Everton v Nottingham Forest


FA Carling Premiership 96/97 - Game 24
Saturday 1 February 1997
Goodison Park, Merseyside

Result: Everton (0) 2 - Nottingham Forest (0) 0
Ferguson (48) Barmby (67).

Everton: Gerrard, Barrett, Watson, Unsworth, Phelan, Stuart, Parkinson, Thomsen, Speed, Barmby, Ferguson.
Booked: None.
Subs Not Used: Southall, Hottiger, Rideout, Allen, Dunne. Unavailable: Hinchcliffe, Ebbrell, Short, Grant, O'Connor (all injured).
[Kanchelskis was transfered to Fiorentina 3 days earlier for a club record fee of £8 million]

Nottingham Forest: Crossley, Lyttle, Pearce, Cooper, Chettle, Bart-Williams, Phillips, Campbell, Woan, Allen (McGregor 62), Haaland.
Subs Not Used: Gemmill, Fettis, Guinan, Clough. Booked: Lyttle, Phillips.

Ref: S W Dunn Att: 32,567 League Position: 9th Results and League Table

Previous Match: Newcastlte United v Everton -- Next Match: Coventry City v Everton

Match Summary

PA News: Everton manager Joe Royle must feel as if he is in the Magic Kingdom after a much-needed victory today. The home side went into this match desperate to avoid a seventh successive Premiership defeat. But they were always in command against a Forest side, who remain relegation candidates after their second defeat in the space of a week.

Royle recalled England midfielder Nick Barmby to the side after he had been dropped for the 4-1 defeat at Newcastle in midweek. But veteran goalkeeper, Wales international Neville Southall, again had to settle for a place on the bench. Norwegian international Alf-Inge Haaland replaced flu-victim Nigel Clough in midfield for Forest.  

Barmby responded by getting Everton's second goal after Duncan Ferguson had opened the scoring three minutes into the second half. 

Everton chairman Peter Johnson said on the eve of the game it was no time for knee-jerk reactions, while Royle asked the fans to get fully behind him and the players.The message seemed to have got home with one banner in the Bullens Road stand proclaiming 'Royle In'. Everton had enough chances in the first half to sew up the points but failed to make the breakthrough.

Forest keeper Mark Crossley had to look alert in the 22nd minute after a glorious move by the home side. David Unsworth started it back in his own half and fed Gary Speed. He picked out Barmby, who released Stuart in the penalty area. However Crossley, picked for the Wales squad this week, came out quickly to block his shot with his legs.

The Forest keeper again denied Stuart a couple of minutes later by parrying his effort after a huge clearance by keeper Paul Gerrard. But Crossley was beaten by Duncan Ferguson's shot after Terry Phelan had played the ball in, only to see it drift wide of the post.

The home fans' frustration grew minutes before the break when Joe Parkinson hammered a 12-yard effort into the crowd after Ferguson put him clear on goal.  Crossley had another lucky escape on the stroke of half-time when he pushed an Earl Barrett shot on to the post after Claus Thomsen had flicked on a cross from Phelan

Forest rarely threatened in the first 45 minutes, although David Phillips knocked the ball wide from ten yards after Stuart Pearce had gone on decoy run from Ian Woan's free kick.

The second half was only three minutes old when Everton got the goal they deserved for their possession. Stuart flicked on Dave Watson's clearance and found Ferguson. He appeared to stumble but still managed to take the ball round Crossley and steer it into an empty net for his eighth of the season and his fourth in six games.

Stuart should have added a second after Barmby put him clear, but Pearce was able to get across and deny him the chance.

Barmby and then Gary Speed, with a rasping 20-yard drive, both tested Crossley before the England midfielder got the second in the 67th minute. Unsworth supplied the cross and Ferguson got in a header which beat Crossley only to hit the post. Barmby was on hand to steer it home and seal a vital victory.

We should have had a sackful

Guy McEvoy: I came to Goodison today wishing that life was like an episode of Dallas and that at any moment I'd wake up and realise that the last month was a horrible nightmare and find myself back to the morning after the Derby game again. And at 2:50pm this distinct mood of fatalism seemed to be shared by many of the 32,000 crowd.

A much more down beat pre-match warm up program on Radio Everton, the absence of any noise at all from the away section and dissatisfied whispers from the home support all suggested the nightmare would continue.

By 4:50pm it was an altogether different story; the joy, contentment and pride have been the most unfamiliar of emotions for the Evertonian in recent weeks.

Short's injury meant that, with a minor formation shuffle, Barmby could be named and so this was the only change from the line-up which started at Newcastle on Wednesday.

First Half

When kick-off came, the previously down-beat crowd transformed and played their role magnificently. The splattering of flags with 'Royle in' and 'Joe Royle Must Stay: True Blue', coupled with a roar from the Park End meant that whatever the response on the field, the home fans wanted no more share of the blame for Everton's continued misfortunes.

The change in mood seemed to inspire the team and quickly Everton started to apply a steady flow of pressure. Initially, it all had the hall marks on one of those displays in Everton's first nightmare run this season back in September. A series of purposeful, incisive and creative attacking build-ups culminating with an unsatisfactory final touch.

