Toffees edge past Rams
Leon Osman struck the only goal as Everton edged a war of attrition against Derby.
Last Updated: 06/04/08 5:37pm
Leon Osman ensured that the race for fourth spot remains one of intrigue as his second half strike saw Everton come out on top in a war of attrition against Derby at Goodison Park.
The weather was miserable; the football not much better, as Everton barely raised themselves above the lethargy that dominated last week's Merseyside derby, in nudging themselves to a one goal victory over the basement dwellers.
Osman's crisp finish from Manuel Fernandes' pinpoint pass warmed a disgruntled home faithful in the 56th minute, but either side of his contribution there was precious little to cheer.
Yakubu Aiyegbeni missed a glorious chance to register his 20th goal of the season in the first half, in missing an open goal, while Derby's Emanuel Villa was meek and mild with his finish when put through after the break.
Everton have now cut fourth-placed Liverpool's lead over them to three points, but for long spells it looked as if they had already thrown in the towel.
They were dreadful in the first period and only marginally better after the break.
Derby surprised Everton with their desire to go forward, with Tim Howard only able to palm the ball out from Mile Sterjovski's strike after six minutes.
Everton were disjointed and certainly in the opening period they lacked the drive and spirit normally so evident in David Moyes' teams. Mikel Arteta's run from midfield and chip over Roy Carroll's bar was the best they could do early on.
But Yakubu should have grabbed the lead after 17 minutes, scooping a shot over the bar from four yards when Leighton Baines' cross from the left reached him unmarked at the far post.
Carroll then saved low down from Fernandes, but there was precious little spark or urgency from either side.
Hossam Ghaly wasted a couple of half-chances that could have been decent openings with greater control but it was Everton's general lethargy that gave Derby hope.
Everton clearly had a few home truths from Moyes at the break and were sharper and quicker about the pitch. Carroll saved well from a fierce angled drive from Fernandes but Yakubu wasted the follow-up effort.
But after 56 minutes Everton finally scored, Derby standing and watching as Fernandes fired a 30-yard pass from the left into the path of Osman running from deep into a huge space in the visitors' back-line. Osman took one touch and lashed his shot past an exposed Carroll and all Derby's positive work beforehand looked wasted.
Carroll then saved well from two other Osman efforts. But Villa should have equalised after 64 minutes when Andy Todd's through ball sent him clear but the weak effort was blocked by Howard's out-stretched left leg.
Derby kept working, and twice Kenny Miller saw long-range efforts go wide. Robbie Savage was booked after 85 minutes for a foul on Arteta but it was Everton defending in the closing minutes to keep out Derby's attempts to equalise.
Everton sent on Nuno Valente for Arteta in injury-time, Derby by this time having won a string of corners, with keeper Carroll staying up for all of them, in a desperate attempt to claim a point. His efforts, though, proved to be in vain.
|Everton||Team Statistics||Derby County|
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|5||Shots on Target||3|
|6||Shots off Target||3|