Football: Pigeon-fancier Ferguson shows no mercy to Canaries

Everton 1 Norwich City 0
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The Independent Online
DUNCAN FERGUSON is famed as football's foremost pigeon fancier but the Scot retains a deep affection for Canaries. When he picked himself up from the mud of the penalty area, having flung himself at a loose ball, it was the fifth time he had been involved in a goal against Norwich in four appearances.

You say `involved' rather than scored because, as he and Gary Doherty slid in towards the ricochet from Marcus Bent's header, replays suggested the Norwich defender's boot had taken the final touch. To award it against Doherty would be cruel given the quality of much of his play, particularly when smothering James Beattie early on.

Who scored did not matter to David Moyes. In the first half, the Everton manager attempted to trap a ball that had strayed into the technical area and he ended up on his backside, which might have been a metaphor for his club's recent progress. Before kick-off they had won one of their last five matches and could feel Liverpool's breath on their necks. Now Everton are seven points clear in the fourth Champions' League place and, realistically, they probably need to avoid defeat in next month's Merseyside derby and pick up a point a game to complete a remarkable transformation. Moyes' assistant, Alan Irvine, thought 66 points ought to clinch Champions' League football.

This was a typical Everton victory - it was the seventh 1-0 win of the campaign, the 13th by a single goal and the 13th time Moyes had been forced to deliver his half-time team-talk without the benefit of a goal.

There was little prettiness in the match, which only came alive once Moyes switched to the not-unreasonable tactics of bringing on Ferguson, who might have profited from a barrage of excellent first-half crosses, to employ two strikers in a match he had to win.

Until the breakthrough, Everton had been undermined both by Norwich's grit and a pitch that Peter Reid and Adrian Heath might have found difficult to win championships on. After the interval, Beattie looked sharper, Lee Carsley went close and the self-belief that has sustained Everton through much of this season began to flow.

Self-belief is the quality most lacking in Norwich. In the second half, they had two clear opportunities to score and both Dean Ashton and Darren Huckerby produced efforts that barely tested Nigel Martyn. The Norwich manager, Nigel Worthington, felt his side had been denied a clear penalty when Alan Stubbs appeared to handle in the final moments. "That was a blatant handball," he said.

This was Norwich's first game since the "miracle of Carrow Road" when they managed to haul Middlesbrough back from a 4-1 lead to draw 4-4.

It might have provided a platform for Norwich to clamber their way out of the relegation zone but, as their manager said with a sense of deep weariness, all the effort in the world is no substitute for a touch of quality.

Everton: (4-1-4-1) Martyn; Hibbert, Weir (Ferguson, 64), Stubbs, Pistone; Yobo; McFadden (Naysmith, 87), Carsley, Cahill, Kilbane; Beattie (Bent, 76). Substitutes not used: Wright (gk), Chadwick.

Norwich City: (4-4-2) Green; Edworthy, Fleming, Doherty, Drury (Stuart, h-t); Johnson (McKenzie, 81), Francis, Holt, Brennan; Ashton, Huckerby. Substitutes not used: Gallacher (gk), McVeigh, Shackell.

Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire).