Leicester City (0) 1
- Everton (1) 2
Scorers: Walsh 83; Hinchcliffe 12, Unsworth 52
Everton were wonderfuly cohesive and fluent in attack, while behind them their five-man midfield suffocated Leicester movement almost at birth -- Clive White in The Independent
Leicester City: Poole, Grayson, Whitlow, Watts (Marshall, 62), Walsh,
Prior, Izzet, Lennon, Parker (Taylor, 62), Claridge, Heskey.
Subs Not Used: Hyde, Lawrence, Hill. Booked: Heskey, Claridge.
Everton: Southall; Barrett, Unsworth,
Watson (c), Hinchcliffe; Parkinson, Speed, Barmby, Grant (85 Short); Stuart,
Ferguson, . Booked: Southall, Unsworth, Short.
Subs Not Used: Gerrard, Hottiger, Branch, Allen. Unavailable: Ebbrell (injured), Kanchelskis (the flu).
|Ref: Jeff Winter||Att: 20,975||League Position: 6th||Results and League Table|
Previous Match: Liverpool v Everton - Next Match: Everton v Sunderland
SoccerNet: Everton masterminded another Premiership victory, thanks to the quick-thinking exploits of England internationals Nick Barmby and Andy Hinchcliffe. It stretched their current run in the Premiership to eight games without defeat, and this latest victory even earned them glowing praise from beaten City boss Martin O'Neill.
The Merseysiders can think themselves to be somewhat fortunate, though, in being given the gift of a goal as early as the 12th minute. Barmby and Hinchcliffe combined to capitalise on a bizarre double error by City's stand-in goalkeeper Kevin Poole. Poole, playing in only his second Premiership match of the season, because of Kasey Keller's international commitments with America, made one of the blunders of the season to give Everton the lead.
Referee Jeff Winter awarded Leicester a free-kick for offside against Everton, and, when Garry Parker rolled the ball back to Poole, the City keeper inexplicably picked it up under pressure from the nimble Barmby. He then compounded that error by allowing the England striker to get hold of the ball, and tap it to Hinchcliffe, and then he stood and watched as the Everton defender lofted the ball over his head and into the empty net.
The Leicester players immediately surrounded referee Winter, who simply waved away their protests. And Everton boss Joe Royle was in agreement with him. He declared: 'There was nothing wrong with the goal. It was quick thinking by Barmby, but I can understand the supporters not being able to realise what was happening.
'There was a misunderstanding by the goalkeeper when he picked the ball up, but Barmby has to be congratulated on thinking as fast as he did. It was a great finish as well by Hinchcliffe.'
Everton were always in control from that point on, and went further in front six minutes after the break when Poole could again be said to have been at fault. Hinchcliffe's cultured left foot slung over an inswinging corner, Poole was unable to hold on to Gary Speed's header and David Unsworth stabbed the ball home.
The home side never got into the game until O'Neill swapped Julian Watts and Parker for Scott Taylor and Ian Marshall on the hour. After that, City piled on the pressure in the guise of an aerial bombardment, but their only reward came seven minutes from time when Emile Heskey skipped round the back of the Everton defence and crossed for skipper Steve Walsh to steer a header beyond Neville Southall.
The Welsh international keeper then made sure the Merseysiders came away with all three points by saving from Walsh again in the dying seconds. Royle added: 'It was a bit frantic in the end, but I think our week's endeavours got to us a bit.
'We've played three games now in seven days, including the midweek derby against Liverpool, and the players were a bit tired towards the end. The only time they rattled us was with the aerial bombardment they produced in the last 20 minutes, but I was very pleased with the way we defended.'
Royle also singled out the influential Barmby for special praise. He added: 'He has settled in very quickly and is loving every minute of it. He has given us guile in the area behind the front two that we have not had. There will be lots of improvement in him, but he's already looking terrific for us.'
Even Royle's counterpart, City manager O'Neill, knew this Everton side have the potential to challenge for the title. He said: 'If they can continue to keep this run going, then they can be up there at the finish. They are a very strong side, with some good players, and I was impressed.'
Everton proved this current run of form, their best in the Premiership for two years, was no fluke by never allowing City to get into the style which unsettled Newcastle and Aston Villa in recent weeks. In the first half, they were completely in the ascendancy, and, with a little bit more coolness in front of goal, the impressive Barmby may well have put the game beyond City's reach before the break.
The England ace was only inches away from scoring in the 22nd minute with a stunning left-foot shot which rolled agonisingly beyond the left-hand upright. He may have cost Everton a record £5.75 million, but on his current form it may well turn out to be the most inspired buy of the season.
But, even though Royle is aware his side are beginning to have the look of a team capable of rubbing shoulders with the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool at the very summit of the Premiership, he refuses to let it go to his head. He added: 'We are in a good run and confidence breeds confidence. At the moment, the goals are there for us and we are scoring freely.
'But we are not going to get carried away with it just yet.'
Guy McEvoy: Leicester wants sorting out. Imagine you rbattling through a sub-arctic M6 to get there, finding the ground, smelling the Bovril from your ice box of a car, and then being completely unable to park. I know we all suffer this from time to time but I have to say that Leicester was by far the worst I've ever encountered.
