Everton v Tottenham Hotspur


FA Carling Premiership 96/97 - Game 34
Saturday 12 April 1997
Goodison Park, Merseyside

Result: Everton (1) 1 - Tottenham Hotspur (0) 0
Speed (11)

Everton: Southall, Barrett, Watson, Phelan (Ball, 45), Stuart, Rideout, Ferguson, Speed, Thomsen, Branch (Barmby, 58), Dunne.
Booked: Dunne, Ball, Stuart, Thomsen, Ferguson, Rideout.
Subs Not Used: Gerrard, Hottiger, Hills, Unavailable: Hinchcliffe, Grant, O'Connor, Parkinson, Unsworth, Short (all injured);

Tottenham Hotspur: Walker, Edinburgh, Calderwood, Nielsen (Austin, 32), Sheringham, Dozzell, Rosenthal, Scales (Fenn, 46), Campbell, Vega, Carr (Fox, 51).
Subs Not Used: Baardsen, McVeigh. Booked: Edinburgh, Sheringham, Austin.

Ref: Gary Willard Att: 36,380 League Position: 12th Results and League Table

Previous Match: Everton v Leicester City -- Next Match: Everton v Liverpool

Note: This turned out to be Paul Rideout's last game for Everton before transferring to Huan Dao Vanguards in China.

Match Summary

SoccerNet (Bob Cass, Mail on Sunday): Gary Speed's 11th goal of the season helped lift the relegation fears which have hit Goodison Park for the past month. A classic early header put the skids under Spurs, Speed blasting the ball past Ian Walker after Graham Stuart had set up the opportunity with a beautifully flighted cross.

It was player-manager Dave Watson's first win in charge since he took over following the departure of Joe Royle and nobody deserved to finish on the winning side more than the Everton defender. It took two marvellous saves from Neville Southall to preserve Everton's lead. In the 26th minute he foiled Sol Campbell with a fine full-length effort but even more astonishing was his point-blank stop from Allan Nielsen a minute later.

The Danish midfielder looked certain to score as he came steaming in at the far post to meet a cross from Stephen Carr with a diving header but the Everton goalkeeper somehow got his body in the way and as the ball ran loose on the goal-line, Watson hooked it clear.

Duncan Ferguson had an opportunity to calm the Everton nerves in the 28th minute when he was put clear by Stuart with only Walker to beat. But Walker produced an excellent one-handed save. It was a match packed with incident and excitment and no quarter was asked or given.

The battling undercurrent was underlined in the 37th minute when Teddy Sheringham and Stuart were involved in a punch-up. The Everton midfielder reacted angrily after being scythed down by Justin Edinburgh. Referee Gary Willard deemed the two Spurs men the culprits and showed them both the yellow card.

Walker then tipped Stuart's powerful 20-yarder over the bar while Sheringham hooked the ball off target after Southall had failed to clear with a weak punch. Speed tested Walker with another brilliant header in the 72nd minute which the keeper just managed to get a hand to and in the next minute Everton had what looked like a legitimate penalty appeal turned down when Ramon Vega appeared to trip Nick Barmby.

In the 75th minute, Southall and Watson combined to rescue Everton in amazing fashion. Spurs were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the Everton penalty area. Watson blocked Sheringham's effort on the line and then the veteran goalkeeper got in the way as Jason Dozzell pounced on the rebound.

There was another confrontation -- between Claus Thomsen and Dean Austin -- which resulted in both players being booked and the energetic Willard then showed Paul Rideout the yellow card for a foul on Edinburgh.

What a difference a win makes!

Guy McEvoy:   Another glorious day, another depleted squad, another knot in the stomach, another sad sense of inevitability that we were an hour and a half away from yet another defeat. Sticking young Dunne in from the start and having to play Rideout in midfield in a crucial relegation battle showed the very depths that our proud club has sunk to. I had, if you hadn't already gathered, a very bad feeling about this.

Maybe I should try and be fatalistically pessimistic more often.

In view of the last three games the first half display probably shouldn't have come as a surprise at all. Rideout managed to mix it as he had against Swindon earlier in the season; as if he had been playing central midfield his entire career. Graham Stuart, today playing wide on the right managed, for the first time this season, to recreate the kind of display that made him the first name on the team sheet eighteen months ago. Gary Speed found the work-rate that made it tough to place where exactly his nominal position was (left midfield) as he just kept popping up everywhere and anywhere with faultless contributions. Even Clause Thomsen seemed to warm a bit to the inventiveness around him. Everton had won the midfield. Like they say, if you win the midfield, you win the game.

At the back Watson was finally leading by example, it certainly rubbed off on Dunne who I'd worried about so much. The composure of the lad visibly increased with every minute passed so that by the end of the half he was arrogantly turning attackers with exhibition game manoeuvres.

Before then though Everton had made the vital breakthrough with as fine a goal as we had scored all season. It started with Paul Rideout who picked out Stuart, Stuart charged down the wing and took the ball past his man before delivering an ideal cross perfectly met by Speed to head hard into the top corner. A truly fluent goal.

The crowd erupted and a buzz kicked in at Goodison that was to last the remainder of the game.

It wasn't all one way traffic though, Spurs found enough cracks in our play to keep us 'excited', most notably forcing a top drawer save by Southall from a point blank header by Sheringham. Still, what was present for Everton today that had been absent of late was the ability to hit back immediately. Again it came to Stuart, and again we thought he'd held onto it too long, however his delay gave Branch the chance to split away and draw a marker opening up a massive gap for Ferguson to exploit. Stuart duly fed the big guy the ball and he was clear through with only Walker to beat. The big man hasn't had many shots of late, it showed in this, it was a woeful effort.

