Everton Logo Everton 1 - 1 Coventry City
Half-time: 1 - 0
Coventry City Logo
FA Carling Premiership 97/98 - Game 38
Sunday 10 May 1998
Goodison Park, Merseyside
Att: 40,109
Arsenal (a) Ref: Paul Alcock Next Season
1997-98 Fixtures & Results Final Position: 17th! Premiership Results & Table
MATCH FACTS
  GOALSCORERS Debuts
EVERTON: Farrelly (6) Barmby penalty saved (85)
Coventry City: Dublin (88)
  LINEUPS Subs Not Used
EVERTON: Myhre, O'Kane, Short, Ball, Watson, Tiler, Farrelly (88 McCann), Hutchinson, Barmby, Madar (46 Cadamarteri), Ferguson (c).
Unavailable: Parkinson, Grant, Branch, Ward, Phelan, Thomas, Williamson, Spencer (injured).
Gerrard, Bilic, Beagrie.
Coventry City: Hedman, Shaw, Burrows, Breen (Williams, 51), Huckerby (Haworth, 69), Whelan, Dublin, Telfer (Hall, 89), Soltvedt, Boateng, Nilsson. Ogrizovic, Boland.
  Yellow Cards Red Cards
EVERTON: None.
Coventry City: Boateng, Huckerby, Williams.

 
MATCH REPORTS
REPORTS BY EVERTON FANS
Guy McEvoy Lazarus with cancer
Richard Marland Skin of our Teeth... Again!
NEWSPAPER REPORTS
THE PA NEWS Everton Faithful Greet a Miracle
THE TIMES Everton defy gravity once again
by Oliver Holt
ELECTRONIC TELEGRAPH Everton afloat on a sea of blue
by Henry Winter
OTHER INTERNET REPORTS
SOCCERNET Link to SoccerNet Match Report
CARLINGNET Link to CarlingNet Match Report
FOOTBALL 365 Link to Football 365 Match Report

 
Signin' in the Rain
Lyndon Lloyd
 

On and off I have been known to succumb to the odd bout of superstition. None have really lasted as an Everton defeat always brought one baseless ritual after another to an end. The belief that your actions, out of those of hundreds of thousands of Evetonians, will have any baring whatsoever on the team's fortunes is so ridiculous it's not true but it didn't stop me!

In the week following the Spurs game at White Hart Lane I took the garbage out one evening and, as I usually do, decided to have go at lobbing the bag into the large cylindrical disposal cans from about 20 yards away. "If this goes in," I thought to myself, "Everton will stay up." I steadied myself, uncomfortable with the onus I had just placed on myself - why couldn't I have gone for the safer option of hinging Everton's survival on me missing instead?! - and threw the bag in a high arch towards the bin.

The bag landed on the rim of the bin, teetered for a few seconds (very apt as it turned out!) and then, to my relief, it toppled into the bin. That was that. We were staying up! That, combined with me later wearing the exact clothes I wore to the Goodison derby last October, was to comfort me through the dark days of early May. Who says superstition has no foundation?! :-)

For 45 minutes after last week's humiliation at Highbury I stood outside the World's End pub in stunned and motionless silence, much the same as the mood I had shared with a few thousand Blues in the Clock End ever since Marc Overmars had put Arsenal 3-0 up early in the second half. For the first time this season, relegation had become more than a spectre on the horizon. It was a very real possibility and the fact that our fate no longer rested entirely in our hands haunted me more than anything.

However, after Andy Richardson had bought me a pint and the Netley Roadshow had marched on to the relative quiet of a pub further up the road from the ground and hysterical Gooners, I was filled with a sudden sense of optimism. All week, that feeling stayed with me. Through all the miserable posts by premature prophets of doom on Toffeenet (most notably Alan Baillie) and the dissections of what went wrong before the season was even over, I had faith that Everton would at least do their bit. I also didn't think that Bolton would win at Chelsea. I would have put money on a draw and us winning. I knew that fan power was going to be our biggest weapon and that, like in 1994, Goodison would spur the boys in Blue to safety.

So I slept straight through Saturday night with none of the premonition dreams that preceded the Arsenal game and drove the 3 hours to Everton with surprising cheer. I laughed off two separate instances of young kids in passing cars howling in derision at my Everton scarf spread across the back window. The first got his Dad to slow down and overtake again once he had written a sign saying "You're going down, ha ha ha!" while the second was just a Range Rover full of little bastards pointing downwards and laughing. I just shook my head and laughed. "You'll see."

It was only when I got to the ground at 11:00 and circumnavigated an eerily silent Goodison Park that the magnitude of the situation returned to me. All around the stadium there were Daily Post posters screaming "Everton's Day of Destiny", balanced I suppose by the more positive "Come on you Blues" of the Echo's placards. Looking up at the towering stands you could almost feel the sadness seeping out of the bricks and mortar. It was a weird sensation standing there, almost alone, next to the theatre of dreams.

I killed time in the Megastore and in the car outside the Netley by reading the Dixie Dean souvenir programme commemorating the great man's record 60-goal haul, wondering what he would have made of all of this nonsense had he still been alive. My heart sank at the thought that all of Everton's grand old history had come to this, possible relegation. But I managed to purge the thought from my mind, despite the disturbingly symbolic existence of a big hole in the road outside the Netley; perfect for sobbing Evertonians who might wish for the ground to open up and swallow them should things not go to plan that afternoon.

Shortly after 12:00 my worries that the Netley might not open at all were eased when two waiting Blues disappeared off the street corner into the sacred establishment. They turned out to be two fellow Internetters - Steve "Kiwiscouse" Halliday and Paul (was it?) who has only been on Toffeenet for about 6 weeks. Steve Allinson arrived soon afterwards and the gathering just snowballed from there!