Forest threw back little in return and the Evertonians nervously waited for the break through that, given our dominance (and for once this is the correct word), seemed to demand. But it didn't come...

Stuart missed two crystal-clear chances and Ferguson couldn't make better of the two times he had sight of goal, while Earl Barrett (yes, Earl Barrett!) came within a whisker, forcing Crossley to push his goal bound shot against the post.

The one scare we did endure in the half came when we conceded a free-kick in the box under a questionable interpretation of the 'backpass' rule. Gerrard chose to place himself in front of the wall which seemed more than a little dangerous given that Forest's immediate response was to then put two men in front of him.

The kick was passed to the right were it was flashed inches wide and high by Pearce. Gerrard was so tied up between his markers and the wall that, but for it being off-target, we would certainly have been left a goal behind. Don't Everton ever practise this sort of situation in training?

Nevertheless, the end of the half actually saw the Everton team in the happy enough position of leaving the pitch to warm applause. We had enjoyed the vast majority of possession and meaningful chances. Having said that, the more war-weary of the supporters (like myself) were still desperately worried.

On the assumption that we had just seen our 45 minute quota of acceptable effort it was gutting to not have a lead to hold onto ready for the seemingly certain second half collapse.

Second Half

Remarkably, for once, my pessimism wasn't borne out. The half-time team talk was obviously up to scratch from the man on the line and we came out guns blazing with more of the same.

The breakthrough came in front of the Street End when Duncan niftily took the ball right round the keeper and placed it in the goal. It came so quick after the break that I spilled my (very hot!) hot chocolate all over myself and several people sitting in the main stand below. Sorry!

Several more chances went begging before Barmby got in the right place at the right time to knock in from close range a rebound from a fine Ferguson headed effort that hit the foot of the post.

At 2-0 even I began to relax and enjoy the show. Parkinson had a couple of long range efforts none of which bothered Forrest as much as Unsworth's 30-yarder which was hit straight at Crossley who couldn't hold it. Barmby missed another and Stuart managed to spoon two more chances as good as the ones he'd had in the first half.

So, for the second time in a week we have a scoreline that doesn't fairly represent the play. The players left the field to an ovation (Stuart chucking his boots into the crowd!), and you could feel the enormous burden lifting from the minds of those at Goodison Park.

The victory should be put into perspective a little -- Forest were absolutely dire and we are unlikely to come across a less-spirited or incoherent opposition again this season. Still, their woe is our win and finally we have shifted off from that goddamn 28-point mark we seem to have been stuck on for eternity.

Let's hope we can go on from here, put this whole sorry nightmare episode behind us, and get some more performances like this under our belts.

Individual Performances

Crisis! What crisis?

Richard Marland: With the national media hovering like vultures over a possible managerial casualty, the team and the crowd finally stood up to be counted. In one of those examples of collective willpower, not dissimilar to the Tottenham semi-final, Joe Royle's first derby match in charge, or indeed the legendary Wimbledon game, the team and crowd pulled together to secure a desperately needed win.

The mood in the ground before the game was, considering what had gone before, surprisingly upbeat. There was barely a whisper of the words "Andrei Kanchelskis" (there was no mourning, he was history), and there seemed to be an air of quiet confidence and determination. The team came out to an excellent reception from the 32,000 that were still standing by them.

The team selection showed no surprises, Gerrard had retained his place and, as expected, Craig Short had been ruled out with a head injury and Nick Barmby had returned. The ultra-defensive formation utilised against Newcastle had gone, we were back to a flat back four, with essentially a midfield trio of Speed, Parkinson and Thomsen, and a front three of Barmby, Stuart and Ferguson. For the most part, Barmby had a fairly free role behind the front two, but there was a lot of interchanging between Barmby and Stuart.

First Half

Forest had the early ascendancy, pressing forward and winning a few corners. Unsworth was tested out by a couple of long balls that he had to deal with whilst backpedaling under pressure. There seemed to be a slight lack of understanding between him and Gerrard as he put one back-header wide of Gerrard and out for a corner, and more worryingly he toe-ended another ball wide of Gerrard, Gerrard had to save and hang onto it as the ball was destined for the far corner.

The referee decreed this to be a back-pass and suddenly we were facing a Forest free kick, fairly central and midway between the penalty spot and the edge of the box. With Stuart Pearce in attendance this was definitely cause for concern. The wall lined up on the six-yard line with Gerrard in the wall, as expected the ball was rolled to Pearce, instead of shooting though he pushed it wide to Phillips who had an excellent scoring chance but fortunately put it wide. This was to be Forest's last serious chance.

Gradually Everton gained control of the game. Everyone was working hard, Parkinson was controlling the midfield, Barmby and Stuart were buzzing up front and Unsworth, Phelan and Speed were linking well up the left flank. It was down the left flank that most of our pressure was coming from, there was a determination to get Phelan further forward than in recent games and it worked very well in the early stages.