The passion was boiling over at times, Stuart got involved in a handbag style fisticuffs, that saw even the mild mannered Earle Barrett join in. Mysteriously though Stuart avoided the book for the fracas unlike two spurs players. The physical side of the game continued throughout the match, but in the first half both teams lost a player apiece, in our case, sadly, it was Terry Phelan which gave another youngster, Michael Ball, his first taste of first team action.

After our last few displays only the foolish would take heart simply from the first half display with the obligatory second half collapse still to come. Mercifully though, we finally managed to hold out, at times only by the skins of our teeth, but we managed it none the less.

Branch was withdrawn, obviously with an injury, giving Barmby a run out and he soon looked to be the victim of a foul in the box, but the referee, who had been weak throughout was reluctant to point to the spot. Barmby also managed to get on the end of a Stuart cross and blast it into the side-netting causing one of those cruel optical illusions where I ended up celebrating a second goal which never was. Stuart was also unlucky with a long range effort. The physical nature of it all continued, we were treated to another scuffle, and somehow in a melee from a corner Ferguson had his shirt ripped to shreds and so ended the game without a collar and half his chest on show.

But it was Spurs who were pushing hard at the last, particularly after yet another forced substitution brought Fox into play which seemed to make a quick impression. A free kick on the edge of the box was blasted in but somehow Watson managed to get in the way if it, the loose ball fell to a white shirt which was also blasted goalwards but Southall was there again to push it away and then catch Spurs final effort of the move. The cheer that went round Goodison when Southall finally got it under control must have sounded like a cup final goal had just gone in.

I can't really tell you what happened after that because with five minutes to go I could simply bear it no more. The last of the mental and emotional energy I had left had been drained with Watson's off-the-line clearance, my throat was too sore to shout any more, my blood pressure was through the roof, and I was feeling dangerously close to hyperventilation (I let relegation efforts get to me!). So I sat on the Top Balcony stairs for what seemed like an eternity until the final massive Goodison roar confirmed that the team had shown more mental resilience than me and we'd held onto the victory that should ensure our Premiership status next season and takes some of the what could have unbearable tension out of Wednesday's encounter.

I'll sleep a lot easier tonight.

Individual Performances

Stress and Strain, Spirit and Speed

Richard Marland: It can't be good for you this stuff. The stress, the shredded nerves, all the baggage that goes with following Everton these days. For the second time in four days, the Blues put us through the mill as we searched for the elusive win that would take us to the magical 40 points mark, and now that we've hit that mark what happens next? Yes that calm, stress free event known as the Mersey Derby.

Yet again we were forced to change the team.  Short and Unsworth didn't make it and Barmby was dropped to the bench. Barrett and Dunne came in for Short and Unsworth and Rideout came in for Barmby. We lined up with Nev in goal again, a back three of Watson, Dunne and Barrett (Watson in the centre with Dunne to his left and Barrett to his right), Phelan and Stuart at wing back, a midfield trio of Thomsen, Speed and Rideout (Thomsen on the right, Speed on the left with Rideout ahead of them) and Dunc and Branch up front. Personally I was impressed with this team selection, the potential problem in midfield following the absence of Joe Parkinson was addressed by bringing in Rideout for Barmby, Barmby has been very poor of late and Rideout can do a better job defensively than Barmby.

First Half

From the early stages it was clear that Dave Watson was getting the commitment he had asked for. Everyone was up for this one, and everyone played their part, even Claus Thomsen. Within 11 minutes we were in the lead, and through one of the best goals the Blues have scored in some time. Dunc and then Rideout did well in midfield to release Stuart down the wing, Stuart beat his man to get to the byeline and put in a good cross that was met by Gary Speed's head.

The remainder of the half was a fairly even affair. Our hopes that Tottenham wouldn't be interested were unfounded as they went in search of an equaliser. Our defence once again looked vulnerable, there was a noticeable improvement from the defensive shambles of the Leicester game, but we still looked anything like commanding. Spurs had several good chances, Sheringham being guilty of the worst miss, missing with a free header.

Everton also had chances, Ferguson missing the best when put through one on one with the goalie, his low shot was saved by the goalie. Dunc did get in on target, and Walker did save well, but it should still have been a goal. T

he last action of note in the first half was the introduction of Michael Ball for the injured Terry Phelan (he was brought down on the edge of their box and presumably damaged his already dodgy knee). So, once again we reached half time without the security of the extra goal, what would the second half bring this time?

Second Half

For once in this god forsaken season we were spared the ritual second half collapse. We continued to work hard. Ball and Dunne, inspite of some early uncertainty which made me fear for the worst, didn't prove to be a liability. We continued to create the occasional chances, Walker pulling off a couple of good saves, and we had what looked to be a clear penalty turned down when Barmby (introduced for Michael Branch) appeared to be tripped in the box.

Spurs also had their chances, the most notable being from a free kick on the edge of our box. I think it was Sheringham who took it and it needed Dave Watson to clear it off the line, I hadn't seen Watson, all I saw was Nev looking rather flat footed and well beaten fortunately though Waggy had dropped back onto the goal-line at the last minute to save us.

