Derby County v Everton


FA Carling Premiership 96/97 - Game 17
Monday 16 December 1996; Baseball Ground, Derby

Result: Derby County (0) 0 - Everton (0) 1
Barmby (86)

Derby County: Hoult, Laursen, Rowett, McGrath, Stimac, C Powell, Flynn, Asanovic (Gabbiadini 85), D Powell (Dailly 88), Sturridge, Ward.
Subs Not Used: Willems, Taylor, Carsley. Booked: Stimac

Everton: Southall, Barrett, Hinchcliffe, Unsworth, Watson (c), Ferguson, Speed, Kanchelskis, Barmby, Branch (45 Stuart), Parkinson. Booked: Speed, Branch, Unsworth
Subs Not Used: Gerrard, Rideout, Hottiger, Short. Unavailable: Grant (injured).

Ref: Mike Reed Att: 17,252 League Position: 7th Results and League Table

Previous Match: Chelsea v Everton - Next Match: Everton v Leeds United 

Match Summary

SoccerNet: Nick Barmby condemned Derby to defeat at the Baseball Ground with a goal four minutes from time. The Everton striker reacted quickest to head home from close range after Joe Parkinson's 25-yard effort rebounded off the bar.

Striker Dean Sturridge threatened an early breakthrough as Derby pushed for the win that would have carried them to seventh in the Premiership. Sturridge, whose sparkling form helped Derby to an impressive 2-2 draw at Arsenal in their last outing, exposed Everton's lack of pace at the back in a bright opening. He broke away down the right with just three minutes gone and found Aljosa Asanovic, but the Croat's cross was cleared at the near post. Minutes later, Sturridge shot just wide after a good run by Chris Powell again unhinged the Merseysiders' defence.

Everton's Gary Speed was booked for a challenge on Sean Flynn after a quarter of an hour as the visitors struggled to combat Derby's direct approach. But with Nick Barmby back in the side after recovering from flu and Andrei Kanchelskis a constant threat down the right, Derby goalkeeper Russell Hoult was soon brought into play.

Duncan Ferguson's aerial power created several half chances and Everton were unlucky when Michael Branch was ruled offside from one of the Scottish striker's flicks. Everton gradually seized control of the midfield, with Parkinson marking Asanovic out of the game for long periods. Branch should have done better when the ball fell to him following a scramble on the edge of the area on the half hour. But he was beaten for pace by veteran defender Paul McGrath, who got in a good tackle at the expense of a corner.

Derby's Igor Stimac was booked before the break for handling as Barmby threatened to put Branch away - a caution which will cost the Croat a two-match ban under the totting-up procedure. Derby were furious on the stroke of half time when Asanovic finally escaped Parkinson's attention and burst into the penalty area, only for play to be stopped for a foul on the Croat, the resultant free-kick coming to nothing.

Graham Stuart replaced Branch at the break but the Merseysiders again found themselves backpedalling and David Unsworth was lucky to escape with just a caution after pulling down Ashley Ward as the Derby striker threatened to break clear. Asanovic should have broken the deadlock on 55 minutes when a blistering run from Sturridge left him with only goalkeeper Neville Southall to beat but the Croat blazed over from 10 yards.

Kanchelskis launched a lightning Everton raid down the right and whipped in an early cross but the Russia international's pace was such that none of his team-mates had arrived in the area and Derby were able to clear. Everton appealed in vain for a penalty on the hour when Ferguson headed down a cross and McGrath appeared to impede Barmby as he shaped to sweep the ball home six yards out.

Hoult then fluffed a 62nd-minute clearance and the ball arrived at Ferguson's feet 25 yards out. But the Everton striker could not control the ball quickly enough to take advantage. Derby went close in the 67th minute, Ward meeting Asanovic's cross with a firm volley which flew into the side-netting.

Barmby's Homer at the Baseball Ground

Michael Kenrick: A bruising and shapeless encounter that was never dirty or cynical -- with the possible exception of a badly mis-timed tackle by Speed -- this match was highly competitive but low in quality. Every ball was a chance for possession, every opposition clearance an opportunity to win that possession back, and every missed pass a provocation to challenge and win it back again. This was a quintessential Premiership match; at the Baseball Ground, the only one conspicuous by his absence was the Louisville Slugger.

The bat was wielded by Derby, who closed down every blue shirt in sight, and throttled any signs of creative play in favour of the cut-and-thrust that is the hallmark of sometimes desperate do-or-die English Football. Fans of Serie A: do not even bother to tune in -- this was not a pretty sight. Derby's ferocity paid off in the form of two glorious chances that were badly missed. Everton struggled visibly in the face of this onslaught, players getting in each others way, missing the simplest of passess, and unable to break the midfield stranglehold that threatened to destroy this match as a spectacle.

