Donis fills the void in attack

Blackburn Rovers 1 Everton 1
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The Independent Online
Ray Harford described the Greek winger Yorgos Donis as an "icing on the cake man" and, true enough, his dynamic solo goal on Saturday would have decorated any feast of football.

However, both the Blackburn manager and his counterpart, Joe Royle, currently crave the bread-and-butter performances which secure earnestly required wins. Duncan Ferguson's last-minute dismissal provided a distraction from the largely dysfunctional displays that both sides had produced.

Royle is to appeal against the sending-off, for persistent swearing at the referee, David Elleray, but the chances of Football Association leniency are as likely as a warm welcome for Bishop Roderick Wright at the Pearly Gates.

"When George gets the ball, the crowd put the fear of God into the other team. He's a bit special but you sometimes have to suffer one or two things he doesn't do," explained Harford, who considered substituting the winger at half-time because of a niggling rib injury.

Blackburn's first-half invention and drive, which resulted in a succession of good chances and clear superiority, faded as the Donis influence evaporated despite two more notable efforts, a powerful shot and a close-range header.

Everton also had their chances as the game became increasingly frantic and open. Tim Flowers in the home goal matched Neville Southall's excellence as Andrei Kanchelskis, Anders Limpar and Ferguson sought the winner.

Operating rigid 4-4-2 formations, the attacking outlets for both sides were somewhat predictable. Blackburn, with Jason Wilcox returning from a knee injury and introduced at the interval, lacked natural width on the left in the form of Garry Flitcroft, whereas Everton struggled to retain possession as the home midfield dominated.

That Donis opened the scoring was no great surprise. Collecting the ball just inside the Everton half, he drew a posse of defenders before exploding through the centre like Road Runner through the Grand Canyon. A stretching but accurate finish left Southall powerless.

The swift Everton response was, also predictably, from a set-piece. Andy Hinchcliffe drilled a low and flat free-kick from the right, with David Unsworth's skimmed header evading his attackers but finding the vacant far corner of the goal. With just one win between the two sides, the need for a keener attacking edge is reflected in their respective searches for a striker.

"I have no doubt in my mind that neither side will be in their position for very long because they are full of good players," Royle said.

Goals: Donis (31) 1-0; Unsworth (37) 1-1.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Flowers; Kenna, Hendry, Coleman, Berg; Donis, Sherwood, Bohinen, Flitcroft (Wilcox, 46); Sutton, Gallacher (Fenton, 77). Substitutes not used: Ripley, Pearce, Given (gk).

Everton (4-4-2): Southall; Barrett, Short, Unsworth, Hinchcliffe; Kanchelskis, Parkinson, Speed, Limpar (Grant, 89); Ferguson, Rideout. Substitutes not used: Stuart, Hottiger, Branch, Gerard (gk).

Referee: P Alcock (Redhill).

Bookings: Blackburn: Sherwood, Fenton, Berg. Everton: Unsworth, Ferguson. Sent off: Ferguson.

Man of the match: D Elleray (Harrow-on-the-Hill).

Attendance: 27,091.