Blackburn Rovers 0 Everton 2: McFadden's work ethic keeps up Everton revival

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Irrespective of whether Roy Keane becomes a Toffee, Everton are looking like a team who have found a missing ingredient. Whatever ailed them for the first two miserable months of the season appears to have been shaken off; in its place the consistency, work-rate and resilience that were their most influential characteristics last season.

David Moyes, the Everton manager, is saying little about his interest in Keane, declining even to discuss when Everton's approach was made. Some reports suggest contact with the former Manchester United captain was made as long as two weeks ago and that the Merseyside club's interest is now closed; others say they are favourites to make the player theirs.

In any event, Everton's need for Keane is not so acute now as it might have been, say, six weeks ago. At that point, Moyes was still scratching his head as to how his team had managed to lose seven of their first eight Premiership games. Today he is looking back over four wins out of the last five matches.

"That's good form for any team in any league," he said. "I'm still looking for more in terms of performance but we are doing much better. We have made ourselves hard to beat. The centre-halves, for example, were excellent against Craig Bellamy, who is a fantastic centre-forward. And importantly the players are learning how to win again."

Even the loss of Nigel Martyn, who had to be replaced in goal at half-time after tweaking a groin muscle, did not upset Everton's solidity at the back, where Joseph Yobo and David Weir were, eventually, outstanding. The verdict is a qualified one because Rovers should have scored at the start of both halves.

Both times, Morten Gamst Pedersen was guilty of bad misses. Pedersen's wastefulness affected the outcome more, probably, than the sending-off of Andy Todd.

"Scoring the first goal was always going to be crucial," Mark Hughes, the Blackburn manager, said. "Once Everton get their noses in front they are very good at protecting leads."

None the less, playing 10 against 11 for two-thirds of the match hardly helped Blackburn. Hughes thought Todd was harshly treated, but, under the letter of the law, the referee, Mark Halsey, acted correctly. Todd, the last defender between James Beattie and goal, used a hand to push the ball away from the Everton striker.

By then, to Hughes' frustration, Everton had their noses in front thanks to James McFadden, whose hard work throughout typified his team's approach. Andy van der Meyde won a brave airborne challenge with Ryan Nelsen and the ball dropped for McFadden to nod it past Brad Friedel.

When Mikel Arteta's fine, curling shot doubled Everton's lead, Blackburn were beaten. But their confidence, after two home defeats so far, should not be diminished. Indeed, after Moyes offered the view that they are playing "better than anyone outside the top three", it should be boosted.

Goals: McFadden (28) 0-1; Arteta (45) 0-2.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Friedel; Neill, Todd, Nelsen, Gray; Thompson (Khizanishvili, 45), Tugay (Kuqi, 66), Reid, Pedersen; Bentley (Emerton, 83), Bellamy. Substitutes not used: Enkelman (gk), Savage.

Everton (4-4-2): Martyn (Wright, 45); Hibbert, Yobo, Weir, Neville; Arteta (Kilbane, 63), Osman, Davies, Van der Meyde (Ferguson, 58); Beattie, McFadden. Substitutes not used: Kroldrup, Bent.

Referee: M Halsey (Lancashire).

Booked: Blackburn Bellamy; Everton Arteta. Sent Off: Todd (31).

Man of the match: McFadden.

Attendance: 22,064.