Joe Royle chose to withdraw Michael Branch, our most promising attacker half-way through this energy-sapping struggle. Was he injured? Was he tired? Was the aging Paul McGrath still too quick-thinking for our young live-wire? In the first half, McGrath's desperate lunging clearance -- the only contribution he made to the entire match -- impossibly whipped the ball right off Michael's toe as he strode in on gaol, with all the alarm bells ringing for Derby.

My only thought was that a booking, apparently for petulance at another poorly judged offside decision by the defender-loving referee, Mike Reed, was warning enough of impending trouble. Perhaps it was his annoyance at another whistle at the faintest suspicion that Dunce had been pushing... Whatever the reason, it was another ever-so-subtle Royle master-stroke.

Branch had done everything he could to link with Duncan's brilliant flick-ons and plunder another goal, but to no avail against a very savvy Derby defence. On came Stuart, and that immense but hard-to-define contribution he makes to the side was there again as he worked the ball forward relentlessly and gave more bite to the Everton attack.

The battle continued through a second half all but identical to the first. End-to-end stuff of the worst kind ensued as no-one could exert a steadying influence. Barmby tried in vain to time his forward passes, but nothing was really coming off. Kanchelskis was probably having one of his best team games ever, -- linking, passing, cutting in, and shooting, even DEFENDING!!! Sadly, all to no lasting effect.

And Barrett! -- at times, the game seemed to revolve around him like he was the axis of some football kaleidoscope. Sure, he made some mistakes. But I challenge you to name one Everton player who did not fluff a single hurried pass or misplace a desperate clearance in this maddening pot-boiler. Okay, so Neville Southall was his usual brilliant shot-stopping, match-winning self. Now, we expect nothing less than perfection from this maestro.

Just when I had put my money on the inevitable 0-0 draw, 4 minutes from time, Joe Parkinson strides forward from behind a Derby defender to pick up a carelessly controlled ball. Bouncing it off his knee in the manner of Eric Cantona, he struck it with fearsome power, only for it to take the slightest deflection off the inevitable blocking Derby boot.

The deflection was a Godsend: it took the ball above the otherwise exceptional Hoult who had protected the Derby goal like a maiden's virginity; it smacked hard into the top of the bar and flew maybe 40 ft into the air. Sighs and cries all around... except from Andy Cole.. err.. sorry, Nick Barmby, who watched keenly the arching trajectory of the ball, sizing it up with the precision of a master-builder...

As time stood still for the rest of us, and images of Paul Rideout, circa 1995 flashed in our memories. Barmby strode forward and glanced the most calculating header onto the gapping goal-line, beneath the despairing lunge of the goalkeeper, the ball bouncing high into the roof of the net.

Barmby stands siling, transfixed before the faithful.  He kisses the shirt badge, and is lifted shoulder high by an exultant Duncan Ferguson. Derby 0 Everton 1. Game Over.

Get In!

Guy McEvoy: I was fortunate to have left myself an hour and a half pub time when I set off for this one. Inevitably, I got lost in Stoke-on-Trent, then got more lost in Derby itself. In the end it, was a case of just dump the car anywhere and jump in a taxi. Whoever invented Monday night games wants shooting. Whoever put up Stoke and Derby road signs wants something altogether more grizzly. The hour and a half I'd left myself was whittled down to about 2 minutes, but hey, I got there in the end.

A quick look at the line up gave note that Barmby had replaced the injured Grant from the team that hung on at Chelsea. Michael Branch had again been given licence to act a last man forward with big Dunc mixing it in just behind him.

First Half

The first half was frankly as poor a performance as the team has mustered for several weeks. Derby started with fierce intent, that lad Sturridge -- confidence sky high after his wonder goal against Arsenal -- started to tease and harass our defence... and a fatalistic mood about the proceedings began to set in. Thankfully, he took a nasty knock after about 20 minutes and was marginally quieter after that.

The Everton midfield creativity was nowhere and Derby looked poised to take full advantage. But for the grace of god (or at least Neville Southall), they didn't. We hung on, our only real chance being a clean break by Branch, frustrated by the offside flag. I imagine some very harsh words were had at half time.

Second Half

If harsh words were had it didn't seem to  have that much effect as more of the same was the order for a long spell after the break. The need for some sort of tactical change was apparent; Joe settled for moving off Branch and shoving Stuart in a midfield role. It certainly gave Everton more shape but the chances still didn't seem to come.

Heavy frustration was setting in with the fans around me, not least of whom was the eighty-something bloke in front of me who taught me a new word or two. Kanchelskis didn't seem to want to chase anything that wasn't played to his feet, Barrett hugged the touch-line, refused to overlap with Kanchelskis and Stuart leaving them short of options... (Good job too probably, -- the one time he did overlap, he lost possession and Derby were away, -- a carbon copy of Chelsea's second goal except for the finish which was just over.)

Barmby didn't look as settled as he has in other games; no-one was latching on to Ferguson's knock-downs (shades of earlier in the season) and we had failed to test the Derby keeper with any meaningful effort throughout the match. This was very poor stuff.

