Football: Cottee strike rescues Everton

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The Independent Online
Everton. .1

Cottee 81

Arsenal. .1

Merson 56

Attendance: 19,891

IAN WRIGHT and Tony Cottee, the respective top scorers for Arsenal and Everton, were given a watching brief for this match, and what a frustrating time they must have had. Chances went begging, but at least Cottee was able to get

off the bench and show his colleagues how to do it.

There was nothing special about Cottee's goal - a three- yard strike ending a goalmouth scramble, but the fact that he had one in the net just 10 minutes after his 71st-minute introduction to the game will make it hard for Mike Walker to extend Cottee's bench life.

The striker finished last week's game by making public his frustration and dismay at his substitute's role, and Walker's annoyance at the outburst may not have been unrelated to Cottee's starting position. But with Brett Angell and Paul Rideout goalless for a second consecutive week, change may be on the way. 'Cottee looked very lively out there,' Walker said afterwards. 'Maybe he had a point to prove.'

There will almost certainly be changes in Arsenal's front- line next week, when Wright is expected to be fit. The absentee would have gone home with a hatful yesterday had he been in the boots of Kevin Campbell, who three times was put clear by Paul Merson but failed to put a single shot on target.

Not so Merson, who graced the game with a single touch of brilliance which appeared to set Arsenal on course for victory. The goal came in the 56th minute, when Ray Parlour released Merson down the right. He carried the ball to the edge of the penalty area, spotted Neville Southall marginally off his line and delivered a precise chip over the goalkeeper.

It was a strike that had both George Graham and Walker in raptures afterwards, though Walker was keen to measure his praise with the observation that Merson had been offside for the initial pass.

Offside or not, it was a stroke of genius that brightened an otherwise dour fixture, not helped by a pitch more suited to planting potatoes than playing the passing football Walker is attempting to instill in his players. An admirable philosophy perhaps, but it seemed extraordinary when, in the first 15 minutes, Everton attempted to create intricate patterns in front of their own box.

From defence, though, they leapt into life and created four chances inside seven minutes, Angell thumping the last of these against the crossbar from 12 yards. Thereafter the game was largely Arsenal's for the taking and Campbell's for the missing until Cottee came on and supplied the answer to Everton's problem.

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