Flitcroft quick to let side down

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The Independent Online

Blackburn Rovers 0 Everton 3

Perhaps Garry Flitcroft had money on Rough Quest and was anxious to see the end of the Grand National. Or maybe he had been munching beef sandwiches. Whatever, the Blackburn Rovers midfield player will be searching for an excuse to explain his madness.

Players have made memorable debuts before but few have made an impression quite as quickly as Blackburn's pounds 3.5m midfield man. One challenge, one upraised elbow and within two minutes he had received a red card. As his manager, Ray Harford, had written in the programme, he was sure Flitcroft would quickly make a name for himself.

Not that the lunacy was restricted to Flitcroft. Duncan Ferguson has been known to lose touch with reason before and seeing his team-mate, Tony Grant, stiff-armed in the head provoked him to an extent that the talking point afterwards was not Flitcroft's fleeting show but why the Scot lasted the full 90 minutes.

Even Joe Royle, the Everton manager, had feared the worst when Ferguson rushed over to Flitcroft and pushed him. "The challenge on Grant was awful," he said, "but I was just as disappointed by Duncan's reaction. Referees have been known to send players off for that."

It was a view that concurred with Harford's who questioned the referee, Jeff Winter, afterwards as to why Ferguson received only a caution. "He told me that the sending-off was for dangerous play," he said, "while the second offence was ungentlemanly conduct which does not carry a red card. I think Ferguson inflamed the situation."

It also inflamed the match because after 25 minutes two Everton players had to be carried off the pitch, three players had been booked and it seemed likely that the teams would finish with eight a side until sense prevailed and we watched a 45 minutes as tedious as the previous spell had been fiery.

That was largely due to Andrei Kanchelskis who mixed brilliant dribbling with distribution that suggested he could not have delivered a good cross to a ballot paper. Once Daniel Amokachi had put Everton ahead, however, the Russian winger had the space to operate in isolation.

Both his goals were a fantastic amalgam of pace and precision, Kanchelskis leaving the hapless Jeff Kenna like a rocket from a pad and beating Tim Flowers, first with an unexpected flick with his weak foot, his left, and then with a shot into the roof of the net.

"At the end Andrei was going round them and through them," Royle said. "He's reached double figures in terms of goals and considering he missed the first third of the season that's tremendous. I've always said I regard him as a wide striker rather than simply a winger."

Goals: Amokachi (70) 0-1; Kanchelskis (76) 0-2; Kanchelskis (90) 0-2.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Flowers; Berg, Marker (Fenton, 80), Coleman, Kenna; Ripley, Flitcroft, Sherwood, Wilcox; Newell, Gallacher (McKinlay, 70). Substitute (not used): Croft.

Everton (5-4-1): Southall; Hottiger, Short, Watson, Unsworth, Hinchcliffe; Kanchelskis, Horne, Grant, Limpar (Rideout, 12, Amokachi, 25); Ferguson. Substitute (not used): Speare (gk).

Sending-off: Blackburn: Flitcroft.

Bookings: Blackburn: Coleman; Everton: Hinchcliffe, Watson, Ferguson.

Attendance: 29,468.

Man of the match: Horne.