I followed three separate signs to different car parks, all of which proved to be phantoms, and just brought me out on a dodgy one-way system travelling futher from the ground. In the end I had to dump the car in the city centre. Fortunately, due to my unplanned detour I bumped into a worried looking mate just arrived from the station.
The cause of his nervousness was that he'd just been told by the police to take off all his colours as "it is still like the 1970s here." "Nah mate," I reassured him, "they're just saying that to wind you up." He calmed down. We turned the corner and their was a big bloke in Everton scarf sitting on the floor blood gushing from his mouth and moaning about how "I never said nufin' to him". I then adopted the same nervousness as my mate.
On arrival at the ground I was well ready for that much needed hot drink. There was one kiosk, three servers and the three of them were seemingly on a go-slow. This was supposed to cater for over 2,000 Evertonians. Fat chance!
My seat (admittedly in the cheap section) was below pitch level to the side of the ground, which meant the view was similar to that your average-height five-year-old will enjoy, watching a Sunday league park game. In case you haven't got the gist yet, I was not that taken with Filbert street.
It wouldn't have been so bad if their fans had a good sense of humour about it all. But no, they lived up to the earlier police description with their 90 minutes long "Come and have a go if you think you're hard enough" attitude. Sad.
The Everton side was unchanged from that which stole the second half at Anfield. Andrei is still obviously suffering from that bug so Stuart again shifted to the right. It showed quickly that this would be as difficult for Leicester to deal with as it was for Liverpool, particularly as Leicester were nowhere near as quick in closing us down. Again, our passing build up was often worthy of the "School of Science" tag and Leicester went the entire half without creating a single worrying threat.
Our half time advantage was taken early on in an unusual goal for which full credit must be given to the quick thinking of Barmby. He'd just been caught off-side (something that happened a lot on the day), and stopped still whilst they took the free kick and passed it back to the keeper. The hapless goalie hadn't really clocked that Barmby was still behind him and panicked when he felt him running in and picked it up.
This, of course, constituted a back-pass, and the Everton contingent politely pointed this out to the referee. The referee agreed (he seemed to agree with the fans on anything they cared to shout loudly enough about, but on this occasion fair enough). The keeper put the ball down mystified, Barmby knocked it straight away to Hinchcliffe who chipped it over the keeper into an empty net.
The Everton players came and celebrated close enough that it'll be a video and freeze frame job to find myself on Match of the Day (does anyone else do that or am only I that sad?).
The half-time entertainment was provided by pom-pom girls, in an attempt to give Filbert Street a Premiership feel, but as their fans were still doing their level best to start a riot, the dancers went largely unnoticed.
The second half was a bit more upbeat and again Everton enjoyed the upper hand. A carbon copy of Speed's goal against Liverpool was denied by a save on the line but fortunately Unsworth was there to knock in the loose ball (not that we could see who it was at the time, and with there being no audible tannoy for the second game in a row I left the ground not knowing who had scored an Everton goal).
Magnificence can be boring for the fan, so in order to keep those of us who had travelled interested we gave the last 15 minutes over to Leicester. A minor barrage ensued from which someone managed to out jump our defence and pull one back. This one blip excepted though, in general, Leicester's attack would have made 'Everton in September' look razor sharp.
Our "interest" was further extended by the referee's time keeping. The only injury in the game had been to the linesman after an Unsworth tackle (cause of much hilarity for all as the bugger was stretchered off). Somehow from the incident Winter found over 10 minutes to add on. By my watch, we had to wait 'till 4:58 when the points were confirmed. I made my way out of the ground and on to the long, anything but trouble-free walk back to the car.
All-in-all, the trip to Leicester was in interesting "retro" experience. The ground, the fans and the facilities all serve to demonstrate just how much the top flight football experience has moved on in the last few years and reminded me that perhaps nostalgia does cloud some of my fonder memories of years ago.
It's not like those visit's to cute grounds you draw in the cup (like York). The thing with Filbert Street is that it is a Premiership club charging Premiership prices, with a first division ground, third division facilities, and HM Prison's League fans. The quality of Leicester's play yesterday suggest that their present position in the table flatters them. I have little doubt that by the final reckoning they will be holding up the table. If they do go down I for one would not miss them.
Kenneth Griggs: A decent enough win, though once again I felt the boys played well within themselves. For almost the whole game they seemed to be coasting to a relatively comfortable win, but the last fifteen minutes or so were a bit shakey.
The ground was as near as full as dammit and Everton had once again sold out all their allocation of about 3,000. The East Stand at Filbert St is still lousy. We were all stuffed below pitch level and I have now got neck ache.
No one could hear the tannoy, if there was one, so no-one knew the team until they came running out. By then I had enjoyed three pints of Mild in a local hostelry and was singing like a good'un. My voice went a little soprano when I couldn't see Kanchelskis but was restored when I saw Big Dunc and was applauding the sound of his name.
Diamond was put in the Flying Ukranian's position and Short was again on the bench. Barmby and Dunc were up front in a 4-4-2 formation.
From the kickoff, it was clear that Everton are a class act when they want to be. Leicester harried around but found little useful ball possession. Without creating anything too penetrating, the Blues were already in command.