There were a number of chances created in what became a very good half for Everton, Crossley made one excellent point-blank save from Barrett and there were numerous other close calls on the Forest goal. All in all a good 45 minutes for the blues and one in which a couple of goals wouldn't have flattered us unduly. Were we to pay for this lack of cutting edge though?

Second Half

Despite our concerns, the second half just got better and better. We continued taking the game to Forest and it was no surprise when we took a deserved lead. Duncan took the glory doing well on the ground as he took the ball past Crossley and then found the net, he did give us a slight flutter as he seemed to push the ball a little wide but he safely found the back of the net.

The relief amongst the players was obvious, they knew how important it was, they also knew that it wasn't over yet. Forest attempted to force their way back into the game but Everton continued to work hard and remain the dominant attacking force.

There were repeated close calls on the Forest goal, Thomsen from beyond the back post at a corner had a thumping drive stopped by a Forest body, Speed had a typically powerful shot half smothered by Crossley which then looped agonisingly over, and Stuart missed a trio of gilt-edged chances. Despite our narrow lead there was no sense of panic, we continued to play our football and await the goal that would surely come.

The goal finally arrived and once again Dunc was heavily involved. As a set-piece broke down (at least I think it was a set-piece I can think of no other reason for Unsworth to be in their box), the ball broke to the left of their area, Unsworth got to it first and rather than taking the easier option of taking the ball out of the area and looking for support, he ran round the ball and crossed with his left foot to find Dunc's head, Dunc won the ball cleanly but found the inside of the post, fortunately Barmby was alive to the situation and had been following the ball in so was on hand to slot in the rebound Again the celebrations of the players showed how much they wanted this one.

All that was now left was to run down the clock, which we did comfortably. In fact we should have added to the two goals already scored, Graham Stuart in particular showing his lack of confidence in front of goal by passing up on two more gilt-edged chances.

So, all in all a satisfying afternoons work. We were given a timely reminder that there is quality in our current squad even without Kanchelskis, and that we are capable of playing good passing football.

On the debit side, we have to note that we did miss an awful lot of chances, and that Forest gave us the room in which to play our passing football. They didn't adopt the closing down and harrying tactics used against us by Sunderland and Leeds.

On days like this you can begin to believe that Joe Royle does have the intention for his Everton side to play good passing football, that he isn't merely playing lip service to it. Now we have to build on this and avoid the plummets in form that we seem to be prone to.

The Players

Team 8 Solid at the back, passed it well, good movement off the ball and supported each other well, i.e.. a good team performance. Could easily have had five goals.

Everton in complete command

Robbie Newton: A 2-0 home win against Nottingham Forest is what you would expect of an Everton side. You would also expect Goodison Park to be full of voice, and the performance of the players should be good. Today, that's exactly what we got. A sound, solid, and effective performance from the Boys when it was needed most. The performance was almost as vital as the result.

First Half

Everton's determination was evident as early as the 1st minute when Thomsen and Parkinson clashed going for the ball. There was a passion about Everton and the will to win was ultimately successful.

Everton's first chance fell to Duncan Ferguson, but his shot was poor. Graham Stuart had a one-on-one with Mark Crossley but fluffed the opportunity. The first 25 minutes was excellent. But after that you could sense the anxiety of yester-week coming back into both fans and players.

Forest's main threat in the first half was when they got an indirect free-kick inside our box. Unsworth's stretching backpass was "saved" by Gerrard. It was heart-in-mouth time as Stuart Pearce took a massive run-up. Just as we all thought he was about to belt it in, Woan knocked it to Allen, and his shot sliced wide. Smiles all-round.

The half ended goalless, but Everton had prodcued a good account of themselves. The performance was unrecognisable to that turned in 7 days earlier; There was fluent passing, moving off the ball, good understanding, and above all, pride.

Second Half

The sale of Andrei Kanchelskis is probably the biggest factor in Everton's turn of fortune. The play was much more varied and unpredictable. The players today put the word "mates" into team-mates. They were playing as a team, for each other, not as individuals trying to show how much better they were than the rest. And it was good to see.

Andrei Kanchelskis was a greedy, arrogant player who demanded -- not earned -- respect from his team-mates. He thought he was bigger than the club. It's good that he's been turfed out on his arse, cos we don't want players like that. Duncan Ferguson and Nick Barmby are big-name players just like Kanchelskis, but they play for the team and commit themselves to the cause.

The second half started with yet more passion and more energy, and it was no surprise therefore that we went ahead on 48 minutes. A ball into the Forest box, Ferguson touched it past Crossley and stuck the ball home from a two yards. Relief was the main emotion inside Goodison. The delight on the players faces was a joy to behold, every single one of them joining in the celebration.

It stayed 1-0 for a while, but it shouldn't have done. Graham Stuart missed another clear-cut chance when he was one-on-one again -- this clearly pointed out that Everton desperately need a striker to put the ball away. Ferguson also missed another chance which he shouldn't have done. Speed cracked in a superb shot which looped over the bar via Crossley's hand. Parkinson had a go. 4 times. This from the man who usually gets a nose-bleed if he crosses the opposing penalty area line.

