Ipswich Town. . . .0
RUMOUR has it that Mike Walker has breathed life back into Everton, but anyone at Goodison Park yesterday would have been blinking in disbelief. After barely a sniff at goal in the first half, they could hardly lose the scent for the second, yet still they couldn't score. It was just like the bad old days.
So where was the team that had scored 10 goals in two home league games? Part of it, the Tony Cottee part, was on the bench, watching Brett Angell and Paul Rideout spurn a feast of opportunity.
But at least the opportunity was there. 'They tell me that before I came, they weren't even creating chances,' said Walker afterwards. 'They' weren't helped by an Ipswich side that lived its miserly reputation to the letter.
The game had a fiery start, with Ian Marshall charging down the left after just three minutes and thrashing a shot into the side netting. But for the first half, it sparked only intermittently and the two sides beat only to a tempo of tedium.
The willing was there - it was all worthy, ball-on-the-ground sort of stuff - but not apparently the expertise. It was 45 minutes before John Ebbrell and Graham Stuart could strike up the dominant double act that had held sway over Chelsea last week, and on the right wing, where Everton found most of their space, Rideout, Preki and Jackson all attempted the perfect cross but none of them managed to deliver it.
Ipswich were happy to soak all this up and throw it back intermittently. Chris Kiwomya, who had ousted Bontcho Guentchev from the side, rattled the post, and Eddie Youds came close with a stooping header.
Walker must have had interesting words for his team at half-time, because they came out, made straight for the opposition's box and stayed there for most of the rest of the game. It was then that the paucity of their strikeforce was exposed as eight chances went left, right or straight at Craig Forrest.
Paul Rideout sent two headers wide, Stuart hit a pair wide, but most at fault was the leaden Angell, a desert of stealth, who paid a perfect cross from Peter Beagrie the compliment of pussy-footing it softly straight to Forrest from just three yards out.
Finally, Cottee came on, for Rideout, and cracked a volley against the underside of the bar; the ball bounced downwards but no goal was given. This was not Everton's day.