The first goal came as a result of two pieces of quick thinking from Barmby. When all seemed lost, he chased a pass-back to the keeper and forced him into picking it up. Free kick just inside the angle of the box, but taken ouside. Barmby quickly grabbed the ball off the keeper (who had the "What's-giong-on-here" face on).
While all Evertonians were screaming for him to wait for Hinchy to take it and clip onto Duncan's head, Barmby quickly slid it back to the said Hinchcliffe who curled it so sweetly over the retreating keeper (who now had an "Oh, I see" look on), and into the empty net. This had happened right in front of us all and the sight of the yellow shirts jumping all over Hinchcliffe amidst all the other mass hysteria was wonderful.
Everton continued to dominate and Speed should have scored after an excellent move which ended with him on his own, on the penalty spot, but he glanced his header wide. The whole team looked solid all round and looked like creating loads... but somehow they didn't and the half sort of just petered out.
Barmby and Dunc were quite mobile up front and the team as a whole seemed intent on not just humping the ball up to Duncan's head at every opportunity. However when Hinchcliffe curled in one of his special corners soon after the restart, a scramble broke out and all I could see was yellow jerseys jumping up and down and Gary Speed running the fastest. So I presumed he had scored.
Instead of going for the jugular, the Boys seemed to settle for that and lacked any real penetration from then on. The defence seemed solid enough and marshalled by the once again brilliant Watson, all looked secure.
Rhino was lunging in at anything that moved and, on one occasion, it happened to be the linesman who was looking a little sprightly. Rhino wasn't having any of it and slid in from five yards. When the stretcher carried the linesman away we all had bellyache from laughing.
This was soon quashed though because I think Rhino was feeling a little sheepish and so he hid for a bit. Just long enough for Leicester to whip in their first decent cross and their central defender (Walsh I think) to head past Big Nev.
Typical. Just Bloody typical. No relaxing end to the game then. I looked at my watch, five minutes to go. "This is going to be a long five minutes" me thinks....
Me is right. Seventeen minutes and a few almighty Hail Mary's into the beseiged EFC area later, and my fingers are blistered from whistling. Short had been brought on for Grant as a gesture of Everton's attacking intentions and Leicester duly obliged by pumping everything at him. Composure was called for and the boys did well.
At one stage, a cross was aimed at the gangly twit Marshall and before it got within two feet of him he was flattened by Waggy, Rhino, Short and Big Dunc. Who actually won the header I dont know, and not a lot of point in asking Marshall either.
The ref obviously thought he was at Old Trafford when Utd are losing because it was nearly dawn before he blew the final whistle. Three thousand "Phew"s nearly blew Marshall over again.
Three points; we looked good until it all became a little panicky at the end. There were 3,000 Evertonians there and one small food stall to feed us all, with 3 people serving. If it takes a minute to serve each person, and if we had all wanted something, the stall would have closed by about approx 1 o'clock tomorrow afternoon. Some things don't change.
There was a little skirmish down in the corner near the home supporters at half time. I didn't see much but it looked like a whole load of nothing from where I was.
David Taylor: Oh what joyous times. The wife is still in Ireland with her mother and, for the second Saturday running, I was able to watch my beloved Blues. This time the journey was not as far -- Leicester only being 1.5 hours up the motorway, though traffic and parking conspired to make it a bit of a panic to make the start of the game. Added to this the kiosk in the East Stand was both understaffed and had run out of pies.
Lets be blunt: Leicester is a shitty ground. I was bought up 35 miles away in Northants, so in my early years it was about the only place I got to watch Everton -- when they were in the same division as us! The ground hasn't changed since then -- oh, sorry, they knocked the main stand down, and rebuilt something identical except concrete and metal replaced the old wood.
Two sides of the ground are low grade 3rd division standard -- you know the type where an off-target shot means a lost ball. The front 3 rows are below pitch level. Now I'd love to read the stadium debates on Leicester's mailing list (Not!).
The big surprise was the absence of Kanchelskis, despite every newspaper/teletext article suggesting he would return at the expense of Ferguson. From the kick-off, we played controlled football -- assured passing to feet, plenty of work to close down Leicester when they had the ball.
Speed and Barmby had early chances, and it was no surprise when our first goal came -- except the manner of it. Barmby was offside -- the Leicester full back took the kick, knocking the ball back to the keeper. Barmby closed the keeper down (as he did all game when there was a back-pass), and he responded by picking the ball up.
The only person in the ground who seemed to understand the relevance of what had occured was our Nick -- he appealled, and the ref clearly indicated an indirect free kick. The goalie actually tossed the ball to Barmby, who in one movement knocked it back to Hinchy, who delightfully floated the ball into the empty net from about 25 yards.
For the rest of the half we pressed, always assured and controlled -- and I can't honestly remember Nev having anything to do. Half time came, and the superb PA system (not) meant that we had no half-time scores from the other matches.
The second half started where the first had left off, and it wasn't long before we extended our lead -- from our sub-ground level position, it seemed that Speed had scored as he seemed to be celebrating the most, though it was actually Unsie who had scrambled the ball home. Call me over-optimistic, but there just seems to be a buzz amongst the players at the moment -- they really enjoy scoring goals and it shows in the celebrations.
We let things slip for a anxiuos 15 minutes at the end -- they had thrown Marshall on (to much derision from the travelling fans) and were pumping diagonal balls into our box. On the whole, we coped well (goal apart) -- though there were a couple of close calls which could have drawn the game level. Leicester did not deserve it though.
