Wimbledon v Everton

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FA Carling Premiership 96/97 -- Game 5 
Saturday 7 September 1996; Selhurst Park, Croydon

Result: Wimbledon (1) 4 Everton (0) 0
Ardley 33, Gayle 46, Earle 59, Ekoku 73

Wimbledon: (4-3-3) Sullivan, Cunningham, Jones, Thatcher, Earle, Ekoku (Harford, 84), Gayle, Perry, Goodman (Clarke, 75), McAllister, Ardley.
Subs Not Used: Kimble, Heald, Jupp. Booked: None.

Everton: (4-3-3) Southall; Barrett, Unsworth(c), Short, Hinchcliffe; Grant (52 Branch), Parkinson, Speed; Stuart, Ferguson, Kanchelskis. Booked: None.
Subs Not Used: Rideout, Gerrard, Ebbrell, Hottiger. Unavailable: Watson, Jackson, Kearton.

Ref: Ken Burge Att: 13,684 League Position: 16th Other Results and League Table

Previous Match: Everton v Aston Villa - Next Match: Everton v Middlesbrough

Match Summary

SoccerNet: Wimbledon produced their most impressive performance of the season against a dispirited, tactically inept Everton at Selhurst Park.

Goodison manager Joe Royle's ambitious £4million move for Arsenal striker Ian Wright will fall on deaf ears largely because Wright is as London as Tower Bridge or pie and mash and is hardly going to fancy a stint on Merseyside. Everton have long found it difficult attracting decent players to Goodison and on today's evidence Royle would do well to convince an all-Irish hurling player that his game-plan resembles anything do do with the beautiful game.

Royle's problems begin in defence, where even goalkeeper Neville Southall was far from his best. Southall's nightmare started after 33 minutes, when a 30-yard free kick by Neal Ardley bounced through a crowded area and past the static keeper. It was only Wimbledon's second goal in five games this season - and it gave them the confidence to establish a scoreline which will have shocked the Premiership, presuming anyone was fooled by a couple of bright early-season performances by an Everton team devoid of creative ideas.

The Dons, looking to build on a midweek victory against Tottenham, had produced little in the opening half-hour when Andrei Kanchelskis had threatened to unlock their defence. Everton, however, could produce only powder-puff stuff in front of goal and in the second half Wimbledon showed them how it should be done.

Within two minutes of the restart Marcus Gayle arrived at the near post to divert an Ardley corner wide of Southall, who was beaten again in similar fashion after 59 minutes, this time Robbie Earle finding the finishing touch following another Ardley corner. It was no more than Earle deserved after Southall turned his initial effort behind. For a split second it looked as though Earle was going to be denied again as his header was half-blocked on the line but he reacted well to make sure.

There was further embarrassment for Royle after 73 minutes, when Efan Ekoku raced into the area and dispatched a low shot past Southall and into the bottom left-hand corner. Everton showed glimpses of their ability after youngster Michael Branch had been sent on in place of Tony Grant. Come the final whistle, Vinnie Jones was the first to milk the applause - three days after the 12th dismissal of his career.

Royle refuses to hit out at individuals after thrashing

Neville Southall was spared a public execution tonight after Everton slumped 4-0 at Wimbledon -- their heaviest defeat under boss Joe Royle. Royle refused to criticise individuals after his sides Selhurst Park horror story which he labelled both "poor" and "embarrassing".

But experienced keeper Southall -- he made his 700th appearance for Everton on the opening day of the season -- should shoulder much of the blame from the moment he watched a 30-yard Neal Ardley free-kick bounce past him after 33 minutes.

Royle admitted: "Neither side played well until they got their freak goal. And it was a freak -- it went through everybody and the keeper misjudged it." He added: "At half-time I still wouldn't have been happy at nil-nil and when the kid (Michael Branch) came on for 25 minutes and became our best player that tells you how badly we performed.

"There haven't been too many like that. Overall we have generally given a good account of ourselves - even in mid-week when we lost to Villa, but this place.

"There was slack marking and individual errors, but what was a little bit more disappointing was that even when the Kid came on we never looked like giving them any trouble.

"We have got to have a re-think because when we have lost in the past we embarrassingly so." Royle refused to discuss his alleged in interest in Arsenal striker Ian Wright -- "let's just talk about the game" -- but clearly has plenty to consider before next Saturday's home game against Middlesbrough.

"What I have to decide is whether it was a total one-off which statistics would suggest or whether there is something deeper lying that will have to be rectified." But when asked about Southall he retorted: "I'm not talking about individuals."

