Moyes makes the most of Ferguson's limited rations

Everton 1 - Birmingham City 1
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The Independent Online

The police insisted on a 12.30pm kick-off in order to cope with a St George's Day function down town as well as control the football crowd. It would have been helpful if the constabulary had also been able to inform everybody what time Duncan Ferguson would be making an appearance.

The police insisted on a 12.30pm kick-off in order to cope with a St George's Day function down town as well as control the football crowd. It would have been helpful if the constabulary had also been able to inform everybody what time Duncan Ferguson would be making an appearance.

Given prior notice, both sets of supporters would have been aware of the schedule for a reigniting of the passion that consumed Goodison Park the previous Wednesday night, when Ferguson's headed goal snatched three points from the visiting Manchester United.

Everton's nervous faithful might have enjoyed a less stressful afternoon, and Birmingham's followers could have anticipated the disappointment of Ferguson's late equaliser to Emile Heskey's early goal.

David Moyes, who celebrates his 42nd birthday today and is only nine years older than his Scottish compatriot, has little choice but to ration Ferguson's rampages in order to prolong the striker's career.

Everton lacked a spring in their step following Wednesday's exertions and James Beattie, Ferguson's replacement, was particularly leaden-footed, missing an early chance to settle his team down with an equaliser from Leon Osman's cross.

Beattie made way for Marcus Bent to join Ferguson with half an hour to play as Everton, in the words of Steve Bruce, the Birmingham manager, "brought on their he-men."

Although Beattie fared little better in Ferguson's company than when foraging alone in the first half, Moyes remains optimistic, describing the former Southampton striker as "a little bit ring-rusty". "He should have scored today," Moyes added, "but he'll be fine. He knows he came in here to give us something different, but he's not played as much football as he would have liked."

Any match with a goal apiece as bookends and desultory passages between the covers needs a skilful illustrator. Birmingham's supporters and the neutrals had Jermaine Pennant to thank for colouring a few pages.

David Beckham being the yardstick for a player's ability to locate team-mates with crosses, Pennant's deliveries inevitably drew comparison with the England captain, not without reason. Pennant whipped the ball to Heskey, whose perfectly struck right-foot shot gave Birmingham the lead inside five minutes, and worried Everton's defence whenever he was in possession. St George could not claim all the pennants.

Steve Watson replaced Alessandro Pistone for the second half, though Moyes emphasised that Pistone, who could not shackle Pennant, had also been troubled by a niggling hamstring

Bruce is keen to provide sanctuary for the on-loan Pennant. "We've agreed a fee with Arsenal," he said, "and we've had discussions with his representatives. These things aren't pretty straightforward like they used to be. It used to be 20 minutes for me [to sign] my name, but now it seems like two months."

Mehdi Nafti might have extended Birmingham's lead before Ferguson caused Goodison Park to erupt with joy and relief in the 86th minute, netting a left-foot shot inside the far post after Maik Taylor blocked Tim Cahill's shot and Bent's follow-up had been deflected.

Ferguson dashed to join the roaring supporters and was booked for overdoing the celebrations. He had already been punished watching the first half.

Goals: Heskey (5) 0-1; Ferguson (86) 1-1.

Everton (4-1-4-1): Martyn; Hibbert, Weir, Yobo, Pistone (Watson, h-t); Carsley (Ferguson, h-t); Osman, Arteta, Cahill, Kilbane; Beattie (Bent, 61). Substitutes not used: Wright (gk), McFadden.

Birmingham City (4-4-2): Maik Taylor; Melchiot, Cunningham, Upson, Lazaridis; Pennant (Martin Taylor, 89); Johnson, Nafti, Anderton (Clemence, 79); Pandiani (Blake 68), Heskey. Substitutes not used: Bennett (gk), Morrison.

Referee: A D'Urso (Essex).

Booked: Everton Carsley, Watson, Ferguson; Birmingham City Melchiot, Cunningham, Clemence.

Man of the match: Pennant.

Attendance: 36,828.

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