Goal number two was a while in coming but the main thing is that we got it. Ferguson's header hit the post and Barmby tapped in the rebound. His delight was obvious.

Stuart had yet another one-on-one chance, but this time he volleyed wide. I had been tempted to laugh at his second one-on-one miss, but this time I was a bit pissed off. He missed two easy chances on Wednesday, and three or four today. For all his hard work, his end product is pretty woeful. If we hadn't been 2-0 up, there would have been some harsh words said to Stuart. He possesses a good brain, but he lacks an end-product and that's where he falls short.

Forest rarely threatened. They're a counter-attacking side, but today it just didn't work for them. Everton were in complete command and were, once again, unfortunate by the margin of the score -- it should have been in the Southampton proportions, and no exaggeration.

Today's performance showed that there is life after Kanchelskis. Indeed, we're probably better off now he's gone.

It wasn't a virtuoso performance by Everton, but it was effective enough to erase fears of another relegation battle. But let's not get carried away -- it was after all, only Nottingham Forest.

Team Ratings

SUBS NOT USED: Southall, Rideout, Allen, Dunne, Hottiger. -- THREE DEFENDERS!

Just for the record, Alf Inge Haaland runs a lot but does little else. If he's valued at 5 million, we've got the bargain of the century in Thomsen.

Heads Together

Dave Shepherd: New month, new hope, new determination, new attitude.

Everton comprehensively disembowelled Forest in a second half display which was pure delight to watch, both for it's non-stop attacking action and more importantly for the fact that the boys in blue turned the pressure on from Minute 1 and only let off after Minute 90.

First Half

Whilst effort alone would have been appreciated, we'd have swapped it for a result in an instant, and a string of first half events showed no signs of a let up in the luck curse. Unsworth's first back-pass skewed too far to Gerrard's left and conceded a corner. The scramble left two ugly cuts on the pitch, betraying the condition of the wintered turf as less than ideal. Then Gerrard rose for a high ball and dropped it in a crowd causing panic.

Then shaky became bizarre. Under pressure, Unsworth tried to scoop a clearance with a sliding tackle as Campbell charged for the ball. He didn't scoop it far enough and it fired toward the inside of Gerrard's far post. Making the save of the day, Gerrard (who's TV photo makes him look like Southall 15 years ago) dived full stretch and stopped it dead in both hands.

A scary moment then got worse, because the trailing referee interpreted this as a back-pass. Since it was not a deliberate action, it was not a back-pass, but it was nevertheless in danger of driving another stake into Everton's heart... the most powerful set piece man in the country lined up for a free kick just to the right of the penalty spot.

Everton lined up about seven men in a wall 2 yards out. Gerrard, unsighted, fussed about for ages and finally opted to stand IN FRONT of his wall. Everyone braced for the blast but it never came. The ball was flipped back to Phillips, who with a clear sight of an open goal made good firm contact but with too much of the outside of his boot and it curled a foot wide.

Unsworth from on the right of the line made a despairing lunge, but he had no prayer. Incredibly with the keeper 5 yards away and obstructed by 7 defenders, there was no man on the far post. That could have been the game right there. Instead it lifted the large, already noisy and supportive crowd to greater joy and encouragement.

The rest of the first half was a very hauntingly familiar story. Everton had nearly all the possession and territory, but Forest just sat 10 men back and waited for the EFC hallmark over-elaborate buildups to break down, then hoofed the ball up for Campbell to attack on the break. Psycho had done his research well, and a 0-0 looked clear favourite.

When Everton did break it open, the shots weren't going in. Hands were on heads 3 or 4 times when shots flew wide, particularly a couple of Graham Stuart chances and hooked half volley on the turn from Dunc after a pitiful Phelan cross had been deliberately flip-deflected up by Barmby beat everyone including the far post. Chances did not come plentifully enough to waste though.

Second Half

There didn't look to be any changes at half time, but before anyone could be sure, breakthrough! A hopeful feeding pass form the right wing position went to Dunc's feet, with back to goal and a defender, in the heart of the left half of the box. It didn't look promising but Dunc attempted to turn and as the defender got a boot to it, the ball squirted back down to Dunc's feet, now as he took it to the penalty spot.

Luckily Crossley had over-committed, and probably slipped on that turf trying to reverse his momentum, and Dunc managed to shoot at 90 degrees to his direction of motion and hit the target. The big guy was a bit delighted, and roared a fearsome roar at the church side of the Gwladys Street End.

Thereafter things only got better. Everton's workrate didn't falter, but now the 'beehive' attack strategy featuring Barmby, Stuart and Speed popping up randomly all over the place was cutting great swathes through the Forest defence which had lost it's shape completely, constantly playing simple releasing passes onside down the wings.

As if in return for their generosity, Everton politely conceded 2-3 free kicks in easy Psycho-range. Had one or more of these gone in, a laughably one-sided match could still have ended in a draw (see Coventry).

Instead the industry and effort in midfield and off the ball was rewarded appropriately with a second goal. Barmby got a second bite at an easily cleared corner, and put the ball onto Dunc's head. The glance hit the far post full in the face and bounced back into the goalmouth, where the first flying body to meet it was Barmby again (our 1 yard specialist!).

