Everton Logo Everton 1 - 3 Sheffield Wednesday
Half-time: 0 - 2
Sheffield Wednesday Logo
FA Carling Premiership 97/98 - Game 36
Saturday 25 April 1998
Goodison Park, Merseyside
Att: 35,497
« Leicester City (h) Ref: Graham Barber Arsenal (a) »
1997-98 Fixtures & Results League Position: 17th Premiership Results & Table
EVERTON: Ferguson (72) Graham Allen
Sheffield Wednesday: Pembridge (6, 41) Di Canio (90)
  LINEUPS Subs Not Used
EVERTON: Myhre, Allen (46 Beagrie), Short (46 Oster), Ball, Bilic, Tiler (85 Watson), McCann, Hutchinson, Barmby, Madar, Ferguson(c).
Unavailable: Parkinson, Ward, Williamson, Branch, Grant, Thomas, Phelan (injured); O'Kane, Spencer (suspended).
Gerrard, Farrelly.
Sheffield Wednesday: Pressman, Atherton (c), Pembridge, Walker, Whittingham, Booth, Di Canio, Hyde, Hinchcliffe, Thome, Magilton (59 Briscoe). Clarke, Humphreys, Quinn, Mayrleb.
  Yellow Cards Red Cards
Sheffield Wednesday: Magilton, Booth, Di Canio, Atherton Briscoe. Booth (82)

Guy McEvoy There for the Wake
Martin O'Boyle Yellow Peril
Richard Marland Seriously concerned, yet again

Jenny Roberts The Task is Still Ahead
THE SUNDAY TIMES Everton sliding closer to brink
by Louise Taylor
THE TIMES Di Canio punishes Everton
by Nick Szczepanik

ELECTRONIC TELEGRAPH Desperate Everton do themselves no favours
by Trevor Haylett
SOCCERNET Link to SoccerNet Match Report
CARLINGNET Link to CarlingNet Match Report

There for the Wake
Guy McEvoy
I'd had a pretty good week. I'd landed a new job, got things sorted out with the girlfriend (a story in itself) and a long overdue expenses cheque had arrived in the post to rescue me from a cash-flow crises. Things were going great. Until Everton shat on me.

Having watched what unfolded, I have now figured out our survival master-plan: 'just hope the other teams loose'.

This is backs against the wall stuff. Where is the passion? Where is the heart? Where is the belief? That goes not only for the players but for everything and everyone connected with the club. The Goodison faithful where as lousy as the team on the field yesterday. That is the truth. Face it.

The result of this game is fair reflection of the way the match panned out. A defensive Everton line-up could not cope with one truly class player; Di Canio did to us what Kanchelskis did to them two seasons ago.

First Half

It seemed no time at all before the man with white boots was dribbling the day-glo yellow ball after a mighty Pressman clearance. Tiler was there to cover him, but with a shimmy of the hips he saw Tiler turned inside out and onto the floor. Look-up, cross. Open header. One-nil.

The Wednesday fans were off on one. They had brought their band, and the Bullens Roof amplified their drums to concert level, for the entire first forty-five they made the loudest noise from an away contingent since the tartan-army invaded pre-season. 'Singing the blues' and 'DEE-AYE-CAN-EE-OO' drowned out anything the Street or Park Ends could manage. They were there for a party, we were there for a wake.

Did the goal instill any urgency in the players? Did the crowd rise to stir them on? You know the answer.

The second goal was from a corner. We packed the box when they had only one man in it. The rest of the attacking players hovered on the edge of the box unmarked. The ball came in, it was half cleared, but one of the poachers was their to hoof it. Rotten deflection. Two-nil. Even half-time didn't allow a rest from torment. The other scores elsewhere gave no shred of comfort.