Bizarre in the extreme

Guy McEvoy: Predictably, Wimbledon versus Everton was a story of a team trying to disguise inadequacies with the hopeful long ball against a well organised, professional team with a scientific and clinical approach to the game. But which actor in which role?

Joe Royle has stuck bravely to the formula that rocked Newcastle and shook United. Again, with both Stuart and Barrett making late fitness tests, he stuck to his guns. The only change to the squad was the introduction of Branch on the bench in the place of the now obviously discounted Limpar.

Having already faced the presumed best that the Premiership has to offer, playing Wimbledon does not exactly strike fear into the heart.  Nevertheless, anyone who remembers their visit to Goodison last year or who simply heeds the "crazy gang's" general reputation still goes to Selhurst Park with this nagging doubt chewing away at the back of their mind.

It's not helped by the fact that Everton always clearly respond best to a thumping, vibrant, capacity atmosphere and the sparse attendance that Wimbledon attract creates all the thumping atmosphere of, say, an under-15 international girls hockey match. True, some blue fans put up an admirable effort to get behind the team but it was all-but absorbed by the mass of empty plastic seating. In any case, we never really got anything to cheer about anyway.

The early exchanges by both teams were direction-less and futile. Long balls hoisted high, passes sent to reluctant wings, and a general sense that both teams were more interested in imposing a physical dominance than showing any skill superiority. This dead-lock pattern seemed unbreakable, chances were minimal and entertainment was zero.

We finally found something to shout about when Duncan was hoisted down in the box, a clearer cut penalty than, for instance, the one we were awarded against Newcastle. But it was not to be and on such things games turn. With the briefest suggestion of life having been breathed into the game, I was just about able to snap out of my trance in time to digest that the Dons had a free kick all of 40 yards out, certainly not in a position that suggested any imminent danger.

A harmless lofted free-kick went high into the box, a Wimbledon attacker dummied (or maybe plain missed) a header, Short and Unsworth moved to humour him, the ball bounced next to Nev whose only movement was to watch it go past him and into the back of the net before it had touched anyone. Bizarre in the extreme.

I'm learning to resist ever thinking that things "can't get any worse." I find that, often with Everton when this phrase is uttered, like it was yesterday by the bloke next to me at half time, they seem to take it upon themselves, with near missionary zeal, to prove you wrong.

It took no time after the restart for Wimbledon to extend their lead: a textbook, predictable and more worryingly, defendable corner found its way into the net. The need for a change was apparent, but what could be changed was not. A look on the bench and then on the pitch suggested was that what we had was probably the best we'd got. The only chance of anything different was to introduce Branch and this was indeed what happened when Grant made way.

If you could win a game with infectious enthusiasm, with an obvious desire to see the ball, with a spirit of "never give up", Branch would have gone on to turn the tables for us single-handily. Unfortunately, none of these things count a jot if the rest of the team, in every sense but the physical one, have already given up and buggered off.

Wimbledon and their supporters warmed to their winning ways and sensed a rout. They got it too. The third was a carbon copy of the second (with equally dire defending) and the fourth was the pick of the bunch with Ekoku showing off his pace to deeply embarrass Craig Short and drill it home. In between these goals it was largely a case of us soaking up pressure, the one noticeable effort we managed was created by Branch for Ferguson but the finish was sadly reflective of Everton's whole afternoon.

I spent a good chunk of the game looking at just how organised Wimbledon were (to concentrate too much on things Everton would have left me a suicide contender). Captain Vinny Jones yelled mercilessly at his men throughout, on his command off-side traps would be sprung that would leave the Everton forward line five yards off to a man. Likewise, they made the set piece corners look like unopposed training sessions. What Wimbledon lack in talent (which thinking about it is very little) they more than make up for in effective communication, maybe there is a lesson to be learned there for our players wandering about aimlessly with their heads held low.

The final whistle put us out of our misery, I left reflecting that I have now suffered (and that must be the right word) at least 315 minutes of football without seeing us score a goal, and that I had surely just witnessed by far the single worst team performance of Royle's management. I took the unusual step of zipping up my coat to make the Everton shirt less obvious, and then made the long, long journey home.

Individual Performances

Bad, Bad Day

Mark Barrow: What a horrible day that was. My disastrous day may cheer a few people up anyway and make the result not seen quite so painful. My tips to guarantee a really sh*tty day in Croydon:

  1. Get stuck on the Purley way into Croydon for 1 hour. Miss traditional pint(s) in whatever that pub is right outside the ground. Bad.
  2. Arrive at ground to be told something along the lines of "we've run out of tickets." Stand around getting pissed off with about 500 other Evertonians. Get in 20 minutes late. Worse.
  3. See your team produce one of the most spineless displays (even worse than Coventry away last year). Bloody awful.
  4. Return to your mate's car to see a £40 parking ticket on the window. Jesus.
  5. Have some little git slash your mate's car's back tyres whilst you're watching your team get hammered. Get home at 1a.m, missing another mate's wedding reception. No comment.

Anyway, that aside, the performance was dire, to say the least. I won't go over what Guy and others will undoubtedly tell you, but a couple of things need to be said. I said at the Spurs game that leaving out Ebbrell was a bit of a funny move (especially after making him captain for the Man Utd game), but I did see Joe's logic -- Grant did well when he came on as sub against Man Utd and did seem to give us more options. However....

A lot of people will disagree with this, (and I never thought I'd say it ) but we are missing John Ebbrell. The midfield looked a lot more balanced and organised with Ebbrell playing and have struggled to control the game without him. I know Grant is there to provide more attacking options but this has not happened and also he just doesn't win enough ball or cover back as well as Ebbrell does...

There will be a place for Grant but I don't think the time has come yet.

Personally I would like to see Ebbrell back for Grant and Branch in for Stuart on Saturday. I was one of Stuie's biggest fans last year and gave him my Player of the Season vote, but he has been wholly ineffective this season. Branch should be given a chance.

Saturday was a freak result. we played badly and deserved to lose by such a margin. That said nearly every team every season has at least one game like that (remember Southampton v Man Utd last year?) All we can hope is that this will buck the players up a bit and they will raise the game against Boro.

Disappointing yes, but not the end of the world. We CAN bounce back from this.

The Farce at Nightmare Park

Dave Shepherd: Anyone who travels to Selhurst Park already deserves some kind of heroic momento. They're tying to improve it, but it still looks more suited to being pride of Division 2. Few Division 1 grounds are dinkier. Of course, the team that plays there are second rate wannabes -- and that's only Crystal Palace...

Wimbledon were a nice little freak of football nature ten years ago, but the joke has worn off. Now, they are simply the strongest case for the unpopular but not unrealistic possibility that one day the rich clubs will get fed up of waiting for the poor ones to get relegated and big Division 1 clubs to get promoted, and break away into a per se Premier Elite division. (There is no personal preference inferred in this observation).

The Selhurst area is a fairly pleasant suburb. On the High Street the names of pubs give away that behind it, what is now a railway line used to be a busy trading canal - -The Jolly Sailor, The Albion, and {recommended!} The Ship. The ground is served by three Southern Region rail stations, making a journey 3-4 hours from The North.

Then having to face two more hours simply crossing London is the kind of last straw that a ground with 10,000 unsold seats cannot afford. Only my fortune at getting an Old Trafford ticket encouraged me to try and maximise my coverage... Otherwise, this fixture would have been the first sacrifice.

Then of course there's a small matter of Evertonitis. This malady is well know (usually by other titles) in the sporting world -- it's the condition when an otherwise talented person or team is unable to play to their potential against less talented opposition -- they get dragged down to the level of those inferior. Naturally, Everton get worse Evertonitis at Wimbledon away than anywhere else in the league.

This does not exclude the possibility of winning -- the morning paper related that the 10-year countback had EFC with 3 wins and 3 draws -- but it does exclude the prospect of a good game of football. Anyone who has seen a good Everton win at Selhurst (even v Palace), do let me know.

Whatever the reasons for the combination of circumstances that make trips to Selhurst Park such a nightmare, they were certainly in full evidence again this year. Within 15 minutes, both the players (giving a full debut to the yellow-n-black stripes) and the huge bank of away fans had lapsed into a hypnotic state. Have you ever been to a reserves game? It was that kind of atmosphere. Soporific. The away game at Coventry, last of the season after we'd saved relegation at Ipswich, was similarly tame.

The Nightmare begins

On the park the players passed it around like a beachball, and with the same pace and urgency. Every pass seemed telegraphed. Every buildup predictable. Wimbledon unhurriedly simply put all their bodies an a tight bunch and cleared every advance long before it ever became a chance.

On the ball themselves, the Dons had little more joy, but they at least made an effort to look interested. Everton needed a goal to kickstart their confidence.

A goal came, but unfortunately no skill was involved. An Ardley free kick a comfortable 35 yards out and well over to the left was poorly aimed and missed all the target heads, but it missed all defenders too, bounced gently about five yards out and hopped into the goal untouched. It was perfectly described by one spectator as an alehouse goal.