It was the last 10 minutes or so that Everton seemed to finally realise that the game had kicked off already. Suddenly, there were one or two men willing to take some responsibility, and to makes runs at some tired defenders (Kanchelskis and Stuart finally getting their act together).

Suddenly the away fans -- with just the hint of some resilience on display -- started to lift themselves, and the momentum of this just managed to lift the team spirits enough to deliver the sucker punch. Parkinson picked the ball up on the edge of the box with a slight sight of goal. He responded to the fans "shoot", the effort was splendid and goal bound but solidly connected with the cross bar. The ball rebounded high, the Evertonians disappointment was instantly wiped out by the realisation that Barmby was placed for the rebound, the keeper realised this too but his scramble was too late, Barmby rose and subtly nodded home. Get in!

As subdued an away crowd as we've had for a while was, at once, utterly jubilant! We bounced up and down to a fine selection of stirring blue notes:

"Jingle bells, Jingle bells, Jingle all the way,
Oh what fun.. it is to watch... Everton win away - HEY!....",

"One Nicky Barmby,
there's only one Nick Barmby...",

"We shall not, we shall not be moved,
We shall not, we shall not be moved
Cos we're the team that's gonna win the football league (again!)
We shall not be moved!"

And all of a sudden, Everton were indisputably " far the greatest team the world has ever seen". From a wake to a Christmas party in 10 seconds!

We were all too busy winding up the Derby fans to really take in that they had another effort just scream over before the end. Splendid renditions of "shitty ground" were had in what may well be Everton's last visit to the Baseball ground; Derby, like so many others, are on the move. Chant of the day though goes to the Rams lot for the imaginative: "You're not very good".

So we all left happy, (at least until I realised I had no real idea where my car was), and Everton are definitely now in a deserved spell of enjoying the rub of the green. Still, you're supposed to make your own luck ,not wait for it, and -- whilst the old cliché (about playing badly and winning) remains as true as ever -- the management has some serious questions to ask of the team and then of their own choice of tactics).

We just might be on to something here.

Individual Performances

Dunc learns to Defend

Si Wooldridge: Wow!! What a match, spoiled for me only by the Barrett rantings I knew were going to come. I wouldn`t have been too upset if we'd come away with only a point, -- they were better than us on the night for long periods. If Branch becomes as lively as Sturridge -- when he finally gets a long run in the team -- then I'll be more than happy -- not that he`s half bad now, of course!

Barmby's chance wasn't as easy as it looked, and I half-expected him to fluff it. As Andy Gray said afterwards, it's always harder when the ball takes a long time to come down and you've got more time to think about it. And of course, the keeper made it back to his line, and there was a defender running in on him.

Barrett had quite a good game. OK, so his distribution was not up to scratch on the night, -- there was one particular cross-field pass that missed everyone and went out for a throw, with the nearest player to it 10 yards away... I thought: "Yep, that`ll be regurgitated a lot over the next couple of days by Owen et al".

BUT...everyone already knows that Earl's passing is not that hot. What impressed me were the number of good challenges he made in and around the area.  There were a few good defensive headers as well. On pure defensive play, Earl was my Man of the Defence on the night -- unless you count Dunc, who made more than one great defensive header.

Parkinson had a good match; he kept Asanovic out of the match for a long time. OK, Asanovic did get through him, but man-marking is a very tiring job, as the Sheff Wed's guy found out against McBananaman the other day.

The chance for the goal was well taken -- I`d like to see him do that more often. It may well have gone in if it hadn`t taken a deflection. My Man of the Match though was Big Nev, who pulled off a string of top-notch saves -- not least the half-volley from Ward that smacked him straight in the chest.

Grant us a Christmas Wish

Osmo Tapio E Räihälä: As very many of us watched yesterday's game on TV, I only want to comment on a couple of things:

  1. Everton's most visible player -- play-wise --  yesterday was Tony Grant! Especially during the second half -- when we were so totally under pressure -- Granty's absence meant that we were never going to score unless Derby made a bad mistake. Luckily, Darryll Powell did just that, and luckily Parkie's shot was deflected onto the crossbar, -- otherwise, Hoult might have held it.
  2. Parkie played defensively extremely well but I can't help thinking that he's not good enough to be played alone like he was. He simply isn't a play-maker; Tony Grant is. I'm not saying here that Joe should be replaced by Grantona, but play they should be played together, if possible. How to make room for them is another question....
  3. I think JR is exaggerating his protection of Twiggy. He certainly looked the only likely scorer in the first half.  Replacing him with Stuart made things worse. Graham couldn't tighten up the midfield and, in the menatime, Derby didn't have to worry about Branch anymore. Diamond is clearly out of form, -- maybe a run with the Stiffs could do him some good.
  4. Barrett really had a stinker yesterday. He couldn't pass the ball to another blue-shirted player, he lost possession around Derby's corner flag, made silly runs here and there with only a couple of good tackles from him to mention. Yesterday, he clearly was our worst player. Earl should just concentrate on defending, because that's what he's good at.
  5. Neville's save from Ward's far-post volley -- which the "official" reports have going into the side netting! -- was brilliant! He read the situation so well and covered a shot so quickly that Ward never had a real chance to beat him from there... And yet, the chance was so good that nine goalies out of ten would have let it in. Bravo, Nev!
  6. Why does Hinchliffe hide in the way he did? He has the skills to do better, but he is so shot-shy that it's unbelievable. He's strong in tackle and could be so much more of a commanding type of player. Yet we hardly see him, except in the set-pieces, which we had only occasionally last night.