Second Half

Kendall had to alter things and he brought on two wingers, Beagrie and Oster. The spectators, McCann and Allen made way. The few times we took advantage of the width we did look menacing, but frustratingly this was right back to the start of the season tactically. The centre-backs would get the ball and just hurl it down the middle towards Ferguson. Ferguson would head it and a Wednesday player would say 'thank-you-very-much' as he advanced with the second ball.

To give some false credibility to this tactic it did actually produce our goal. Bilic hoisted it up, and Duncan did well to nod it in.

To give us a little more false hope Wednesday even surrendered a player for rank stupidity, already on a yellow, the whistle had gone for offside, he couldn't resist though and stuck the ball in the net. We smelt a chance.

Watson was thrown on to help the all-out push for an equaliser but the clock ticked on... The Wednesday fans, whose band by now had their drums taken off them still out-sung us, and Di Canio killed the threatened come-back by rounding Myhre at the death to make the scoreline a fairer reflection of play.

I knew the other results had gone against us. The club didn't have the courage to read them out over the tannoy. I waited as I always do, and it was ten whole minutes before they thought the ground quiet enough to announce that both Spurs and Bolton had won. 'Johnson out' chants could be heard in the Park End, but most people looked too sapped to join in.

As I trundled dejectedly down Goodison Road, I mentally worked out the league table and my blood ran cold. With Bolton now so close my mind cast back to our game against them at the Reebok, way back at the beginning of the season. But for a rare shocking refereeing decision going our way and not spotting that they'd scored we would already be in the bottom three. Come a fortnight, we could well be there anyway.


  • Myhre 6 - Proved he has Balls. Literally. Made a great save with his 'nads. Had the situation not been so desperate his reaction would have been hilarious.
  • Ball 7 - Oh for ten more men with his attitude. Sometimes guilty of giving Di Canio too much space though.
  • Short 7 - The most sturdy of the centre backs.
  • Tiler 6 - Not happening for him on the day, to cap it off he missed a sitter virtually identical to Farrelly's howler a week ago.
  • Bilic 6 - Frustrating as hell. I know he can be world class cos I've seen him do it with my own eyes. His performances for us this season have been beneath him and this was another example. Not at all comfortable with Short and Tiler, Slaven just looked separate to the unit.
  • Allen and McCann 6 - Sometimes with young players their honest performances and never-say-die effort and commitment can disguise the fact that they haven't really got the talent. This happened for neither of these today.
  • Hutchison 6 - Deservedly a crowd favourite given his recent performances but people should be honest enough to recognise when a player isn't having his best game.
  • Barmby 6 - Every now and then he would burst into the game with a run on the ball or to desperately close someone down, then he would go AWOL for ages.
  • Ferguson 7 - Gave an example. It wasn't followed.
  • Madar 7 - Showed some wonderful touches, nearly got a header at the last. OK.
  • Beagrie and Oster 6 - Came on to give us width but none of the rest of the team looked to use them so they didn't really get chance to make their mark.

Yellow Peril
Martin O'Boyle
Arriving at the ground half an hour before kick-off I was surprised to learn that we were playing with three centre backs. We needed to win, yet we were playing with a defensive formation. Yet: "Howard knows best" I was saying to myself. I was thinking happily: "Oh well, they've got Stefanovic, Carbone and Barrett suspended... we've got Barmby back.... It's a game we can't afford to lose!"

We did... and the name of a certain Italian sporting white boots never crossed my mind for a second. He ended up by running the show.

In the opening few minutes we looked terribly nervous, the youngsters Allen and McCann apparently scared out of their wits. To be honest, I would be too if I had a number of Evertonians shouting: "You'll never make it you lazy......" or "You're c**p. That is f'ing useless! You are f'ing useless, kid!" Shouldn't we be getting behind our team in their hour of need rather than lambasting their every effort that goes wrong? We should be using every ounce of our vocal capabilities to support them, after all that is what we supposedly are: Supporters of Everton Football Club.