The Sharratt brothers and family, who will effectively have circumnavigated the globe in miles travelled between them by the time they get home, made their Netley debut. Other new faces, to me at least, included Paul Moreton, Jason "T'Net Logo" Palmer, Kevinski and Robbie Newton.

Sadly no sign of Andrea and hubby or Dr Paul but the great and the good from the Netley roll of honour were in abundance: Les, Billy, Steal, of course, Adrian and Danni, Snaky, Jon B and Malc, Lol, Patchie, John Walsh, GFE's Frank and Wilf, Dave Shephard, Chile John, Gary Davies and Liz.

However, greatest respect was reserved for young Norseboy Lars whose insistence on attending this momentous game finally persuaded his Dad to accompany him from Norway to Merseyside. Typically Scandinavian - and surprisingly young looking - in appearance, Lars mixed and mingled with the best of them, wowing all with his impressive command of the English language. He left his controversial side behind and by the time he departed the Netley at around 7 o' clock he had firmly ingratiated himself with the Netley fraternity.

The ale flowed and the Netley broke out into impassioned song until, by 3.45, it was time to make our way to the ground. I took my seat in the Paddock (the first time I had sat away from the either end for over 10 years) - thanks to Mark Staniford for furnishing me with his season ticket and voucher wallet as a souvenir - and joined the chorus of song until the boys took to the field with Z-Cars just about audible above the deafening Goodison roar.

The team showed two changes from the side that was hammered at Arsenal: Farrelly replaced Bilic in midfield and Barmby dropped back to accommodate Mickael Madar, demoting Beagrie to the bench. And then the game kicked off.

Everton's determination and passion were in evidence from the whistle. They harried, pressured and out-fought Coventry in all departments for the entire duration of the first half. Definite shades of the Dogs of War at their most effective but it led to little in the way of chances.

Then, in the 7th minute, a high cross was nodded back by Ferguson. Farrelly picked it up, controlled it and delivered a stunning right-foot drive that flew in off the upright. It was the most surreal experience; for a split second my brain couldn't take in the fact that not only we ahead already but that Farrelly had scored it - and with his wrong foot.

The ground went absolutely barmy. I nearly ended up on my backside in the row behind me but kept my balance before leaping all over the spaces left by my immediate neighbours who had spilled out into the aisle. It was pure, unbridled ecstacy and we couldn't believe it. Watching the scenes of celebration around Goodison was a magnificent sight and a unique scene. The players were piling on top of our unlikely goalscoring hero while the stands resonanted with bellowed Evertonian anthems.

The pace didn't let up. There were blue shirts everywhere and Huckerby was effectively marked out of the game. Madar was put through in the area by Hutchison but was tackled superbly at the last second. Three corners followed and from two, Everton nearly scored a deserved second. Farrelly sliced a loose ball across the area, Watson stuck out a foot and the ball ricocheted goalwards off Madar. Goodison rose as one but Hedman in the City goal produced a magnificent save to palm it wide. From that corner rose Tiler whose towering header was headed off the line by a Coventry defender.

Somewhere in the mayhem, a roar erupted from the Park End, prompting the rest of the ground into celebration thinking Chelsea had scored. I had thus far resisted the temptation to listen to my radio just yet but upon tuning into Five Live I had to inform those around me that it was still 0-0 at Stamford Bridge. That was fine, as things stood we were staying up.

Apart from a couple of long-range efforts by Farrelly, we created little more for the remainder of the first half but, better, the visitors were completely shut out of the game. Half-time was greeted with a resounding cheer for the team as they left the pitch, making way for Neville Southall's emotional send off which included a slow lap of the pitch accompanied by his daughter. However, word from London was that it had been all Bolton in the first half at Stamford Bridge and that the Trotters had had three gilt-edged chances but failed to score.

No sooner had our game paused for the interval than the second half was underway and Coventry finally started to find their feet. And with City's increasing possession, couple with the fact that I now had the radio permanently in my ear, came ever mounting tension. I looked at the clock with 39 minutes to go and deflated at the thought of how long those minutes would take to tick by. Thankfully, there was sufficient action on the pitch and the next time I glanced up there were 34 minutes to go, and the time after that there were just 21.

Nevertheless, Coventry were starting to pose a real threat and as the game wore on and the nerves increased, Everton began to sit back on their slender lead. Huckerby was put through in the centre of the Blues's area but Watson put in a last-ditch saving tackle to avert the danger. From a corner, a Coventry defender had a header go anxiously close before a powerful long-range effort from Telfer skidded inches wide via deflections off Tiler and O'Kane. Nervous moments indeed.

My mind became increasingly focused on Mike Ingham's commentary from Chelsea and my nerves were ever so slightly calmed by the fact that the European Cup Winners' Cup finalists were having much the better of the second half. And then Chelsea attack, Vialli scores and I, along with a third of the stadium leap to my feet. The way the news spread across Goodison like a wave sent shivers down the spine. It was fantastic. Not only were we winning but Bolton would need to score twice at this rate to send us down. "Vialli, Vialli!" came the cry.

Although the visitors were taking the game to Everton, the Blues were still a threat on the break. Cadamarteri, who had come on for Madar early in the second half, burst through, fell under a challenge by Williams and the referee pointed to the spot. Once again, Goodison erupted with the prospect of sealing the victory but after a lengthy delay as players from both sides exchanged words with the official, Barmby struck the spot-kick too close to Hedman who had guessed right and saved brilliantly.