There had been a lot of injuries during the game and the physios had been on a number of times so we had to endure 4 minutes or so of injury time, before the referee finally put us out of our misery. The relief of the players and crowd was obvious, this was a big one that had to be won, we can now play out the rest of the season in rather more comfort.

A final word goes to the referee and the crowd. The referee was distinctly less than magnificent. Repeatedly gave decisions the wrong way and bought all the dives of Sheringham and Dozzell, Dozzell in particular was amazing, every time he was put under any physical pressure he collapsed and every time the ref gave him a free kick. The crowd though was magnificent today, 36,000 there and they supported the team throughout.

Team 6 For heart, bottle and commitment they undoubtedly deserve an 8 or 9. But, in the harsh light of reality this was another stuttering performance. Good football was at a minimum and we again looked defensively vulnerable, Tottenham undoubtedly had the chances to draw this game, and on balance of chances probably deserved to. That's all academic though, this was a very, very important win.

The atmosphere of Wimbledon '94

Robbie Newton:  Wednesday's draw with Leicester meant that today's game was absolutely vital. If Everton didn't get at least a result, you could safely say that the odds of survival would decrease.

Coming down County Road an hour from kick-off it seemed like the whole of Merseyside was coming to support the Blues. On arrival at the ground you could sense a Wimbledon '94 type atmosphere. A result -- preferably a win -- was imperative and each and every one of us present was going to do our bit to help.

The match started with the surprise news that Nick Barmby had been relegated to the bench, whilst Short and Unsworth were both injured. The team lined up with a back three of Barrett, Watson and Dunne, with five in midfield: Stuart, Thomsen, Speed, Rideout and Phelan; and Branch and Ferguson up-front. May have been 5-3-2 but looking at the positions that Barrett and Dunne were filling, I think it was 3-5-2.

First Half

The game kicked off at a high tempo with us the strongest. There weren't too many opportunities but both defences didn't seem capable of shutting out the opposition forward line.

On 13 minutes Everton went ahead following a terrific flowing move which ended with Stuart's inviting right wing cross being powerfully headed home by Gary Speed. It was Speed's 11th goal of his Everton career, and one which kept in tradition with the School of Science taf -- fast, flowing, accurate football topped off with a perfect finish.

The next task was to build on this lead and the chance to do that came seven minutes later but predictably and frustratingly, Duncan Ferguson showed just why he's not a goalscorer and just how over-rated he was by Joe Royle. Clean through on goal following a pass from Stuart, Ferguson tried to place the ball past Walker when he had time to advance even further and smash the ball past the England 'keeper. It was a terrible miss which ultimately left the Blues hanging on right until the death.

Spurs had their moments too in a tense but hugely exciting (for the neutral) first half. Dunne gave the ball away on the edge of the penalty area but Sheringham's resulting shot was cleared from the line by Dave Watson.

The half finished 1-0 and Everton were given a standing ovation. A committed first half performance. The only downer was that Terry Phelan had gone off injured. He was replaced by my ex-team-mate Michael Ball, who came on for his first taste of first-team action.

Second Half

The second half started at much the same tempo as the first half did, but play was continually broken down by without doubt the worst referee ever to 'referee' a game at Goodison Park. He was absolutely crap. He never let the game flow and also managed to book a dozen players in a match where there honestly wasn't ONE bad tackle.

Tottenham, like Leicester on Wednesday, clawed there way back into the match more and more as time passed and how the ball stayed out of our net is a mystery to me. You have to feel sorry for the travelling Tottenham fans. I'd be well pissed off if I were one (thankfully not).

Sheringham's free-kick was blocked on the line by Watson who was covering the right hand post and the ball was somehow scrambled away to the relief and delight of 36,000 Evertonians.

Rosenthal was a menace to Barrett, turning him one way and then the other, but in the end, Southall didn't have to make too many saves. Spurs had their chances but most of them were either cleared off the line or went wide.

We also had our chances. Stuart's thunderbolt was tipped over brilliantly by Walker, and from the resulting corner Rideout headed down but Walker was there again. Ferguson poked a shot at Walker after some good work and Speed went close, firing a right-footer just over. Barmby, who had come on for Branch on 55, was tripped in the area by Calderwood but no penalty was given. Another wrong decision by the referee -- must have made at least 30 errors during the whole match, no blag.

We were left hanging on for the vital 3 points which will go a long way to securing our Premiership safety. We should pick up at least another point in our last 4 games which would leave us with 41. Should be enough. A magnificent effort by all today. The fans were brilliant, the commitment shown by the players was brilliant and the end result was, well, er, good.

Individual Performances

We must do this again sometime

Lyndon Lloyd:  I don't think I have ever been as "up" for a visit to Goodison Park in my life as was for today. I have had trouble getting to sleep at night this past week dreaming of the positive eventualities to today's game and how elated and relieved I would feel if we were to come away with a victory. This miserable season had, I think, finally got the better of me and I was absolutely bursting with positive energy that I could not wait to transmit in my own small way to the players.

