spurs, Gary Mabbutt did a similar thing and again we got no penalty."

Happy Hogmanay

SoccerNet: Duncan Ferguson probably had the quietest Hogmanay of his life. Resolutions? There must have been plenty but if one was to let his footballing talent make all the noise in '96 he made an emphatic statement of his ability to do so with a devastating exhibition of the traditional centre forward's art.

There was no piped band to acclaim it, but in South London Ferguson showed why he can not only play a big part in the Everton renaissance Joe Royle plans, but that he could also be significant weapon in Scotland's attempt to upset the apple cart in the European Championships.

It took the 24-year-old Scottish International just 28 seconds to serve notice of his intention to turn over a new leaf when he tore the Wimbledon defence apart with his formidable combination of physical power and subtle skill.

A hopeful punt forward by Matthew Jackson was turned into an effective pass by Ferguson's ability to control the ball on his chest and stride away from Chris Perry in one movement. He made the by line then carefully pulled the ball back for Paul Rideout. His shot was parried by Hans Segers and John Ebbrell pounced on the rebound to claim the first Premiership goal of the year.

Brave as Wimbledon's second-half fightback was they never really recovered from that setback especially as it inspired Ferguson to scale even greater heights.

With his back to goal and marked tightly 15 yards out there seemed little he could do but lay off Jackson's diagonal cross in the 25th minute. Yet, again with impeccable use of the chest, Ferguson had the ball at his command. In a flash he spun a volleyed into the roof of the net with his weaker right foot.

It was Ferguson's first goal since the end of February and a minute later he struck again this time coolly sweeping home a David Unsworth cross. As Ferguson celebrated the old acquaintances he made in his six-week stay at Her Majesty's pleasure must have been long forgot. This was only his second start since being released from Barlinnie prison but if Royle is right and he is still a month from full fitness the rest of the Premier League and indeed the England team should be concerned.

There remains the little matter of the appeal outcome against the seven outstanding matches on his suspension. That will be heard on January 19. But if he can remain focused and make his peace with the SFA he might well have an impact on Euro '96.

Everton ought have scored more before the interval. And perhaps it was no coincidence that as Ferguson tired after it Royle's men lost their way and were left to grimly cling on.

Dean Holdsworth and Efan Ekoku hauled the Dons back into contention. But when Neville Southall clutched a Holdsworth snap-shot, referee Alan Wilkie ignored claims for a handball penalty, then only waved a yellow card at Dave Watson late on when others might have wagged red. Everton secured their third successive victory and Wimbledon were left to contemplate that, despite impressive wins at Chelsea and Arsenal, they still have a relegation battle on their hands.

Next Match: Everton v Stockport County (FA Cup 3rd Round) Next League Match: Everton v Chelsea

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