Typically, the drama didn't end there. Four minutes later, Burrows swung in a left wing cross, Dublin rose and Myhre, caught in two minds whether to parry or catch, let the ball slip through his hands. It was 1-1 and the entire complexion of the game changed. Goodison's cauldron of noise was immediately transformed into a mass of jangling nerves and loud whistles as 40,000 people bayed for the final whistle. The ball was frenetically cleared up the pitch and into the stands as Coventry pressed in the dying seconds. Injury time seemed to last an eternity. And then in my left ear Chelsea attacked, Jodi Morris scored and, standing this time, I informed those around me of the news by simply going mental. The realisation that we were going to stay up if we could just hold on to the point led to increasingly desperate calls for the whistle and then, finally, the referee signalled to his linesman before running full-speed towards the tunnel.

Goodison went mad. The players celebrated and within seconds the first fans were on the pitch. The police and stewards did their best to stem the tide and for a brief moment they looked to have succeeded before they gave up and let those who wanted to invade the pitch. Without hesitation I fought my way to the front and leapt the barrier, running into the pouring rain.

Screaming and shouting I hugged people I had never seen before, waving my arms around and bellowing like a madman. Standing in the centre circle I turned round and round watching the celebration in the stands before looking skywards and feeling the Merseyside rain on my face. It was a feeling like no other I have ever experienced. Four years previously I had bottled up sheer elation after the Wimbledon game because no-one around me appreciated what it meant. This time I was with family, sharing a unique experience with thousands of people who felt exactly the same way.

I stood for a few minutes with my arms extended singing songs with my palms upturned to feel the rain. The Coventry fans, who know this feeling so well, have stayed behind to applaud us on our achievement. Then I'm pounced upon by Patchie and there's and the three of us embrace, dancing around in the centre circle of the field of dreams in the pouring rain, putting grass in our pockets and then joining the mass advancing towards the directors box shouting "We want Johnson out!"

Lol joins us, then Mark Staniford who has his mobile and is ringing first his fiancee and then a Koppite. We amble down to the Gwladys Street end; fans take tuns taking imaginary penalties past a wall of police guarding the goal; turf around the penalty spot is being ripped up by opportunist fans and Goodison vibrates with the chants of thousands. Gradually, the crowd on the pitch disperses and although I try to leave once, I decide I have to go back onto the pitch again to savour the atmosphere. When I finally leave the ground through the Glwadys Street Terrace I join up with a river of ecstatic Evertonians singing as we walk through the rain down Goodison Road.

Then its back to the Netley for post-match drinks. I regretted my decision to drive up (as I knew I would) but I stayed until I was sure I was safe to drive back down South.

Adie has joined the die-hards in the pub and there is much singing and shouting, led by an increasingly merry Robbie before I take my bow and leave the Netley at 8.45, with new friends and a season of fantastic memories to balance out the frustrations provided by the team.

I eventually got home at 12.30 - very tired and sore of voice but happier than perhaps I have been in a long, long time. I placed my prized piece of turf in a pot plant of soil before going to bed, safe in the knowledge that our valiant Blues had secured their own future in the Premier League with a gutsy and determined performance that was a pleasure to behold. Yes we owe an enormous debt to Chelsea and may they win the Cup on Wednesday in style, but Everton are in the Premiership through their own courage and determination. We got away with it this time but it must never happen again, ever. We have to learn from this season beginning with some purposeful buys in the close season.

Everton's future starts here.

Myhre 7 - Dominant in the air and solid thoughout apart from a crucial 
lapse with a minute to go that could have been so costly.

O' Kane 7 - Solid and determined, epitomising the character of the side.

Ball 8 - A typical Bally display

Tiler and Short 8 - Formed a defensive rock that was breached just once 
by Dublin when he scored late on.

Watson 10 - Waggy delivered the performance of a lifetime when it really 
mattered. An inspiration and a credit to our club. MOM

Hutchison 7 - Worked hard, tackled well  but his distribution was a 
little erratic.

Farrelly 7 - A wonderful goal and what a time to score your first 
Premiership goal! Showed that in time he can win the fans over.

Barmby 10 - Worked tirelessly throughout and would have scooped MOM if he 
hadn't missed that penalty. From the desolation of the early season, Nick 
has emerged as the inspiration of the side and made a mockery of those 
Toffeenetters who had started questioning his value.

Madar 7 - Didn't quite go for him today and I think he was very 
disappointed to have been taken off so early. It would be shame if he 
does go in the summer as rumours suggest because he has scored some vital 
goals for us this season. If he could up his workrate he could be a real 
star.

Ferguson 9 - Epitomised the team's spirit and worked hard but the fact 
that he is not fit and that he is injured began to show. He has had an 
excellent season and was a brilliant choice for captain and will 
hopefully have earned the respect of his doubters. 

Cadamarteri 7 - Full of running as always but doesn't look as confident 
and assured as he was earlier on in the season. The great thing is that 
he is still young and we can look forward to his maturity in the coming 
years.

McCann - only on for a blink of an eye.

Team 8 - Short on style but long on spirit, the lads delivered just what 
we wanted. They did sit back on the lead too much but given the 
circumstances, I'm sure we can forgive them. When it came to the crunch, 
the team delivered and they deserve the utmost credit, particularly 
considering all the negative crap that has been flying around the media 
this last week. The Daily Mail questioned whether they had the bottle for 
it and they answered that question with a gritty performance. 

 
Lazarus with cancer
Guy McEvoy
 
Imagine going to a funeral, only to hear a loud tap on the coffin lid, opening it up, and then watching the apparently 'deceased' climb out.

I was certain that Everton were going down, rock-solid certain. I went along so that they could do so with pride and hopefully on a winning note, so that I could sing my heart out, and so that I could call for Johnson's head.