Appropriately as the final whistle sounded, it rudely truncated a clear Everton right wing break which was about to set up more goal pressure.

The most disappointing thing from Forest's view was not so much their performance as the style of it. Too many elbows leading into jump balls, too many hoofs up for Campbell to chase. At Forest, like West Ham, the fans' priorities are style before success.

Delight at the performance was so strong we forgot to be relieved.

As we emerged from the stadium at 4.50, it was still daylight. Everton's winter of disappointments is officially over.

The Players

TEAM PERFORMANCE 9 What a change! 100% effort for 100% of the game! The only criticism is that they didn't mix it up enough in the first half to break a committed defence.

Ref: S Dunn (Bristol) A real plant pot, and a Durkin. Allowed flying elbows and pushes but penalised Dunc for nothing several times. Bad calls, terrible interpretation of the back-pass law, knee-jerk booking of a Forest player.

We know what good footy is

Steve Kirkwood:You can accuse Everton fans of many things (lack of variety of songs, we don't take our shirts off in cold weather, we never took to inflatables etc, thank God), but you can't accuse them of being stupid. They know when we play well, and they know when we play badly. Now, added to this rule, one can include the expectation level. If the team don't meet the expectation, then everyone is disappointed.

So it was more in hope than expectation that most of us went to the game on Saturday. We had played well at Newcastle on Wednesday, and the signs were that things were on the turn for the better.

Stuart Pearce's Forest are bottom 4 material, but had won 5 in 7 (I think). Shorts head (a bit like Kryton in Red Dwarf wouldn't you say?) is damaged again, and Barmby is back in his place.

On Radio Everton after the game, Nick said the transfer rumour was 'Rubbish' and Parkinson agreed that the press were definitely not on anyone's Xmas card list following recent ciriticsm of Joe R. Gerrard keeps his place, and so its a 4-3-2 type formation with Barmby free...

It was a dozy start, mind. They had two corners and we don't look solid at all. Watson boobs in midfield and Woan tries to chip Gerrard. Next cross Gerrard drops...

But things pick up; slowly we get into the game and we are playing football again, the crowd are behind them and Everton's recovery is nursed gently towards the break. Not without further nonsense though.

An Unsworth saving tackle is dived on by Gerrard. Indirect about 9 yards out, with the wall about 4 yards away (don't you hate that?) Phillips fires over, with Pearce menacingly pacing around the ball like a Lion watching a dead rabbit.

Meanwhile, down the Park End, Stuart is through after a good move from Speed and Barmby. Shoots at the keeper. Damn. This becomes a recurrent theme. Three minutes later, Route 1 from Gerrard leaves Stuart through and he shoots at the keeper...

Next after 40 mins, Phelan to Barmby, ball sits up and its Ferguson who spins to shoot wide, then it s Parkinson who shoots over, and the half comes to an end with Speed heading past the far post, and Barrett forcing Crossley to palm onto the post. We've shaded it, and definitely look more committed.

Second half and I get to see us attack the St End from closer than usual. I'm back in the Main Stand today -- half time comments were based on the 'lets survive the next 15, we don't want another Arsenal/Wimbledon/ Sunderland'.

A cross from Barrett, flicked on by Stuart to Dunc. Stumbles/rides the tackle rounds Crossley, and low left into the net. Major celebration involving the whole team (another thing we don't do is the orchestrated Fowler/Hednesford Town routine, thank God), just jump on the scorer.

We may have a little more space now, their 4-5-1 formation hasn't threatened all day, and the next real chance came with seconds left. Everton, on the other hand are looking very good now, and the confidence is showing through very brightly, the team is doing its best to use the outside of the foot, Barmby is buzzing and relishing the role.

Thomsen and Parky have it tied up in the middle, and Phelan is looking better and better. Thomsen has a stonker volley blocked (ouch), Stuart is through again, (guess what) and Speed's low shot is bobbling towards Crossly on the ground and is tipped over!!!

After 68 mins, Unsworth's cross is headed back by Ferguson, hits the post and then Barmby! Roof of the net. More celebrations. We ease back in our chairs and smoke a virtual cigar. 3 points. The last 20 mins is made up of Ole's and some very good football indeed. And the stadium loves it.

Still time for Stuart to run clear, and fire over with Phelan free, and for Unsworth to let one go from 30 yds. They were applauded off. We're not stupid -- they were good today.


Home Support: 7 We're back! Away support: 4 Filled the Lower Bullens section, very poor. Ref Dunn 6.

Everton take the pressure off Royle

Clive White , Electronic Telegraph: FEAR has been a motivating factor for several teams down the years, notably past teams of Nottingham Forest -- although Stuart Pearce's clenched fist seemed to have little effect yesterday.

For Everton it was the threat of a personal place in the club record books for seven successive League defeats that galvanised them. Not even the watching old Liverpool hatchet man, Tommy Smith, could have put the wind up them more. Suddenly they discovered the passion and drive which has been missing from recent performances -- and not least, perhaps, the guile.

