WITH a nudge and a wink and a helping hand from Graham Stuart, Chelsea pulled a fast one on Everton last night and left Howard Kendall and his team cursing all the way back to Merseyside. David Webb, in contrast, played the Arthur Daley role to the full, pleading innocence and happy to accept the slice of fortune that came his way.
Ten minutes remained when John Spencer, the substitute, struck to decide a Stamford Bridge game for the second time in 10 days. There was nothing wrong with the finish, but Stuart, in reversing the combination that did for Arsenal last week, appeared to have put hand to ball in the build-up.
Denied a precious point in their fight to keep out of the relegation depths, Everton were rightly furious, and Gary Ablett and Mark Ward were booked for their protests. 'They had seen a clear hand-ball and were incensed the officials had not seen it,' Kendall, their manager, said. 'Most of the people in the ground had seen it. You have to be annoyed, because it cost us the game.'
Webb, the new Chelsea manager, summoned from his sideline between jobs selling second-hand goods, had to apologise. Honest, guv, he had just not seen the incident. 'It could have been a bit sus,' he was forced to admit. 'I put one hand over my eye and the other was blocked because the linesman was in the way. But we all need luck to run for us now and again.'
Chelsea, refreshed by last week's break in the Marbella sunshine, looked the part early on, though it took the introduction of Spencer for the injured Robert Fleck to produce the first goal, the replacement drawing a save from Neville Southall in the 39th minutes, which Stuart prodded home.
On the stroke of half-time, the Everton midfielder, Billy Kenny, with his first goal for the club, made light work of defeating Dave Beasant from Stuart Barlow's cross, but after the interval the goalkeeper excelled with fine saves from Tony Cottee (twice) and Peter Beardsley.
Chelsea: Beasant; Clarke, Lee, Townsend, Johnsen, Donaghy, Stuart, Fleck (Spencer, 33), Harford (Cascarino, 75), Newton, Barnard. Substitute not used: Hitchcock (gk).
Everton: Southall; Jackson, Hinchcliffe, Kenny (Radosavljevic, 82), Watson, Ablett, Ward, Beardsley, Cottee, Horne, Barlow. Substitutes not used: Sansom, Kearton (gk).
Referee: M Bodenham (Cornwall).
The Premier League game between Manchester City and their neighbours, Manchester United, at Maine Road on Saturday week will kick off at 11am. 'We thought (it) was the wisest thing to do from a safety viewpoint,' Bernard Halford, the City secretary, said yesterday. The club are facing a Football Association crowd misconduct charge after the pitch invasion which temporarily halted last weekend's FA Cup tie against Tottenham.