Then the unthinkable happened. A long clearance from Pressman found Di Canio, who was allowed to control the ball and shape himself to cross. He weighted in the perfect cross which found the unmarked Mark Pembridge who headed home. Short should have been marking him. He wasn't. The goal as you can imagine prompted scenes of jubilation from the Sheffield Wednesday supporters.

With the confidence of an early goal behind them, Wednesday were brimming with confidence; Di Canio especially benefitting. He was in his element and he was a joy to watch, if you were a Sheffield Wednesday supporter.

We were being totally dominated in midfield. That was the root of the problem.

Ferguson seemed to be our only attacking option but 9 out of the 10 crosses aimed for him from Madar, Hutchison and Barmby were too high. With no-one following up on the far post, these opportunities were wasted.

We did create good chances. Madar fired across goal from six yards and, with nine minutes to go to half time, only an excellent save by Pressman denied Allen his first Premiership goal. However, before half time Sheffield Wednesday added to their lead.

After a foul on Pembridge by Short, Wednesday took the free-kick which was only half-cleared by Bilic... straight to Pembridge who blasted a shot which was going wide, until it took a deflection off Hutchison and it ended up in the net. Two-nil down at half-time.

The whistle was met with a few boos and an argument immediately behind me. One man was blaming Johnson for the club's predicament, the other blaming Kendall; his buys and his tactics. It was sad to watch them.

Kendall substituted Allen and Short for Beagrie and Oster at half-time hoping for some inspiration. By then it was two late. However, I thought back to the 1966 FA Cup Final... we were 2-0 down to The Owls then. We can still do it! Poor misguided child that I am. Then we had stars like Wilson, Labone, Harvey, Temple. Today, we were relying on an 18-year-old and a thirty-something to turn the game around.

Not that I'm getting at 18-year-old's. Michael Ball (my MOTM) was again superb. What a talent! He probably covered every blade of grass on the park and was often moving over to the right hand side to mop up the errors that the central defenders had made. Bilic too was good; Tiler, well read on...

Ferguson's knock down in the penalty area found Madar who scuffed his shot but this came gloriously to Tiler. With the keeper stranded and only a smattering of defenders on the line all Tiler had to do was to put the ball on target, like Farrelly last week. He blasted the ball over the bar. Tiler redeemed himself by some superb defending after the miss but any glimpse of hope I may have had of us getting a point from the game disappeared after that chance was missed. Even when Ferguson scored I knew that it was too little, too late.

Again he scored with a header, again at the Gwladys Street End. Bilic providing the cross for him to nod home. Barmby carried the ball out of the net and ran to the penalty area. It was one of the few constructive things he did all afternoon.

A sense of urgency finally gripped Everton, though Sheffield Wednesday always looked dangerous on the counter-attack. After the flag had gone up for offside, Andy Booth (who had already been booked) shot past Myhre. The referee showed him another yellow, then the red. It was a stupid sending off.

Would we take the advantage??? No. Instead Myhre had to pull off a world-class save. He came out of his area to narrow Di Canio's angle. Di Canio powered a shot which hit him straight in the groin. Ouch. This prompted a sharp intake of breath from the male Evertonians around me and laughter from the females. The sight of him hopping around would have brought a tear to a glass eye. Having committed too many men forward, Di Canio picked up the loose ball and went on the counter attack only having McCann and Ball to beat, did so, went round Myhre and passed the ball into the net. He was basically taking the Mickey.

The 'yellow peril' or the `Mitre Ultimax Fluo Flare ball' was being used. Myhre had to pick it out of his net three times. It doesn't matter if we could see it better or worse (as the case may have been). We were beaten, convincingly so. With two games left to play we have to get the points. We must not rely on Bolton slipping up.

Next up we have Champions-elect Arsenal away. Meanwhile, Bolton play basement club Crystal Palace at home. We know what we have to do. Whether we will do it is another matter. Let us pray that we will. Let's get behind the team.