To get three points with that display is very well done indeed. The important thing is that we seem to be pressurized a great deal at the moment, but we can cope with it. Back in September, this sort of pressure would have easily broken us (and the same in the Chelsea game). So, eight points behind leaders with still 63 points to be gained. Doesn't look so bad.

Players' ratings:

Referee: Mike Reed 5 Was totally out of his depth in far too many occasions.

Witches Brew

Dave Shepherd: Joe Royle and the Royal Blues laughed all the way home after forging the type of three-point win only overrated media darlings in red usually get away with.

The merriment continued well into the next day as it was clear that our all-knowing footy press (the same press who presume to select the international squad & managers) clearly had just as little idea as perennial failure Jim Smith as to what they had witnessed.

The Royle/Donachie system is a weird and wonderful one. It's still only a babe, but it's a very mysterious formula which is showing ominous signs of being only a touch of batwing or eye of newt away from being a lethal instead of stutteringly dangerous cocktail.

The papers boo-hoo'ed a lot about Derby losing a 5 match unbeaten run, but are content to write off EFC's 10 out of 11 as a dead duck in terms of championships. So much the better. The longer the rest of football continue to write off EFC as a lucky rather than serious threat, the more they will cash in on it.

The pundits should be asking questions like 'why are Everton top of the league in the first half, but more vulnerable in the second half?', or 'why the unprecedented 3+ attacking midfielder formation?'. These are matters I'd love to be able to tell you about, but until I get hold of a full match video from somewhere like the top balcony and about six hours to slow motion it, you'll just have to trust me that you are really in for a treat watching Everton these days -- it's unpredictable, not infallible, and it gets results.

Mercifully the night was not too cold, and the traffic was almost non-existent. Most director's carparks cannot afford a free space 50 yards from the correct entrance gate, but by dumb luck that's what I found. It was proven a good omen. After the final whistle, the proximity was also to prove no handicap to a quick exit, and we were at the motorway in 15 minutes. Run-down ground with wood & rusty girder stands or not, I'd attend this place over the nightmare Stamford Bridge any day.

First Half

The first half spent long periods looking like Sunderland revisited. Derby were quick and keen and made the ball their own. They also got plentiful assistance from being allowed to play a style which would have got a better result at Twickenham than England did... they used their height & weight advantages and went into everything with elbows up or simply shoved blue shirts away. By Durkin's 'Duncan definition', they should have been down to 5 men by half time. Blissfully ignoring this elbow-rich environment was the usually excellent Mike Reed, who has put an end to more than one physical team's cynical approach at games at Goodison in the past, but seemed only to notice away team infringements for the first half hour.

Luckily the frailty of the midfield was more than adequately covered by the defence. Relying heavily on the excellent Sturridge, Derby had no-one good enough to link with him and create good chances. Southall watched a couple of efforts fly wide, and took some high balls but was not forced into a save in the first half despite a large home advantage of possession. At the far end, Ferguson worked hard to release Branch. The twig had 2-3 runs at goal and got caught just offside 3-4 times more, and looked our only hope of a goal. Chances weren't coming often enough.

In the dressing room two things happened. First Graham Stuart was subbed on for Branch, and second a few words in a few ears got the message across that to win you had to have the ball, and to have the ball you had to go looking for it instead of waiting for it to arrive wearing a bow.

Second Half

This combination made the second half a different proposition. Blues now dominated possession, and it was blues who got to most 50-50 balls. By no coincidence, even loose balls went mostly to blues shirts. Everton wanted it, and now they had a chance of getting it.

Most of this possession was back to Kendall days of tight passing and overcomplex buildups, with rarely a sign of a finish at the end, but at least they were back in charge of their own destiny instead of being played like a jester's tambourine by the rag-bag of Div One starry-eyes and foreign false avatars.

Despite the upper hand, clearly some luck was also going to be needed. Set pieces were very rare, yet County were finding more opportunities for breakaway attacks the more Everton came forward at them (sound familiar?). The result was an impressive looking collection of corners and shots at goal, but the Everton defence -- supported superbly by the rest of the team -- kept the chances down to a handful, the remainder going down to three shots off target and a save from Southall to a volley that, had it been made by Peter Schmeichel, would have been hailed as the greatest save since Noah saved the whole animal population from the Flood.

