Stuart's strike too much for wretched Rovers

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Everton 1 Blackburn Rovers 0

Anyone looking for a panacea for the problems of English football could safely ignore Goodison Park yesterday. Two teams who had flopped against Continental opposition in midweek gave an indication why in a game that rarely rose above the humdrum.

Mistakes, errors, blunders. Anyway, you would like to describe them, they were there in abundance. The fact that this was provided by the teams who were being acclaimed as champions and FA Cup winners only last May merely compounded the sense of decline.

Everton will be the happier, Graham Stuart's goal securing their first win since 30 August, although there was little to suggest that this will herald a glorious winter. As for Blackburn, they had only one shot on target and that was a lame effort from Lars Bohinen that troubled Neville Southall only in that he had to bend over to pick it up.

In the corresponding fixture last year, Blackburn had been a goal ahead after 14 seconds and two up after six minutes but, notwithstanding a late rally yesterday, the impression they created was that they could have gone on another six hours and still not scored.

"We're disappointed," Ray Harford, the Blackburn manager, said. "We were very poor in the first half and although things got better in the second we still didn't create any real chances."

The first half was largely an entertainment-free zone until Anders Limpar launched an exquisite 50-yard ball from the left flank to the right after 22 minutes that allowed the game's best player, Andrei Kanchelskis, a run at Jeff Kenna. The winger cut inside and although Kenna managed to get a foot to the ball, it bounced to Stuart who shot into the far corner.

Buoyed by this, Everton had by far their best spell of the game and by half-time might have added a further three goals. Stuart had two shots spectacularly saved by Tim Flowers while Colin Hendry had to clear off the line in the 39th minute when Matt Jackson profited from a scramble in the area.

Blackburn improved after half-time, yet for all their bluster it was Everton who created the better opportunities. Flowers saved from Gary Ablett, and six minutes from time Limpar cut inside after Daniel Amokachi had tackled Hendry and dispossessed Kenna, clipping the bar with a fierce drive.

"Neville Southall had his easiest game of the season," Joe Royle, the Everton manager, said. "I'm as happy as a dog with two tails with the three points." After securing just two of the previous 27, he had every right to be. The problem is, people expect more of Everton.

Everton (4-4-2): Southall; Jackson, Watson, Short, Ablett; Kanchelskis, Ebbrell, Parkinson, Limpar; Stuart (Amokachi, 71), Rideout. Substitutes not used: Unsworth, Grant.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Flowers; Berg, Pearce (Le Saux, 63), Hendry, Kenna; Ripley, Sherwood, Batty, Bohinen; Newell (Sutton, 82), Shearer. Substitute not used: Mimms (gk).

Referee: A Wilkie (Chester-le-Street).

More football, pages 26 and 27