Seriously concerned, yet again
Richard Marland
Arriving at Goodison today I felt relatively upbeat. I genuinely felt that we could get something out of this game. Wednesday were missing a few players, and on their recent form were hardly an intimidating prospect. I was also happy with our team selection, the hapless Farrelly was dropped, Barmby and Bilic returned to the fold and Graham Allen got the right back berth. So we ended up with a back five, Hutchison and McCann in central midfield and Barmby in the hole behind the front two.

The first few minutes were taken up with some relatively inconsequential sparring. Di Canio was looking distinctly lively, but neither side seriously threatened the goal. That was soon to change, Pressman made a monumental clearance from his penalty area, Tiler and Di Canio met the high, dropping ball on the edge of our penalty box. Tiler had to deal with it, row Z looked the best option, however he misjudged the flight of the ball and Di Canio nipped in, took it to the by-line and put in a good cross which Mark Pembridge, one of the smallest men on the pitch met with a free header. A terrible goal to concede, Tiler messed up first of all, and quite how Pembridge managed to arrive in our box unopposed defeats me.

The early reverse settled any nerves Sheff Weds may have had and they remained in control for the remainder of the half. They extended their lead through another avoidable goal, a free kick near the touchline just outside the penalty area, Hinchcliffe delivered the ball in, Bilic got a foot to it but didn't clear properly, it fell to Mark Pembridge outside the box, we were too slow to close him down and his shot took a deflection to wrong foot Myhre. The goal had an element of fortune but we had the opportunity to avoid it.

In the first half our attacking movements had been few, I can remember only once when we got it all together and that ended with Pressman producing a good save to deny Graham Allen. Once again we had passed poorly, played with a lack of urgency, and generally invited trouble. We couldn't argue too much with the half time scoreline.

Two goals down, we had to change something in the second half. Kendall surprised me with how positive he was, Oster and Beagrie coming on for Allen and Short. McCann went to right back as we reverted to a flat back four, we had Hutchison and Barmby in the middle with Beagrie and Oster wide left and right respectively. Unlike the half time change at Leicester this was one we were all relatively comfortable with, we had to be positive and go for the game and this was about the only option we had on our bench.

Unfortunately it didn't have the desired effect. We did improve but I never had the feeling that goals were inevitable. In fact Sheff Weds always looked likely to cause us problems on the break through Di Canio. Our chances were few and far between, Tiler blazing the best chance over the bar when he really should have scored. A goal did finally come our way, a ball into the box from Bilic and Dunc was left on his own to glance a header past Pressman.

There was still 15 minutes to go, we even got the added benefit of Sheff Weds being reduced to 10 men. But, we failed to carve out the chances and never really looked likely to. Di Canio finally rubbed salt into the wounds when he did what he had threatened all afternoon, hitting us on the break, skinning McCann and Ball before rounding Myhre and running the ball into the net.

The goal signalled a mass exodus, most knew that Bolton were winning at Villa, and were fully aware of the implications of our defeat. The rest who stayed watched the dying minutes in near silence, seriously concerned, once again, for our Premiership survival.

  • Myhre 7 Not too much chance with the goals, but I thought that maybe he should have come for the cross that led to their second goal. Not much else to do, apart from one excellent save which he appeared to stop with his testicles. Ouch!!
  • Allen 6 Only on for the first half and did OK including producing an excellent save from Pressman.
  • Ball 7 Another excellent performance. Went AWOL a few times but I got the feeling that it was because he was trying to do too much.
  • Tiler 6 At fault for the goal, and had a bad miss at the other end. Not one of his better days.
  • Short 6 Another who didn't look as convincing as he has done recently.
  • Bilic 6 Probably the pick of the centre backs. Used the ball well when coming out of defence.
  • Hutchison 6 Starting to struggle a bit, desperately needs some help in midfield. Had a few good attacking moments.
  • McCann 6 Did OK. Looked better as a central midfielder, but did an OK job at right back, especially as he was up against Di Canio.
  • Barmby 6 Didn't quite work for him today. No shortage of effort, and some good moments but a lot of his passes and touches didn't come off.
  • Ferguson 6 As his fitness level falls then so, understandably, does his performances. He is getting noticeably less airborne in aerial challenges, and his runs at defenders are getting less frequent.
  • Madar 7 Quite a bright performance, but with no real end product.
  • Beagrie 6 Plenty of endeavour but no real end product.
  • Oster 6 One of his better performances of late. Played out wide and so had less responsibility, had a few good moments.
  • Watson - Barely touched the ball after being thrown on as an emergency striker. No disrespect to Watson but that rather showed our desperation.

