Ferguson blows away Everton's cobwebs

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The Independent Online
Wimbledon 2 Everton 3

It may have been the first day of the year, but it was the last day on which you would expect to find a Scotsman - particularly one who goes by the nickname of Duncan Disorderly - so bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

The hangover looked all Wimbledon's as Ferguson, starting only his second game since his release from prison, scored two goals in two minutes after setting up Everton's opener in just 28 seconds. With just 25 minutes gone that would have been curtains for most teams, yet such is the indefatigable spirit of the Dons that they clawed their way back into the game and would have snatched a point but for a marvellous late save by Neville Southall.

They were Ferguson's first goals of a season hitherto notable only for his notoriety and it would be nice to think he was turning over a new leaf here with a compelling performance. Famed for his heading power, it was his dexterity with the ball at his feet which caught the eye in this match.

Had Everton, and in particular Paul Rideout, taken full advantage of his unselfish support play, they would not have been forced to endure such a harrowing finale. Joe Royle, the Everton manager, however, was loath to give too much publicity to a young man who has commanded more than his fair share of it of late. "It's not the Duncan Ferguson side- show," he said. "We played very well. He put two goals away which he's there for. He's a long, long way from full fitness."

Everton will be praying that the result of the judiciary appeal against the remaining seven matches of his 12-match ban goes in their favour on 19 January. Everton have a momentum going now - only two defeats in 11 games - and, while they are able to compensate for the loss of the likes of Anders Limpar and Craig Short, Ferguson provides them with an extra dimension and a focal point.

It cannot be often that Wimbledon have feared the opposition's muscle, but Ferguson was an intimidating sight as he broke free from Chris Perry's tackle in the early seconds. Brain took over from brawn as he pulled the ball back from the by-line for Rideout to shoot and John Ebbrell to score on the rebound.

After about 20 minutes, Everton could have been at least three goals up but for profligate finishing by Graham Stuart, Barry Horne and Rideout. Five minutes later that was exactly the margin they did enjoy. Matthew Jackson's diagonal ball into the box was neither to feet nor head, so Ferguson trapped it with his thigh and then volleyed it over his shoulder without the ball coming to earth until Hans Segers picked it out of the net.

Spectacular gave way to mere clinical efficiency as two minutes later David Unsworth's cross was swept home with contemptuous ease by the Scot.

It was a sobering experience for Wimbledon, coming on the back of two "derby" wins at Chelsea and Arsenal. But home comforts have been conspicuous by their absence this season and one has to go back to 9 September to find their last win at Selhurst Park, coincidentally against the other Merseysiders. However, with Marcus Gayle substituting for the ever-threatening Mick Harford, Joe Kinnear's side were a completely different proposition after half-time.

Within nine minutes of the restart, Dean Holdsworth had headed what was surely a consolation goal, we thought, but a second from Efan Ekoku after 72 minutes put an entirely different complexion on matters.

By then, Everton might have been reduced to 10 men for the second game in succession as Dave Watson tripped Gayle in arguably a goal-scoring position. The referee, Alan Wilkie, chose the softer option and went for a booking and Everton saw out the siege.

Wimbledon (4-4-2): Segers; Cunningham (Euell, 88), Reeves, Perry, Kimble; Earle, Leonhardsen, Jones, Ekoku; Holdsworth, Harford (Gayle, h-t). Substitute not used: Pearce.

Everton (4-4-1-1): Southall; Jackson, Watson, Parkinson, Unsworth; Kanchelskis (Hinchcliffe, 77), Ebbrell, Horne, Stuart; Rideout; Ferguson. Substitutes not used: O'Connor, Kearton (gk).

Referee: A Wilkie (Chester-le-Street).

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