Defensively we played well, and again the midfield three of Parkie, Grant and Speed competed and used the ball intelligently -- though obviously not to the heights of the previous weekend. We were weak up front -- Dunc had an off day, and Barmby's touch frequently let him down -- the pair never really hit it off.
Man of the Match:-- Tony Grant
Dave Shepherd: A freezing cold day in the city famous for being half way down the M1.
Despite an early arrival, traffic and parking was still a nightmare, and there was little solace in the sun-starved ugly little ground that is Filbert Street, where fine Melton Mowbray pies are the only saving grace.
Treated to a top-price third-row seat only a coin's throw from the half-way line and the scene of the infamous Durkin-Ferguson incident that came within a whisker of costing EFC their Premiership place, a unique view of top professional football is afforded by a pitch level at eye-level, a camber which makes the ball invisible on the far touchline, and regular obstruction by the various (see below) linesmens' frozen-blue legs.
Although such views give a sobering lesson on how difficult players on the park must find it to spot the right man to pass to without the benefit of a TV-camera elevation, reporting on match tactics from such a position is virtually impossible, so apologies in advance.
Andrei Kanchelskis was missing following his half-time derby withdrawal, and his replacement Ferguson started. The early exchanges were comfortable enough, with Everton enjoying all significant possession and the passing flowing well, but there had been no dangerous attempts at goal.
I was remarking to Gordon Baxter about Leicester's loss of Keller to international duty, and how young the replacement looked, to be informed that it was ex-Boro's Kevin Poole, known to those fans as Kevin the Fish because of his blunders. Not a minute later, Mr the Fish was adjudged to have handled a backpass and Barmby tapped Hinchcliffe the easiest lobbed goal of his career.
Again the rare advantages of Filbert visits briefly awoke because we got to see big beaming smiles of celebrating Everton players from very close quarters.
Replays proved the initial offside, the taken free-kick and the not unreasonable advantage taken by Barmby having grabbed the ball and tapped the free kick from perhaps eight yards FURTHER BACK than the point of the offence, but no honest blue would have been happy if such a goal had gone against them.
Having witnessed a virtuoso display of eccentric refereeing against their favour on their last visit to the ground, however, Blues' sympathy for City's dismay was a big fat zero.
Twelve minutes had gone. Much of the intervening time between that and the last twelve minutes were as forgettable as the spectators' comfort level. The pitch played as if it was the narrowest in the league -- no wing play ever seemed to be out of reach of central midfield interference, and staring around at the picturesque view of an electricity pylon and comparing it to views from York and Lincoln was sadly more entertaining than the litany of throw-ins and offsides for both teams.
A lead was most welcome, but in Leicester, only three goasls would calm the nerves of the pessimist, so we hoped for half-time words of inspiration to conjure at least a second. Our wish was granted 7 minutes in, but there was no panache about it. A Hinchy free kick cross, a goalmouth scramble and a final touch from an unlikely Rhino from 2 yards.
Two-nil. We were happy and frozen solid -- we wanted to go home. City had not had a sniff all game. They were reasonable in the middle, enjoying perhaps half the possession, but they had no goal threat and were going to lose easily.
Then the imps of fate decided they were going to have some more fun. One of the n-hundredth riveting touchline battles had Rhino sliding in for a ball, being carried on across the freezing cambered turf, and he slide-tackled the linesman off his feet. This caused a great deal of jollity, but more heartfelt derision from those nice City people because they were less than happy with his interpretations of the offside rules. Unfortunately for the official, he was too badly injured to continue (thinking of a hot bath and early finish, no doubt), but unfortunately for Everton, this bizarre incident was just the tonic the flat Foxes and their sad pseudo-hoolie supporters needed.
From then on it was a horrible deja-vu of the Durkin game -- Leicester attacked their South goal like men possessed and it was all hands to the Everton pump. Playing in an icebox three days after a draining comeback night-time derby match was taking almost as a heavy a toll as a Durkin-wrapped two man deficit.
Again the defence held the Alamo for longer than reasonably possible, Southall, Watson et al standing tall, but again the inevitable 2-0 win was denied by the midland no-hopers. Having had a fabulous display all day against the much vaunted but rather ordinary Heskey, Barrett was left waiting for a bus as the massive winger turned, got to the line and hit a perfect cross for a perfect unchallenged header by Walsh across Southall and in.
This suddenly meant the game was wide open and, unfortunately for Referee Winter, by the time the injury was seen to and the reserve official summoned, replaced and placed on the 'away' side of the pitch, there was a good 12 minutes left to play even though the clock read 4.43. The game was already four minutes late thanks to first half injuries. Cue 12 minutes more of tedious air-ball attack from Leicester, accompanied by psychotic screams from bloodthirsty midlanders and Evertonians demanding the final whistle. In this time, stout defending was just magnificent, though it needed reinforcements of Short for Grant, and Leicester were a bit unlucky to see a good high downward header taken on the line by the disgracefully abused Southall.
A perfectly clocked four and a half minute injury time finally ran out to leave a juicy three point and sixth place in the Goodison back pocket. One banana skin safely negotiated. Watch this space.
