Football: Ferdinand floors sad Everton

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The Independent Online
QPR. . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

White 66, Ferdinand 88

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

Cottee 64

Attendance: 13,330

WHEN Everton were last relegated you could probably buy a pint of beer, a bag of chips, build a football side full of world-class players and still have change from a fiver.

Although the rising price of ale and fried potatoes is irksome, the cost of redeveloping the Toffees, not to mention the patience that will be required, might well be of greater concern.

They may avoid the drop this season, but their display at Loftus Road yesterday tended to epitomise a slide that has been consistent since they won the championship a mere seven years ago.

Mike Walker, the Everton manager, who has been beleaguered since his arrival in the big time from folksy Norwich in January, was understandably angry after the match, though not, surprisingly, with his somewhat fitful players.

'There were some scandalous things which went on,' he said, 'especially with their first goal. I know he punched it in the net, and so does everybody else.' That baffled most of his listeners who knew no such thing and saw nothing of Devon White's alleged clenched fist approaching the ball for Queen's Park Rangers' scrappy equalising goal.

'I'm not one to rant and rave; it's not my style but I did try to have a word with the referee,' he said.

Walker was little more enlightening in saying that he could not blame his players for the defeat because they had done well. These things are probably a matter of interpretation, but for long stretches Everton seemed to play like a side who deserved to be in danger of relegation for the first time in 43 years. They stuck to their task but that was the least that could be expected considering the dog-fight in which they are involved.

There was a modicum of midfield strength, not least from Anders Limpar, who was intermittently effervescent, but they are bereft of potent finishing. Brett Angell, if he is not quite a striker from hell, looks sadly bewildered in this company and though he was Walker's first signing at Goodison, he surely cannot be part of his medium, let alone long-term, plans.

After a breezy opening - Trevor Sinclair should have scored in the first minute only to be denied by Neville Southall's legs - a turgid hour followed.

Somehow, Everton took the lead. Tony Cottee escaped from his marker inside the area, a feat he still performs well, and adroitly met Limpar's cross from the left.

The next five minutes might have brought, one - or even two - more Everton goals but Tony Roberts, finding his services required, met the challenge on each occasion. It must have inspired his colleagues for they had seemed relatively uninterested until then. Two minutes later White got the equaliser about which Walker complained, bundling in Les Ferdinand's header, which should, in truth, have been cut out by Southall.

The goalkeeper had already been saved by the referee once in the first half when Devon White put the ball in the net but was penalised for pushing Southall.

From the depths of midfield the game in its latter stages became a flurry of inconsistent attacking. Ferdinand had been subdued throughout, but, put clear through the centre by David Bardsley, he raced on to the ball, beat a defender for pace and scored comfortably. Quiet game, but a striker's goal.

Everton may be saved from relegation by the failings of those around them, but little else.

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