It was clear that others were all in like mind. They sang their way down County Road, and they sang their way into the ground, and they sang long before kick off. They sang as the ladies team showed their championship trophy, they sang as the youth team showed their cup. And when Z-Cars came on? By god, did they sing. One of my abiding memories of yesterday was pausing for a moment to look around me as the teams ran out. Goodison Park had not one empty seat. Every blue was stood up and screamed from their heart, the noise was immense. For those few moments all my fears subsided and were instead replaced by the most overwhelming sense of pride. Evertonians everywhere, you were magnificent.

The team sheet was read out and every player was cheered to the full. For the time being all doubts about selection were put aside. Normally you would hear many questions about the inclusion of Farrelly and the exclusion of Bilic. On this occasion though, even the normally most prolific moaners in the stands had agreed to save the inquest for after the match.

First Half

The pride turned back into fear as the game kicked off. Like at the Arsenal game last week the common position was to stand arms folded as if holding the guts in place.

Then came the first turning point. Now, Mr Farrelly had come in for some stick, and deservedly so this season. His failed long-range efforts have become something of a trademark. It had become a standing joke that the law of averages would see one in soon. Talk about timing. Ferguson knocked it down, it came to Farrelly's path, he swung his leg for the half-volley, the connection flew into the goal. A definite 'I was there' moment. We went mental. Utterly mental.

The sheer high of the moment lasted maybe about five minutes, then the depressing realisation dawned that regardless of what had just happened we were still slaves to what was going on elsewhere. A phantom cheer went round the ground. Had Chelsea scored? Apparently not. I decided then that I couldn't stand such misinformation.

The Walkman came out, earphones in and I became one of the legion with the radios watching the game at Goodison but concentrating more on the commentary from Stamford Bridge. It was gut wrenching listening to Bolton's near misses. The stomach churned. All I can remember of the action at Goodison before the break was Watson forcing a wonderful save and Tiler having a bullet of a header from a corner cleared off the line.

Half-time came, half the job done. Thankfully the club gave us something else to think about during the break. Neville Southall was given his formal goodbye. It was inspiring to see this legend saluted by the full crowd. The pride was back, as were the memories of what we once were.

Second Half

The second half was agony. Absolute agony. For those of us who suffered through the Wimbledon miracle four years ago, the second half then was characterised by growing belief. This time towards the end it was doubt that briefly crept in, and that doubt was almost unbearable.

We looked heavier in the legs as the game went on, we were never playing any pretty football but the tackling showed how inspired the players were by the crowd. I listened to the Bolton game as Vialli stuck the ball in.

Yes!

Utterly Surreal scenes as the fans celebrated with every ounce of their passion a goal while the game in front of them was stuck in a going nowhere midfield phase. Now survival looked a real possibility. Now we dared to let ourselves believe. 'Vialli, Vialli, Vialli' echoed round the ground.

Cadamarteri burst into the box, a tackle from behind saw him down and the referee pointed to the spot. Another burst of pure belief from the fans. Nick Barmby had a long wait while Coventry protested the decision. He stepped up struck it hard. The goalkeeper saved well, and forty-thousand pairs of hands clasped their heads.

Why do Everton have to make everything so damn difficult? You think you are at a low, then they sink you even lower.

A long cross, up goes Dublin, he connects well with his head. Tommy flaps. Goal. Oh my god. No. No. No. Un-fuckin-believable!!! If either Bolton or Coventry get another......

Moments later, listening to the radio, in a sweat, shaking, 'Morris on the attack, he's clear through' - Goal for Chelsea! Bolton are beaten. Everton just have to hang on for the draw. The fear still won't go though.

That three minutes seemed like it would never end. Finally the referee blew. Salvation.

The feeling of relief that swept over me then will live with me to my dying day. The season ticket holders around me who have suffered through shit display after shit display together, openly hugged each other like family. Many had tears in their eyes.

On the pitch the invasion had begun, absolutely thousands piled on. The police formed a blockade of the players tunnel, Don Hutchinson didn't make it in time and literally had to fight his way through the throngs to make it to safety. Scenes of wild jubilation. Men doing cartwheels, men kissing the goalposts and the centre-circle, everyone nicking some of the turf. As the relief subsided a more rational response to the season erupted, 'We want Johnson out'.

I made my way from the Top Balcony and entered the pitch via the Gwladys End, just in time to meet some friends digging up some turf. More hugging. More 'Never again's'. I stood in the centre of the pitch, calmed down, and considered the magnitude of what the club had got away with this season.

We deserved to go down. Don't let the euphoria of one match's outcome detract from the tragedy that was the 97/98 season. If truth be known of all the grit the players showed on the day there was little good football and ultimately a home draw to Coventry is a poor result. This wasn't the Wimbledon game where we won through picking ourselves up and going for it. This time we hung on through others failings, a considerably lesser achievement. The Cancer inside our club went into remission yesterday. But without some major surgery, it'll be back and it'll destroy us in the end.

So for one night we party. 'Celebration' seems an odd word to apply in the circumstances. We cling to the Premiership on goal difference. But celebrate we did.

Now it's over, another chapter in our famous folklore. We've said 'never again' before. It has a hollow ring about it. Howard now has the summer he never had. If he really means 'never again' then he has a busy few months in front of him and Johnson has an expensive few months in front of him. Me, I'll settle for a quiet few months. God, what that team put me through.

Individual Performances

Too busy screaming and listening to the radio to be objective.


 
Skin of our Teeth... Again!
Richard Marland
 
It was a long, slow walk from the car to the ground today. We knew that it was going to be another horrible nerve-shredding afternoon; we weren't exactly relishing the prospect. The news of Gareth Farrelly's inclusion hadn't done much to bolster our confidence, however, I did point out that his shots had been getting closer and that he was probably due a goal.