TEAM PERFORMANCE - 7 - A grafted win of the type on which championship challenges are built. The win was deserved, even though the game was a mess, the fitness was shot and the shot count the lowest of the season. 50:1? Yes please. Anything more than 5:1 is free candy.
Ref: J Winter (Stockton) Despite trepidations about his reputation and leaving Leicester with the word 'discontent' on every local lip, Winter failed to live up to that awful reputation. The usual steady muddle that we come to accept as 'all right'.
Peter Griffiths: I missed my first home match for about 3 years against Southampton, having to take my son to a swimming gala. I was glad I'd got the Leicester tickets as I was getting withdrawal symptoms, having failed in the draw to get an Anfield ticket as well.
I got to the ground about 3 minutes late having totally underestimated the traffic, starting out late because I had to work the morning, and having believed the programme notes about lots of parking being available. The East Stand would look out of date on most farms and you end up sitting below ground level at the front. There was quite a lot of verbal agro with our usual chants plus "What a S****y Ground" and "Who the F***ing H*** are you?" etc. All good honest education for a season ticket holder in the top balcony!
We had extremely good control for virtually the whole game. We played excellent passing football and defended well to the point where Neville's first real job was picking the ball from the net. Leicester did try to play football but did not look like breaking us down until the last 10 minutes. We created quite a few good chances and I suppose the failure was not getting a better cushion.
It appeared a total cock-up by the goalkeeper but we appear to have become the villains according to BBC radio and Match of the Day. Barmby was asked on radio and MOTD if he did not feel it was cheating or unsporting. He handles the media well and said it wasn't, that he would not have liked to have conceded the goal but would not have moaned if he had. (They also asked about the real reason he left Middlesborough but he still trotted out the "can't play with the Little Brazilian" story. There do appear to be rumours of other reasons from the questioning he got.)
The Leicester fans on 606 reckoned that the fullback had not taken the free kick but had simply rolled it to the keeper for him to take the kick. It did not look like that on MOTD and had not occured to us before. The keeper did seem to be pointing and shouting both before and after Nick got the ball. It was extremely quick thinking by Barmby and Hinchcliffe. We were right behind the kick and it looked as if it was going over the bar until it sweetly dipped into the net.
Mr Rednosed Hansen said that there were three mistakes. The back taking the kick, the keeper picking up the ball and the ref for allowing "the kick" to be taken about 30 yards from where the offence took place. I would have thought the original full back's kick and Barmby's kick were both within about 10 yards of the offence. Certainly Barmby's was.
If Beckham had hit the goal it would have been used as evidence of genious.
They had put Ian Marshall on before the goal and they then reverted to "Everton on a bad Day" and tried to produce crosses and diagonal long balls. After conceding the goal, we went into pannick mode at the back but looked even better on the break. (there was more space as they pushed forward).
From dominating crosses we looked a bit vulnerable and Neville did one of his dreadful punches. Short was brought on to add height and Dunc came back. The change after the goal was amazing and we were relieved to get the whistle. Anything other than a win would have been stupid as we were the better team for so long.
The best team we have had for 10 years? I think so. Six points off the top, after we have played a lot of the top teams. Martin O'Neil is a pal of Joe's but appeared to have told the Telegraph we could mount a title challenge.
One of the Leicester moaners about the goal on 606 told Mellor that we were the best team who had been to Filbert Street apart from Arsenal. (Another thought we were c**p!) Who would you drop for next week to make way for Kanchelskis? Seeing Short again reminds me of how unlucky he has been. It is certainly looking better than it did in September.
Deryk Brown, Sunday Times: EVERTON, the form team of the Premier League, go ever onwards, ever upwards. Despite Leicester City's battling finish, inspired by Steve Walsh's headed goal seven minutes from time, they were good value for this win, and have now gone eight League matches unbeaten.
It was an afternoon of rare passion. One of the biggest cheers came when a linesman who had often flagged Leicester offside was stretchered away after David Unsworth had clattered into him - accidentally, of course. And at the end, the locals booed Jeff Winter, the referee, as they had done since Everton's controversial opening goal in the 12th minute.
That goal, scored by Andy Hinchcliffe, destroyed Leicester's confidence and it was not until the second half that they managed a worthwhile shot on goal. They were never anything like the side that had passed its way to success at Aston Villa a week earlier and Mustafa Izzet and Steve Claridge, especially, were shadows of the players they were then.
Everton, in contrast, are blossoming. In the past they have often displayed all the grace of an elephant's hind quarters, but that is now changing. In Nick Barmby, who, at £5.75m, cost about as much as the Leicester team put together, they have bought a man who glides around and knits them together. He also gives Joe Royle, his manager, various options in terms of formation.
Yesterday Royle's dilemma of who and how to play was solved for him because Andrei Kanchelskis had flu. So Duncan Ferguson, his knee mended, made his first start since September 21. Everton refused to aim the ball at his forehead, instead giving him the chance to show how nifty he can be on the ground.
With Graham Stuart and Gary Speed effective on the flanks, and the defence sound, Everton had it made. They did not wobble until the last 15 minutes, when the toll of three matches in eight days, including the Merseyside derby on Wednesday, told in their legs.
