Rideout banishes Everton fears

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Ipswich Town 0

Everton 1

Everton saved themselves another last-day panic attack by stealing three points from a contest in which they were always second best. This time Premiership safety was assured in the penultimate game - so at least the Merseysiders have improved over the course of 12 months. Now they can begin to look forward to the FA Cup final.

First things first, however, and it was vital that Joe Royle's team could complete their revival and ensure survival before it got really hairy. They did so thanks to Paul Rideout's 15th strike of the season and the enduring reliability of Neville Southall to whom a relieved manager went first to embrace at the finish.

Everton were bottom when Royle took over in November and last night he described their form in the intervening months as of "top seven" quality. "The players and the fans have been magnificent and the support from the board has been total," he said. "We have vindicated that tonight but with the result rather than the performance because we were awful."

Excluded from that withering assessment - Royle admits his team are very tired - was the inestimable Southall who kept the hard-pressed home support frustrated to the end. "When I arrived they told me Neville might have gone over the top but I have seen no evidence of that at all."

The Welsh international first laid claim to the match honours when he denied Ian Marshall with his legs in the 16th minute. From the same player, Southall read his angles exactly right eight minutes into the second half. The pick of the bunch came when Claus Thomsen attempted to catch him out with a subtle chip. Back went the 37-year- old acrobatically to tip the ball over the bar.

Rideout had only just returned after a seven-week injury absence and in the way he fumbled an early opportunity it showed that he is still searching for sharpness. Five minutes after the interval he put himself and his side in better shape when he pounced to score with a reflex header after Richard Wright, Ipswich's 17-year-old keeper, had thwarted Daniel Amokachi.

It made not the slightest difference to the flow of the game, which continued to show Ipswich in all-out attack. It was not enough to win the day but they did finish with the numerical superiority, the Everton substitute Stuart Barlow being dismissed 14 minutes after coming on to the field following two bookings.

Ipswich Town (4-4-2): Wright; Stockwell, Swailes, Linighan, Yallop (Johnson, 80); Milton, Williams, Thomsen, Mason; Mathie, Marshall (Chapman, 62). Substitute not used: Morgan (gk).

Everton (4-4-2): Southall; Barrett, Watson, Unsworth, Ablett; Limpar (Samways, 65), Ebbrell, Horne, Hinchliffe; Amokachi (Barlow, 73), Rideout. Substitute not used: Kearton (gk).

Referee: R Hart (Darlington).