Football: Everton attack last year's legacy

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The Independent Online
Everton . . . . . . .4

Sheffield United. . .2

THE FOOTBALL dictum that a good team does not become a bad one overnight invariably holds true, but does the reverse apply? Judging by the way Everton recorded their third successive win, they are a team transformed from that which finished a miserable 13th in the Premier League last May.

This form is not what their supporters have come to expect. The departure of Peter Beardsley, together with Howard Kendall's failure to attract a big-name striker (not to mention Liverpool's acquisitions), all pointed to another season of discontent.

So what has happened at Goodison? The manager was closest to it on Saturday night when he said: 'They're all having a go now.' He meant that sometime underachievers such as Tony Cottee, Peter Beagrie and Paul Rideout were prepared to fight for the right to play their neat passing game after they had gone behind to Dane Whitehouse's first-minute goal from Mark Ward's weak back-pass.

Sheffield's vigorous style made them no less awkward opponents than usual, the inclusion of their new signing, the 6ft 4in Norwegian international striker Jostein Flo, giving additional punch up front.

Instead of folding, as they might have done previously, Everton, prompted by the excellent Beagrie, went at United with wave after wave of precise attacks.

Cottee and Graham Stuart, who had a respectable debut apart from one horrendous slice in front of goal, both came close before Beagrie sent in Cottee to side-foot the equaliser in the 35th minute.

By half-time Everton were purring and could have had more than their one-goal lead from John Ebbrell's deflected drive.

Their combative mood spilled over into the second half, albeit muted by the loss of Beagrie with a hip injury. As it was, Sheffield, ever the pragmatists, got forward in some sort of order, but they could not dull the home side's appetite for attack.

Cottee ran in Rideout's flick over Alan Kelly for his second and, even when Alan Cork's goal gave them a late scare, Everton ended in familiar flow with Cottee grabbing his hat- trick from a Paul Holmes cross.

Goals: Whitehouse (1) 0-1; Cottee (35) 1-1; Ebbrell (45) 2-1; Cottee (84) 3-1; Cork (89) 3-2; Cottee (90) 4-2.

Everton (4-4-2): Southall; Holmes, Ablett, Jackson, Hinchcliffe; Stuart (Barlow, 71), Mark Ward, Ebbrell, Beagrie (Radosavljevic, 48); Cottee, Rideout. Substitute not used: Kearton (gk).

Sheffield United (4-4-2): Kelly; Mitch Ward, Pemberton, Tuttle (Beesley, 45), Cowan; Bradshaw (Cork, 62), Rogers, Falconer, Whitehouse; Flo, Scott. Substitute not used: Tracey (gk).

Referee: D Gallagher (Banbury).