It was a day when several players, goal-scorers Duncan Ferguson and Nick Barmby in particular, went some way towards repairing tarnished reputations. Given that the revivalists Forest provided the opposition, it was essential that Everton's own spirit was sound after reports of rancour in the camp.

After their run of five successive victories, this second defeat in a week dropped Forest right back in the relegation mire. "Collectively that was our worst performance since I've been in charge," said Pearce. "We've got to improve vastly on that performance if we're going to get out of trouble. It's a big setback, make no mistake. We allowed Everton too much comfortable possession."

Barmby and Neville Southall had been made the scapegoats for last week's ignominious FA Cup defeat at home to Bradford but after the 4-1 midweek loss at Newcastle, Barmby returned to play an influential role. Southall was neither called nor needed, so minimal was the threat to Everton's goal but manager Joe Royle would be unwise to turn his back on the Welsh veteran just yet.

"Psycho the axeman", as a headline in one tabloid read yesterday, seemed to suggest that Pearce was about to do some chopping and changing of his own after what he described as "the look of arrogance" in the faces of some of his players during the defeat against Coventry. In fact, only Nigel Clough stepped down -- and that because of flu -- probably because Pearce has precious few heads to chop off.

The fearsome Forest leader looked as though he might decapitate one or two of Everton's when he shaped to shoot from a close-range free kick. So near to goal was it that Paul Gerrard opted to stand in front of the wall. Brave man. As it turned out, Ian Woan slipped the ball to David Phillips and bloodshed was spared.

From this backs-to-the-wall position Everton grew in confidence to the point where the tables were turned. Only Pearce's timely interception prevented Barmby from getting back into Royle's good books earlier than he did -- and when Graham Stuart played a neat one-two with the England striker it needed smart reactions by Mark Crossley to defuse the situation.

With Ferguson at odds with his game and Stuart permanently out of luck, Everton went into half-time without converting their superiority into goals.

But their disappointment lasted no more than the duration of the interval. A long punt out of defence by David Watson was flicked on by Stuart but thereafter it was very much a solo effort from Ferguson. Picking his way past two rash Forest challenges with uncommon surefootedness, he then dribbled around Crossley to score.

It was as though a great weight had been lifted. Everton suddenly played with freedom and conviction. A second goal was already long coming by the time Ferguson, in the 67th minute, planted a towering header to a cross from David Unsworth against a post and Barmby followed up to score.

What must have pleased Royle all the more was the way his team continued to force the pace despite being two goals to the good. It was as if they appreciated the full extent of the debt to a crowd of 32,000.

Report Copyright The Electronic Telegraph

Barmby fires Everton back to winning ways

Philip Craigie, Sunday Times: FOR ONE manager the pressure was eased a little, thanks to goals from Duncan Ferguson and Nick Barmby; for another it was tightened a few notches. Had Everton lost, Joe Royle, their beleagured manager, would have been left presiding over seven successive League defeats, a new club record.

Meanwhile, Stuart Pearce, his Nottingham Forest counterpart, was left scowling from the team bus after his second defeat in four days. Pearce was apparently breathing fire after the capitulation to Coventry City, when he said his players had "the look of arrogance" after five successive wins under him. Here, Forest looked not so much arrogant as impotent.

Royle is big on passion, the magic element he claims Everton had in abundance six weeks ago when in some quarters they were being talked of as championship challengers, and he demanded plenty of it from the players and the crowd. But Everton got off to a dozy start, and with Forest forcing a couple of early corners, one of which Paul Gerrard flapped at alarmingly, it looked like business as usual.

However, Everton gradually took control and brought the crowd to life intermittently. At first, it seemed their main threat stemmed from the pacy bursts of Terry Phelan down the left flank. He caused a few flutters in the Forest defence, with Des Lyttle looking flustered as he struggled to make the pace.

You would have thought Everton would have used Phelan quickly after this, but they did not. Instead they sent most traffic down the centre. Whereupon, Forest often took on the appearance of a flimsy structure likely to keel over at any moment.

But passion and penetration are no good without punch, and by half-time, Everton should have been two or three goals up. Graham Stuart was the worst culprit. Twice he should have scored, but the weight of expectation proved too much.

His first chance followed a neat exchange betweeen Gary Speed and Barmby, and left him with just Mark Crossley to beat from an angle six yards out. But he shot low and straight at the keeper. Stuart's second chance was easier and came to him courtesy of an inadvertent flick off a defender. He ran on to it but shot feebly with, once again, just Crossley to beat.

Earl Barrett was next to be afflicted by the malaise. Claus Thomsen's nod-down put him through seven yards out, but his shot struck the post. Duncan Ferguson also went close, flashing his shot just wide.

The passionometer went shooting up at the start of the second half as Everton went for the kill. They took the lead when Dave Watson pumped in a long ball, Stuart knocked it on and Ferguson rounded the keeper to slot home.

This elicited Forest's first shot in anger, but Alf-Inge Haaland put it too high after being set up by Pearce and Chris Allen. Remarkably, Stuart found himself in the clear on two further occasions. The first time his hopes were snuffed out by a perfectly timed Pearce tackle, and then, after a through-ball was knocked on, he blazed his shot over the bar.

