Football: Everton caught in a blue mood

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The Independent Online
Everton. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0

Newcastle United. . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

THE GEORDIE gibe at an average Everton side that 'you're worse than San Marino' was logical in one respect. The Italian hill-dwellers scored in their last match, a feat the Blues have not managed in three. Goodison's Holy Grail-type pursuit of a goalscorer is assuming almost Pythonesque proportions with one of England's most distinguished clubs unable to purchase a Manchester United reserve.

With bank debts and boardroom doubts, Everton would struggle to persuade Dionne Warwick to play at Goodison Park let alone Dion Dublin, but the embarrassing absence of what Jimmy Gabriel, the caretaker manager, calls a 'target man . . . with a bit of pace who scores every time he shoots' is eroding the fortunes of team and club.

As a successful theatrical impresario, Bill Kenwright, a prospective majority shareholder at Everton, knows a production is nothing without a leading man. However solid the supporting cast is - and with performers like Southall, Stuart and Cottee, Everton's is better than most - if the front man fails to dominate defenders, like Andy Cole manages so thrillingly for Newcastle, then mid-table obscurity or worse will result.

The display by the pounds 1.75m Cole - who cost roughly what United desire for the less gifted Dublin - showed what the hosts lack. Newcastle's opener was breathtakingly incisive: Mike Hooper's long launch and Peter Beardsley's prescient through ball set up Cole's wickedly powerful finish. 'People are asking me what would happen when I hit a dry spell,' the 22-year-old said, 'but playing alongside Peter I'm always going to get chances.'

True. The 32-year-old former Evertonian, enthusiastically welcomed by Toon Army and Gwladys Streeters alike, scored Newcastle's second, the source for which matched the first. Cole directed Hooper's kick towards Beardsley, who happily ran on into the box, and turned Ian Snodin twice before sliding the ball past Neville Southall with impudent assurance.

Everton's late rally, which saw Hooper brilliantly deny Tony Cottee and John Ebbrell, was not enough to assuage certain supporters, who booed them off at the end.

The players are not to blame. The stymied board situation is. A programme tribute to the departed Howard Kendall stank of whitewash - 'there was no specific reason for his decision . . . the Directors had no option but to accept his resignation' - when what is required is a settled board. Whoever takes over, whether Kenwright or Tranmere Rovers' Peter Johnson, his first priorities will be to talk to confused employees, buy a striker and appoint a manager.

The loyal Gabriel, backed by fans and players, deserves a chance - but may not receive one if the new board engineer a Kendall U-turn or the popular capture of Joe Royle.

Goals: Cole (14) 0-1; Beardsley (76) 0-2.

Everton (4-4-2): Southall; Jackson, Watson, Snodin, Ablett; Stuart, Ward, Ebbrell, Warzycha (Radosavljevic, 56); Cottee, Barlow. Substitutes not used: Horne, Kearton (gk).

Newcastle (4-4-2): Hooper; Watson, Howey, Venison, Beresford (Elliott, 80); Lee, Bracewell, Clark, Sellars; Beardsley, Cole. Substitutes not used: Mathie, Srnicek (gk).

Referee: M Bodenham (Looe).