Excellent - this will kick the (erm) Yellows into action. Nothing like a lucky but early goal to annoy a class team into action... But no: the response was to carry on exactly as before. A handful of poor Hinchcliffe corners were all they had to show by half-time, with a teamtalk and new tactics badly needed.

And it gets worse

The second half started with no changes and apparently no teamtalk. Everton kicked off, lost possession 5 yards down the right wing, conceded a free kick, a corner, and a goal. Worse, it was a fundamental one. The first man was Speed, only two yards from the near post. The ball cleared him and fell to the near post man, Short, but Gayle had forced his way in front of Short and glanced it directly into an open near post slot devoid of a goal line stopper or Southall. I can't remember an Everton defence conceding such a bog standard corner goal. I m sure they have, but I can t remember any.

That was already the last nail. It wiped out all the doubts from Wimbledon, who played the rest of the match in a confident style and passed the ball around like Evertonians in midfield. Every break forward they now expected to score, and it was only a question of how many. Another corner had the insult of trying exactly the same move but was cleared, so the next corner went to the far post, and one of a clump of queuing dark blue heads used the momentum of the clump to knock the defenders out of the way and power another goal in. Two Duncan Ferguson-type goals from corners.

JR had decided to throw on Michael Branch, but taking off Grant when we were already so completely overwhelmed in the centre was as good as throwing in the towel. The third goal sent dozens of part-timers heading for the exits with a quarter of the game left.

In the second half, Everton had five good chances and as many frustrated long range blasts. By now though the heads of both teams could not be convinced that it was anything other than a day when one team is blessed and the other cursed, so that's how the rest of the play went too. Sloppy passes, or more often lazy play lost possession almost every time.

EFC won approximately zero 50-50 balls -- Wimbledon wanted the win the most, and duly did so at a canter. When Ekoku scored the fourth, there was plenty of time for a 5th, and it was a bit of a surprise when it didn t come.

Efan got 4 at Goodison once with his breakaway speed; this time he had Craig Short on his shoulder all the way, keeping pace and forcing him across, but in the box he was still untackled and slashed it back the other way as if Southall wasn't there. The through pass had been from Ardley, completing a crazy hat-trick of assists to add his goal.

And the Support is possessed

One unusual thing about this game was that the watching Evertonian crowd didn't get angry at the players. Usually when the wheels fall off it turns very ugly, but this time they seemed to accept it was more down to silly luck and the fated feeling you get afterwards.

All, that is, apart from a Scouse answer to Waldorf and Stadtler, who sat close in front of me and spent the WHOLE game telling each other where JR was going wrong ('e's crap 'im; terrible; rubbish; where's de Russian bloke?; 'e shoulda bin on in de first place, norrim, 'e's crap.... ). These two's support totalled one "Come on, Everton," and they left shortly after the fourth.

Another part-timer's parting shot was a disgrace to the shirt which is pretty funny since the shirt is itself a disgrace... Ok, I know what he meant, but personally I can do without the rednose mentality of walking out mid-match and getting angry because fish don't always jump out of the lake onto your plate.

The individuals performed to order, there were few actual mistakes. It was the team spirit and motivation which was missing, and that is not down to the boys in the shirts, it s down to the men on the sideline who are responsible for coming up with effective formations and tactics, and then making sure the players on the day are straining at the leash and think it's as important as a Derby Match come 3 pm (which, in terms of league points, it is!).

That was a dreadful performance; this was a weary one in which the best team on the day got a result which reflected their effort.

The last trip (and loss) I made to Selhurst was a turning point. This will be too. Sometimes, a big loss is better than an away point - it gives you a kick in the pants and says "Hey, Something's Wrong!, Something needs Fixing!" Things get done. Slight concerns after Villa are now doubt which demand action. In this respect, we may be thanking Wimbledon by the time they visit GP in December -- you read it here first!

The Quick and The Dead

TEAM PERFORMANCE: - 4 - Completely inadequate. Too slow,too lethargic, never first to a ball, never moving to anticipate. No response to going behind, no improvement after the interval. If a seer had promised them they would lose 4-0 before the game no matter how they played, they would not have played worse.

Ref: Ken Burge. A terrible draw for a Wimbledon game -- oblivious to the rugby loose scrum style of Wimbledon's defence and attacking set pieces. No use being liberal about some things then being a bitch about pointless stuff like free kick positions...

Surely this could not be happening?

Phil Bradley: Well, this was the first match of the season that I've been able to get to, and I rather wish I'd not bothered. I have NEVER seen Everton play this badly. I'd like to put it down to a crap ref, I'd like to put it down to losing to a Championship contender, I'd like to put it down to injuries... Ummm, maybe it was because Wimbledon play in blue and it confused our players?

