Football: Johnston gives Everton a lift

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The Independent Online
Everton. . .1

Aston Villa. 0

MAURICE JOHNSTON belatedly gave Goodison Park a scoring start to its second century last night, driving a stunning goal from 18 yards with less than two minutes remaining. Everton are now second in the Premier League, although they had frequently looked inferior to an Aston Villa side still seeking their first victory.

One hundred years and a day earlier, Goodison had been formally opened with a sports meeting and firework display. There was no shortage of athletic endeavour on this occasion, but precious little of an explosive nature until the former Scottish international Johnston struck his second goal of the season after a move of overdue speed and simplicity.

The winner had its origins in the breakdown of a typically patient Villa build-up, and followed an uncharacteristically poor touch by the impressive Stephen Froggatt. The 20-year-old left winger, whose angled drive from 18 yards had rattled the Everton crossbar 12 minutes earlier, failed to control the ball in a shooting position within the home penalty area.

Gary Ablett pounced on the mistake and quickly relinquished possession to Peter Beardsley. The former England forward - if that is what we must now call him - had been a thorn in Villa's side throughout with his ability to improvise as linkman between midfield and the front two. Beardsley instantly threaded a pass through to Johnston, whose shot in full stride tore into the net beyond the diving Nigel Spink.

It was a finish - in both senses of the word - sublimely out of context with what had been a tame contest until well into the second half. Howard Kendall and Ron Atkinson espouse a passing game, yet the similarity in styles meant the teams tended to cancel each other out. It was 20 minutes before either keeper made a save.

Nevill Southall then easily held a Froggatt header, though Dalian Atkinson should have beaten him twice in similar circumstances. Meanwhile, Beardsley's every touch was greeted with a buzz of anticipation. Seconds before half time, with Everton struggling to contain Froggatt and Tony Daley along the flanks, he ran at the heart of the Villa defence. Spotting Spink off his line, he chipped the ball deftly over him, only to see it drift wide.

Peter Beagrie's arrival in place of the injured Paul Rideout gave Everton greater width and mobility. Ironically, Johnston spurned two simple chances, while Villa did well to force Beagrie on to his weaker right foot after the substitute had dispossessed Earl Barrett, Spink saving easily. Just when it seemed no one would light the royal blue touchpaper, Johnston atoned for his damp squibs, although Daley almost earned Villa the point they deserved with a drive that flashed over the bar in the dying seconds.

Everton: Southall; Harper, Hinchcliffe, Ebbrell, Watson, Ablett, Ward, Beardsley, Rideout (Beagrie, 49), Horne, Johnston. Substitutes not used: Jackson, Kearton (gk)

Aston Villa: Spink; Barrett, Staunton, Teale, McGrath, Richardson, Daley, Parker (Regis, 89), Houghton, Atkinson, Froggatt. Substitutes not used: Ehiogu, Sealey (gk)

Referee: M Bodenham (Looe, Cornwall).

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