I had lovingly prepared a banner last night - "90 Minutes of Pride Please Blues", a kind of sequel to the famously inspirational message from one Evertonian at THAT game three years ago. Due to my seating location and the fact that I couldn't obscure the advertising hoardings, my creation never made it to display but ultimately it wasn't needed. The boys did the business without my cheeky reminder that football is a game of 90 minutes! Instead I contented myself by literally, and I mean literally shouting myself hoarse, as I shouted, as requested, on behalf of El-Waggy way down South and Andrea just a few nautical miles west of Mecca. I think it did the trick! ;-)

The United Nations of Toffeenet convened as planned in The Chepstow Castle at 1 pm with my faded grey 49ers cap acting as the universal pink carnation. From Australia (Rob Hamilton), Canada (Charlie Deeney) and Long Beach, California (Ken Myers) as well as from the south of this green and pleasant land they came. Only the Merseyside connection, save for Neill O'Brien, let us down. I guess our husband to be was reined in by the Missus and was unable to attend. Only joking, Lol me ol' mate! Still, it provided those present with a game: Who could make the biggest arse of themselves or putting their life at greatest risk by going up to the nearest tall bloke and asking: "Are you Zog?"

Cultural and international divides do not exist in the Everton community, especially when you have been in contact with these friends for months already, albeit by e-mail. We chatted at length about the team's current plight, Toffeenet and, of course, Lars the Norse!!! An early rise, a 3 hour drive and two pints combined to furnish me with a heady optimism that had me almost adamantly predicting we would win, much to the bewilderment of the gathered throng.

At 2.40 we gave up Zog-hunting and headed off to Goodison whereupon we all went our separate ways. I had purchased a ticket for the Street End at 12.30 that day and been presented with a seat in the very back row of the Gwladys Street terrace. "Serves you right for not booking over the phone, you tight get" I thought. Luckily there were a couple of unoccupied seats about 10 rows forward which offered a perfect and unobstructed view. Life for the time being was complete.


The team came out at five to three to a wonderful reception from the fans. There was definitely an edge to this game, a different kind of atmosphere; one that is generated by situations of such magnitude. Make no mistake. This may not have been the final game of the season but victory here was simply vital. For the longer this agonising uncertainty (and the crippling injury list) continued, the more panicked our situation would have become.

The team sheet revealed few surprises, except for the joint absence of Unsworth and Short. I had expected at least one of them to play but instead young Richard Dunne had been given his third senior start alongside his manager, captain and mentor -- Dave Watson. Earl Barrett returned at right back and Terry Phelan was again present on the left despite a rumoured lump behind the knee. Paul Rideout, Gary Speed, Graham Stuart and Claus Thomsen lined up across the midfield and Micheal Branch once again partnered Duncan Ferguson in attack. Tottenham, thankfully, were equally paralysed in terms of team selection which made for an even contest. However, you felt that, if anything, perhaps Everton's jitters would hand the visitors the edge

Straight from the kick off it was plainly evident that Everton were as up for this one as I was. It was pleasing to see that despite the patched-up nature of the team and the urgency of the situation, every player was committed to the cause. Commitment and industry did not always guarantee flair or style and there were plenty of errors and an inverse amount of chances in the first half. The first real chance fell to Everton after the best move of the first 45 minutes. Ferguson won the ball in midfield and fed Rideout who found Stuart on the right. Everton's rejuvenated number 7 jinked past Edinburgh and delivered an inch perfect cross for Speed in the centre who powered a header past the stranded Ian Walker to send the Goodison faithful into rapture. Coming after just 11 minutes, it was the perfect start and it settled the early nerves.

However, the realities posed by Everton's inherently instable defence, not helped by Dunne's inexperience, created an almost permanent knife-edge situation. The chances were that at any given moment Tottenham could steal through and equalise, thereby planting the Blues firmly back at square one and leave us open to the kind of second half collapses to which he have become annoyingly accustomed recently. This was almost the case in the 16th minute when Alan Nielsen prodded a low cross wide of Southall's right hand post. Two minutes later, though, it was Everton who were back on the offensive; Graham Stuart's stinging drive being palmed over by Walker.

It took a 32 year-old striker to teach one of Everton's highest paid players how to be a midfielder. Paul Rideout easily eclipsed Thomsen in the centre of the park and it was a terrific performance by the man who had only stepped off a trans-world flight at the weekend. Rideout was everywhere and in my opinion outstripped his efforts in the same position against Swindon in January. However, despite his presence, the Toffees' midfield was prone to exposing gaping holes through which Sol Campbell galloped unchallenged after 26 minutes but his long-range effort failed to trouble Neville at the Park End.

Far more threatening danger was averted barely a minute later though when Southall was unable to hold after a low save and Dave Watson hooked the ball off the line. But, as was the nature of this encounter at times, Everton were back down the other end almost immediately when Stuart put Ferguson clean through but the Scot hit a tame effort straight into Walker's arms when a goal looked a virtual certainty.

The first of many casualties came just after the half-hour mark. Alan Nielsen was stretchered off with a head injury to be replaced by Dean Austin. Meanwhile, referee Willard was dishing out cards like it was going out of fashion. In all, by my reckoning, five Everton players were needlessly booked in a game that was not malicious, despite a couple of flair-ups involving first Stuart and then Thomsen with opposition players, but was at worst niggly. I have seen some appalling refereeing displays in my time but this must rank up there with the worst of them. Willard was simply atrocious and the Royal Blue faithful were right to feel aggrieved at an unthinkable number of decisions that went against the team.

Unfortunately, Terry Phelan was the next to leave the fray nursing injury. Following a bad challenge on the edge of the box, the new Goodison hero was left in a crumpled heap and although he hobbled around for five minutes he was substituted in favour of Michael Ball just seconds before an extended first half ended. Given the fact that Ball had never made a senior appearance and that from a distance there was a bit too much of the Stuart Barlow blonde-haired frailty look about him, you could be forgiven for thinking that we would have our backs against the walls throughout the second half.