They certainly gave away pass after pass. They never really began to play at all until the last ten minutes - Dunc had a few chances but their keeper did play well; Kanchelskis didn't know where he was or what he was doing; Unsworth managed OK now and then; Nev might as well have stayed at home; and as for the rest, I'd rather not comment. We ended up having to kick the ball right up the middle and hope.

We watched in stunned silence - surely this could not be happening? I think the afternoon was summed up for me by someone shouting out to the team "I hope you're as embarrassed as we are!"

Yes, we do need another striker to work with Dunc, but we also need to start playing as though we believe in ourselves: improve the passing; work on defending set plays; more imaginative use of the wings; and... and... The only bright spot of the entire afternoon was the thought: "Well, we're not going to see them play any worse than that this season!"

I only hope to God its true...

Old Speckled Hen in Cherry Tree

Kenneth Griggs: I met my mate in the Cherry Trees pub as suggested by Steve Malone and we downed a couple or so of very nice Old Speckled Hen. I had rang Wimbledon earlier in the day and they said that we could pay at the turnstiles, so there didn't seem any point in rushing to the ground.

We finally got there about ten to three. There was a large queue of Evertonians at the ticket office and it wasn't moving. We heard the players coming out and the noise of all the Blue's in the stand, but still our queue didn't move. At about ten past three ,people were getting a bit irritated and then there was an announcement over the tannoy along the lines of:

"To all the Everton fans outside the ground, don't worry because more tickets are being printed"

'Oh well thank you very bloody much indeed.' They have known about this game for three months and they only decide to print the tickets ten minutes after kick-off! There must have been about five or six hundred Evertonians outside the ground and by twenty past three we were all getting a bit mouthy. I am sure that if this had happened five or six years ago then there would have been a riot.

The queue moved forward a bit as some tickets arrived but then it stopped again and at about three twenty-three they repeated the message that we shouldn't worry because more tickets were being printed.

My journey had taken about three hours but most of the waiting fans had travelled for up to six or seven hours only to be faced with this kind of incompetence. Eventually, some in authority made a decision and they allowed us to pay at turnstile as they had said they would when I had rang. We finally got in at about twenty five past. Disgraceful, and they still made us pay the full whack.

As for the game...... I wish the twit who allowed us to pay at the turnstile hadn't bothered. Totally inept all over.

I do feel that the abuse that Southall has taken is just a bit OTT. The first goal should have been cleared by the defence. Its not Southall job to take those sort of free kicks/corners etc on the penalty spot.

The second goal was also not his fault, a near-post corner, you can't expect the keeper to be standing at his near post for a corner, that's the job of someone else. Southall could have collected the third goal maybe.

Everton were very ragged all over. It's the fourth time I have seen them this season and it was definitely a different team out there.

Wimbledon handled Duncan very well; they allowed him to go for all headers (outside the box) unchallenged and sat back to pick up his flick-ons. He probably didn't know he was being left alone or he could have controlled the ball which would have had more effect.

When Michael Branch came on, he did look very effective but by then the scoreline had taken its toll on the teams morale and a general apathy prevailed.

Wimbledon administration department get a smack on the nose. They must have known that Everton would bring a lot of support, nothing's changed.

Cheesed off and a bit hung over, we went back to the Cherry Trees after the game and stayed a bit too long...

Southern Blues

David Taylor: Wimbledon away is one of the easiest games to get to for us "Southern Blues" not least because the ground is always half empty. But I hate the place. Every year when I look at the fixture list I just know I'm in for 90 minutes shear mental torture. Maybe we'll outclass them this time......

In January for 45 minutes we did. But, by God, for the next 45 they massacred us!  Thankfully, not for the first time against the Dons, luck was on our side and we held out.

This year, a reasonable start to the season against quality opposition; surely class will tell? The wages of one of our players probably pays half of their team - that's what Wimbledon is about. You're the rich kids, but by god we're going to make you fight for every point. Is it just paranoia, or, of the top six clubs, why is it that we always struggle against them?

I'm trying very hard not to depress the fortunate toffee-netters that weren't at Selhurst to witness our shame. It's not easy. There was nothing that can be said in our defence. No pride - no passion (young Branch apart). Not even a goal to cheer.

I wasn't going to talk about individuals at the start of this report (must have picked it up from JR) but it would be unfair to Branch who obviously wants to play and win for the blues. Stuart was bad on Wednesday -- he was worse here. Kanchelskis -- was he playing ? Barrett -- please practice kicking a ball.