It was a relief to reach the ground and feel the atmosphere. Prior to kick-off, we had appearances from the victorious Women's and Youth teams; they both received very warm applause – the atmosphere was warming up nicely. By the time the teams came out, the crowd was well and truly up for it. Each player, even Gareth Farrelly, received a rousing cheer during the team announcements. The crowd was doing their bit, it was now over to the players.

The team started fairly well and within seven minutes we had what we had all been fervently hoping for: a goal! And from who else but Gareth Farrelly!!! He collected a Ferguson knockdown on the edge of the area, steadied himself as the space opened up for him before hitting a wonderful right-footed half-volley high into the Coventry net. I felt genuinely pleased for Farrelly – he has taken some fearful stick, but he deserved to have his moment of glory if only for his continuing willingness to try his luck.

We continued to look relatively comfortable for the remainder of the half, coming close to scoring on a number of occasions (at least two being cleared off the line). Without playing particularly well, we kept Coventry out and always looked like having a chance of scoring ourselves.

I have to admit that the game in front of me didn't always have my full attention as I had a radio with me to keep tabs on the Chelsea-Bolton game. Part way through the first half, a massive cheer went round Goodison, the reaction of all was that Chelsea had scored, suddenly all eyes were on me as I struggled to hear what was going on. It soon became apparent that there had been no goal and the cheers died down as quickly as they had come up.

Half-time was reached at 1:0. With Bolton drawing 0:0, everything was going to plan even if everything was a little too close for comfort. Half-time saw another pitch presentation as Neville Southall bid his farewell to Goodison Park. With his daughter at his side he did a lap of honour as we all proclaimed the best keeper we are ever likely to witness. It was also nice to note the generous applause that came from the Coventry fans.

The second half saw us revert to the worrying habits of late. We started to give the ball away far too cheaply and in effect invited Coventry to come on to us. Coventry throughout the game had passed the ball better than us, now they were enjoying significant territorial advantage. Fortunately we defended very well and their chances were few and far between but it didn't do too much for the nerves.

For the second half, I had retuned my tranny to GMR and so I was now listening to live commentary on the Chelsea-Bolton match. Midway through the second half, I must have looked a strange sight as, sat in the middle of a fairly quite section of play, I suddenly let out a screamed "YESSSS!!!!" as Chelsea took the lead. Everyone looked at me, similar yells from the other people with radios, told people what they wanted to hear, Chelsea had taken the lead. Within seconds of the goal the whole of Goodison was throbbing with noise, this time it didn't abate, the players must have known what it meant.

The news of the goal seemed to give the team a lift, we seemed to come back into the game and started to play the game in the Coventry half. Before much longer we had a penalty, Cadamarteri, on for Madar, burst into the penalty area, the Coventry player didn't make his tackle and took Cadamarteri out. Despite furious Coventry appeals the penalty stood. After a long delay, Nick Barmby took the penalty. He struck it well but the keeper did very well to save. It never was in our nature to make life easy for ourselves.

Within minutes it looked like the penalty miss might bring the ultimate punishment, a quick Coventry break down our right, a cross into the area which was met by Dion Dublin, and despite Myhre seeming to get two hands to the ball it ended up in the back of our net.

Suddenly we felt sick. As it now stood one goal for either Coventry or Bolton would see us relegated. A little respite soon arrived as I was able to tell people that Chelsea had increased their lead against Bolton. Now all we had to do was keep out Coventry. We actually managed to do this without too many scares. All eyes were on the referee for the final whistle, before blowing he actually beckoned to the linesman in front of the Bullens Road who had sprinted halfway across the pitch before the whistle was even blown.

The crowd surged on as the players scarpered for the dressing room. Before long the pitch was invisible as the fans gathered in front of the main stand to chant "Johnson Out", there also seemed to be an attempt to get to Johnson as police apprehended at least one man on top of the executive boxes in front of the Main Stand.

We lingered a while witnessing the scenes. People were ripping up the turf to take home with them, there were joyous scenes everywhere. Personally I didn't feel particularly joyous, I just had an overriding feeling of relief. I didn't feel that escaping relegation by goal difference was a justification for triumphalism, just relief that, yet again, we had kept our Premiership status by the skin of our teeth.

  • Myhre 6 Generally solid and in command but felt that he was at fault for the goal.
  • O'Kane 6 He seemed somewhat overawed by the occasion. Did OK but a number of nervous gaffes.
  • Ball 7 Another accomplished performance.
  • Tiler 7 Part of a generally resilient back line.
  • Watson 7 Despite a few scary moments courtesy of Huckerby, wasn't shown up today.
  • Short 7 Handled Dublin fairly well.
  • Hutchison 6 Worked hard but hasn't looked as good lately as he did when he first arrived.
  • Farrelly 7 An utterly priceless goal. Had a distinctly better game than of late. The guy has some character.
  • Barmby 7 Worked very, very hard. Not at his best, but can't fault his effort.
  • Madar 6 Not really his sort of game. Did OK but was getting somewhat frustrated.
  • Ferguson 6 The guy is absolutely knackered but yet again did his bit for the cause. Worrying moment when he got involved with Telfer. I didn't see it start but they were squaring up to each other and I thought that Dunc was going to deck him. Despite play still continuing, someone came on from the touchline to try and separate them.
  • Cadamarteri 6 Came on midway through the second half for Madar. Lots of willing running but, infuriatingly, struggled to keep his feet.
  • McCann Came on very late for Farrelly, don't think he even touched the ball.

Team 6 First half they were OK and pretty well in control. A second goal wouldn't have unduly flattered them. In the second half they lost their way big time. Defended too deep and gave the ball away too cheaply.