Leicester, like Everton, had made one change, and it proved crucial. Kasey Keller was away with the United States World Cup squad in Trinidad, and the experienced Kevin Poole replaced him. Poole it was who began the brouhaha surrounding the opening goal by picking up the ball on the front right-hand corner of his penalty area after a free kick had been passed back to him by Simon Grayson.
Mr Winter blew immediately and Barmby raced up to Poole to claim the ball. The goalkeeper, having made one blunder, made another by meekly surrendering it. Barmby rolled an instant free kick to Hinchcliffe, and that celebrated left foot did the rest. Hinchcliffe's shot curled deliciously into the goal with Poole still stranded.
The crowd chanted "cheat" and worse at Mr Winter, and a sense of injustice gnawed at Leicester from then on. It later transpired that Poole thought the ball might be dead as Grayson directed it to him. But Martin O'Neill, his manager, said that he had "not an ounce of sympathy" for his goalkeeper.
"If in doubt, kick it out," said O'Neill, who hopes to fly Keller back in time to face Manchester United in the League Cup on Wednesday.
It seemed an age after Hinchcliffe's goal before a decision went Leicester's way. When it did, it was greeted by a sarcastic cheer. Everton, meanwhile, threatened to extend their lead. First, Barmby took a through ball from Unsworth and shot across goal, narrowly wide. Then Everton produced a move which epitomised their new-found style. Speed sent Stuart away down the flank but, from the return cross, he could only glance his header wide.
Leicester started the second half with signs that they had sorted out their complexes. But after Walsh, as sure as anybody for Leicester, had shot well, it was Everton who scored. Speed headed down a corner and Poole could not hold the ball, enabling Unsworth to squeeze it home. It just was not Poole's day.
Leicester, who do not have that much in reserve, nevertheless brought two useful men off the bench in Ian Marshall and Scott Taylor. Leicester's goal was admirably clean, Emile Heskey reaching the byline and pulling the ball back for Walsh to head across a beaten Neville Southall. Southall did miss one punch as Leicester came again but Everton never really suggested that they would lose it.
It was left for Royle to purr about the merits of Barmby. "He's given us control and guile, and he's only 22," said Royle, fresh from studying the upper reaches of the Premier League table. O'Neill, meanwhile, faces not one but two matches against Manchester United this week as he tries to lift his men again. But he and his team will not surrender Leicester's brave new world lightly.
Report Copyright The Sunday Times
Michael Henderson, The Times: IT HAS taken Joe Royle two years to fashion an Everton team in his own image and, after a modest start to the season, they stand on the threshold of self-discovery. They won easily at Filbert Street, where, in Leicester City's last home game, Newcastle United had come a cropper, and are not far from having a side worthy of the club's tradition.
Certainly, the style is returning to their play. For too long their football has lacked charm, or any touch of distinction, but the way that they moved the ball here suggests that there is more to life than grinding out results. At times, in fact, they played one pass too many - as if that were the worst fault in the world. It is good to see the "old" Everton return in a new guise.
To that end, the recent signing of Nick Barmby from Middlesbrough has been a boon, and one feels that Middlesbrough will soon regret his departure. Barmby has settled down immediately, and was involved in most of the good things that Everton did in a bright first-half performance that brought them a bizarre goal, which they might easily have trebled.
Barmby's quick-thinking gave Hinchcliffe the chance to float the goal from 25 yards after Poole, mentally wandering, had picked up Parker's free kick inside the penalty area. Barmby took the indirect kick further out so the referee was technically at fault - but so what? Everton punished an indiscretion swiftly and effectively. Would that a few others got on with the job like that.
With Grant showing a liking for the ball in midfield, and Stuart popping up on the right, in place of the flu-stricken Kanchelskis, Barmby ensured that Leicester saw little of the ball. Unsworth and Speed might have scored with headers, and Barmby shot across the face of the goal.
Unsworth's goal, prodded in from a yard out eight minutes into the second half, concluded the best passage of the match, and it had belonged entirely to Everton.
"We got a little bit tired after going two goals up," Royle said. "The fatigue got to the players after three games in eight days, the middle one being the derby. They became a bit leggy, but I thought our first-half performance was excellent. Barmby has given us some guile around the box."
Leicester rallied in the last half-hour, as they had to, and managed a goal from Walsh six minutes from time when Heskey broke down the left. They will not surrender their place in the FA Carling Premiership without a fight and, if they stay up, Martin O'Neill will merit a baronetcy. He will surely remain in the Premiership even if Leicester go down, for he is the most impressive manager and, granted larger resources, he should become even better.
For the time being, nobody should go near Filbert Street if they want to watch decent football. Though victories over Newcastle and Aston Villa showed Leicester how they can preserve their status, it will be a hard road to hoe this winter, even when Keller returns to guard their goal. He should be available for the Coca-Cola Cup tie against Manchester United on Wednesday night.
So far as the home supporters were concerned, the afternoon was a long, hard Winter. They did not take kindly to Jeff Winter, the referee, or to his assistants, as we must now learn to call them. When Unsworth knocked out Mr Sims in the second half, obliging the stretcher-bearers to carry the linesman down the tunnel, they voiced their displeasure long and loud.
At first it appeared to be a bit of fun, but, as it became clear that Sims was indeed struggling, their behaviour became gratuitous. He left the field to abuse and obscene gestures as, once again, a football crowd revealed its true nature. On this occasion, it was Leicester; it could have been anywhere.