How we were proved wrong by the our little-known newcomer. Apart from an unlikely confidence for one so young, Ball unveiled a new weapon in the Everton arsenal (if you excuse the use of that most horrid of words!); a Vinny Jones-esque long throw. It was his projectile pass that caused havoc in the Spurs area in the 60th minute and saw Barmby (on for Branch) smash a shot agonisingly wide, hitting the side-netting from six yards.

For the remaining 30 minutes, chances came and went in equal measure for both sides. Southall missed his punch from a corner which caused mild panic in the Blues defence before the danger was averted. Ferguson sent a towering header straight into Walker's midrift before Barrett was called upon to hoof the ball off the line to save his side once more and then Speed, at the other end once more, crashed unleashed a goalbound 25 yard effort but Walker parried. There was even scope for Dunne and Ball, both visibly growing in confidence as the game wore on, to terrorise the visitors' defence.

Dunne carried the ball from one area to the other, virtually unchallenged and although when he eventually pulled the trigger his was a defender's shot, he was suitably applauded by 36,000 Evertonians. Ball, who many, including myself, expected to sink rather than swim under the circumstances, was a revelation. He regularly found space on the left hand side and on one occasion sent a fizzing cross straight across the Tottenham six yard box but there was no Blue shirt on hand to connect.

The victory was nearly sealed and lost within the space of a sixty seconds with 13 minutes remaining. The referee had inexplicably waved away vigorous appeals for a penalty after Barmby had been blatantly tripped by Calderwood at one end while at the other Stuart flattened Calderwood, only to come off worse himself. He was booked for his trouble and Tottenham received a menacingly positioned free-kick on the edge of the Everton area. Sheringham's subsequent effort eluded Southall and Watson with bended knees deflected the ball away from danger from the goal-line. Ruel Fox (who had replaced the injured Carr) kindly ballooned the rebound over the bar. The reception with which this narrow escape was greeted almost matched the eruption that followed Speed's goal and a wave of relief swept the stadium. Everton were hardly challenged from then on and our fingernails were saved by the final whistle after three minutes of injury time.

Fortune favoured the brave on Merseyside today and Everton certainly put on a gutsy if fragmented performance. The long ball game was thankfully abandoned in favour of intelligent use of the channels from which Stuart, Branch, Ferguson and Speed prospered greatly. Speed for his part was simply superb today and at the moment he IS Everton Football Club. Gary plays with his heart on his sleeve and no one deserved to score the winner more than he. If, as is likely, he finishes the season as top scorer then that will also be justice done. If we can thank Joe Royle for just one thing this season then Gary Speed must surely be it. Everton Player of the Season? You betya!

Individual Performances

Team Performance:- 8 - For sheer guts. It wasn't always pretty but in the context of the situation and the shunning of the long ball (except from Neville's clearances) this deserves an 8 rating. We can sleep a little easier in our beds this week and look forward to a point or three in the derby on Wednesday. Either way, survival is a good deal closer than it was at 3 pm today. For what it's worth, I am ecstatic and overjoyed that my money was well spent. Thank you, Everton.

Watson's Wounded Wonders

Steve Bickerton:  After the disappointment in all quarters following the second-half display on Wednesday night, Dave Watson found himself facing Tottenham today with no more than a patched up side. True, this was balanced by a Tottenham side similarly ravaged by injury and unavailability, but against the backdrop of recent form, it can't have been easy selecting any side, let alone the side that started.

Defensively things were eased by the return of Earl Barrett to shore up the right hand side, but Unsworth and Short were both missing so Richard Dunne was promoted from the bench for his first start alongside Watson with Phelan taking the left back berth. The middle of the park looked only slightly more balanced than on Wednesday with Stuart on the right, Speed on the left and Thomsen supported in the middle by Rideout. Up front, the Branch/Ferguson partnership was maintained with the starting line-up completed by Southall between the posts.

First Half

Rideout's inclusion in midfield turned out to be an inspired choice. He hustled and bustled, held the ball, delivered the ball well and with a purpose, all of which gave enormous support to the ever-committed Gary Speed. Stuart started off as if he'd forgotten all about a season where he's been the nearly man (nearly scored, nearly assisted etc..) and was back to his resourceful best. He pushed on well down the right, covered back, stuck his foot in where it was needed.

Thomsen seemed to be finding things more comfortable in the middle not being relied upon quite so much to provide the defensive cover at the back. He's certainly not the most accomplished tackler in the side but there were signs today that he would be more at home in a more inventive midfield. The current situation at Goodison can therefore not be easy for him. Having said that he's yet to show an instinct to die for the Royal Blue shirt.

All around the park there were performances which showed much more bite, urgency and commitment than we've witnessed since before Christmas. The threat of the drop seemed finally to be taken seriously. The goal came in the early part of the first half (11 mins) with Ferguson on one of his many defensive forays on the day, midway back on the left hand side of his own half. He took the ball from a Spurs forward (possibly Rosenthal), rode a couple of iffy tackles and forced the ball on to Rideout who in turn struck the sweetest cross-field ball out to Stuart on the right. Stuart raced on down the right with a defender in attendance but managed to drill a perfect cross over for Speed to meet magnificently with his head from just outside the six yard box. What a perfect goal, and all on the floor till the final ball!