At the final whistle I left with my 9 year old nephew (an Arsenal fan) and he asked "What happened?"
I could only mutter back "I don't know - I just can't believe it."

Okay, as one of the earlier reports said ".....at least it can't get any worse...". For the Middlesbrough game, we should go back to the tried and tested formula of Parkie and Ebbrell in the midfield. We then either play Grant/Stuart/Branch.

On Saturday's evidence I'd give Branch a start - he's got a bit of that Wimbledon spirit...

Somnambulists Nightmare from Hell

Charles Brewer: This afternoon I took my nephew to his first football match. There was a huge Everton contingent which, as usual, made a lot more noise than the opposition. I was looking forward to some of the same stuff as on New Years Day (first half only please).

It was the worst display I have ever seen from Everton.

Perhaps it would be a good idea of Joe Royle were to conduct formal introductions so that the players will at least appear to have met one another before. On the other hand, Everton were properly polite to their hosts and helped them to play the entire game at an average height of about 12 feet off the ground (ie, half the time at 6 feet up, the other half at 18 feet up ...) which, as we know, is how Wimbledon like to play.

The first goal would have been a disgrace at a match of five-year-olds. A lowish not-very-hard free-kick from, what? 40 yards out. And everyone watched it go gently into the net. "After you Claude!" "No ,after you Cecil" appeared to be the order of the day for our defence and goalkeeper.

Thanks to the unbelievably slow service at the tea bar, I was still on my way back to my seat when the second was scored due to incredibly sloppy defending. Is dominating the goal area not in Neville Southall's new contract?

The rest was no better. Messing around near the Everton goal and giving underweight passes to marked players is not the best way to play against a brain-dead bunch of thugs and sure enough produced a nice third goal.

The fourth - oh who cares?

Until the last few minutes, we were hopeless at the other end too (there was no midfield in this game). Dunc won everything, and Graham Stuart watched from afar. I wondered if they were on the same team. Kanchelskis tried but had no real idea.

Everton were finally reduced to shooting miles over from miles out. In fact the Wombles goalkeeper played a blinder, saving twice from Dunc when he shouldn't have had a chance.

I wonder if the Everton players are being paid after this fiasco. I met a fellow miserable Evertonians on the train back who is being made redundant at the end of October, and we decided he might as well ask for a job in the Everton defence despite two arthritic knees. After all he'd be no more useless that today's somnambulists.

It seems that there is no leader in the Everton team who can excite any passion. All successful teams seem to need one of these, we used to have Peter Reid, and at the moment the nearest we have is the absent Dave Watson. MU have Cantona, and Schmeichel for that matter. Joe has got to get some spirit into the team, or at least stop them drinking it at half time.

Ratings (or Rantings):

Sorry folks, but it WAS a terrible display!

Everton undone by vibrant Ardley as Wimbledon run riot

Deryk Brown, Sunday Times: EVERTON'S bright beginning, when they beat Newcastle United and drew at Old Trafford, is now but a distant memory. Their defence collapsed against Wimbledon's energy, conceding three avoidable goals, before Efan Ekoku sprinted away for the fourth. Wimbledon's midfield man Neal Ardley had a part in all four goals.

Against Tottenham in mid week, Wimbledon had managed their first goal, their first clean sheet, and their first win. Predictably, they were unchanged. Everton were unchanged, too, Graham Stuart having recovered from an ankle knock received in the home defeat by Aston Villa.

If Everton are to turn promise into prosperity, Stuart and Andrei Kanchelskis will have to score goals. Each kicked off with a nought against his name and Kanchelskis soon suggested why, topping his shot after his speed had taken him through. Stuart was in evidence, trying to feed off the inevitable flicks from Duncan Ferguson's forehead. The opening play was disjointed, however, and nobody, Stuart included, could impose any form of pattern.

Vinnie Jones, who had been sent off for the 12th time against Tottenham, showed his temper at Kenny Cunningham, his own right back, when Cunningham gave him a hospital pass. Otherwise Jones tried to unsettle Everton at free-kicks and corners, and by executing long throw-ins. That summed up Wimbledon's approach; they were as energetic as ever and they hoped something would happen for them. And, just past the half hour, it did.

Neal Ardley took a free kick a good 30 yards out on the left and swung the ball into the penalty area. The heads went up, everybody missed and the ball bounced past an astonished Neville Southall for as soft a goal as you are ever likely to see. That was against the balance of play because Everton were just starting to combine neatly in attack. The protagonist was Ferguson, leading the line intelligently.