It hardly mattered. Everton had already clinched the points when Ferguson's header came back off the post and Barmby swept in the rebound. Royle was reportedly "too exhausted" to attend the post-match press conference. All that passion.

Report Copyright The Sunday Times

Phelan escapes the worst of times

Oliver Holt, The Times: IT WAS crowded in the Spellow House pub on Goodison Road an hour before kick-off, but the group of men in the middle of the room were oblivious to the drinkers pushing past them on their way to and from the bar. Lovingly, they were selecting an Everton team for their time, a Select XI that would grace a club that had just lost six straight Premiership games.

Dai Davies was in goal. Glenn Keeley, who was sent off on his Everton debut against Liverpool, was the pillar of defence. At left midfield there was Ian Wilson, one of Colin Harvey's follies, and at the fulcrum of the team they picked Geoff Nulty, once Gordon Lee's pride and joy. The forward line was led by two cult figures, Rod Belfitt and Bernie Wright.

It was the worst combination of former Everton players they could think of but none of the team that last lost half a dozen league games in succession back in the 1972-73 season made it into the line-up. Most of the players from Joe Royle's present team, a team that had slipped from contention for a place in Europe before Christmas to the fringe of the relegation battle, escaped selection, too.

Only Terry Phelan, the left back who has not had the most auspicious of starts since his move from Chelsea, was making a serious case for himself, apparently. So when the start of the game with Nottingham Forest on Saturday drew near, the inhabitants of the Spellow spilt into the streets and wandered over to the ground to see if he could clinch his place. It is "if-you-didn't-laugh-you-would-cry" time at Goodison Park again.

On Friday, Royle introduced a blanket ban on national newspaper journalists at the club's Bellefield training ground because he had become exasperated with the criticism he was receiving. Even a comfortable and well-deserved win against a parlous Forest team appeared to do little to raise the spirits. Royle spent part of the game glaring up at the press box and sent a messenger up after the 2-0 victory to say he was "too exhausted" to attend the post-match press conference. None of the Everton players would talk to the national press either.

"We printed a whole page of letters about the situation here earlier this week," Len Capeling, the sports editor of the Daily Post in Liverpool, said. "Out of 30, only about four were saying 'Royle must go'. Then, on Friday, we get the message that no one is going to be allowed to go to the training ground and all inquiries have to go through the Politburo instead."

Royle's reaction seems particularly counter-productive given that Everton are obviously a better team than their recent run of results suggests. They were stronger in all departments than their visitors, who looked drained of passion and verve, and their win moved them back into the top half of the table.

Phelan played himself comprehensively out of the Worst XI with a vibrant attacking display down the left flank, and Thomsen and Speed controlled midfield, allowing Barmby, Ferguson and Stuart to flourish in attack.

Ferguson, celebrating as though he had lifted the siege of Mafeking, set Everton on their way to their first Premiership points since December 21st by latching on to Stuart's flick, rounding Crossley and lashing a left-foot shot into the empty net two minutes after half-time.

Twenty minutes later, Ferguson rose to meet Unsworth's cross and when his header rebounded off the post, Barmby turned it into the roof of the net.

Back at the Spellow after the game, they were showing footage of Everton's Cup Winners' Cup semi-final victory over Bayern Munich in 1985 on the giant screen. The same group was back in the middle of the room united in the belief that Neville Southall would be a fixture in any Everton Best Select XI and in the corner a supporter was folding up a flag with two words written on it. "Royle In," it said.

Report Copyright The Times

Peerless Ferguson has Royle flush

Clive White, The Independent: Joe Royle relayed the message that he was 'too exhausted' to mount the three or four flights of stairs to the press room afterwards to discuss the game. If the truth be known, he was probably too lost for words to explain the dramatic turnaround in Everton's fortunes.

One moment they were heading for a record seventh consecutive League defeat and accompanying brickbats, next they were pulverising Nottingham Forest into defeat and earning a standing ovation.

On occasions like this, you have to wonder if spirit and passion, as opposed to more reliable factors such as skill, do not play too large a part in the outcome of English matches. In which case, how is it that Wimbledon are able to sustain those qualities so much better than anyone else?

It was more the example that dropping the likes of Everton favourite Neville Southall and record-signing Nick Barmby set than those who came in for them that put the wind in Everton's sails -- or should I say the wind up them. Southall's omission from the 4-1 defeat at Newcastle clearly made no difference to the result but, by all accounts, for the 76 minutes until the Geordie's four-goal salvo, it was a much-improved performance.

Barmby returned a rejuvenated figure to play a crucial part in this victory, literally and figuratively, just behind Duncan Ferguson. The big Scot must have been a revelation to those who see him as purely an aerial threat. At odds with his game until the 40th minute, when he spun on a Terry Phelan cross to drag a shot marginally wide, he seemed to take enormous heart from the crowd's appreciation of that effort. The Goodison fans, by the sheer strength of their turnout -- 32,500 -- did as much as anything to turn the tide for Everton on Saturday.

