Football: Shearer doubles Everton's woe

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The Independent Online
Blackburn Rovers. . . . . 2

Everton. . . . . . . . . .0

ALAN SHEARER reminded Everton of an art they have completely forgotten with two superbly taken goals that lifted Blackburn back into second place in the Premiership.

Everton have now played for seven and a half hours under Jimmy Gabriel and almost eight and a half overall without finding the net. For Shearer to make it all look so easy can only have deepened the despair at a club whose lack of direction off the field is mirrored all too accurately on it.

A reshuffled defence, deprived of the steadying influence of Dave Watson, who will be out over new year with a broken nose, was in trouble from the start and only a combination of good fortune and scrambling activity in the penalty area kept Blackburn at bay until Shearer's first strike.

Kevin Gallacher retrieved David Batty's pass to the right of the area and a deflection sent his cross spinning awkwardly into the box. Awkwardly for anyone but Shearer, that is. He volleyed it from 12 yards as sweetly as if it had been presented on a silver salver.

His second - and 19th of the season - three minutes before half-time was as good in its own way. Jason Wilcox wrong-footed Everton with a free-kick from the left, flighted in exquisitely to the near post.

Shearer timed his run to perfection and Neville Southall, who had already kept his side in the game on a number of occasions, was helpless against a precise header.

Everton had only looked remotely likely to break their drought on the couple of occasions when the enterprising Peter Beagrie's sorties had taken him clear and when his fierce shot from a free-kick thumped into Tim Flowers.

That their meagre threat should peter out after that was less surprising than Blackburn's failure to score the further goals that the quality of their football suggested.

Some imperious play in the second half produced a series of chances, with Wilcox and Stuart Ripley both going close. Shearer was denied his hat- trick only by Southall's fingertips and Tim Sherwood was the unluckiest of all when his fine long-range effort hit the post.

The other inexplicable aspect was that it took the referee, Terry Holbrook, 72 minutes before producing a yellow card, for Mark Ward's foul on Gallacher. Worse had gone unpunished, but Everton's punishment goes on and on.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Flowers; Berg, May, Hendry, Le Saux; Ripley, Batty, Sherwood, Wilcox; Shearer, Gallacher. Substitutes: Marker, Pearce, Mimms (gk).

Everton (4-4-2): Southall; Jackson, Snodin, Ablett, Hinchcliffe; Ward, Horne, Ebbrell, Unsworth (Warzycha, 56); Cottee, Beagrie. Substitutes: Holmes, Kearton (gk).

Referee: T Holbrook (Ludlow).