Time slipped away and the watching TV cameras seemed to guarantee a 0-0 draw. Everton's best chances had not had the finishing touch, and when Parkinson took the ball and jinked left for a shot from outside the D, it was a sure sign of 'last orders', but in the cold air it dipped a little and smacked the crossbar full in the face. The resulting rebound managed somehow not only to bounce straight up in the air about 10 feet, but progress sideways to the right. It took an eternity to come down, in which time the keeper Hoult had managed not to recover for a simple take in the right-hand corner of the six-yard box, and all alone Nick Barmby managed not to get fooled by the spin and headed in at the near post to his own joy and everyone else's in that side of the Osmaston timewarp stand.

The usual nervous wait for the whistle ensued. By then, Derby's unusual fans had already resigned themselves to a loss, but didn't seem to care too much, maybe because of Forest's greater problems. For Everton fans, it was a quick chance to wheel out the old Jingle Bells song they had had to suffer last home match.

Player Ratings

TEAM PERFORMANCE 9 Don't think I've ever seen the covering assignment system working more effectively or smoothly than today. Stuck at it in a torrid first half, and edged their way back into the game by doing what they didn't do against Sunderland -- upping the workrate.

Ref: Mike Reed (Birmingham) To my horror, he ignored Derby's rugby style and allowed them to physically dominate the game for most of the first half, then did an impression of a home town turkey by penalising every similar Everton offence. Balanced better thereafter, but how they got away with just one booked is a telling question.

Barmby's Boost for Title Dark Horses

PA News:Nick Barmby pounced for a late winner as Everton maintained their impressive record at Derby with a 1-0 victory at the Baseball Ground. The England striker reacted quickly to head home after Joe Parkinson's 25-yard effort had rebounded off the crossbar four minutes from time. Everton's victory, their eighth in 11 visits to this ground, put them above Chelsea in seventh place and left Derby cursing their first defeat in six games.

Derby were left to rue their missed chances -- most notably an Ashley Ward header which flashed just over the bar midway through the second half. Everton boss Joe Royle made one change from the side which drew 2-2 at Chelsea with Nick Barmby returning from flu at the expense of the injured Tony Grant. Derby were unchanged from their 2-2 draw with leaders Arsenal at Highbury. Marco Gabbiadini recovered from a knee operation to win a place on the bench.

Dean Sturridge posed problems for the Everton defence in the early stages with his blistering pace. A darted run from Derby's five-goal leading scorer was halted by Parkinson's tackle on the edge of the visitors area. And when Sturridge sped clear of David Unsworth to release Aljosa Asanovic into space on the left, Neville Southall had to get down quickly at his near post. to cut out the resulting cross.

Michael Branch raced on to Duncan Ferguson's ninth minute flick-on and almost fired Everton ahead against the run of play but steered his shot narrowly wide of Russell Hoult's right hand post. Gary Speed was booked in the 13th minute for clattering into the back of Sean Flynn and that was the cue for a spell of Derby pressure.

Asanovic's neat pass released Sturridge down the right end of the Everton box but Unsworth read the danger and intercepted his low cross. Ward produced a neat turn with his back to goal that took him past Dave Watson but the Everton skipper recovered well to win the ball with a sliding tackle.

Derby lost their way before the half-hour and Everton dominated the latter part of the half although Branch was continually frustrated by the off-side flag as he attempted to latch onto Ferguson's flick-ons. Andrea Kanchelskis dragged a low shot across the face of the Derby goal with Speed only a yard away from supplying a far post finish.

Derby suffered a blow seven minutes from the break when skipper Igor Stimac was booked by referee Mike Reed, who decided the Croatian had deliberately handled Barmby's attempted through ball. The caution left Stimac facing a two-match ban just three games after returning from a three match suspension. Stimac had been booked in his first two games back -- against Coventry and Arsenal.

Branch was booked for kicking the ball away two minutes from the break and Joe Royle brought on Graham Stuart for the second half. Unsworth became the third Everton booking for holding Ward back in the 50th minute and the Merseysiders had an escape when Sturridge's low drive deflected off Watson to leave Asanovic with only Southall to beat -- the Croatian snatching at his shot and lifting it high over the bar.

Everton appealed in vain for a penalty when Paul McGrath appeared to hold back Barmby as he tried to sweep home a Ferguson nod down from Speed's right wing cross. Derby responded with a Ward volley which thudded into the side netting -- Asanvoic supplying the cross from the left -- and the Derby striker saw his bullet header from Jacob Laursen's cross flash a foot over the crossbar.

Derby hit by Barmby Ram-raid

David Lacey, The Guardian: A cheeky piece of ram-raiding by Nick Barmby at the Baseball Ground last night won Everton an unlikely victory in a match largely dominated by Derby who were left to rue chances they had missed earlier.

Barmby headed the winner four minutes from time after Parkinson's 20-yard drive had come back off the crossbar. It was his second goal since moving to Goodison Park from Middlesbrough in October for 5.75 million pounds.

The victory takes Everton to seventh place in the Premiership and they have now lost only once in eleven league matches. As dark horses for the championship they are all but invisible. Nevertheless a place in Europe surely beckons Joe Royle's steadily improving side.

