However, as Vinny Samways, whose 56th-minute goal secured Everton's victory, said afterwards: "Three points next week is more important."
So it is, but Everton, in particular, will be lifted by this win. It was achieved without either of their summer signings, Craig Short and Andrei Kanchelskis (if his transfer ever goes through), or their inspirational centre-forward, Duncan Ferguson. Samways would probably not have played if they or Graham Stuart had been available -a fact he recently recognised with another transfer request.
"It is not three points, but it is great for morale," said Joe Royle, the Everton manager. "It is another yardstick as to our progress." The match followed a similar pattern to Everton's last game, also at Wembley, when they beat Manchester United in the FA Cup final. They began brightly, took one of the few chances they created, then defended in depth with skill and heart.
If Kanchelskis is bedded in, they will be dangerous on the break. They should be better to watch, too: Royle said he intends to play both Anders Limpar and Kanchelskis. Rovers were also depleted yesterday, but resilience is one of their strengths as well and they could have snatched a draw.
There were two minutes to go when Alan Shearer, for the first time in the game, received the ball in space around the box. He went past David Unsworth and was almost by Dave Watson when he tumbled under a clumsy challege. Many referees would have given it, but there had been similar contact, largely unpunished, throughout a match in which referee Dermot Gallacher showed more charity than anyone.
These games are often either gentle kick-abouts with no one trying very hard, or exhibitions with everyone showing off their party-pieces. However, given the attritional nature of these sides, it was always possible that this would become a genuinely competitive affair and so it proved, especially in midfield where the temperature of the contest quickly matched that on the thermometer.
David Batty opened the skirmishing, hacking away at a ball buried deep in Limpar's midriff. Tim Sherwood was soon wrestling with Barry Horne and, within minutes, everyone was at it. Yet, when the yellow cards came out, the enforcers escaped while Samways and Kevin Gallacher clumped their way into the book. Sherwood and Graeme Le Saux - after another of those sudden flashes of temper - joined them later on. There was one casualty, Jeff Kenna, who went off with an injured ankle. An X-ray showed nothing broken.
This early emphasis on kicking each other distracted both sides from the main aim of the game, and neither goalkeeper had to make a save until the 39th minute. Then Unsworth, having just dispossessed Mark Atkins as he ran clear, was beaten by Shearer, the cut-back came to Sherwood, but he shot too close to Neville Southall.
Though Everton responded with an Andy Hinchcliffe free-kick which Tim Flowers fumbled, it was no surprise when they reshaped at half-time. Watson, who had a foot operation during the summer, came on and they reverted to the FA Cup final formation with Limpar on the right flank, Hinchcliffe on the left, and Ablett at left-back.
It was from there Ablett spotted Samways running behind Batty 11 minutes into the second half. As Flowers advanced, Samways calmly lobbed him off the base of the far post. This match may only be a footnote in Rothmans, and a welcome credit in the accounts of a number of charities, but for Samways it will long be remembered. How much it matters will depend on whether he is in the team next week.
Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Flowers; Kenna (Atkins, 31), Pearce, Sutton, Le Saux; Ripley (Makel, 68), Batty, Sherwood, Gallacher (Marker, 80); Newell, Shearer. Substitutes not used: Mimms (gk), Tallon.
Everton (4-4-1-1): Southall; Barrett, Ablett, Unsworth, Hinchcliffe; Grant (Watson, h-t), Parkinson, Horne, Limpar; Samways; Rideout. Substitutes not used: Kearton (gk), Amokachi, Ebbrell, Jackson.
Referee: D Gallacher (Banbury).
n Blackburn are keen to sign Matt Holmes, the West Ham midfielder. The Hammers will receive pounds 600,000 plus Robbie Slater, the Australian international, if the deal goes through.Reuse content