We are not supposed to mention such things and nobody within the game, managers or chairmen, least of all the lickspittles of television, will ever confront these problems of behaviour. When John Arlott gave up reporting football 25 years ago, he said that the game had become "seedy". Has anything changed?
Report Copyright The Times
David Hoops, The Guardian: Those who while away the longest football journeys with their car radios tuned to Radio 5 Live are soon faced with an overriding philosophical decision. Their conclusion -- indeed, not as much a conclusion as a life choice -- will determine how they view the bizarre goal that left Leicester City's goalkeeper Kevin Poole such a wretched sight.
They can revel in the cock-up theory of football as so divertingly presented over Saturday lunchtime by Danny Baker, in which a creative game is stimulating as much for its irretreivable foolishness as its occasional brilliance. In that case, Poole's first half aberration invites a mixture of laughter and incredulity.
Or they can sucumb on the journey home to the self-righteous posturing of David Mellor, where football has scientific rules which must be observed, referees are invariably incompetents, and the game's unintentional humour is suffocated beneath tiresome, whingeing phone calls. Here, Poole was undoubtedly wronged, an innocent victim in an unjust world.
The Mellor stance on Barmby's devilishly quick thinking, in setting up Andy Hinchcliffe for Everton's first goal, cannot be recorded in detail owing to an overriding urge to slam a cassette into the tape deck. But Darren On Line Two was briefly heard to moan that the referee Jeff Winter and his two assistants were responsible for Leicester's defeat.
The sequence of events was: as Everton were flagged down for offside, Leicester's full back Grayson rolled the ball back to his goalkeeper. Poole, assuming the free kick had still to be taken, calmly picked the ball up before Barmby arrived accusingly.
The referee penalised Poole for handling a back-pass and, while the hapless goalkeeper protested on the edge of his area, Barmby tapped a quick free-kick to Hinchcliffe, who chipped the ball into an unguarded net.
The referee's decision to uphold the goal incensed the home supporters, who later cheered the stretchering-off of a linesman after he was inadvertently barged to the ground by Unsworth.
'Poole gestured to me, asking whether he could pick the ball up,' said Winter. 'I shouted, "No, no, no".' Nevertheless even a non-Mellorite must wonder about the fairness of allowing a free-kick to be taken seven yards away from where Poole committed the offence.
Bakerites might sense a greater truth, however: the glorious theatre of a reserve goalkeeper, in only his second game of the season, making a hash of it. Poole's luck was also out for Everton's second goal when he pushed Speed's far-post header into the path of Unsworth. Walsh's headed reply for Leicester, seven minutes from time, intensified an aerial bombardment that Everton survived to move into the top six.
Defeated managers forever take refuge in Mellor's world of refereeing incompetence, so the response of Leicester's manager Martin O'Neill was refreshing. 'At the moment I haven't an ounce of sympathy for Kevin', he said. 'He is a professional and he should know what he is doing under pressure. If in doubt, kick it out.'
Clive White, Electronic Telegraph: DUNCAN FERGUSON was restored to the starting line up after injury and suspension but the Merseysiders would probably have registered their seventh game unbeaten without the Scot's towering presence, so accomodating were Leicester.
A side who scored seven the previous week and then drew at Anfield in midweek are not the sort to need handouts but that is precisely what Everton received here. The last time Leicester were at home they scored an unexpected victory over Newcastle with unremitting endeavour and no little help from their American goalkeeper Casey Keller.
The game was barely 12 minutes old when, with his side already at odds with their game, Kevin Poole, standing in for Keller, handed Everton a bizarre opening goal. A free-kick award to the home side for an offside decision that should never have been saw Spencer Prior roll the ball back to his goalkeeper and, inexplicably, Poole picked the thing up. Nick Barmby grabbed the ball from him and his quickly-taken short free kick was swept by Andy Hinchcliffe's trusty left foot into the unguarded net from 20 yards.
It was enough to knock the stuffing out of most teams and Leicester were no exception, taking 23 minutes before they troubled Neville Southall, but old Nev was as alert as ever, safely dealing with Steve Walsh's hopeful upfield punt.
Everton should really have gone ahead earlier than they did. David Unsworth headed straight at Poole from close range, Barmby drove narrowly wide of the far post and, from a Graham Stuart cross, the ball skimmed tantalisingly wide off the diving Gary Speed's forhead.
Martin O'Neill, the Leicester manager, had ventured the view that his old teammate Joe Royle was building a team of championship material and they did not disappoint him -- even without 'flu victim Andrei Kanchelskis.
While both Leicester's players and supporters moaned about what they saw as the officials' repeated inability to call offside correctly, Everton got on with guaranteeing their victory. Five minutes into the new half this was as good as achieved when another Hinchcliffe dead-ball kick, this time from a corner, found Poole wanting. In mitigation, Speed's header was from point-blank range but Unsworth was not inclined to show any sympathy with the rebound after the goalkeeper dropped it.
Unsworth gave the home supporters something to cheer about, though, when he clattered into the linesman who had been the focal point of their frustration all afternoon. The poor fellow had to be carried off on a stretcher.
