Football: Cottee plunders to ease Everton plight

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Everton . . . . . . .2

Blackburn Rovers. . .1

TONY COTTEE'S winning goal after earlier hitting a post eased Everton's relegation anxieties in what was a notable double over Blackburn. Their way out of the wood is now clearly marked: they have to play Chelsea, Forest, Sheffield United and Middlesbrough.

Rovers appeared to have the match under control when they took the lead just before the interval but a hectic second half turned into a disaster. Colin Hendry deflected through his own goal and a minute later Tim Sherwood was sent off for dissent after having words with a linesman.

Sherwood will now miss two matches at a vital stage of the season but he will be available for Saturday's FA Cup quarter-final against Sheffield United and for the Coca-Cola Cup semi-final second leg at Sheffield Wednesday.

Blackburn's thoughts may have been elsewhere last night for they made a slow and diffident start, in a stadium that appeared half empty at the kick-off as poor results, a cold night and live football on television all taxed the faithful.

Yet Everton, with Mark Ward returning after six months to combine well with Cottee and Peter Beardsley, gradually warmed up a crowd expecting little more than frustration. When David May crept in on Everton's left, in the 41st minute, to volley Patrick Andersson's cross past Neville Southall from 15 yards, Goodison Park went flat again.

But not for long. Everton sent on the speedy Stuart Barlow, surged forward as the crowd willed a counter-attack and in the 61st minute Matthew Jackson's burst down the right was followed by a low, hard drive that Hendry, trying to clear, turned over his line.

A minute later, after an altercation on the line, Sherwood was dispatched. Kenny Dalglish said afterwards: 'He was sent off for swearing. I can't believe that. Soon we'll be down to one a side, a priest and a minister.'

Rovers then tried to dig in for a siege but Cottee, having hit a post and seen the rebound fall to Bobby Mimms, gained speed and energy by the minute. In the 71st minute he knifed through Rovers' left flank to score what may turn out to be the most valuable goal in his Everton career. With Forest and Crystal Palace managing only a point last night, Everton should be no more than six points short of safety. If they cannot manage these from 11 remaining matches, they will deserve to go down.

Everton: Southall; Jackson, Sansom, Kenny (Barlow, h/t), Watson, Ablett, Ward, Beardsley, Cottee, Horne, Ebbrell. Substitutes not used: Radosavljevic, Kearton (gk).

Blackburn Rovers: Mimms; May, Wright, Sherwood, Hendry, Marker (Livingstone, 76), Ripley, Andersson, Wegerle (Atkins, 64), Newell, Wilcox. Substitute not used: Collier (gk).

Referee: P Foakes (Clacton-on-Sea).