There is a better balance about Everton now, with Speed and Barmby complementing Ferguson and Kanchelskis. Not that much of the latter was seen last night. The consistent pressure applied by the Derby wing-backs Laursen and Chris Powell meant that Everton always struggled to make headway on either flank.

As a result Ferguson's normally omnipotent head was effective only fleetingly. Seldom has Hinchcliffe's left foot, which provides the tall Scot with important service at corners and free kicks been so underemployed. Derby must still be wondering how they managed to lose, having denied Everton so many of their normal routes to victory.

Then again, Royle's half-time decision to replace Branch, his 18-year old prodigy, with Stuart, enabling Barmby to move further forward, proved crucial to the outcome. For much of the time, however, County appeared more capable of breaking the stalemate.

Derby's presence in the Premiership has been anything but sheepish. They went into last night's match unbeaten in five games and playing fluent, confident football. If there was a lesson to be learned it was the obvious one: at this level, teams such as Everton are apt to punish a failure to turn territorial advantage into goals.

Sturridge and Ward spent much of the first half and a large part of the second worrying the Everton centre-backs Watson and Unsworth with their pace and quick passing. Unsworth got himself booked for desperately hanging on to the escaping Ward early in the second half.

With Asanovic, one of the better Balkan buys, prowling in space behind the front runners, and Laursen and Chris Powell giving Derby's movements consistent width, Everton had to defend for lengthy periods. But Southall did not have a serious save to make until in the 68th minute he blocked a shot from Ward, who had met Asanovic's centre from the left first-time.

By then, Asanovic had squandered what proved to be Derby's best opportunity of taking a more tangible grip on the proceedings. Ten minutes into the second half Sturridge broke away on the left and after cutting into the penalty area saw an intended shot ricochet off Watson straight to the Croatian. Asanovic was near the penalty spot with time and space to score, but at the crucial moment he lifted his head and his shot flew high.

When a header from Ward, after Laursen's excellent cross from the right, met a similar fate 15 minutes from the end, Derby and their followers probably expected the worst.

Television supported Everton's claim for a penalty after McGrath had appeared to bring down Barmby just before the hour. Ferguson had nodded Barmby through on goal and he repeated the service a little later, though again with no reward.

The goal, when it came, probably surprised both teams. Derby could take heart from their performance but they paid the price of profligacy.

Report Copyright The Guardian

Barmby breaks Derby's run

Phil Andrews, The Independent: It was touch and go whether Nick Barmby would be fit for this match. He had just shrugged off a nasty bout of flu, and must have wished he had stayed in his sick bed as Derby pounded away at the Everton goal like a throbbing headache.

But some pick-me-ups you cannot get on the National Health, and the fact that Barmby's was dispensed just four minutes from the end of what seemed destined to be a goalless draw gave it an added sparkle. Everton had spent most of the match trying to raise the Derby siege, and Barmby's involvement had been limited to the odd breakaway. Then Joe Parkinson picked up the ball 25 yards out and let fly with a dipping drive that cannoned back off the crossbar and into Barmby's path. He headed it down and in, and Everton were Derby's unlikely conquerors.

Just what the doctor ordered for Joe Royle, but a sickener for Derby manager, Jim Smith, whose side had been brimming with the sort of confidence a five-match unbeaten run brings.

With a tight defence pivoting around Paul McGrath, whose experience compensates for the yard of pace the legs have lost, they had the speed and invention up front to keep Everton on the back foot for much of this game.

Their striking partnership of Ashley Ward and Dean Surridge showed the ability to turn a defender and make space for themselves in the box, and if the Rams' final touch had been as good as their approach work they might have put the match well beyond Barmby's late intervention.

But having created the chances, they either put them into the arms of Neville Southall or missed the target completely. Aljosa Asanovic lobbed the ball over the bar from just six yards and Ward headed over from a similar range.

Everton's finishing, when they managed a sortie into Derby's territory, was little better. Andrei Kanchelskis grazed a post and Michael Branch squandered three good opportunites, hitting the side netting, scuffing wide and allowing himself to be bundled off the ball by a pursuing defender with only Russell Hoult to beat. Jim Smith was understandably frustrated. 'We had great chances but we didn't put them away and I was always afraid that they would break out and this would happen.'

Joe Royle was more philosophical. 'It was smash and grab for us but the better chances were ours,' he said. 'We should have had a penalty when McGrath brought down Barmby early on but it wasn't given. We were a bit unbalanced tonight with too many forwards in the side.'

Fortunately for him, one of them was Nick Barmby.

Barmby makes Derby pay for missed chances

Richard Hobson, The Times: EVERTON aspire to a place in Europe next season; Derby County will be happy merely to preserve their status in the FA Carling Premiership. Yet for most of the time at the Baseball Ground last night, there was not a cigarette paper between them.

