Football: Stuart stirs revivalist spirit

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The Independent Online
Everton. . . . . .2

Radosavljevic 40, Stuart 61

Oldham Athletic. .1

Sharp 43

Attendance: 18,837

IT IS still a million miles from anything resembling a renaissance but the Everton manager, Mike Walker, has pulled the wagons into a tight enough circle that should ensure their membership of the Premiership next season. But the jury is out on Oldham.

The game turned on two defensive errors on which Everton capitalised. In the 40th minute Graham Stuart was fouled on the edge of the visitors' penalty area and Oldham's goalkeeper, Jon Hallworth, organised a defensive wall that sent an invitation to Predrag Rado savljevic to direct his kick to the top left-hand corner of the net. The Slav winger did just that and Oldham were one down, with egg on defenders' faces.

Within three minutes, though, hope was almost restored. Sean McCarthy caused some confusion in front of Neville Southall and the ball spun from flailing boots to Graeme Sharp, who virtually walked the ball into a net he used to hit regularly at Goodison.

That was the Scot's last edifying moment. In the 69th min ute, after jousting with Andy Hinchcliffe, Sharp made comments to the linesman. David Elleray, the referee, showed Sharp the red card.

Just on half-time, had Nick Henry been able to keep his wits when McCarthy carved an opportunity, it might have been different, but the full-back overran the ball and Southall shepherded it to safety.

Twenty minutes into the second half, Richard Jobson chose to add weight to his forwards, but his foray was soon revealed as impetuosity when Peter Beagrie's clever chip sent Stuart through the hole where the Oldham central defender should have been. Hallworth made a weak challenge and in went what was to be the winner.

Anyone from Bolton who travelled here to cast an eye on their next FA Cup opponents, Oldham, would have to report that they may be the poorest of the Premiership sides Wanderers have met so far. That could be a mistaken assessment but, whatever the lack of depth at Oldham, it was pretty well obscured here.

The glory days may still be far over the horizon for Everton, but Walker seems to have lifted the despair that shrouded Goodison earlier in the season.