Royle profits from sign of the cross

Everton 2 Parkinson 32, Hinchcliffe pen 47 Manchester City 0 Attendance: 37,354
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BOTH sets of supporters paid an immaculate silent tribute to the late Roman Catholic Archbishop of Liverpool Derek Worlock before this game, and then Everton duly triumphed mainly thanks to their own devotion to the cross. It may be something to do with manager Joe Royle's memory of his playing days, as the dashing young centre forward who, ably assisted by City's manager Alan Ball, took Everton to a thrilling championship in 1970.

Certainly the all-round robustness of Everton's contemporary No 9, Duncan Ferguson, gave them a distinct edge over toothless City, the lowest scorers in the Premiership with just 16 goals in 26 games. With five foreigners already on their books City's investors would probably need to buy George Weah to improve their scoring rate.

Everton's difficulties with their latest signing, Marc Hottiger, paled into insignificance as the paying public felt in need of a work permit for watching a first half which took an eternity to come to life. But with Everton lacking Andrei Kanchelskis, and Paul Rideout injured, and Manchester City without their midfield inspiration Georgi Kinkladze, the crowd had their expectations lowered from the start, and the players did their best to live down to them.

Certainly the defrosted pitch did not help flowing football. Nor did an eccentric performance by referee Paul Alcock. Everton, in any case, indicated a preference for "the seagull route", booming in the crosses from any angle in the hope of finding Ferguson's head.

That the tactic finally bore fruit had more to do with the law of averages than its strategic effectiveness. Ferguson had already knocked down one cross, which Graham Stuart poked just wide, when he bravely tracked Matthew Jackson's punt beyond the far post and got enough of a touch to allow Joe Parkinson an easy header past Eike Immel.

The goal sparked a minor flurry of entertainment with Anders Limpar and Andy Hinchcliffe forcing smart saves from Immel, while City's Michael Brown spoiled a break-out and a fine pass from Nigel Clough by shooting over with only Neville Southall to beat. It was their only chance of the half.

Alan Ball responded with a double substitution at the interval, bringing on Niall Quinn and Gerry Creaney for Brown and the equally ineffectual Martin Phillips.

But before the beefed-up attack could have any effect Everton were two goals up thanks to the courtesy of a generous penalty from the referee.

Barry Horne appeared to push Kit Symons into committing an unintentional handball as they chased into the area, but the referee awarded the spot kick in the face of a prolonged City protest, after which Hinchcliffe calmly tucked the ball low past Immel's left hand.

Once they had shed their sense of grievance, City settled down to offer a spirited fightback, although apart from Creaney's overhead flick which flashed just wide, they rarely threatened Everton's goal. But their skill at controlled passing and refusal to resort to the long ball at least augers encouragingly for their survival.

City's misery was completed by the late dismissssal of their German left-back, Michael Frontzeck, for the second of two fairly trivial offences which referee Alcock felt himself unable to forgive.

Everton might have had further goals from their usual source, but Ferguson's own goalbound header was saved by Immel's instinctive kick. It was a rare moment when the foot proved superior to the head.