On an evening when the pace of Dean Sturridge and Andrei Kanchelskis was to the fore, it was the speed of thought of Nick Barmby that ultimately secured victory for the visitors. He was the only player to follow in a long-range shot from Joe Parkinson in the 86th minute. The fierce drive rebounded off the bar and Barmby was rewarded for his foresight when he headed into the empty net as Russell Hoult, the Derby goalkeeper, scrambled frantically to recover his position, like a drowning man seeking air.

It is easy to say that Derby merited a point, but that it is to condone the manner in which they squandered the best two chances of the game. In the case of Aljosa Asanovic, his miss represented the only serious blemish on an otherwise stylish performance graced by instant control and passes that many midfield players, even at this elevated level, would not even consider.

After 57 minutes, though, he found himself, unmarked, ten yards from goal when a shot from Sturridge rebounded into his path. With time and space to pick his spot, he leant back and drove high into the stand. Twenty minutes later, at the culmination of a move in which Asanovic had figured twice, Jacob Laursen crossed from the right only for Ashley Ward, in comparative freedom, to head over the bar.

Everton move above Chelsea into seventh place in the table, behind Manchester United only on goal difference. "We nicked it somewhat," Joe Royle, the Everton manager said, with no suggestion of a pun on the identity of his goalscorer. "You have to win games like this one to be successful and this victory has to be a great sign for us. The Baseball Ground is a difficult place to come because the pitch is quick and Derby have quality and pace, so nobody should underestimate this result."

Jim Smith, Royle's opposite number, responded: "We're still learning at this level, but the most important thing is that we have to take our opportunities."

Royle felt that Everton should have been awarded a penalty when Paul McGrath appeared to pull down Barmby on the hour. Nor was he appeased when television replays suggested that Mike Reid, the referee, missed the infringement as he glanced across to his assistant to check an offside. Nevertheless, he could feel justified in his tactics, spelt out before the game, of absorbing what pressure Derby could muster and succeeding on the counter-attack. It helps, of course, that his side includes Kanchelskis, an old-fashioned winger who, whether deliberately or stubbornly, confirmed the truth of the old adage about attack representing the best form of defence.

Ostensibly a wing back, he was clearly reluctant to defend. It was, however, the threat of his runs into space that ensured that, after the first few minutes, Chris Powell became reluctant to attack along that flank himself.

When Powell attempted to push him wide onto his weaker right foot, Kanchelskis drilled a shot across the face of the goal; allowed to drift onto his left, he was just as menacing. On one occasion, Stimac, the Derby club captain, was left prostrate and embarrassed as a sliding tackle took neither ball nor man. Stimac was eventually booked for handball, his ninth caution in 13 games, and a second three-match suspension of the season beckons.

Report Copyright The Times

Barmby on hand to steal Everton win at the death

Henry Winter, Electronic Telegraph: NICKY BARMBY stole in at the death at the Baseball Ground last night to secure a fortunate full complement of points for Everton. An initially uninspired game came to life in the second half, when the hosts wasted three good chances, their profligacy punished when Barmby struck to leave Derby feeling blue.

There was no questioning the attacking intentions of both managers, one of whom, Derby's Jim Smith, received his manager-of-the-month prize before kick-off. Smith's team offered variety of build-up, with the wing-backs pushing on and Aljosa Asanovic creating danger with his usual sophistication in central midfield.

Everton, too, were trying to accentuate the positive with Joe Royle starting the club's four most expensive signings, Nicky Barmby, Duncan Ferguson, Gary Speed and Andrei Kanchelskis, for the first time. The presence of young Michael Branch, a darting figure reflecting that Goodison is not simply ruled by the chequebook, added to Everton's attacking bent.

The stage was filled with leading men but the subsequent first half, scoreless and largely chanceless, contained little of real drama, both sides simply cancelling each other out. The most enduring impressions were made by those veteran performers, Paul McGrath and Dave Watson.

The legs may have slowed but the minds of McGrath and Watson remained as perceptive as ever. When Dean Sturridge, quick and confident, turned David Unsworth, he invariably found Watson forming a final barrier. One of Watson's tackles on Sturridge, a challenge brimming with complete commitment, even won a handshake from the Derby attacker.

McGrath, too, displayed his awareness, always conscious of the flick-ons that Ferguson likes to direct to Branch. Early into a disappointing first period, Branch did escape, in pursuit of Ferguson's header, only to falter as Russell Hoult closed down the angle.

Derby's defence is so organised, with McGrath and Igor Stimac such canny marshals, that Everton knew it would need a quick thrust to tease an opening. Ferguson again released Branch after 17 minutes but the England under-21 player was ruled offside, a decision best described as marginal.

Everton rejigged at half-time, replacing Branch with Graham Stuart and pushing Barmby up to work around Ferguson, a nippy launch moving in a liner's wash. Yet it was Derby who looked the likelier to score, as they began to spread play and stretch Everton's defence.

Chances came and went. Asanovic should have scored, shooting over from 10 yards, following Sturridge's lengthy charge. Then Asanovic, switching play 50 yards from left to right with a wonderful pass, created an opportunity for Ashley Ward, whose fulsome strike was brilliantly parried by Neville Southall.

