Middlesbrough 1 Everton 0

Last updated : 01 January 2002 By Austin Rathe
Gianluca Festa, in his first start since last April, was the unlikely scorer at the Riverside, grabbing the vital goal at the beginning of the second half.
Everton remain in freefall towards the relegation zone, and Walter Smith's future as manager appears bleaker than ever. TO what extent he is to blame for the current crisis is open to debate, but one thing is for sure, when a team is missing vital players, those remaining must work twice as hard to make up, and it is a managers job to motivate them to do this. Whatever you say about Smith, the player don't appear to be motivated.

Everton started with the unlikely pairing of Ferguson and Cadamarteri up front. Ferguson still doesn't look 100% fit but one must applaud his commitment, he was one of the few players who gave everything they had. Against the odds, it was Everton who carved out the opening chance when Scot Gemmill tried to release Cadamarteri. Luckily for Middlesbrough keeper Mark Crossley was alert to the danger and diverted the ball to safety.

The first half was boring, despite the fact that Everton were on top. Niether side was playing well, but the visitors carved out what few chances there were. Everton did have their interesting chances, Alan Stubbs testing Crossley's reflexes with a downward header that ended up going narrowly wide of the post, and later Ferguson was to be denied only by the crossbar.

Festa scores the home sides goal
The goalless first half was outclassed by the second 45 minutes. It wasn't that the second half was brilliant, but the first 45 had been about as interesting as a day in the company of Alan Titchmarsh.

Joe-Max Moore, who came on for Cadamarteri in the first half, had an opportunity to put Everton ahead when he found space in the box to rattle in a shot that Crossley did well to divert for a corner.

It was the home team that Eventually broke the deadlock. Festa scored after Everton's defence failed to clear a Middlesborough Corner. Without Watson or Niclas Alexandersson, who was replaced by Jesper Blomqvist at halftime, Everton had trouble coming up with fresh ideas in attack.

After the home side took the lead Everton never really looked like creating anything, and it was nor surprise when they slipped away to yet another disapointing defeat.