The rest of the half passed at a frightening pace with further chances at both ends. The most glaring miss of the game came from Ferguson late on in the half. Again Stuart was the provider, holding the ball on the halfway line as we broke out of defence. The crowd screamed at him to release it to a determined Branch who was desperately trying to break free without falling for the offside trap, but Stuart held on before delivering a perfect ball beyond the defence and into the path of the surging Ferguson. Dunc raced on towards goal with only Walker to beat but, as Walker dived low to his right Dunc followed suit with a shot that was only ever going to be saved. A bit of lift and 2 - 0 was there for the taking.

Despite their possession (it must have been at least 50% to Tottenham) we never really looked in serious trouble, although Sheringham did decide to head back across goal on one occasion with an empty net begging to be hit and Southall was forced to make one necessary save.

The biggest disappointment of the half was the referee who seemed to take great delight in blowing up every time there was a hint of contact. All this did was to get players more on edge and more likely to get it wrong. His lack of action on more than one occasion was accordingly the more bewildering. One such occasion was a desperate tackle from behind on a charging Phelan which required Terry getting lengthy treatment and eventually, late in the half withdrawing to be replaced by Michael Ball. Nevertheless half time came (49mins) with the blues comfortable at 1-0.

Second Half

But now the dreaded second half. O me of little faith!

It started nervously again. Ten minutes or so of backing off, giving the ball away, but at least trying to do the right thing. Then we seemed to get it together and started looking a bit more secure. Dunne alongside a dominant Watson, who was to make the decision of the day, looked very assured. Ball seemed to find his feet very quickly, showing a very long throw and an ability to head for the deadball line and deliver a wicked cross.

Sadly that wasn't for Branch who had gone off holding a groin injury to be replaced by Barmby, himself, presumably, not fit enough for a full game. But along with the rest Barmby threw himself into the game and found himself free of the defence and charging in on goal. A quick tap on the ankle from behind and down goes a furious Barmby. Play on signals the referee to the disbelief of 36,000 Evertonians and the relief of 1,300 Spurs fans.

Barmby was mightily enraged and followed the ref down to the other end where Spurs had now gained a free kick in a fairly central position just outside the box. Southall organised his wall, but Watson, aware that Sheringham can be dangerous in this situation stepped back to cover the right hand post. This allowed Fox a bit of freedom behind the wall, but in the event it was inspired defending with Sheringham's shot dipping over the wall and into Watson's lap. It rebounded out and into the path of a Spurs man who pushed the ball forward to the left post only for Southall to make an inspired save, pushing the ball out to be cleared by Dunne.

The rest of the game was punctuated by whistles, mostly unaccountably from the referee, bookings for both sides, including a stupid one for Ferguson for returning the ball, clumsily, too deep for a Spurs free kick. Finally after a further two and a half minutes of added time the game was over, 1 - 0.

Again, I'll be optimistic about this and look for the good points in the game. We competed well, albeit against a depleted Spurs side. There were more than competent displays from Dunne and Ball; Rideout was an ideal replacement for Parkinson -- if this is how he plays with jet lag, I can't wait till Wednesday when he's fresh. Stuart seems to have got his appetite back. Ferguson was everywhere.

Watson was outstanding at the back. Speed was everywhere, up front, in the middle and at the back and again shaded the Man of the Match from Watson in my mind. Ferguson was again a thorn in the Spurs defence battling for the ball as much on the ground as in the air and finished with only half a shirt on his back (where were the free kicks for those bits of shirt tugging?). All round a battling performance fully deserving of the three points. But where, oh where was this level of commitment for the Man Utd game? And just who will be fit for Wednesday?

Speed steers Everton to safety

Derick Allsop, Electronic Telegraph:  DAVE WATSON led Everton through a tumultuous encounter against Tottenham to remove the threat of relegation at Goodison Park yesterday. Watson's reshaped team dragged their anxious supporters through the usual range of emotions in the quest for a decisive step towards safety.

Some of their football belied their recent form and present plight, a splendidly created goal, completed by Gary Speed, giving them a first-half lead against a conveniently erratic Tottenham. But trauma is never too far away here, and the anxiety in the stands was heightened by wasted chances in the Spurs goalmouth and frantic clearances in Everton's.

Neville Southall, restored to the team, made a crucial block from Allan Nielsen as Tottenham shook themselves form a characteristic slumber, and Teddy Sheringham's normally impeccable touch failed him when an equaliser beckoned.

Watson, striving for his first win as caretaker manager and the three points he calculated would guarantee Premiership football at Goodison Park next season, recalled Paul Rideout to augment the midfield, drafted Richard Dunne into his defence and left Nick Barmby on the substitutes' bench.  To confront Watson's third line-up, Tottenham manager Gerry Francis brought in the Swiss central defender, Ramon Vega, who has been sidelined since since January because of a hamstring injury.

Watson opted for a narrow back three and two wing backs, but remained intent on exploiting Duncan Ferguson's aerial prowess. A typical leap and head down by the Scot presented Michael Branch with an early half-chance which eluded him. Speed had a clear-cut opportunity after 11 minutes and took advantage. Rideout produced the penetrative run from midfield, Graham Stuart the dart and perfect cross from the right and Speed, unchallenged, the simple header.

Sheringham might have scored an equaliser seven minutes later. Everton's defence, under pressure for the first time, half-cleared the initial threat only for Justin Edinburgh to turn the ball back into the heart of the area. Sheringham reacted quickly but pulled his shot off target. Rideout's instincts carried him forward again and although his shot was comfortably scooped up by Walker, the move provided a gauge of Everton's self-belief. Sol Campbell challenged that assurance with a surging run and long-range shot which was held by Southall.