Man of the match: Gianluca Vialli.


 
Everton Faithful Greet a Miracle
... and demand a sacrifice
The PA News
 
It resembled the scene of a stunning and wondrous miracle. Thousands of delirious fans invaded the pitch as the final whistle blew. Many threw themselves on the grass and kissed the turf and others ripped it up with their bare hands for souvenirs as Everton somehow managed to save their Premiership lives in the final seconds of a turbulent and tormented season.

The Everton players were carried shoulder high from the arena and manager Howard Kendall was hugged and kissed as he raced from the dugout to embrace his players. Rarely can scenes of such unbridled joy have been witnessed on a Premiership ground.

And seldom at the very moment of victory can a football chairman have received such a vitriolic and hated reception. "We want Johnson out," chanted 40,000 fans and Everton boss Peter Johnson needed every one of the policemen detailed to ensure his safe passage from Goodison.

This was the football match which had just about everything. A quite spectacular goal from Everton midfielder Gareth Farrelly, a missed penalty, a dramatic equaliser from Dion Dublin and minutes of excruciating tension as news came through from Stamford Bridge that Chelsea were beating Bolton. And at the end the feeling persisted that this great escape – and on the slender margin of goal difference – after 44 years in the top flight was indeed a miracle.

Perhaps it came courtesy of the club's chaplain the Rev Harry Ross who had strode the 25 yards or so from his pulpit in St Luke's the Evangelist church to Everton's main entrance to cheer on his beloved Blues.

Perhaps it came from Kendall's constant urgings and probings as he lost, by a conservative estimate, five years of his life willing his players on from the Goodison touchline.

But mostly it came from the players who fought and scrapped for their Premiership lives with a passion and commitment of truly epic proportions. If one moment encapsulates the drama and sheer captivating tension of this pulsating encounter it was the 74th-minute roar which greeted the news of a Chelsea goal at Stamford Bridge – a goal which meant Everton were on course for survival. It rose from the Goodison stands with the force and magnitude of a rocket taking off at Cape Canaveral.

And while it was as much about relief as euphoria, such was its effect that the players momentarily stopped, their senses frozen by the sheer wall of sound. It was that kind of occasion – feverish, frantic stuff almost from the first whistle when Everton skipper Dave Watson announced his intent with a crunching tackle on Coventry dangerman Darren Huckerby.

But Everton piled forward as they knew they must and in the sixth minute Goodison Park was rocking and swaying to the sound of salvation. The ball was played forward, Duncan Ferguson rose to knock the ball down sweetly into the path of Farrelly and the midfield man let fly from 25 yards with surely the sweetest right-foot strike seen at Goodison Park all season. The ball fairly flew past Magnus Hedman into the top corner.

It was a goal fitting to win a championship, let alone clinch survival. And as Farrelly was swamped in a sea of blue and the outpouring of emotion gave Everton the impetus to fight for every ball, to scrap for their very lives. It drove Everton to even greater exertions and only a desperate tackle from Gary Breen kept out Mickael Madar. From the resulting corner Watson brought a fine reflex save from Hedman and soon after Roland Nilsson cleared off the line from Carl Tiler's looping header.

It was that sort of match – mad, chaotic, frenzied action mixed with huge passion and commitment. Not much skill, it's true, and at times Coventry were so much the better team Everton's shirts could almost have turned red with embarrassment. And all the time Kendall strode the touchline, fingernails in his mouth, face ranging from pink to red to deepest purple as Everton's fortunes teetered somewhere between Stamford Bridge and Goodison Park.

The lethargic and ineffective Madar was replaced by Danny Cadamarteri just after half-time and it was almost a signal that Everton needed only players who would die for the cause. There has never been a doubt over Watson's pedigree on that score and it was his timely tackle which foiled Huckerby when he looked certain to score.

And so it continued until it seemed Everton must be safe when Paul Williams was adjudged to have brought down Cadamarteri for an 84th minute penalty. It was an awful decision by referee Paul Alcock, who booked Williams and Dublin for dissent. In true masochistic Scouse fashion, however, Nicky Barmby put the spot-kick to Hedman's right and the keeper palmed away the shot and Everton's fans were again biting their fingernails.

With just two minutes left Dublin headed that equaliser, sparking an agonising finale. A huge firecracker sent a red plume of smoke swirling over the stadium and referee Alcock, with one eye on the impending invasion, finally blew the whistle by the tunnel.

But as the Everton players and fans celebrated, their stirring performance should not mask some searching questions at one of England's premier clubs. Such as how could a club which five years ago was still one of English soccer's Big Five and a prime shaker in the formation of the Premiership have fallen from power so quickly and so gracelessly?

How could a club with such a passionate and loyal bedrock of support and with such a sound financial base been so glaringly mismanaged? And how could a club with such a rich and glorious history, nine championships and five FA Cups, have come to this – scrapping for its Premiership life against Coventry of all clubs? Coventry the perennial survivors, the club which has clung by its fingertips to top flight status for more than a quarter of a century.

Before the kick-off the Everton women's team took a bow for winning their league and the youth team were saluted for winning the FA Youth Cup in midweek. And someone cracked the most pertinent gag of the week that Everton was like the Titanic -- women and children first.

Report Press Association News

 
Everton defy gravity once again
by Oliver Holt, The Times
 
IT LOOKED like frenzy out on the pitch. It felt as though emotions had been given free rein, as if they had been cut loose. Duncan Ferguson fought openly with Paul Telfer, butting him, dancing around him like Muhammad Ali, shadow boxing with him. On the touchline, Howard Kendall leapt up and down, gesturing manically, desperately. And then, when the final whistle went, the catharsis was overpowering.

