Ferguson adds new chapter to tall story

Norwich City 2 - Everton 3
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The Independent Online

When you're Norwich, and have spiritedly reclaimed your presence in a match when fortunes appeared beyond you at half-time, what you don't want is a centre to the far post where there's a human lamp-post loitering as though waiting for a dog to cock its leg. Duncan Ferguson, oblivious to the attendance of two home defenders, duly headed fellow substitute Steve Watson's cross into the far corner - his first League goal since 8 May - for a winner Everton just about merited.

When you're Norwich, and have spiritedly reclaimed your presence in a match when fortunes appeared beyond you at half-time, what you don't want is a centre to the far post where there's a human lamp-post loitering as though waiting for a dog to cock its leg. Duncan Ferguson, oblivious to the attendance of two home defenders, duly headed fellow substitute Steve Watson's cross into the far corner - his first League goal since 8 May - for a winner Everton just about merited.

This morning Everton find themselves, remarkably, a mere three points adrift of Arsenal. In these post-Rooney times, this was their seventh Premiership victory. Throughout the whole of last season, they managed only nine. "We're gonna win the League," sang their supporters. "I was joining in with them," declared the visitors' manager, David Moyes, though emphasising that he was not serious. Not yet, anyway.

Lest his men, and their followers, get ideas above themselves, it is worth reminding them that, although this is their best start for 24 years, on that occasion they eventually finished 15th. While Moyes' men exuded the greater quality, it says much about the Premiership that Norwich, a point from the bottom end of the League, were dispatched by the narrowest of margins, though that will be of scant consolation to a team still without a win since their return to the élite.

Pressed on Everton's Champions' League aspirations, Moyes insisted: "We're very humble and I don't want to shout from the rooftops. But I'm not worried about expectations. It's a manager's job to keep it high. We can play better. It may sound amazing to say that when Everton have just gone second, but I believe there is more to come."

But what has brought about the transformation in Everton's status? "There's nothing," reflected Moyes. "We just get on and go about our work. We did the same two seasons ago and finished seventh. We did the same last year and finished 17th. All I would say is that though we have a small squad, we are organised and have desire, and of course, there's the question of confidence."

Everton, with the exception of a period early in the second half, look assured. Both first-half goals were constructed of intelligent and intuitive play which exposed the frailties of the home rearguard. The first had arrived from the foot of Kevin Kilbane, the conclusion of a scintillating move involving the excellent former Ipswich striker, Marcus Bent, and Tim Cahill. Bent scored the second, turning the ball past Robert Green, after an exchange with Thomas Gravesen.

Norwich, the metropolis, has been revitalised since the last occasion Everton won here, a day which is dated by the fact Graeme Sharp and Adrian Heath inflicted the damage. So too has Norwich City, the football club, with new areas of seating under construction and manager Nigel Worthington having laid the foundations for an auspicious future.

Certainly, there could be no questioning of City's attitude once they had yielded the advantage. They equalised within three minutes of the restart, through Leon McKenzie, who cut in, eluded a challenge by Stubbs which, had it made contact would have resulted in a penalty, and drove home with a defiance that epitomised his team's commitment. As he ran back, the nephew of the boxer "Duke" raised his own fist, imploring the home fans to redouble their vocal backing.

There was a suspicion that complacency had stolen into Everton. Moyes preferred to praise their opponents, suggesting appropriately, given the occupation of City's majority shareholder, that "Norwich came out and threw the kitchen sink at us." It certainly would have been a pricey one.

Soon afterwards, confusion between Nigel Martyn and Hibbert allowed Darren Huckerby to thrust a boot in and come close to an equaliser. Approaching the hour, Huckerby's deep corner did produce a dividend. Mattias Jonson headed back into the goalmouth and Damien Francis converted from close range. Moyes' response was to unleash Watson and Ferguson, for Leon Osman and Cahill. A double piece of inspirational substituting by Moyes? He shrugged. "I just brought on the substitutes to turn the way the game was going."

Ferguson, now in his fifth season at Goodison, is becoming rather familiar with this substitution lark. Last week, he emerged to assist in Osman's late winner against Southampton. Yesterday, he completed the job himself.

Not that Norwich capitulated. A Francis volley was blocked on the line by the chest of Lee Carsley, substitute Mathias Svensson was just wide with a low drive, and McKenzie skied an inviting opportunity. "We let ourselves down in the first half. Our passes went astray and there was no fluency," said Worthington. "But the second half was totally different." While Worthington plots his team's first Premiership win, his counterpart can only luxuriate in such unfamiliar surroundings.

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