Everton had moments of promise. Kanchelskis tested Hoult with a routine 25-yarder while Barmby believed he had won a penalty, following what appeared a pull from McGrath. Mike Reed dismissed Everton's appeals.

Derby produced another promising move after 75 minutes. Asanovic worked the ball down the right towards Gary Rowett, whose hefty cross deserved better than Ward's misdirected header. The breakthrough finally arrived, slightly against the run of play, when Parkinson crashed a shot against the bar and Barmby headed in the rebound.

Report Copyright The Electronic Telegraph

The Last Word

Nick Barmby & Joe Royle (PA News): Goal hero Nick Barmby believes Everton can sneak in the back door to challenge for the Premiership title while media attention focuses away from Goodison Park. Barmby grabbed a late winner in tonight's 1-0 win at Derby as Everton moved up to seventh in the table by maintaining their record of just one league defeat in nine away matches this season.

The former Tottenham and Middlesbrough forward pounced to head home after Joe Parkinson's shot rebounded off the crossbar. And although Derby dominated for much of the match, Barmby insisted: "We showed our battling capabilities and I think we got our just rewards because I thought we should have had an earlier penalty.

"We didn't play particularly well but if we keep battling away we can get right in the title race. The big boys get all the headlines but I think we can sneak in the back door.

"We've just got to get our heads down. We've got a busy Christmas coming up and hopefully we can get a lot of points in that period.

"You've got to dig deep for points like this. Manchester United came here and only got a draw so it's a great result for us tonight," he added on Sky Sports. Everton boss Joe Royle was also adamant that his side should have had a penalty when veteran defender Paul McGrath appeared to hold back Barmby as he tried to sweep home a nod down from Duncan Ferguson.

"I thought it was a penalty but unfortunately the referee doesn't have the benefit of hindsight," said Royle diplomatically. But he was delighted with the result and joked: "The headlines will read that we Nick-ed it. We didn't play well today but we came away with the three points which is a good sign."

Man-of-the-match Parkinson added: "We knew it would be hard out there. They played well but luckily we got away with a win." Derby manager Jim Smith admitted he was frustrated by the outcome and said: "We did a lot of good things but did some silly things too. We missed two great chances in the second half.

"We were brilliant for 20 minutes in the first half and didn't score then either. We thought we might get caught because of that and unfortunately that's what's happened. They got their goal from just about their only shot in the second half."

Results and League Table

Wednesday, 18 December 1996

Carbone (57)                    Scholes (61)

Tuesday, 17 December 1996

COVENTRY CITY           2-1     NEWCASTLE UNITED          21,538
Huckerby(6) McAllister(31)      Shearer(61)
LIVERPOOL               4-2     NOTTINGHAM FOREST         36,126
Collymore(6,63) Fowler(27)      Campbell(34) Pearce(60)
Lyttle (og 51) 

Monday, 16 December 1996

DERBY COUNTY            0-1     EVERTON                   17,252  

Sunday, 15 December 1996

SUNDERLAND              3-0     CHELSEA                   19,683 
Duberry(og:30) Ball(48) Russell(67)

Saturday, 14 December 1996

LEEDS UNITED            0-0     TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR         33,783  

LIVERPOOL               5-1     MIDDLESBROUGH             39,491
Fowler(1,28,77,85)              Fjortoft(75)
WIMBLEDON               1-0     BLACKBURN ROVERS          13,246

Table after 18 December 1996

Club                          P    W    D    L   GF   GA   GD  Pts
Liverpool                    18   11    4    3   35   17   18   37
Arsenal                      17   10    5    2   34   16   18   35
Wimbledon                    17   10    4    3   30   17   13   34
Newcastle United             17    9    3    5   27   19    8   30
Aston Villa                  17    9    3    5   22   15    7   30
Manchester United            17    7    7    3   32   25    7   28
***EVERTON***                17    7    6    4   26   20    6   27
Chelsea                      17    6    7    4   25   26   -1   25
Sheffield Wednesday          17    6    7    4   18   19   -1   25
Tottenham Hotspur            17    7    3    7   17   17    0   24
Derby County                 17    5    7    5   19   20   -1   22
Leicester City               17    6    3    8   17   22   -5   21
Leeds United                 17    6    3    8   15   20   -5   21
Sunderland                   17    5    5    7   17   21   -4   20
West Ham United              17    4    6    7   15   22   -7   18
Middlesbrough                18    3    6    9   21   33  -12   15
Blackburn Rovers             17    2    7    8   16   22   -6   13
Southampton                  17    3    4   10   24   32   -8   13
Coventry City                17    2    7    8   12   24  -12   13 
Nottingham Forest            17    1    7    9   14   29  -15   10

This League Table Update not rovided by Lawrence "Leagueman" Breakey

This Match Report Compilation was prepared by Michael Kenrick for Marko Poutiainen. 21 Dec 1996.