Football: Felled by folly of Ferguson

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Everton 1

Thomsen 85

Derby County 2

Stimac 21, Wanchope 50

Attendance: 34,876

IN A week of surprises, the entirely predictable hot-headed nature of Duncan Ferguson went some way to resuming normal service. His dismissal for elbowing Paulo Wanchope in the face cost Everton three points.

This was hardly the contribution hoped for by his manager, Howard Kendall, when handing Ferguson the captaincy. Wanchope reacted theatrically to the 16th-minute contact, but a red card was the only option available to referee Steve Dunn.

Derby immediately capitalised, forcing a succession of corners. The fact that Ferguson's absence made it easier for Igor Stimac to rise unchallenged at the far post and squeeze a header into the top corner compounded the folly.

Kendall admitted Ferguson's culpability. "It wasn't premeditated. It was a spur of the moment thing and he will be regretting it now. He did swing out at him. But I am not too sure the contact was as severe as the player made it out to be. That part of the pitch is very even and didn't need rolling. It was clear Duncan was pulled back in the area. A penalty should have been given and then Duncan should have been sent off."

Jim Smith, the pragmatic Derby manager, backed his own man, saying: "You would roll about if you had your Adam's apple half-way down your throat. Paulo is only 21 and I thought maybe he would go the other way, but he thrived on it and handled the situation very well."

The ensuing hostility of the Goodison crowd and the Everton defence merely served to inspire Wanchope. Everton, however, were able to ride their own ill-discipline and Craig Short wasted a clear chance to equalise, delaying a shot when clear through on Mart Poom minutes before the interval.

Derby were quick to learn their lesson and Wanchope was on hand to rub salt into the Everton wounds soon after the break, completing a stunning Derby counter-attack. Dean Sturridge, released into the area by Stefano Eranio, squared across the six-yard area to find the Costa Rican sliding in at the far post.

Everton did not cave in, though, and Smith feared another collapse. With their new French recruit Mickael Madar an early casualty, the revamped forward line managed to maintain a degree of pressure. Poom saved a header from Carl Tiler and Claus Thomsen headed wide before his overhead kick, deflected into the net, provided a chink of hope.