Football: Rideout spells out the gulf

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The Independent Online
Everton. . .4

Ebbrell 5, Rideout 26, 39, Angell 85

Chelsea. . .2

Stein 24, pen 86

Attendance: 18,821

AT 3pm yesterday only one place separated Everton and Chelsea but the gulf in attitudes exposed as their troubled paths crossed seemed as wide as the whole division.

Mark Stein continued his remarkable scoring sequence - he has 10 in his last 10 games - but there is little else for the Londoners to recall with pleasure. Everton brought the Stamford Bridge revival to a crashing halt.

Of the nine Premiership matches that preceded this one, Everton had won only one, surrendering their FA Cup ambitions to First Division Bolton during the same depressing period. Yet if one team appeared gripped by panic yesterday, it was Chelsea, who have not lost in their previous eight starts.

With the notable exception of Frank Sinclair, defensively they looked ill at ease, their midfield quartet seemingly strangers to each other. It was just as well that Stein cannot stop scoring because no one else seemed especially likely to do so. Gavin Peacock did rattle Neville Southall's bar and Neil Shipperley, seizing on a rebound, forced the Welshman to make the save of the match, but these were isolated threats.

Mike Walker, in his fifth game in charge of Everton, prefers patient assessment to axe- wielding, and the evidence here is that this relaxed approach has rubbed off on his new players. It is an aid to confidence, of course, when the opposition invites you to take a fourth-minute lead. Sent away by Andy Hinchcliffe's pass, John Ebbrell should have been halted by Nigel Spackman, or failing that by Steve Clarke, but neither could intervene, and the Everton midfielder finished stylishly by sidestepping the goalkeeper.

Everton's own shortcomings were highlighted by Chelsea's equaliser. Sinclair, gaining possession near the edge of his own area, progressed unimpeded almost to the opposite 18- yard line, where he released the ball to Stein. The pounds 1.6m forward chipped Southall to score for the seventh consecutive Premiership game, a feat no other player has achieved. He boosted his tally further with a consolation penalty.

But Chelsea's joy at drawing level lasted only two minutes before Paul Rideout rose in solitary splendour to meet Peter Beagrie's left-wing cross and head the home side in front.

The occasion was clearly an inspiration for Graham Stuart. Against his former club, the 23- year-old midfielder provided the final pass when Rideout added his second and when Brett Angell claimed his first goal for Everton, both close-range chances with the visiting back four gapingly stretched.

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