In the end, although they had paraded themselves at Goodison Park warts and all yesterday, naked in their uncertainties and their frailties and their faults, Everton had taken their cue from those great escapers that were their opponents. On the last day, courtesy of poor Bolton Wanderers, they had stepped away from the abyss that beckoned them towards the Nationwide League.

They did not make it easy for themselves. They never do these days. There were even a few seconds in the dying minutes that must have been the most tense that this stadium has ever witnessed, when it seemed that it all might slip through their hands, just as a powerful header from Dion Dublin had eluded the grasp of Thomas Myhre in the 88th minute.

But they survived, just as Coventry City have survived before on the last day, partly through the lacklustre performance of opponents who had little to play for and partly because of their own almost superhuman efforts. It was a goal from Gareth Farrelly, a young player who had not scored in the FA Carling Premiership all season, just seven minutes into the match, that kept them up.

The club seemed to be trying to instill the power of positive thinking in the 1st XI right up to the instant of kick-off. First, the members of the Everton Ladies team that has just won their version of the Premiership paraded their trophy around the pitch. Then, as Barmby, Ferguson and the rest went through their final warm-up, the apprentices came out with The Times FA Youth Cup that they won at the same ground on Thursday.

It seemed to have worked, too. After the teams had walked slowly out onto the pitch, deafened by the bedlam of desperate, screaming, pleading exhortation that greeted them, the Everton players shook their clenched fists at one another and took the game to Coventry, determined to seize the moment.

They chased and pressed and harried like they have never done before, like they only seem to do when the stakes are this high or when Liverpool are the opponents. They played like 11 angry men, eager to atone for their misdeeds. Every time one of the Coventry forwards got the ball, particularly one of the danger-men such as Huckerby or Whelan, he was immediately surrounded by three blue shirts.

Everton nearly scored from Ferguson's first contribution, in the fifth minute, when he nodded a hopeful cross down into the path of Barmby. On that occasion, Hedman managed to smother the danger, but two minutes later Ferguson's efforts led to an Everton goal.

Farrelly lofted an aimless ball into the box, but Ferguson's leap led to it bouncing invitingly back into the path of Farrelly, who struck a right-footed half-volley past Hedman and in off the goalkeeper's left-hand post. It was a wonderful strike.

Midway through the half, the ground erupted in cheering and applause when some erroneous information came through that Bolton had taken the lead against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. It only served to increase the tension. Kendall, the Everton manager, was leaping off the bench as much as Gordon Strachan, his opposite number, as tempers began to fray and the tackles flew in. Hutchison was the victim of one tackle from Boateng that looked almost as dangerous as the Everton player's own assault on Emmanuel Petit, of Arsenal, seven days earlier.

Everton forged another clear opportunity in the 26th minute, when Barmby toe-poked a ball through to Madar, but the French forward, who had a thoroughly ineffectual first half, hesitated just long enough for Breen to make a fine, late saving tackle. A minute later, they went even closer, but this time Hedman produced a spectacular one-handed save to turn Watson's stabbed shot from six yards round the post.

Within minutes of the restart, though, Coventry had created their best chance so far. Telfer played a slide-rule pass into the crowded Everton box and the crowd gasped as Huckerby received it clean through on goal. For once, Huckerby was caught by indecision, and as he tried to pick his spot, Watson nicked the ball off his toe.

Everton were starting to look nervous and drained. They were lifted briefly by the uproarious cheers from their supporters when news of Chelsea's breakthrough filtered through. It was real this time and they sang the name of Gianluca Vialli and gave thanks for the Italian's goal.

They thought it was all over when Cadamarteri, a late substitute, was awarded a penalty six minutes from the end, but then Hedman saved Barmby's spot kick and the nerves returned. Then Dublin made the last two minutes exquisite torture when he headed powerfully home through the grasping hands of Myhre for a late equaliser.

It would not have been Everton, though, if it had been straightforward. In the end, it just made the release all the sweeter.

Report Times Newspapers Ltd

 
Everton afloat on a sea of blue
Henry Winter, Electronic Telegraph
 
ON a tidal wave of emotion at Goodison Park yesterday, Everton stayed afloat in the Premiership. But how desperately close it was. After an afternoon of unremitting tension, when nerves were shredded and then gloriously stimulated, the final relegation place was decided on goal difference with Everton surviving ahead of Bolton Wanderers, 2-0 losers at Chelsea.

As they reflect on the preservation of their 44-year association with the elite division, Evertonians will give thanks to five figures in blue. Every team needs a spine and Howard Kendall's side had one yesterday. Dave Watson exuded commitment to the cause, winning tackles through speed of mind if not body. Watson knew what was required, having played in the Everton side who saved themselves at the last gasp in 1994.

In midfield, Don Hutchison and Nicky Barmby refused to yield an inch to Coventry, even pushing forward into attack when opportunities arose. Up front, Duncan Ferguson led by example, chasing everything on the ground and in the air.

The final man in blue that Evertonians will laud long and hard is Gianluca Vialli, player-manager of Chelsea. Throughout the week, Merseyside's conspiracy theorists had been gripped by conjecture that Vialli, fearful of injury before Wednesday's Cup-Winners' Cup final, would play a depleted, disinterested team against Bolton. Late into last night, Everton fans were singing Vialli's name after his team deposed of Bolton

Vialli, an honourable man, even scored. At the final whistle, supporters cheering his name danced across Goodison's pitch, shedding tears, even shirts, and ripping up souvenir sods of turf. Hutchison, attempting to reach the dressing room, eventually emerged from the crowd minus boots and top.

