Football: Smith's drought bugs Goodison

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The Independent Online
Everton 0 Leicester City 0

THE FEAR at Everton is that the club's electronic scoreboard will become an early victim of a new strain of the Millennium Bug. At some stage in 1999, the customary zero after their name will be replaced by a one - higher numbers than that represent just a fevered dream - and few would have much confidence in the computer being able to cope.

Everton's impotence is past the point of being a laughing matter, even for Goodison habitues brought up on this sort of gallows humour. When most sides fire blanks, the fault is traceable to their finishing; Walter Smith's team do not even create the chances to miss.

Leicester, without truly being at their resourceful best, became the seventh Premiership side this season to come away from Goodison without conceding a goal. They should have done rather better than that and would have, but for the Everton goalkeeper, Thomas Myhre.

The Norwegian has recently had his head shaved as a form of penance for what he regarded as sub-standard performances. On this display, he can hold back on the sackcloth and ashes. Myhre made three outstanding saves; one to foil Emile Heskey, another to deny the veteran ex-Everton striker, Tony Cottee, and one right at the end from Matt Elliott's fierce drive.

Despite his heroics, Leicester should still have won, Heskey putting his shot wide of an empty goal after Myhre had temporarily been obliged to desert his post. Against that, Kasey Keller had to make just one demanding stop - albeit an excellent one from Ibrahima Bakayoko's volley. Otherwise, Everton were every bit as unthreatening as their recent record suggests.

If the crowd is frustrated, said Walter Smith, then so is the manager. "We've tried different formations and different players, all with the same result," he ruminated. His main innovation on Saturday was the inclusion of John Oster. In his brittle way, Oster shows some skill, but the effect of a formation that also featured wing-backs was to push him into a midfield hurly-burly for which he seems too fragile. Olivier Dacourt and Don Hutchison had their fleeting moments in that midfield, but Bakayoko and Danny Cadamarteri were largely reduced to chasing around in a futile search for a sight of goal.

The presence of Cottee was a reminder that it was not always so difficult to score goals at Goodison. Supporters there are not just getting nostalgic about him - let alone a Lineker, Latchford or a Sharp; they are even starting to reminisce fondly about Daniel Amokachi.

Everton (3-5-2): Myhre; Dunne, Watson, Unsworth; Cleland, Oster, Hutchison, Dacourt, Ball; Cadamarteri (Barmby, 75), Bakayoko. Substitutes not used: Grant, Branch, Ward, Simonsen (gk)

Leicester City (4-4-2): Keller; Sinclair, Elliott, Walsh, Ullathorne; Impey, Lennon, Izzet, Guppy; Cottee, Heskey. Substitutes not used: Taggart, Campbell, Zagorakis, Marshall, Arphexad (gk).

Referee: P Durkin (Dorset).

Bookings: Everton Dacourt; Leicester Sinclair.

Man of the match: Myhre.

Attendance: 32,792.

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