FOR someone who appears so robust, Duncan Ferguson's injury record suggests that besides bearing an Everton tattoo, his body should also be marked fragile. With more absences next to his name in match-day programmes than a serial truant, he cannot be relied upon to contribute regularly to a club's cause, yet on days like this his faults can be forgiven.
Handed the captain's armband as the first bold stroke of David Moyes's reign at Everton, Ferguson and his teammates came out of the traps like "the Dogs of War" Joe Royle, a predecessor, used to talk of here. In a snarling opening 13 minutes they scored twice before Fulham could settle into their refined stride.
When Ferguson netted the second, the old ground shook as though at the epicentre of an earthquake, and the din continued right to the end, when another almighty roar, of relief, greeted the final whistle and three precious points in the increasingly complicated relegation picture at the foot of the Premiership.
When Moyes walked in afterwards he joked that the last 20 minutes had made him feel as though he had been in the job six weeks.
He watched helplessly as his team wriggled under a siege laid by the careful passing of John Collins and Steed Malbranque, whose goal early in the second half brought Fulham back into the game. They stood firm, however, with David Weir, who had relinquished the captaincy, and Alan Stubbs repelling everything that was thrown in from the flanks, apart from a Louis Saha header that smacked Steve Simonsen's crossbar.
Ferguson, who came out clenching his fist at the fans, took just 25 seconds to make a more meaningful gesture. He won a knockdown in Everton's first venture forward and Tomasz Radzinski laid the ball back to David Unsworth, who found the bottom corner of Edwin van der Sar's net with a clean half-volley from the left-hand edge of the box.
Ferguson's blood was up and after 13 minutes he provided his side's second. His presence unnerved van der Sar into botching a routine clearance which went straight to the striker, leaving him with a simple side-foot into the net.
Sitting among the centre-forward's regular admirers was a new one. Berti Vogts, the Scoland manager, was hoping to persuade the striker, as well as Collins, of Fulham, to rescind their retirements from international football.
"I thought Ferguson was the best player on the pitch," said the German.
There were other fresh starts, with Thomas Gravesen, out of the team since Boxing Day after falling out with Smith, back in midfield in place of the departed Paul Gascoigne, who had carried out his promise to leave by signing for Burnley.
"It was already done before I arrived," said Moyes. "We had a great conversation, but he has some problems of his own and felt the best thing was a change."
Tobias Linderoth, Smith's 51st and last signing for the club in less than four years, was omitted.
Gravesen looked rusty. Within 12 minutes he had clattered late into Luis Boa Morte and was booked for his trouble. When he appeared to repeat the offence on the same victim shortly before the half-hour mark, Graham Barber, the referee, sent him off.
"I was hoping to pull him for a word at half-time," said Moyes, "to tell him to calm down.
"I have watched the second challenge and he doesn't make contact, but I will have a talk with Tommy on Monday about it."
The match turned fractious for a while with Steve Finnan, Malbranque, Unsworth and Rufus Brevett also being booked. Fulham had arrived at Goodison Park without a win in their last four Premiership games and anxious not to slide any further into the relegation mire themselves.
Only Leicester in the Premiership had a worse record over the last six games in the division than these two protagonists.
Most of the visitors' threat emanated from the incursions of Malbranque and for a while, after Gravesen's dismissal, it was all hands to the pump in the home side's penalty area. Ferguson won several important headers, including one off his line as half-time approached, and began to resemble a third centre-back beside Weir and Stubbs, while young Kenny Hibbert at right-back was tigerish in taming Boa Morte.
If the start of the first half was everything Moyes could have wished for, the beginning of the second was less to his liking. Fulham threw on Barry Hayles for Boa Morte and Alain Goma was replaced by the tall defender Abdeslam Ouaddou in an attempt to nullify Ferguson's threat.
Everton made a change of their own with Radzinski, who had hurt his back, being replaced by Joe-Max Moore.
The game quickly settled back into the same pattern, but this time Fulham found a way through. Hayles twisted to the touchline and his cut-back was side-footed home by the unmarked Malbranque.
A siege mentality had seeped into Everton heads and Ferguson cut an increasingly isolated figure up front with the two banks of four behind him, mainly preoccupied with protecting Simonsen, launching a series of aimless punts in his general direction. Moore, although nominally a striker, was drawn deep to combat the increasing authority of Collins and Malbranque.
Moyes was probably cursing Gravesen under his breath as he anxiously prowled his technical area, but in an attempt to lift the pressure, he told Ferguson and Moore to swap their stations. The move was a partial success but still Collins and Malbranque turned the screw, both spreading the play intelligently to stretch Everton's depleted team right across Goodison's full width.
The home supporters were required to urge their weary team over the line as though they were a flailing Grand National finisher at nearby Aintree.