Behind him, Everton and Coventry fans were applauding each other, old and new escapalogists briefly lost in admiration. Then, however, a familiar cry gripped Goodison. "We want Johnson out," roared the thousands on the pitch, a bitter reference to Peter Johnson, the club chairman, who was again shielded by police officers.

A sign of the palpable paranoia within Goodison's corridors of power came when reporters were asked to use the lift, not the stairs, so reducing the chance of Johnson bumping into any unsympathetic faces. Yet Everton's chairman was in defiant mood, stating his "commitment" to a club many people believe he wants to offload.

"I have been the subject of a great deal of personal criticism this season, some constructive but much of it unjustified, even divisive," said Johnson, a former Liverpool season-ticket holder and owner of Tranmere Rovers. "No doubt the criticism will continue but the critics should be aware that it has not, and will not, affect my love for the club or my commitment to it."

Commitment was the order of the day. From the fans, whose relentless, unquestioning support surely inspired the team. Kendall was swift to acknowledge these followers, who had reached their beloved Goodison early and cheered throughout.

"The fans responded today when the team coach arrived, when the players entered the field, when they played," Kendall said. "There was never a negative thought in the fans' minds. It is a day I won't want to go through again while I'm manager.

"We've survived, deservedly so, and we will build from that. There will be changes of personnel but not drastic ones, because I feel I've got a strong squad when everyone's fit – the Branches, Parkinsons and Wards." One had to admire Kendall's response but the feeling remains that the Johnson saga still has some worrying twists in it.

One of Johnson's directors, the theatre impresario Bill Kenwright, could not have staged a drama as remarkable as this one. Racing pulses and raging voices eased only slightly after seven minutes when Gareth Farrelly, part of the new generation Everton must build around, fired in spectacularly, turning Goodison into a blue heaven.

Defiance suffused every Evertonian movement. Watson and Hutchison both dispossessed Darren Huckerby with marvellous challenges. Barmby, too, became increasingly influential, battling busily and even threading a fine pass through to Mickael Madar. The Frenchman dithered, so allowing Gary Breen to intervene.

Everton enjoyed the better chances. Just before the half-hour, Magnus Hedman saved brilliantly from Watson, who had redirected Farrelly's cross-shot. Then Roland Nilsson, at the far post, cleared Carl Tiler's header away from another menacing Barmby corner.

Still Everton came on. Paul Williams, Breen's replacement, slid in to thwart a rampaging Ferguson. Then Barmby robbed Huckerby and Everton swarmed forward. Danny Cadamarteri, a welcome substitute for Madar, took up the running, only to be denied by Williams.

With five minutes remaining, Paul Alcock inexplicably adjudged Williams to have fouled Cadamarteri when the Coventry substitute seemed to have executed the perfect interception. Barmby's penalty miss saw justice prevail. Yet a final torture awaited Everton's fans, Dublin heading through Thomas Myhre's weak hands. But the final whistle ended the torment, bringing thousands on to the pitch chanting their admiration for Vialli and their enmity towards Johnson.

Report The Electronic Telegraph

 
FA CARLING PREMIERSHIP
RESULTS  (Game 38)
Sunday 10 May 1998
ASTON VILLA             1-0    ARSENAL
Yorke(pen:37) BARNSLEY 0-2 MANCHESTER UNITED Cole(5) Sheringham(67) BLACKBURN ROVERS 1-0 NEWCASTLE UNITED Sutton(88) CHELSEA 2-0 BOLTON WANDERERS Vialli(73) Morris(90) CRYSTAL PALACE 1-0 SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY Morrison(90) DERBY COUNTY 1-0 LIVERPOOL Wanchope(63) EVERTON 1-1 COVENTRY CITY Farrelly(7) Dublin(89) LEEDS UNITED 1-1 WIMBLEDON Haaland(81) Ekoku(88) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1-1 SOUTHAMPTON Klinsmann(27) Le Tissier(21) WEST HAM UNITED 4-3 LEICESTER CITY Lampard(15) Abou(31,74) Cottee(59,83) Sinclair(65) Heskey(66)

 
FINAL LEAGUE TABLE, 1997-98 
Pos  Club                  P    W    D    L   GF   GA   GD   Pts
 1   Arsenal              38   23    9    6   68   33   35   78 <ECL  
 2   Manchester United    38   23    8    7   73   26   47   77 <ECL  
---------------------------------------------------------------
 3   Liverpool            38   18   11    9   68   42   26   65 <Uefa  
 4   Chelsea              38   20    3   15   71   43   28   63 <ECWC  
 5   Leeds United         38   17    8   13   57   46   11   59 <Uefa  
 6   Blackburn Rovers     38   16   10   12   57   52    5   58 <Uefa   
 7   Aston Villa          38   17    6   15   49   48    1   57 <Uefa
 8   West Ham United      38   16    8   14   56   57   -1   56  
 9   Derby County         38   16    7   15   52   49    3   55   
10   Leicester City       38   13   14   11   51   41   10   53   
11   Coventry             38   12   16   10   46   44    2   52   
12   Southampton          38   14    6   18   50   55   -5   48   
13   Newcastle United     38   11   11   16   35   44   -9   44 <ECWC  
14   Tottenham Hotspur    38   11   11   16   44   56  -12   44   
15   Wimbledon            38   10   14   14   34   46  -12   44   
16   Sheffield Wednesday  38   12    8   18   52   67  -15   44   
17   Everton              38    9   13   16   41   56  -15   40   
===============================================================
18   Bolton Wanderers     38    9   13   16   41   61  -20   40 <Div 1  
19   Barnsley             38   10    5   23   37   82  -45   35 <Div 1 
20   Crystal Palace       38    8    9   21   37   71  -34   33 <Div 1 
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Michael Kenrick 1998
Last updated: 16 May 1998