Football: Angell falls from grace

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The Independent Online
Everton. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

Coventry City. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

Attendance: 23,217

THE boardroom dream ticket may now be in place at Everton, but they could yet be hard pushed to prevent the nightmare journey to relegation. The team that Peter Johnson and Bill Kenwright should soon jointly control stumbled with increasing desperation to a goalless draw yesterday.

It was neither the result they sought nor deserved but it still made one wonder if Johnson and Kenwright, involved in a sometimes acrimonious struggle for ownership for months, should now be trying to sell to each other at a knockdown price. There was much spirit about Everton's play yesterday against a surprisingly resolute Coventry. But they lacked confidence and, as their manager, Mike Walker, readily conceded, their passing and crossing were not good enough.

An early Everton goal might have eased nerves, but it never looked like arriving. Graham Stuart and Anders Limpar regularly found their way round the defence, only to falter with the pass that mattered.

Coventry's intentions could not have been clearer. They were at Goodison to get a draw built on the central defensive attributes of Peter Atherton and Phil Babb. While their manager, Phil Neal, paid justifiable tribute to their efforts, Walker could only assess his side's desperate position, which has been reached with six defeats and two draws in their last nine matches.

'Our effort could not be faulted,' he said, 'but you need more than that and we didn't have it. We just don't want to make it easy for ourselves.'

Walker uttered that last sentence with a grim smile which was not reflected in the humour of the fans as they left. This is a million miles - or perhaps the distance between champions and relegation - from the sort of team they have been accustomed to seeing grace Goodison Park. Limpar, a Walker signing, is an exception to that. He made openings for himself and ended up hitting the post with one. Everton's brighter, more assured moments were at the beginning of each half. After that, freneticism in the first, and panic, in the second, took over. There was occasional disarray at the back as everybody pressed on, but this hardly mattered for only Peter Ndlovu, at long range, was attacking for Coventry. The lack of few clear opportunities remained a perpetual part of the proceedings, though Tony Cottee rushed into a couple of places where Brett Angell feared to tread.

Leeds and Wimbledon now await Everton. Walker had already said that Coventry represented their best chance of victory on the run-in. Nothing which happened yesterday proved that statement wrong.