Football: Ward enlivens Everton effort

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The Independent Online
Coventry City. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

Everton. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

EVERTON reached the dizzy heights of 15th place in the Premier League - and simultaneously leap-frogged over Liverpool - by virtue of Mark Ward's first goal in 14 months at Highfield Road yesterday.

A spectacular effort it was too, but one out of sync with a drab match. Eight minutes had elapsed when Coventry allowed Dave Watson to back-head Gary Ablett's left wing free-kick to the far side of the penalty area. Ward, stealing in unchecked, volleyed high past Steve Ogrizovic from 10 yards.

For the diminutive Everton midfielder, in only his second comeback game after five months out with a double fracture of the ankle, it was a sweet moment. That its promise went unfulfilled was largely due to Coventry's lack of guile. As the home side, who knew that three points would put them in fourth spot, the onus was on them.

They were not up to the task, as Bobby Gould, their manager, acknowledged when he said: 'We just didn't have enough quality in and around their area.' Or at their own end; Ward's winner had been the result of 'very unprofessional' defending. 'You give people specific jobs to do and they don't do them,' Gould complained.

His opposite number, Howard Kendall, could afford to be more upbeat. 'It's been a good week, but it needed to be,' he said, reflecting on two wins which have eased the threat of relegation. He felt the game had proved there is little difference between the top and bottom clubs, and sadly he was right. With a few obvious exceptions, they are as bad as each other.

Yet at half-time BSkyB's presenter called it 'smashing lunchtime entertainment'. There were, admittedly, cameos of class, chiefly by the respective keepers. From an Andy Pearce free-kick that Stuart Pearce would have been proud to claim, Neville Southall saved at full stretch. The Welshman also did well to keep out a Mick Quinn header and a drive by Michael Gynn following a penetrative run by John Williams.

Ogrizovic had fewer chances to excel but denied Peter Beardsley what looked a certain goal 21 minutes from the end. Predrag Radosavljevic, aka 'Preki', crossed with only his second touch as substitute, and Beardsley met the ball with a strong glancing header. The Coventry keeper twisted acrobatically to turn it over.

Then it was back to booming high clearances by Everton and long passes aimed at utilising Coventry's pace. In keeping with the fixture's satellite-television status, the ball was often in orbit. Everton, whose record of six away wins is now second only to Manchester City's, were happy enough. Underlining Kendall's point, this was Coventry's seventh home defeat - the division's joint worst total.

Coventry City: Ogrizovic; Borrows, Babb, Atherton, Pearce, Williams, Ndlovu, Gynn (Gallacher, 66), McGrath, Quinn, Flynn. Substitutes not used: Busst, Gould (gk).

Everton: Southall; Jackson, Sansom, Snodin (Radosavljevic, 67), Watson, Ablett, Ward, Beardsley, Cottee, Horne, Ebrell. Substitutes not used: Barlow, Kearton (gk).

Referee: D Elleray (Middlesex).