Everton fail to win Saunders

Everton learned yesterday that Duncan Ferguson will be free to play for the rest of the season, when a court hearing at which he must answer an assault charge was adjourned until 9 May. However, their attempts to sign a new striker to play alongs ide himfoundered again, when AstonVilla rejected a second approach for Dean Saunders.

The Everton manager, Joe Royle, had a £2m offer for the Welsh international turned down last week, and an increased bid also proved insufficient to tempt his Villa counterpart, Brian Little. "I received no encouragement whatsoever," said Royle.

Ferguson appeared at Glasgow Sheriff's Court, accused of head-butting an opponent during last April's game with Raith Rovers, when he was still a Rangers player. Although not cautioned during the game, the disciplinary committee of the Scottish Football Association banned him for 12 matches, a suspension that has been lifted pending the outcome of the trial.

Peter Shilton will face a club disciplinary hearing on Thursday into financial allegations that saw him suspended as the Plymouth Argyle manager on full pay last week. Shilton's solicitors had threatened to sue for breach of contract unless the club had responded to their claim by 5pm last night.

The former England goalkeeper has been invited to give evidence at the hearing which will be conducted by three Argyle directors. They will later make their recommendation to the full board.

Gillingham, the third division club dogged by a series of money problems in recent years, have gone into receivership following the breakdown of a rescue package organised by the chairman, Bernard Baker.

Tom Burton, the receiver, is confident Gillingham will be able to fulfil their fixtures to the end of the season, especially as the players' union, the PFA, has promised financial support.

The decision to seek help was taken by the club director and majority shareholder, Tony Smith, after Saturday's game with Sheffield Wednesday which drew a crowd of 10,425, but ended hopes of a revenue-raising FA Cup run. He put his shares up for sale last autumn for £200,000, with a deadline that expired last week.

"It has always been my prime objective that the club should survive, and I am confident the receiver will be successful in finding a buyer," Smith said. "I would urge all supporters to help ensure its future by attending matches."

Gillingham are the second club after Exeter to go into receivership, and the Football League has expressed concern that it was not consulted first. Burton has said there is no pressure on the manager, Mike Flanagan, to sell players.

Walter Smith, the Rangers manager, faced up to a growing injury list yesterday as his goalkeeper, Andy Goram, was ruled out for another month.

Goram's comeback against Partick Thistle lasted only 29 minutes on Saturday before he suffered a calf strain. He joins eight other international players on the sidelines.

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