Two minutes after half-time, Wimbledon made it 2-0. Ardley took an in-swinging corner, a pack jumped six yards out, and Marcus Gayle glanced the ball home.

Soon it was 3-0 as Ardley took a corner and Robbie Earle headed against Southall. He had chosen to stay on his line this time, and the ball squeezed home before Earle made sure.

For all three goals Southall had a right to expect a defender to get a head to the ball. But they were a black mark against a goalkeeper who will be 38 in eight days and may now be replaced by Paul Gerrard.

Certainly, Southall was faultless for the fourth goal, as Ardley put Ekoku in and he out-paced Craig Short and slid the ball in.

Report Copyright The Sunday Times

Kinnear sets out his stall for the winter sales

Andrew Longmore, The Times: JUST another humdrum turn of the wheel for Wimbledon FC. A good ruck in midweek, Vinnie Jones sent off again during the defeat of Tottenham Hotspur, a bout of infighting, a transfer request from Dean Holdsworth, a sulk from Oyvind Leonhardsen, some lurid tabloid headlines and a healthy thrashing of fancied Everton. "The end of a perfect week," Joe Kinnear, their manager, admitted.

Kinnear did not miss the chance to extol his club's earthy virtues once again in the warm glow of victory nor, as one of the glibbest salesmen in the game, to polish up his shop window. From the man who brought you such multi-million-pound bargains as John Scales and Warren Barton comes Neal Ardley, a chunky former England Under-21 midfield player, who turned 23 last week and, according to his manager's sales pitch, is the "nearest thing to David Beckham" ­ pause for dramatic effect ­ "if not better". The hyperbole starts here. £3 million and counting.

Ardley had a hand in all four goals, scoring the first from an absurd free kick from 40 yards, which evaded attackers, defenders and Southall before bouncing apologetically into the net, took the corners from which Gayle and Earle headed home and provided a neat pass for Ekoku to finish the rout. But, if he strikes the dead ball with the same facility as Beckham, on the evidence of Saturday the balance, pace and vision are less marked. It was a nice try, though.

Equally worthy of praise were Kinnear's own powers of organisation. It must have crossed his mind to play three centre backs to combat Duncan Ferguson, particularly as one of them, Chris Perry, was giving away eight inches in height. Standing on tiptoe, the top of Perry's crew-cut head just about reached the top of the No 9 on the back of the 6ft 4in Scot.

But Kinnear resisted the temptation to alter his traditional formation and instead concentrated on cutting off the Everton supply lines. Thatcher stuck to Kanchelskis like clingfilm, Earle funnelled back into the gap and Ardley's defensive work in stemming the advance of Speed and Hinchcliffe was as telling in the long run as his work on set-pieces.

More often than not, Perry simply dropped off Ferguson and collected the flick-ons. The rest of the time the Everton forward line was caught offside. Yet, not once until young Michael Branch, an England Under-21 international, came on midway through the second half for only his second FA Carling Premiership outing, did Everton try to adapt, and by then it was far too late.

"It says something about our performance that our best player was a 17-year-old substitute," Joe Royle said. "We were embarrassingly poor." What will worry the Everton manager more than individual failings is the collective lack of commitment. Wimbledon test character and Everton barely managed to write their name at the top of the exam paper.

They were supine, gormless, casual, less the Dogs of War ­ the phrase so hated by Royle ­ than purring pussycats, meekly compliant to Wimbledon's natural rule. "What I have to decide is if this is a one-off or whether there is something a little deeper wrong," Royle said.

As for the Wimbledon miscreants, Holdsworth and Leonhardsen, life will not be too rosy either. "We will deal with them in our own way," Kinnear said. "If they don't want to play for us, that's fine. We'll go out and find some others. But they won't go cheap." It is clearly business as usual for the Crazy Gang.

Everton are led astray by Ardley

Trevor Haylett, Electronic Telegraph: SO, another eccentric week in the life of Wimbledon Football Club ended in a way few can have predicted. Or perhaps, knowing them, we ought to have expected this. Distracted by the rumblings of discontent from two of their best performers, and by yet more Vinnie Jones controversy, they still managed to inflict humiliating punishment on Everton.

The side who had not managed to score in their first three outings of the new season gave Joe Royle reason to curse the heaviest defeat of his Goodison Park tenure. With dodgy goalkeeping and inept defending it was no more than Everton deserved.

Suddenly, after a successful start in which Newcastle were defeated and Manchester United fortunate not to go the same way, the Merseysiders have suffered a home defeat by Aston Villa in midweek and now this.

Royle was at a loss to explain it. "We were very poor, embarrassingly so," he said. "I have to go away now and decide if it was a total one-off, or an indication of something deeper."

