Our Everton in the 80s feature continues to look back on the 1985-86 season. Everton under Howard Kendall had built a team which was full of goals, unfortunately they were shipping them in at the other end as well which meant that going into the festive period the Blues were looking up at the main title contenders from sixth place in the Division One table.
As was the case this season, the 1985-86 festive period was jam-packed for football supporters. Four league fixtures were scheduled between Saturday 21st December and January 1st, with the 3rd Round of the FA Cup played on the weekend commencing 4th January.
Everton entered the period of 5 matches in 15 days slightly on the outside of the Championship race, but entered the New Year in high spirits and renewed hope of defending the league title they had won the previous year. The Toffees rose from sixth to second, picking up 10 points, with three consecutive 3-1 wins followed by a 2-2 draw with Newcastle United.
Gary Lineker and Graeme Sharp were amongst the goals, as Everton first beat Coventry 3-1 at Highfield Road, before league leaders Manchester United were dispatched by the same score at Goodison Park. In the match against the Sky Blues, Lineker struck twice, sandwiching a goal from Sharp. The roles were reversed against Ron Atkinson’s United, Sharp opening and finishing Everton’s scoring, with a Gary Lineker goal shortly before half time putting Everton 2-1 ahead.
Those goals were Sharp’s 11th, 12th and 13th of the season and Lineker was even more prolific, notching his 19th of the season in the match against the Red Devils. But the goals didn’t stop there.
Between Christmas and New Year Everton entertained Sheffield Wednesday, with Lineker again on target with two further goals. Lineker was not the only Everton player to score twice that day, with Gary Stevens putting Everton in front, before scoring at the wrong end in the second half to give Wednesday hope of a positive result. Unfortunately for the Owls the Blues were far too strong and Everton’s 3-1 win lifted them above neighbours Liverpool and into third in the table.
With Everton having picked up the maximum nine points from the first three festive fixtures, they travelled to St James Park to play Newcastle United in high spirits. But that confidence was to be tempered by two future Toffees. All seemed to be going to plan when Trevor Steven fired Everton ahead, but second half goals from Paul Gascoigne and Peter Beardsley appeared to push the game in the way of the Geordies, only for Graeme Sharp to bag a penalty inside the final 10 minutes of the match. The win lifted Everton to second in the league, with Manchester United just 5 points ahead.
With the league title back on, Everton switched their attention to reaching a third consecutive FA Cup Final. The draw for the third round of the competition had been kind, with Everton matched up against Fourth Division minnows, Exeter City. With Liverpool also at home, Everton’s match with Exeter was moved to the Sunday. Everton were expected to annihilate their lowly opponents, but despite fielding a full strength team, Everton struggled to put the tie to bed and were indebted to a late Gary Stevens goal to progress to the next round of the competition.