Late strike puts McCall rock bottom

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The Independent Online

If only you could change results as readily as your manager. A quick flourish of the P45 saw the end of Chris Hutchings at Bradford City this week but the misery at unhappy Valley Parade continued yesterday. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

If only you could change results as readily as your manager. A quick flourish of the P45 saw the end of Chris Hutchings at Bradford City this week but the misery at unhappy Valley Parade continued yesterday. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

A goal from Gary Naysmith three minutes from the end in Everton's first substantial attack of the match accounted for Bradford, who are now so rooted in the Premiership's bottom three, it seems inconceivable they can repeat last season's great revival. Even a master escapologist would balk at trying to revive their fortunes this time. Certainly it seems beyond the caretaker, Stuart McCall.

Everton, hardly any better, earned a respite from fears that they, too, might be dragged into the relegation zone. With Arsenal and Chelsea looming, they need it. "There was a lot of huffing and puffing," Walter Smith, the visiting manager, said, "but our keeper was not really stretched. We needed a win and we managed it."

Bradford have had a fragile sticker placed on their top-flight status since promotion in May 1999 but it rarely looked as jeopardised as in recent weeks. One win and five goals from 12 Premiership games accounted for Hutchings. With McCall saying he would prefer to delay managing until he stops playing, Valley Parade has many of the signs of disarray.

"I explained to the players I am caretaker manager and I don't know how long I will be in the job, whether it will be for one game, one month or one year," he said, "but it isn't about me, it's about the desire to survive in the Premiership."

The thought had crossed Evertonian minds with a run of two wins in their last 12 matches and without Paul Gascoigne, who injured a thigh in the defeat by Aston Villa last Sunday. If that ruled out one maverick, Bradford had them in abundance with Benito Carbone and Stan Collymore included in McCall's adventur- ous line-up of three strikers, incorporating Ashley Ward too.

The first two were to the fore in Bradford's first significant attack after 10 minutes, exchang-ing passes before Jamie Law- rence played a one-two with Ward, a blur of movement that gave the former a split second to crash a shot against the post. Eleven minutes later, Everton's rearguard was pierced again when Carbone's delight-ful dink located Ward, alone and seemingly offside. The striker seemed to think so too, dith-ered a moment and Paul Gerrard rushed out to smother the opportunity with his body.

Everton relied on a muscular five-man midfield and isolated, frustrated breaks. Their only chance in the first half owed little to their efforts, more to an uncharacteristic mistake by Matthew Clarke, who let Idan Tal's corner slip through his fingers after six minutes and was lucky to have a chance to turn and dive on the ball.

Bradford had the better of the first half and it would have been a hard judge not to have awarded them the second, too. Carbone was crudely tripped on the hour by Pembridge when a rare piece of individualism threatened to reap a reward, but the turning point arrived in the 70th minute.

Carbone had flickered on the edges of the game but suddenly sent over an arcing pass from the right. Collymore weighted his header perfectly for the charging Ward, whose header was also true but Gerrard reacted sharply to tip it over the bar. The momentum seemed to slip away from Everton but in the 87th minute Alex Nyarko supplied Joe-Max Moore on the right. When the American's shot was blocked by Clarke, Naysmith forced in the rebound. Relief for Everton; more upheaval for Bradford.

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