Football: Goodison beset by air of resignation

Everton 0 Wimbledon 0
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The Independent Online
Guy Hodgson

Everton 0

Wimbledon 0

With 15 minutes to go, Everton's manager, Howard Kendall, walked to the touchline with his arms out wide. He could have been telling his team to use the flanks, then again he might have been implying he would rather be crucified than have to endure this tosh.

There was no atmosphere at Goodison, no goals, no bookings, no demonstrations and little or no will to live for the neutral by the end. It takes a dire match to gild the days of the dogs of war, but the smallest crowd of the season left Goodison thinking dreamily of Barry Horne, etc, on Saturday. Even the boos were half-hearted, as if people have become reconciled to their fate.

Everton were desperate, Wimbledon worse. Trying to remember incidents or proper chances afterwards was about as difficult as imagining the home team avoiding relegation. Goodison craves a bright future the club's status deserves - but the First Division beckons.

Which is staggering, given the money that has been ploughed into club during Peter Johnson's three-year spell in charge. Some pounds 46m has been spent to provide strikers who cannot score and a midfield which cannot create. Just 16 goals have been accumulated in 18 Premiership matches, which is even worse than Barnsley. At least you get some excitement at Oakwell - going to Goodison is becoming a chore.

The best spectacle is the buck avoidance. Johnson, the chairman who has a 68 per cent share in the club, says he has provided the cash but not spent it while Kendall, the manager, pleads he cannot be blamed because it is not his team yet.

The arguments are becoming less tenable. It was Johnson who appointed Joe Royle, who is being shuffled into the frame as the man to blame, while seven of the players employed on Saturday were bought by Kendall. Of course, if his inheritance had included players of real quality like Steve McManaman, Robbie Fowler Michael Owen, the situation would look wholly different, but as they were Everton supporters as boys and were missed by the scouting network maybe that avenue should not be investigated too thoroughly.

As for the game itself, no cul-de-sac was left unexplored. The referee, Gerald Ashby, tried desperately to keep the game flowing but the players showed almost heroic determination to thwart him. Nick Barmby fired a shot across Neil Sullivans's goal after 21 minutes and Everton had five corners in two minutes towards the end to stir the crowd from their horrified stupor, but that apart there was nothing.

Everton's new Norwegian goalkeeper, Thomas Myhre, must have a funny idea of English football after successive 0-0 bores at Leeds and Goodison. Have Oyvind Leonhardsen and Henning Berg been pulling his leg about how exciting the Premiership is? Is there some etiquette he is not privy to that insists no one shoots at the goal?

At least Joe Kinnear, Wimbledon's manager, could draw consolation from his team's mid-table security. "There's a lot of massive clubs in a worse position than us," he said. "Avoiding relegation is our priority and another 17 points should do it."

Kendall had no such solace, viewing the game as two points lost rather than one won. His is a massive club - but so are Manchester City and comparisons between Maine Road and Goodison are becoming more pertinent by the week.

Everton (3-5-2): Myhre; Short, Watson, Tiler; Ward (Barrett, 60), Williamson (Oster, 54), Farrelly, Speed, Hinchcliffe; Barmby, Cadamarteri. Substitutes not used: Gerrard (gk), Ball, Jeffers.

Wimbledon (4-3-1-2): Sullivan; Cunningham, Blackwell, Thatcher, Kimble; Earle, Solbakken, Ardley; Hughes; Gayle (Jones, 86), Cort (Clarke, 62). Substitutes not used: Heald (gk), Reeves, Castledine.

Referee: G Ashby (Worcester).

Bookings: None.

Man of the match: Ashby.

Attendance: 28,533.