Ferguson in wars

Blackburn Rovers 1 Donis 32 Everton 1 Unsworth 37 Attendance: 27,091
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The Independent Online
BLACKBURN may only have won their first home point of the season with this draw, but they certainly had more to be pleased about than Everton, thanks to a splendid first goal for the club by their free-transfer Greek George Donis. Blackburn's other good news was the return of winger Jason Wilcox at half-time, after several months out with a knee injury.

Everton's first point in four games should, in theory, have left them the happier side but the dismissal of their Scottish international centre- forward Duncan Ferguson in the closing minutes probably took away any consolation.

Ferguson had been shown a late yellow card by the referee, David Elleray, for apparent time wasting, and a few moments later the grumpy Scot got another for verballing the referee. The Everton manager Joe Royle was quickly on to the pitch at the whistle to make enquiries. After the game Royle insisted that "Duncan was swearing in frustration at us not getting a penalty. He was moving away from the referee when he was doing it, so I don't understand why he had to go."

The Blackburn manager Ray Harford was less agitated but no happier. "I was very pleased with our first half, but we weren't as inventive in the second. The players are more annoyed than pleased with the result."

Blackburn were indeed comfortably the better team in the first half, but couldn't take a lead into the interval partly due to their own failures to finish, partly due to the hint of good fortune which surrounded Everton's equaliser, one of only two chances the Blues created in the half.

Blackburn's superiority was nevertheless tangible, and it was the pace and trickery of Donis on the right which damaged Everton's early confidence. The Greek winger established a clear advantage over Andy Hinchcliffe and might easily have scored himself with a fierce cross-shot which brushed Neville Southall's right-hand post.

But it was Donis's crosses that posed a consistent threat, together with his fluent link-ups with Chris Sutton. But with Kevin Gallacher fluffing two clear chances, Blackburn had nothing to show for a half- hour's possession. Until, that is, Donis took the ball some 45 yards from the Everton goal and simply accelerated into, and through, the Everton cover before calmly poking his shot past Southall.

Everton had missed their one chance to take the lead when Tim Flowers blocked Ferguson's flick after Andrei Kanchelskis had put the tall Scot through, and the omens certainly didn't look good for them. Yet within six minutes they were level.

Henning Berg was dubiously judged to have committed a foul on the Everton right, and when Hinchcliffe curled in the free-kick the ball flicked off the head of the first Everton player to challenge, David Unsworth, and then floated past Flowers into the far corner of the net. If Blackburn weren't kicking themselves after this, they certainly must have been as Gallacher managed to lift Donis's beautifully weighted low cross over the bar from six yards.

With Garry Flitcroft coming off at the interval, Kanchelskis enjoyed more freedom in the second half and might have won the game for Everton if his finishing had been better. Through on goal in the 63rd minute, he could only poke a tame shot straight at Flowers, and a moment later the goalkeeper also denied Anders Limpar by turning his curling shot away.

The Swede's floated cross just missed Ferguson's head at the far post as Everton looked the likelier winners but then came Ferguson's moments of frustration. In the end it was Donis who provided the best moment of the second half, sending in a fierce drive which Southall had to stretch to palm over. "He's our icing-on-the-cake-man," Harford said in acknowledgement of the Greek with the gifts.

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