It was an imperious performance by Ferguson. After giving Everton the lead in the first minute of the second half, when he dribbled around Steve Chettle and Mark Crossley to score, he almost claimed a second to complement his all-round game, but his towering header came back off a post, allowing Barmby the chance of atonement.

Suddenly Everton are upwardly mobile again, though a European place -- once a realistic target -- is surely beyond them unless they can embark on a run of success to equal the recent run of failure.

Royle lives to fight another day

Ian Ross, The Guardian: Just when they needed it most, Everton finally met up with a soft touch and Nottingham Forest, who came for a draw, had to settle for a hiding. Maybe those who consider Joe Royle to be a sinner amid saints will begin to revise their opinions.

The managerial dole queue is full of honourable men who placed loyalty to those who did not deserve it above an instinct for self-preservation. Too often, as a manager stands embarrassed and explaining away the ill deeds of others, players who require a wheelbarrow to carry home their weekly wage packets are slipping into big cars en route to cosy, insular worlds where cash is king and loyalty a forgotten currency.

Having survived (well, presumably) a crisis of six straight league defeats which could easily have dragged him under, Royle would do well to reflect on the events of last week.

On Wednesday, with a little help from his friends in the boardroom, he pushed the mercenary Kanchelskis on to a Florence-bound plane. Merseyside fell silent, there was not one voice raised in anger. On Saturday the manageress in the Everton souvenir shop was pulling down, with something akin to glee, pictures of the departed winger.

Kanchelskis had let down everyone, his manager in particular. And yet Royle chose not to dump on him from a great height when quite clearly to have done so would have come to represent a sparkling piece of public relations.

There are several other candidates for Royle's ire within the Everton dressing-room yet he remains doggedly silent. It is that loyalty thing again.

But events are looking up. With the 8 million pounds received for the defecting Russian international, if Royle is allowed to invest some -- preferably all -- of it on a goalscoring forward capable of complementing the marvellous Duncan Ferguson, Everton may yet end the season at the top end of the table.

After spending the opening 45 minutes missing chances as only they can, Everton struck twice in the second half to crush the visitors and win points for the first time in six difficult weeks.

The redoubtable Ferguson was well to the fore, scoring the first after cleverly rounding the goalkeeper Crossley, and setting up the second for Nick Barmby with a thumping header which struck the inside of a post.

Results and League Table

Sunday, 2 February 1997

NEWCASTLE UNITED        4-3    LEICESTER CITY            36,396  
Elliott(3) Shearer(77,83,90)   Elliott(55) Claridge(60) Heskey(68)

Saturday, 1 February 1997

ASTON VILLA             1-0    SUNDERLAND                32,491  
BLACKBURN ROVERS        2-1    WEST HAM UNITED           21,994  
Gallacher(36) Sutton(39)       Ferdinand(64)
DERBY COUNTY            0-1    LIVEPROOL                 18,102  
EVERTON                 2-0    NOTTINGHAM FOREST         32,567  
Ferguson(48) Barmby(67)
LEEDS UNITED            0-0    ARSENAL                   35,502  

MANCHESTER UNITED       2-1    SOUTHAMPTON               55,269  
Pallister(19) Cantona(80)      Ostenstad(11)
SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY     0-0    COVENTRY CITY             21,793  

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR       1-2    CHELSEA                   33,027  
Howells(83)                    Campbell(og:1) Di Matteo(53)
WIMBLEDON               1-1    MIDDLESBROUGH             15,046  
Cox(og:22)                     Mustoe(75)

Table after 3 February 1997

Club                          P    W    D    L   GF   GA   GD  Pts
Manchester United            25   14    8    3   50   28   22   50
Liverpool                    25   14    7    4   42   20   22   49
Arsenal                      25   13    8    4   44   23   21   47
Newcastle United             25   13    6    6   50   30   20   45
Chelsea                      24   11    8    5   38   33    5   41
Wimbledon                    23   11    6    6   36   28    8   39
Aston Villa                  25   11    6    8   32   25    7   39
Sheffield Wednesday          24    8   11    5   26   27   -1   35
Everton                      25    8    7   10   34   38   -4   31
Tottenham Hotspur            24    9    4   11   27   33   -6   31
Leeds United                 25    8    6   11   21   27   -6   30
Sunderland                   25    7    8   10   23   32   -9   29
Blackburn Rovers             24    6    9    9   26   25    1   27
Leicester City               24    7    6   11   25   35  -10   27
Coventry City                25    6    9   10   23   33  -10   27
Derby County                 24    5   10    9   22   30   -8   25
Nottingham Forest            25    5    8   12   23   40  -17   23
West Ham United              24    5    7   12   20   32  -12   22
Southampton                  23    5    5   13   32   41   -9   20
Middlesbrough                24    5    7   12   30   44  -14   19*

* Includes 3 pts deducted from Middlesbrough for illegal match postponement 

This League Table Update provided by Lawrence "Leagueman" Breakey

This Match Report Compilation was prepared by Michael Kenrick for Marko Poutiainen. 2 Feb 1997.