Daish does level best

Everton 2 Ferguson 17, 25 Coventry City 2 Daish 38, Williams 85 Attendance: 34,517
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The Independent Online
A MATCH that promised much went wrong for Everton, the vanquished Cup holders, for whom, perhaps, it was already a day of mixed feelings, without throwing away a two-goal lead against relegation-threatened opponents.

The Goodison side introduced Marc Hottiger, at last allowed to play some seven weeks after agreeing his move from Newcastle, and swept into a 2- 0 lead within 25 minutes, courtesy of goals from the head and boot of Duncan Ferguson, who now has seven in 10 starts since his release from prison.

But Coventry, who lost Noel Whelan with a head injury before half-time, clawed back the home side's advantage. Whelan's last act, in fact, was to win the corner from which Liam Daish headed Coventry's first reply, the young striker's diving header forcing a brilliant save from Neville Southall, before a collision with David Unsworth's boot - entirely accidental - forced him to retire. Had he looked back he would have seen Daish outjump everyone to head home John Salako's corner.

The equaliser came late, six minutes from time, but it was richly deserved. Ron Atkinson's team responded not only with commitment but with penetration too. Paul Williams was the dressing-room hero after his header, deflected off Craig Short, beat Southall's flailing arms. But there had been other chances, Southall denying Salako with his second superb save, Daish dropping another header on to the top of the crossbar and Ndlovu, lacking Whelan's height, heading a Strachan cross over the bar in injury time.

If Whelan's wounds disrupted Atkinson's plans, Joe Royle suffered arguably greater blows when Joe Parkinson failed to start the second half, ruled out by a thigh strain, and Short suffered a cut that needed frequent running repairs. In Parkinson's absence, control of midfield was lost, and this proved crucial in the end.

For the first half hour, at least, the outcome had threatened to be much different, Ferguson heading home Andy Hinchcliffe's cross and then running on to Graham Stuart's flick to beat Steve Ogrizovic for a second time.

After that, Everton were disappointed that the chance to go fifth in the end went begging. But, given that they were 16th - one place below Coventry's current standing - at the end of October, they can hardly complain.