Much more worthy of their applause was Steve Walsh's headed goal, from Emile Heskey's cross, with seven minutes remaining of his 300th League appearance. But for a fine save by Southall in the fourth minute of injury time the Leicester captain might have even crowned his day with a tangible reward.
Report Copyright The Electronic Telegraph
Clive White, The Independent: Things have come to a pretty pass when a Premiership club cannot wait to bring back a goalkeeper from the land that gave us Jorge Campos because of the bizarre behaviour of an Englishman. Kevin Poole's aberration was not without some mitigation, but with Manchester United to face twice in four days, it will not stop Martin O'Neill, the Leicester manager, ensuring that his first choice, Kasey Keller, returns earlier than expected from World Cup duty.
There can be litle doubt that Poole's blunder, when he picked up a back pass from a free-kick, which Everton promptly punished with a free-kick of their own, cost Leicester the match. The fact that Everton were by far the better side when they needed to be was of no consolation to the normally equitable O'Neill. His cynical humour suggested that he was only too well aware of what long-term effect a result like this could have upon his club's future. Leicester, as the bookmakers keep reminding him, are still favourites for relegation.
Asked if he had any sympathy for Poole - who maintained that he had got permission from the referee to pick the ball up, presumably so he could take the kick elsewhere - O'Neill replied: 'Actually, at this minute, I haven't got an ounce of sympathy for him. They haven't got a bloody ounce of sympathy for me. If you're professional you should know what you're doing, even under pressure.'
It is not often that Everton get help from Poole, so to speak, and I am not sure that they needed any, at least not during the first hour. They looked at least a division better than the home side, who began in nothing like the committed manner that accounted for Newcastle. Despite the absence of Andrei Kanchelskis because of flu, and the return to the starting lineup of Duncan Ferguson, Everton were wonderfuly cohesive and fluent in attack, while behind them their five-man midfield suffocated Leicester movement almost at birth.
Nick Barmby's quick thinking when he seized the ball from Poole in that controversial moment for Andy Hinchliffe to sweep it into the empty net was indicative of Everton's all-round sharpness. O'Neill said before the game that he thought their opponents were championship material and there was nothing about their performance in their eighth game without defeat to dissuade him from that view.
At least Leicester finished the match how they should have begun it. Steve Walsh, their inspirational captain, having scored on his 300th league appearance, might even have clinched a fortuitous draw four minutes into injury time but for a marvellous reaction save by Neville Southall.
'We put them under a lot of pressure at the finish,' O'Neill said, 'and I was pleased to hear Joe [Royle] shouting at the referee -- calling him by his first name, Jeff, too -- asking whether he had swallowed his whistle.'
Monday, 25 November 1996
NOTTINGHAM FOREST 2-2 BLACKBURN ROVERS 17,525 Pearce(pen 45) Cooper(90) Gallacher(54) Wilcox(57)
Sunday, 24 November 1996
ARSENAL 3-1 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 38,264 Wright(pen 28) Adams(88) Sinton(57) Bergkamp(90)
Saturday, 23 November 1996
CHELSEA 1-1 NEWCASTLE UNITED 28,401 Vialli(24) Shearer(41) COVENTRY CITY 1-2 ASTON VILLA 21,340 Dublin(75) Joachim(29) Staunton(85) LEICESTER CITY 1-2 EVERTON 20,975 Walsh(83) Hinchcliffe(12) Unsworth(52) LIVERPOOL 1-1 WIMBLEDON 39,027 Collymore(1) Leonhardsen(67) MIDDLESBROUGH 2-2 MANCHESTER UNITED 30,063 Ravanelli(27) Hignett(pen 83) Keane(17) May(72) SOUTHAMPTON 0-2 LEEDS UNITED 15,241 Kelly(82) Sharpe(89) SUNDERLAND 1-1 SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY 20,644 Melville(68) Oakes(66) WEST HAM UNITED 1-1 DERBY COUNTY 24,576 Bishop(17) Sturridge(43)
Table after 25 November 1996
Club P W D L GF GA GD Pts Newcastle United 14 9 2 3 25 15 10 29 Arsenal 14 8 4 2 27 12 15 28 Liverpool 14 8 4 2 24 13 11 28 Wimbledon 14 7 4 3 25 16 9 25 Chelsea 14 6 6 2 23 19 4 24 $$$EVERTON*** 14 6 5 3 22 15 7 23 Manchester United 14 6 5 3 26 21 5 23 Aston Villa 14 6 3 5 18 15 3 21 Tottenham Hotspur 14 6 2 6 15 14 1 20 Sheffield Wednesday 14 5 5 4 16 18 -2 20 Derby County 14 4 6 4 15 16 -1 18 Leicester City 14 5 2 7 13 18 -5 17 West Ham United 14 4 4 6 13 18 -5 16 Leeds United 14 5 1 8 13 20 -7 16 Middlesbrough 14 3 5 6 20 25 -5 14 Sunderland 14 3 5 6 10 17 -7 14 Southampton 14 3 4 7 22 26 -4 13 Coventry City 14 1 7 6 8 19 -11 10 Blackburn Rovers 14 1 6 7 13 19 -6 9 Nottingham Forest 14 1 6 7 12 24 -12 9
This League Table Update provided by Lawrence "Leagueman" Breakey