It was a remarkable afternoon for Neal Ardley, the Wimbledon winger, who scored the first in bizarre fashion, and then proceeded to lay on all three of the succeeding goals, all of which the normally hard-pressed Wimbledon supporters greeted with as much fervour as they could muster.

Joe Kinnear, the Wimbledon manager, who never knowingly undersold one of his players, called Ardley "the nearest we have to David Beckham, if not better". Certainly his goal, after a first 32-minute period in which Everton had looked the more likely, carried echoes of that amazing Beckham strike from the Selhurst Park halfway line.

Ardley's free kick, delivered from fully 40 yards, was aimed into a packed penalty area. It managed to avoid all the heads. Neville Southall watched it bounce, and by the time it was heading into the net, he was still watching it travel, unable or incapable of moving a single muscle to interrupt its progress.

After that the goalkeeper was never able to forget his 37 years, nor the presence on the Everton bench of Paul Gerrard, signed from Oldham for £1 million in the summer, and, presumably, not with the aim of having to sit and watch rubbish like this.

Southall looked no more comfortable two minutes into the second half, when Ardley's in-swinging corner was nodded home by Marcus Gayle. He did better to foil Robbie Earle shortly after, but respite was only temporary, as the same player steamed in to connect with another Ardley corner.

Without Dean Holdsworth and the similarly disaffected Oyvind Leonhardsen, this was a solid, committed Wimbledon performance all round, with Chris Perry putting the shackles on Duncan Ferguson and Neil Sullivan catching everything that came his way, including an outstanding stretch to deny Ferguson a late goal.

By then, Wimbledon had scored their fourth, Ardley's accurate low pass seeking out Efan Ekoku, the Nigerian striker helping himself to his first of the season.

Report Copyright The Electronic Telegraph

Results and League Table

Monday, 9 September 1996

BLACKBURN ROVERS        1-2    DERBY COUNTY              19,214
Sutton(11)                     Willems(1) Flynn(86)  

Sunday, 8 September 1996

SUNDERLAND              0-0    WEST HAM UNITED           18,642

Saturday, 7 September 1996

ASTON VILLA             2-2    ARSENAL                   37,944  
Milosevic(39,63) Merson(70) Linighan(90) LEEDS UNITED 0-4 MANCHESTER UNITED 39,694
Martyn(og 3) Butt(49) Poborsky(77) Cantona(90) LIVERPOOL 2-1 SOUTHAMPTON 39,189
Collymore(40) McManaman(89) Magilton(58) MIDDLESBROUGH 4-0 COVENTRY CITY 29,811
Ravanelli(3,73) Juninho(28,80) NOTTINGHAM FOREST 0-0 LEICESTER CITY 24,105 SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY 0-2 CHELSEA 30,983
Burley(28) Myers(83) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1-2 NEWCASTLE UNITED 32,535
Allen(28) Ferdinand(37,61) WIMBLEDON 4-0 EVERTON 13,684
Ardley(33) Gayle(46) Earle(59) Ekoku(73)

Table after 9 September 1996

Club                          P    W    D    L   GF   GA   GD  Pts
Sheffield Wednesday           5    4    0    1    8    5    3   12 
Chelsea                       5    3    2    0    8    3    5   11 
Liverpool                     5    3    2    0    8    4    4   11 
Aston Villa                   5    3    1    1    7    4    3   10 
Manchester United             5    2    3    0   12    5    7    9 
Newcastle United              5    3    0    2    7    6    1    9 
Middlesbrough                 5    2    2    1   12    6    6    8 
Arsenal                       5    2    2    1    9    7    2    8 
Leeds United                  5    2    1    2    5    9   -4    7 
Sunderland                    5    1    3    1    5    3    2    6 
Nottingham Forest             5    1    3    1    7    7    0    6 
Derby County                  5    1    3    1    7    8   -1    6 
Wimbledon                     5    2    0    3    5    6   -1    6 
Tottenham Hotspur             5    1    2    2    4    4    0    5 
Leicester City                5    1    2    2    3    5   -2    5 
***EVERTON***                 5    1    2    2    4    7   -3    5 
West Ham United               5    1    2    2    4    8   -4    5 
Southampton                   5    0    2    3    5    8   -3    2 
Blackburn Rovers              5    0    1    4    3    8   -5    1 
Coventry City                 5    0    1    4    1   11  -10    1 

This League Table Update provided by Lawrence Breakey

This Match Report Compilation was prepared by Michael Kenrick for Marko Poutiainen. 19 Sept 1996.