Team 5 There was no real conviction to this performance. Despite the endeavour of the second half I never had the feeling that we were really going to get back in the game. Sloppy defensively, non-threatening in attack, and distinctly second best in midfield.

Man of the Match: Michael Ball, never stopped running, popped up everywhere. Deserved more from his colleagues.

The Task is Still Ahead
Jenny Roberts
I have lost count of the times that I have written this, but a win today would guarantee us Premier league football for next season. Although we were without O'Kane, I was nevertheless very optimistic as I approached Goodison.

The day of the yellow ball could have marked the beginning of an exciting new era for Everton Football Club's home form, but it did not. The ball, which was actually quite a dull yellow, was very difficult to see, as it often blended in with the grass. However, I am by no means blaming a pathetic performance on a ball.

As soon as the referee blew his whistle for kick-off, my fears of another Villa-like performance vanished. The team, which, on paper, looked very strong, began promisingly.

However, in about the sixth minute, Wednesday's Di Canio ran down the right wing with Carl Tiler chasing him. The fans had no real worries, as Tiler is a pretty good tackler, and would certainly not let Di Canio get past him. Alas, he was sent the wrong way, and the cross met with Pembridge. The team shook their heads, and the fans cried out with disbelief.

Surely we would fight back with admirable spirit to claim all three points? After all, only six minutes had been played. The players were aware of the table situation, weren't they?

It seemed at times that Sheffield were the home side. Everton desperately missed a Watson or a Parkinson to dictate the defence or midfield. It was a miracle that we conceded no more goals during the next 30 minutes. We were simply mediocre. Even Ball looked hesitant, a shadow of his formerly assured self. Tiler was having an absolute nightmare, as was Allen.

The 41st minute arrived. Everyone else around me stood up to watch Wednesday's attack. I knew what was coming, and remained seated. I did not want to watch my beloved team's further humiliation.

Half-time brought even more anguish. The other scores were mostly terrible, and few were beneficial.

For most of the second half, Everton looked uninterested. Suddenly, they began to realize that by scoring two goals, they could actually claim a valuable point. We began to mount various attacks, bombarding the Wednesday area with crosses. I watched the scoreboard intensely, and, as each second disappeared, grew even more desperate. Finally, a superb cross was delivered to Ferguson's head, and we were back with a chance of a point. With still about twenty minutes left, a point was a possibility.

Still we continued to attack, still Pressman continued to claim each cross, still we continued to make glaring misses.

On a rare Wednesday attack, it looked as though we were about to concede another. However, Myhre spread himself superbly to block the shot. He injured himself in doing so, and spent several minutes lying in his goal, much to the ignorance of the referee.

Eventually, another Everton attack was intercepted, and Di Canio broke away from an absent Everton defence. The ailing Myhre, unprotected by his team, tried to stop him, but he rounded Thomas with ease, and tortured us cruelly and slowly by dribbling the ball into the goal.

Many left the ground at the third goal. The game was dead, and the passion of the crowd and team seemed equally dead. However, that team has got to keep us up, which is why I remained. How can they even begin to fight the debilitating disease commonly known as relegation if they do not have our support?

