Football: Armstrong clocks on at long last

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The Independent Online


Everton 1 Tottenham Hotspur 1

Everton, who did not win a match until the clocks went back last autumn, will have to hope that GMT reverses the pull of gravity again. As the nights draw in, so do their horizons, and they are looking anxiously over their shoulders.

It is 30 August since they last won in the Premiership, a run of six games that leaves them with nine points, three away from the relegation places. Things are not as dire as they were 12 months ago when they were propping up the rest, but they are not exactly rosy either.

Indeed, had Tottenham taken either of two ripe chances in the final 11 minutes, Everton would be in worse straits. Instead of burying the home side, however, Ronny Rosenthal and Teddy Sheringham raised them by shooting and heading wide respectively.

"At least we have got more points than when I arrived, which was one ambition," said Royle, who was appointed in November last year to repair the damage of eight points from 14 games. "It's a pity we didn't get a second goal when we had them going, but they had chances at the end so 1-1 was fair.''

It was a game whose pendulum swung from blue to white the more the game progressed. Andrei Kanchelskis, making his first home appearance since recovering from a dislocated shoulder, tore at Tottenham in the first hour, leaving the visitors' left flank a tattered mess. Yet as his influence diminished Ruel Fox's grew.

Everton took the lead after 12 minutes, Kanchelskis chipping precisely to meet Graham Stuart's run to the near post. The winger-turned-striker is more used to providing crosses like this than meeting them, but he headed powerfully into the corner.

Stuart had an even better chance 20 minutes later, this time heading straight at Walker and, with Craig Short also failing to make the most of space at the back post from two of Andy Hinchcliffe's corners, the impetus was wholly with Everton.

At this stage Tottenham looked ponderous up front, Sheringham shooting wide after rounding Neville Southall in the 10th minute and Chris Armstrong shooting lamely at the Everton goalkeeper after David Howells' pass had given him space eight yards out.

Knowing heads saw that pathetic effort and concluded they were looking at a striker whose confidence had been shot by nine Premiership matches without a goal.

So much for their theories, because Armstrong scored brilliantly after 29 minutes. Clive Wilson swept the ball forward a full 50 yards and he met the ball on the volley, lobbing Southall.

"He hasn't scored all season," Royle said, "so he has to do it here. In the end the match could have finished 6-6 so it must have been a great match for the punters." The boos that greeted the final whistle suggested otherwise.

Everton (4-4-2): Southall; Jackson, Short, Watson, Ablett; Kanchelskis, Horne, Samways, Hinchcliffe (Limpar, 82); Rideout, Stuart. Substitutes not used: Ebbrell, Unsworth.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Walker; Austin, Calderwood, Mabbutt, Wilson; Fox, Howells, Campbell (Dozzell, 54), McMahon (Rosenthal, 73); Sheringham, Armstrong. Substitute not used: Thorstvedt (gk).

Referee: R Dilkes (Mossley).