Everton. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
AS IF their life is not difficult enough already, Everton yesterday allowed themselves to be reduced to nine men - including the loss of their goalkeeper Neville Southall - and fell three goals behind before accomplishing an unlikely comeback that in the end almost cost Queen's Park Rangers what should have been their most comfortable win of the season.
The dismissal of Paul Rideout late in the first half was inevitable, but an earlier decision to send off Southall was fraught with controversy. Rideout had clearly kicked out at the prone Darren Peacock and could have no complaint. Southall, however, had been forced to advance as Les Ferdinand's pace worried Dave Watson, who headed back towards his keeper. Southall instinctively caught the ball but by then was outside the area.
Admittedly, he denied Rangers a scoring opportunity but more lenient referees might have been forgiving, and the game might not have been given as a gift to Rangers.
The competitive pleasure seemed to evaporate after Southall left. He had given necessary insurance to an Everton team initially full of ideas but dangerously loose at the back. Afterwards poor Jason Kearton, recently arrived from Australia and making his debut, was exposed not because of any personal deficiencies but because of Rideout's action which put the team under unnecessary pressure.
Kearton, who made several commendable saves, had been on the field only three minutes when he threw himself across goal to deflect Simon Barker's close-in header, but Andy Sinton followed up and comfortably beat his recovery effort. Everton's nine men were struggling when in the early moments of the second half Kearton made a headstrong rush to the edge of the area leaving Gary Penrice to slide a long ball into an empty net.
A rout was threatened. After 51 minutes Sinton, on the left of the area and unmarked, placed a shot inside the near post, but inexplicably, Everton were allowed to get a foot back in the door when Barry Horne sliced through the defence to allow Stuart Barlow a good, successful shot. When Barlow then saw another drive deflected in off Clive Wilson, Rangers were under pressure that they should never have endured. Sinton's hat-trick blow two minutes from the end was more comfort than they deserved.
Queen's Park Rangers: Roberts; Bardsley, Wilson, Wilkins, Peacock, McDonald, Barker, Holloway, Ferdinand, Penrice, Sinton. Substitutes not used: Impey, Maddix, Stejskal (gk).
Everton: Southall; Jenkins, Ablett, Horne, Watson, Keown, Warzycha (Kearton, gk, 20), Beardsley, Rideout, Kenny, Beagrie (Barlow, 48). Substitute not used: Radosavljevic.
Referee: G Ashby (Worcester).