Football: Prodigal tempts Gabriel into envy

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The Independent Online
Everton . . . . . . . .0

Newcastle United. . . .2

Cole 14, Beardsley 76

Attendance: 25,189

THE CLOUDS of sadness and confusion enveloping Goodison Park refuse to disperse. The death of the great Roy Vernon and the departure of the popular Howard Kendall, alongside mounting debts, a stymied board and a pending takeover, were compounded further yesterday by a player Everton should never have sold.

Peter Beardsley returned in Newcastle's colours and, having been warmly applauded from every corner orchestrated the visitors' straightforward victory, which left Kevin Keegan and his confident accomplices in fourth place.

Everton's impoverished impersonation of Newcastle's fluid passing game proved totally inadequate and they have now gone three games under the caretaker stewardship of Jimmy Grabriel without scoring - the inevitable outcome of not purchasing a prolific forward. Gabriel, a likeable man thrust into an unenviable position said: 'We are missing a target man with a bit of pace who scores every time he shoots.'

Andy Cole almost fits that tall requirement and took his season's tally to 24 with an early goal brilliantly set up by Beardsley.

It was a goal to give direct-attack adherents a good name. Mike Hooper gained possession by diving brilliantly to thwart Tony Cottee and seconds later the ball was spiralling towards Beardsley. The 32-year-old with a teenager's enthusiasm immediately passed to Cole, who was breaking down the inside right position. Cole entered the box but the angle appeared too tight and surely, everyone thought, he would wait for support.

Wrong. Cole is in such irresistible form that the option of pausing never entered his head. The ball rose invitingly and he struck with such power and precision between Neville Southall and his left-hand upright that the Welsh keeper barely had time to blink, let alone raise his hands in defiance. The Toon Army's celebrations all around the ground were long and loud. 'What's it like to see a goal?' they taunted the humiliated home support.

Having initiated the first goal, Hooper clearly fancied a go himself, almost scoring with a drop-kick which bounced once in front of Southall, forcing the startled keeper to produce an athletic tip-over.

Everton's own incursions became fraught with nerves as they neared Hooper's box and depressingly, the ball was often played square or back rather than forward. When they did enter the area, they invariably came unstuck. The pacey Stuart Barlow, nicknamed Jigsaw - goes to pieces in the box - was denied by the outstanding Hooper, while a wayward Robert Warzycha volley and Cottee's blocked free kick did little to molify the Gwladys Street diehards who booed their team off.

Their depression deepened 15 minutes before the end when Beardsley strolled past three of his former team-mates before stroking the ball between Southall and the post. 'I would pay money to watch Peter Beardsley train,' Gabriel said.

Keegan did not stop afterwards to pass opinion on Newcastle's first League success at Goodison for 33 years believing that his team's performance had done all the talking. The perfect comment on Everton's display and beleagured position came when the heavens opened afterwards.