All fans going to Arsenal:– Roar our Blue Boys to the unlikeliest victory of the season. But whatever you do, don't criticize them, don't remind them of the task ahead of them. Just support them. We all know what is at stake.

Everton sliding closer to brink
by Louise Taylor, The Sunday Times
HOW apposite that the final whistle saw Goodison Park half swathed in shadow and half-bathed in sunlight. Appropriately, Wednesday supporters basked beneath the brightness, relishing the realisation that their swashbuckling team has now banished any fear of relegation.

By contrast, those Evertonians gathered in the gloom knew that Bolton Wanderers' win at Aston Villa dictates that Howard Kendall's charges are in real danger of the drop. And their next Premiership stop is Highbury.

Everton endured the worst possible start, falling behind in the sixth minute. Kevin Pressman launched the ball forward, sending Paulo Di Canio accelerating down the right before crossing left-footed in Mark Pembridge's direction. All that remained was for Pembridge to head Wednesday ahead.

Wearing his familiar white boots, Di Canio proved the afternoon's outstanding individual. Persistently drifting from right to left, he dragged Everton's central defensive trinity out of position, courtesy of a series of dribbles, feints, flicks, and tricks.

Mickael Madar – complete with trademark Alice Band keeping those flowing Gallic locks in check – appeared Merseyside's answer to Wednesday's Italian, but despite some suitably fancy footwork, generally proved a pale imitation of Di Canio.

Although Kevin Pressman, unkindly dubbed 'The Flying Cheeseburger' by Hillsborough regulars, made a good reflex save to deny Graham Allen, and then adroitly repelled Duncan Ferguson's header from the ensuing corner, it was all Wednesday with Guy Whittingham impressing down the right.

Across on the left, Pembridge was similarly strutting his stuff, and he deserved a high velocity second in the 41st minute. Andy Hinchcliffe's free kick ricocheted off Slavin Bilic, and Pembridge let fly from almost 30 yards, the shot apparently taking a deflection off Don Hutchison en route to goal.

With that trip to Arsenal looming next Sunday, and Coventry due at Goodison the following week, Kendall knew drastic measures were required, and he duly made a double half-time substitution introducing two wingers, John Oster and Peter Beagrie.

Abandoning his beloved back three and rearranging Everton in 4-4-2 guise may have compromised managerial principles, but with Bolton leading, things looked increasingly desperate. Unfortunately, much urgent, if rather directionless, home attacking was regularly undone by clever Wednesday counter-attacks. If Everton were dazzled by the experimental fluorescent yellow ball intended to give visibility in any weather, it certainly seemed to the visitors' liking.

Even so, Ron Atkinson's ensemble enjoyed a reprieve when Pressman unnecessarily dropped the ball, and Madar somehow mis-kicked before Hutchison directed a wasteful shot over the bar.

Ferguson did appreciably better in the 72nd minute, powering an emphatic header past Pressman following a Bilic cross to claim his ninth goal in his last 12 Premiership appearances. If anyone is going to keep Everton up, it is their irrepressible captain.

Andy Booth had often looked equally inspirational, but, 10 minutes from time, he was sent off for a second bookable offence.

And what a totally needless dismissal, Wednesday's centre-forward having deposited the ball into the net after being ruled blatantly offside. Ultimately, though, Booth's premature exit proved academic as Di Canio danced around Myhre to claim a virtuoso goal at the death.

Could Everton's 44-year tenure in football's top division be coming to an end?.

Report © Times Newspapers Ltd

Di Canio punishes Everton
by Nick Szczepanik, The Times
IF EVERTON'S players did not fully appreciate the danger to their FA Carling Premiership status before this match, they must have had an unpleasant surprise when the import of Saturday's other results sank in. With two games left, they are now only one place above the relegation positions and, although they have a two-point advantage over Bolton Wanderers, the club immediately below them, that could easily become a one-point deficit next weekend.

Bolton entertain Crystal Palace on Saturday; Everton face the much more daunting prospect of a trip to Highbury the next day and midweek results may mean that they will be attempting to deny the champions-elect their title. If anything, it gets worse; while Everton receive Coventry City in their final game, Bolton visit Chelsea only three days before the Londoners' Cup Winners' Cup final.

Howard Kendall, the Everton manager, did his best to maintain a veneer of confidence when it was put to him that he faced two tense weeks. "Not if we win at Arsenal," he said. "We've been capable of lifting ourselves against the best teams and when everyone comes to Goodison and expects victory, we've let them down, as we have today. We've failed them. But there's no bigger challenge than going to Arsenal next week."

Ah, so that was the answer; Wednesday were not enough of a challenge. They may have appeared easy meat, but, although their last away win was a distant memory and their team was ravaged by suspension and injury, they still began with an urgency that Everton could not match until they were two goals down.

Paolo di Canio, a danger throughout, crossed the experimental yellow ball for the unmarked Mark Pembridge to head in after only three minutes; then Pembridge, unchallenged, seized on a sloppy clearance from Bilic, beating Myhre from 20 yards thanks to a deflection.

In a much more even second half, Everton pulled a goal back when Ferguson headed in Bilic's long forward ball, but left gaps at the back in the process and, even after the dismissal of Booth for a second bookable offence, it was surprising that the visitors' third only arrived in the last minute, Di Canio rounding Myhre.

"I can't fault us on effort and trying to retrieve the situation," Kendall said. "I can fault the organisation or the thought. There were a lot of young players out there who needed guidance and there wasn't any out there today."

Whose fault is that? Kendall rightly paid tribute to Di Canio, who was outstanding, fully deserving the applause of those Everton supporters who stayed behind to acknowledge an extraordinary display. However, the praise only served to emphasise that while Wednesday were successfully pursuing the Italian last summer, Everton managed only to come up with Tony Thomas, John Oster and Gareth Farrelly. Worthy as they might be, none is in Di Canio's league – which might be literally as well as metaphorically true within a fortnight.

"Everybody's feeling a little low, but not feeling down," Kendall said. Not yet, anyway.

Report © Times Newspapers Ltd

Desperate Everton do themselves no favours
Trevor Haylett, Electronic Telegraph
EVERTON will have to rely on other results going their way for another two anxious weeks because, on this evidence, they are incapable of helping themselves. Sheer desperation after they had trailed by two goals at half-time was not enough to save them on this occasion.

Howard Kendall's team of under-achievers have failed to shake off the spectre of relegation all season and it looks certain now to follow them all the way to the final match. They hauled themselves back when Duncan Ferguson converted Slaven Bilic's long ball, but Wednesday, even down to 10 men after Andy Booth's second yellow card, still finished the stronger, a touch of sublime skill and impudence from Paolo Di Canio in injury time making sure of the victory which makes the Yorkshire side safe. The Italian beat two defenders before casually side-stepping Thomas Myhre and it is only right that Premiership audiences have the privilege of watching him all over again come the autumn.

It must have been more than an unhappy coincidence that John Spencer became involved in a health scare shortly after he joined the Goodison staff and before a permanent transfer has been finalised. Everton are in a sickly condition and even if they are to retain their place in the Premiership you fear for the long-term prosperity of a club so unrecognisable from that which not so long ago earned top billing.

They fell behind in the first serious attack of the day. Kevin Pressman was forced to kick hurriedly and long from his own six-yard area, but the ball carried to Di Canio, who then took it a bit further to the byline, where he dummied Carl Tiler and produced a cross for Mark Pembridge to head home.

Leaving aside Di Canio's nimble footwork, it was a ludicrously simple goal which said a great deal about Everton's ills. For a long period after that they remained racked by an inferiority complex, and this was only Wednesday for heaven's sake.

Even when Everton regained possession they were unable to keep hold of the ball for very long.