The goalkeeper had to rely on his reflexes after 20 minutes to keep out a header from Nielsen. Everton retaliated instantly and Ferguson ought to have given Walker a sterner test with his low shot.  Nielsen was carried off after a clash with Watson and Spurs were subjected to more problems before the break. Fortunately for Spurs, Claus Thomsen's shot from the edge of the area did not match some of Everton's approach play.

Stephen Carr followed Nielsen to the casualty department and Walker spared Spurs further damage with a finger-tip save from Stuart's thunderous drive.

Report Copyright The Electronic Telegraph

Speed calms Everton's nerves

Ian Hawkey, Sunday Times:  THESE WERE the points that have probably made Everton safe, although they suffered long for the comfort of them. There was some bright football at times, but in and around it so much scrap that to see 22 men still on the pitch at the end was to wonder how. Not so much indiscipline as niggle after niggle, injury upon injury.

Both teams came into this contest with injuries weighing as heavily as unfulfilled ambition, Everton without most of their first-choice defence, Spurs without several players, including Chris Armstrong and Steffen Iversen.

By half-time, the missing numbered two more: Allen Nielsen went off after a clash of heads, Terry Phelan with a knock to his left leg. By that time, Graham Stuart and Justin Edinburgh had already engaged in some touchline scuffling, and the stretcher had been on and off three times.

In between, there was a better sort of energy. Stuart posed the most difficult questions down the Tottenham left, and it was his centre that Gary Speed guided home for Everton's early lead after 11 minutes. After 30 minutes, Stuart found Michael Branch, who put Duncan Ferguson clear, only for the advancing Ian Walker to smother his effort.

For Spurs, Teddy Sheringham stabbed a low cross from Edinburgh wide and Nielsen, meeting a flighted ball from Stephen Carr, had his header cleared by Neville Southall.

By the end, Everton had withstood a little more from Tottenham, Fox having initiated some promising endeavours, and Dave Watson having cleared Sheringham's free kick off the goal-line. Walker had to save from Speed, Nick Barmby struck the side netting and Stuart had a drive tipped over. The most striking thing by the end, though, was the state of Ferguson's shirt: no collar, and torn shoulder to shoulder. Everybody had been in quite a scrap.

Report Copyright The Sunday Times

Speed settles ugly war of attrition

Mark Hodkinson, The Times:  CAR windows are wound down and elbows cruise the breeze. The smell of freshly cut grass drifts over the traffic jams that snake all around Goodison Park.  Summer is almost upon us and the pace of life is set to decelerate, but Everton and Tottenham Hotspur know nothing of this impending peace. They are kicking and screaming against the fading light of a dying season.

Neither side is touched particularly by flair and grace, so, when they met on Saturday, both resorted to a brutal war of attrition. Knees were slammed into chests, heads clashed, studs grated down ankles and players roamed the field settling personal vendettas. The referee, Gary Willard, was the only sane man in the cauldron of madness. He rightly booked eight players and somehow remained calm and impartial as players fought and bickered and supporters slavered at the perimeter fence.

"The most important thing today was to win," Dave Watson, the Everton caretaker player-manager, said afterwards. This statement has been heard too often this season; it is an unsatisfactory excuse for aggressive, aimless football played on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Everton needed the win to negate the fear of relegation. They packed the midfield and tackled everything in sight, often ambushing opponents in packs of three. Tottenham were willing to mix it, but fast ran out of personnel. Scales, Nielsen and Carr were withdrawn injured and Fox finished the game limping.

There were but two moments of joy on a fractious afternoon in the sun. Everton's goal was marvellously simple. Stuart raced clear and Speed headed his cross neatly beyond Walker.  The other stolen pleasure was the performance of Everton's 17-year-old defender, Richard Dunne. He has the physique of a baker's son, but is deceptively quick. Assured on the ball, he is also intelligent enough to know when to punt it into the stand.

Violence, like beauty, is clearly in the eye of the beholder. Watson thought the bookings were "petty" and that the game had not been "rough". In contrast, Gerry Francis, the Tottenham manager, had the bewildered and drained look of a man who had found his ringside seat a little too close for comfort.

"I think it was more of a battlefield than a football game," he said. "There were a few X-rated challenges out there, but it is a man's game and you have to expect that when there are so many things at stake."

Football, quite rightly, demands aggression and passion; it is the recklessness, peevishness and outright violence we can do without.

Report Copyright The Times

Watson clears up Everton's mess

Norman Fox, The Independent:  Even though his recurring tale of injury problems is getting a little bit hard to take and, presumably will not in the end be a credible enough excuse to save his job, you had to sympathise with Gerry Francis if only on the grounds that unlike Everton's caretaker player-manager, Dave Watson, he could only care from the touchline. Watson put all of his concern into retaining the three points that should keep Everton in the top division for their 44th season.

Watson was more bin man than caretaker as he cleared up and sifted through the debris of a match that Francis said had plenty of 'X rated tackles'. He now has 14 players on an injury list that has never this season been less than half a dozen. But he who has been deeply missed is Gary Mabbutt. In a struggle like this he would at least have matched Watson's conspicuous leadership.

