Football: Earle's raging effort

Everton 1 Wimbledon 1
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The Independent Online
THE AUTHORITIES should perhaps check Robbie Earle's Jamaican pedigree. For his dark and agitated mood was in total contrast to the stereotypical laid-back "no problem" outlook of his ancestral birthplace.

Earle had a problem with his side's attitude to this game, and with good reason. During the first break in play Earle's shrieks pierced a subdued Goodison Park as he urged his side to shake themselves from their torpor. But Wimbledon's intoxication from a promising start to the season and progressive cup runs has entered the hangover phase.

Even a flukey opening goal, Dave Watson misjudging a clearance which allowed Efan Ekoku to lash home a long-range half-volley, failed to create a spark. And Earle's irritation had turned to apoplexy midway through the first half.

Striker Marcus Gayle was the recipient of the brunt of Earle's anger, although even his own bench was not spared, and a prolonged exchange of words between the two players ended less than amicably. The failure of the Wimbledon manager, Joe Kinnear, to face the media was another indication of some deep-seated in-house anxiety.

The cracks on the field remained evident throughout. Before this fixture, 15 of Wimbledon's 29 goals had come from headers or volleys and Gayle and Earle thrive on quality service from the flanks. That was not forthcoming with Jason Euell struggling on the right and Michael Hughes labouring on the left. Neil Ardley was an early replacement for Euell and one second-half cross was squandered by Ekoku.

Otherwise, a floated Earle shot excepted, Wimbledon were impotent and the three points were there for the taking for Everton. However, their manager, Walter Smith, had his own problems created by injury, suspension and international commitments.

The accent was again on youth and the teenage pairing of Danny Cadamarteri and Francis Jeffers beavered away. The pair are a long way from a genuine understanding but did manage to combine for the equaliser.

"We had a lot of kids out there, and maybe we are asking too much of them. But they are keen enough and we didn't have much choice but to throw them in," observed Smith, furious that a last-minute penalty appeal was denied.

Much of Everton's good work was channelled through Olivier Dacourt and enough openings were carved to set up victory.

Goals: Ekoku, 14 (0-1); Jeffers, 57 (1-1).

Everton (4-4-2): Myhre; Weir, Watson, Materazzi, Unsworth; Oster (Branch, 83), Dacourt, Ball, Barmby; Cadamarteri, Jeffers. Substitutes not used: Simonsen (gk), Short, Jevons, O'Kane.

Wimbledon (4-4-2): Sullivan; Cunningham, Perry, Blackwell, Thatcher; Euell (Ardley, 32), Roberts, Earle, Hughes; Ekoku, Gayle. Substitutes not used: Heald (gk), Kimble, Kennedy, Cort.

Bookings: Wimbledon: Thatcher, Roberts.

Referee: N Barry (Scunthorpe).

Man of the match: Dacourt.

Attendance: 32,574.