At the back, Wednesday's newcomer from Brazil, Emerson Thome, caught the eye with a particularly fine challenge on Nicky Barmby and was clearly not daunted by the aerial aggression of both Ferguson and Madar. Andy Hinchcliffe, back at his former club, had also timed his tackle on Barmby to perfection as Everton struggled to gain any encouragement.

The story of the first half was of Wednesday's carefully-constructed attacks and whenever danger threatened there was Di Canio with a cleverly-executed flick or back heel. Everything came off for him and his team too – Pembridge's raking drive in the 41st minute deflecting past Myhre.

Kendall's response was to fling on two wide men in Peter Beagrie and John Oster to try to improve the quality of the deliveries from out wide, and hope that Des Walker and Thome could be teased into distraction and carelessness.

Chances arrived, but Everton refused to take advantage. Barmby found Ferguson, but the header was way off target. Then, when Ferguson drew Pressman off his line, Madar returned the ball back and Tiler wafted it far too high.

Report © The Electronic Telegraph

RESULTS  (Game 36)
Wednesday 29 April 1998
Petit (35)
1 - 0 Derby County
0 - 1 Blackburn Rovers
Gallacher (48)
Coventry City
0 - 0 Wimbledon
Leicester City
0 - 0 Newcastle United
Monday 27 April 1998
Crystal Palace
0 - 3 Manchester United
Scholes (6) Butt (22) Cole (84)
Sunday 26 April 1998
Derby County
0 - 4 Leicester City
Heskey (1, 8) Izzet (2) Marshall (15)
Saturday 25 April 1998
Aston Villa
Taylor (57)
1 - 3 Bolton Wanderers
Cox (18) Taylor (41) Blake (84)
0 - 2 Arsenal
Bergkamp (23) Overmars (76)
Blackburn Rovers
0 - 0 Wimbledon
Hughes (11, 78) Clarke (67) Flo (72)
4 - 1 Liverpool
Riedle (45)
Ferguson (72)
1 - 3 Sheffield Wednesday
Pembridge (6, 41) Di Canio (90)
Leeds United
Hasselbaink (16, 28) Kewell (75)
3 - 3 Coventry City
Huckerby (20, 34, 62)
Tottenham Hotspur
Klinsmann (31) Ferdinand (73)
2 - 0 Newcastle United
West Ham United
Sinclair (42) Lomas (82)
2 - 4 Southampton
Le Tissier (40) Ostenstad (63, 86) Palmer (80)

LEAGUE TABLE (after 29 April 1998 )
Club                          P    W    D    L   GF   GA   GD   Pts
Arsenal                      35   22    9    4   64   28   36   75
Manchester United            36   21    8    7   68   26   42   71
Chelsea                      36   19    3   14   68   40   28   60
Liverpool                    35   16   11    8   59   41   18   59
Leeds United                 36   17    7   12   56   42   14   58
Blackburn Rovers             36   15   10   11   56   50    6   55
West Ham United              35   15    7   13   49   46    3   52
Aston Villa                  36   15    6   15   45   47   -2   51
Leicester City               36   12   14   10   47   37   10   50
Derby County                 36   14    7   15   49   49    0   49
Coventry City                36   11   15   10   43   43    0   48
Southampton                  36   14    5   17   49   52   -3   47
Sheffield Wednesday          36   12    8   16   51   63  -12   44
Wimbledon                    36   10   13   13   31   39   -8   43 <Safe
Newcastle United             36   10   11   15   32   42  -10   41
Tottenham Hotspur            36   10   10   16   37   53  -16   40
Everton                      36    9   12   15   40   51  -11   39
Bolton Wanderers             36    8   13   15   36   57  -21   37
Barnsley                     36   10    5   21   37   79  -42   35
Crystal Palace               35    7    8   20   31   63  -32   29 <Div 1
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© Michael Kenrick 1998
Last updated: 29 April 1998