Though Everton's only goal was not only the winning one and a gem amongst a heavy load of dross, it had to be preserved from as early as the 11th minute. It was Watson more than anyone who did that, most notably near the end when standing sentry on the line behind a defensive line that Terry Sheringham's free kick pierced. He blocked the ball which rebounded to Jason Dozzell. The Dozzell's shot was magnificently saved by Neville Southall whose career at Goodison Park Watson has ensured after Joe Royle had begun to point him in the general direction of sheltered accommodation.

With another Merseyside derby still to come on Wednesday, Watson was later still saying all the right things about not assuming relegation to be impossible until 'mathematically it's over' but this was a match in which Everton showed that under his organisation they still had a feel for history and passion, whereas Francis talked about the 'battlefield out there' as if such affairs of the spirit were something in which he and his club should not be involved. They should not, but the reason they are is not all down to injuries. Players of the quality of Sheringham should not have matches in which they are upstaged by kids and comparatively old men.

Gary Speed's goal, and one remarkable run by Spurs' substitute Ruel Fox when he beat five players were the only true highlights. The rest was all drama. Paul Rideout, who is about to move to China, suggested that he still has plenty to offer nearer home when running strongly out of his own half, setting up Graham Stuart for a defence-teasing cross that Speed headed in with the reliable accuracy that has shone through Everton's troubled season.

Speed proves to be just the ticket

Ian Ross, The Guardian:   The theory is that these two famous old teams are merely waiting in the wings until a window of opportunity presents itself. Then one, maybe both, will apply the greasepaint and move smartly from chorus line to centre stage, there to be reunited with the other members of the big five. The aristocracy of English football is a small and noble band and, despite seasons of rank inconsistency, Everton and Tottenham continue to cling grimly to what they perceive is their birthright.

Too often this ugly spectacle resembled a dress rehearsal for the battle scenes in Braveheart. Subtle it was not. Grown men fell to the turf concussed and bleeding. They squared up to one another, they threw punches, they placed boot on bone with neither care nor regret.

'It was one of those days when no player was allowed to spend more than five seconds on the ball,' said Tottenham manager Gerry Francis, understandably anxious to distance himself from what he had witnessed. Still, the regular appearance of the stretcher did at least give Francis the opportunity to remind everyone that, though injuries are 'part and parcel of the game', he has 'never known anything like the current situation'. Until the next time, that is.

Everton's caretaker manager Dave Watson was so happy he almost smiled. Almost, but not quite. He talks the way he has always played: with strength, single-mindedness and beguiling honesty. This should ensure that Everton's new manager, probably Barcelona's Bobby Robson, will inherit a Premiership side. Not a good side but one with the clout to buy a better future.

'I'm going to be boring and say little until it is mathematically impossible for us to be relegated,' said Watson. 'It wasn't the best of performances but it was the best of results. If we had shown this sort of commitment all season we wouldn't be in the situation we are in right now.'

True, but if Everton had played every week as on Saturday a reputation for fair play would have been shredded long before the Christmas decorations went up.

The passion of a wonderful crowd apart there was little memorable about the match, although its defining moment after only 11 minutes was a surprisingly erudite statement of intent.  Having collected Rideout's pass, Stuart rounded Edinburgh before whipping over a cross which Speed converted with a dashing header.  It was a truly delightful goal, if one which served only to remind those who stood to acclaim it precisely what it is they have been denied for so long.

Results and League Table

Sunday, 13 April 1997

Pembridge(57)                  Elliott(35)
SUNDERLAND              1-2    LIVERPOOL                 21,938
Stewart(53)                    Fowler(33) McManaman(47)

Saturday, 12 April 1997

ARSENAL                 2-0    LEICESTER CITY            38,044 
Adams(35) Platt(66)
BLACKBURN ROVERS        2-3    MANCHESTER UNITED         30,476 
McKinlay(34) Warhurst(88)      Cole(32) Scholes(43) Cantona(80)
DERBY COUNTY            2-1    ASTON VILLA               18,071 
Rowett(21) Van Der Laan(36)    Joachim(84)
EVERTON                 1-0    TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR         36,380 
Speed (11)
SOUTHAMPTON             2-0    WEST HAM UNITED           15,244 
Evans(13) Berkovic(36)

Table after 13 April 1997

Team                  Played   Won Drawn Lost  For  Against   Points
Manchester United       33     19    9    5     66    38        66  
Arsenal                 34     18    9    7     57    28        63  
Liverpool               33     18    9    6     56    29        63  
Aston Villa             34     16    8   10     43    30        56  
Newcastle United        32     15    9    8     61    38        54  
Sheffield Wednesday     33     13   14    6     44    39        53  
Chelsea                 33     13   10   10     52    50        49  
Wimbledon               32     12   10   10     42    40        46  
Tottenham Hotspur       34     12    6   16     40    46        42  
Leeds United            33     11    9   13     26    34        42  
Derby County            34     10   12   12     41    51        42  
Everton                 34     10   10   14     40    49        40  
Leicester City          33     10   10   13     38    47        40  
Blackburn Rovers        33      8   13   12     35    35        37  
Coventry City           34      8   12   14     32    48        36  
Southampton             34      8   10   16     45    53        34  
West Ham United         33      8   10   15     31    43        34  
Sunderland              34      8   10   16     31    51        34  
Middlesbrough           32      9    9   14     44    52        33*  
Nottingham Forest       34      6   13   15     29    52        31  
* Includes 3 pts deducted from Middlesbrough for illegal match postponement  

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

This Match Report Compilation was prepared by Michael Kenrick for Marko Poutiainen. 16 Apr 1997.