Football: Everton's strike-out danger: Bart-Williams on fantasy island

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The Independent Online
Sheffield Wednesday. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5

Everton. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

AS IF THEY needed reminding, Everton's suffering support will today be shown again why they are in danger of demotion for the first time in 40 years. Alan Shearer, the sort of charismatic attacker Gwladys Street craves, arrives with Blackburn Rovers in the sort of marauding mood to acquaint Everton with the relegation positions.

Goodison's scrapbook is filled with memories of prolific strikers from Dean and Vernon to Latchford and Lineker but the only Dixie on Merseyside now is in the local HMV. Tony Cottee, the leading scorer, has managed 17 goals in 38 outings: solid going, but still not a sufficient return with so few others chipping in - his midfielders have scraped together only six between them.

A familiar gripe is that neither Paul Rideout nor Brett Angell, straight men recruited to assist the nippy Cottee, possess the requisite quality for Premiership duty, a suspicion confirmed at Hillsborough in a key moment of the match - and possibly season - for Everton.

Trailing to Ryan Jones's excellent early strike, an astutely placed 16- yarder, the visitors mounted a rare threatening attack through Anders Limpar just before half-time. The Swede's cross was perfection: looping over Wednesday's defence to the far post towards Angell's forehead. Parity seemed a formality - until Angell headed wide. 'If you don't take your chances you deserve to get punished,' Mike Walker, Everton's honest manager, said.

Retribution was prompt. Chris Bart-Williams, fast becoming the ideal Fantasy League selection with his supply of goals and assists, displayed his growing desire to hurt opposing defences by controlling Nigel Worthington's free-kick, shimmying twice to shake off Dave Watson before stroking the ball past Neville Southall for his eighth goal in 30 games - a healthy strike rate for a midfielder lauded by his manager, Trevor Francis, afterwards.

Cottee arrived for the second half as a frustrated Walker completed the dismantling of a sweeper system started by Bart-Williams. But the promise of this 4-4-2 approach was undermined by a persistent problem: a weak front line. Angell's shortcomings were again apparent on the hour, when he fired wide from a good position.

Everton looked a half-decent unit for half an hour - until Worthington drilled in John Ebbrell's attempted clearance. Cottee clawed one back by keeping his balance long enough to beat Kevin Pressman, but Wednesday rounded off a vibrant victory with two fine examples of poaching by Mark Bright, both made by the irresistible Bart-Williams.

Bright's headed second, his 20th of the season, was created by Bart- Williams with a right-sided dribble that bemused Limpar and David Unsworth, the 23-year-old crowning his trickery with 'a great cross from a tight position', in Francis's words. 'It was wonderful football.'

If Everton possessed their own purveyors of the Bart Man's uninhibited attitude and Bright's penalty- box presence, the visit of Shearer and Co would be less alarming.

Goals: Jones (11) 1-0; Bart-Williams (43) 2-0; Worthington (76) 3-0; Cottee (76) 3-1; Bright (81) 4-1; Bright (87) 5-1.

Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2): Pressman; Nilsson, Pearce, Walker, Worthington; Bart-Williams, Palmer, Sheridan (King, 64), Jones; Bright, Williams (Watson, 74). Substitute not used: Woods (gk).

Everton (5-4-1): Southall; Jackson, Snodin, Watson, Moore (Cottee, h-t), Unsworth; Stuart, Ebbrell, Horne, Limpar; Angell (Rowett, 79). Substitute not used: Kearton (gk).

Referee: G Ashby (Worcester).

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