His predecessor, Walter Smith, operated with one arm tied behind his back in terms of finance for transfers and had to depend on short-term acquisitions.
The budget for Moyes has been increased but there is no suggestion that the amount available is vast - and on this evidence the squad still needs major surgery.
What the former Preston manager has been able to inject immediately, however, is a steely resolve reflected in early goals from David Unsworth and Duncan Ferguson which sent Fulham to a fifth successive defeat.
This resolve was taken to excess by Thomas Gravesen, whose recklessness earned him only an early bath and left his team-mates with a backs-to-the-wall operation in the second half. Nevertheless, they clung on for victory and Moyes has already begun to stave off relegation fears.
For Everton fans it was a case of greeting the new boss, who in many ways could be considered a younger version of the old one. Moyes, like Smith, is a Glaswegian, more noted for diligence than eloquence, and the tone he sets is decidedly no-nonsense. The problem he has inherited is also the same - a farcical lack of funding for a team with such a huge fan base.
The standing ovation afforded to Moyes before the kick-off bore testimony to the passionate hunger for success among the supporters, though the traditional rendition of the theme from Z Cars when the teams emerged from the tunnel continued to give the impression of a club dwelling on past glories.
In introducing Moyes to the crowd, the PA announcer somewhat optimistically promised a "new revolution". Whether the words resulted from mere bravado or genuine belief was debatable, but they certainly proved prophetic. Everton were one up inside 27 seconds.
Ferguson, restored to the side as captain following his umpteenth injury lay-off, flicked on a cross, Tomasz Radzinski knocked the ball back and Unsworth lashed it left-footed past Edwin van der Sar.
A revolution indeed, and one in which the Everton players scuffled for every ball as if lives depended on it. Too enthusiastically in the case of Gravesen, who had been out of favour with Smith and was starting a game for the first time since Boxing Day. The Dane was booked for a rash touchline challenge on Luis Boa Morte.
Fulham still had not quite come to terms with the opposition's renewed zeal when Van der Sar, having already having presented Lee Carsley with one opportunity from a fluffed clearance, did it again and paid dearly. The ball rebounded off Ferguson's heel and ran kindly for the Scot to steer it in from an angle.
If the two-goal cushion gave Everton an excuse to slow down a little, nobody took the hint - least of all Gravesen who persisted in his headless chicken routine, up-ending Boa Morte again after committing himself to a needless tackle. A second yellow card was inevitable and though his dismissal seemed a trifle harsh, Gravesen had only himself to blame.
Bookings and free kicks came aplenty but in the rare moments of fluid football it was the visitors who showed all the quality. They just needed a sharper edge and Barry Hayles, who replaced Boa Morte at half-time, supplied it six minutes after the restart. An extra burst of pace took him to the byline and Steed Malbranque side-footed in his neat pull-back.
It was the signal for Everton to come under siege. A succession of panic clearances handed territorial dominance to Jean Tigana's team but luck was on Everton's side as Louis Saha's header five minutes from time hit the bar.
News of the World
DAVID MOYES feels as if he has been at Everton for six weeks rather than two days. Everton had to hang on for an hour after Thomas Gravesen was sent off with the Blues leading 2-0.
The pressure became almost unbearable when Steed Malbranque pulled a goal back for Fulham, but Everton held on to the relief of Moyes.
"I feel as if I've been here six weeks, never mind two days," he said.
"It was hard, and we couldn't get out of our own half. When you're down to 10 men there are few teams who can pass the ball as well as Fulham do.
"It was incredibly tense, and you could feel that around the ground because the points were so important.
"It was just a great feeling, and the players fought tooth and nail for everything."
Moyes felt Gravesen should have been more careful after being booked the first time.
"If you look at it - and I have seen it - he doesn't make contact with him," he said.
"I will speak to Tommy on Monday morning because I just think he probably should have been more careful after being booked.
"I don't want him to stop doing what he does. But he needs to be more careful because we put ourselves under a lot of pressure because of that."
David Unsworth fired Everton ahead after just 32 seconds of Moyes' reign before the fit-again Duncan Ferguson made it 2-0 on 13 minutes.
Moyes said: "It was a dream start. They came out of the blocks, and I think they were a wee bit sore after losing to Middlesbrough. I hope people will see they do care."
Everton's second win in 14 Barclaycard Premiership games has lifted them up one place to 15th in the table, three points from danger.
The defeat was Fulham's fifth in a row in the league and leaves them looking anxiously over their shoulders at the relegation scrap below.
But coach Jean Tigana refuses to change their playing style - even if it results in relegation.
"I won't change the way we play - we'll keep playing that way," he said.
"I've played at the highest level and I believe this is the way to play.
"I said that when I started here and I will keep saying it. It's a good way to play football, and this is my philosophy.
"I'm not going to ask my players to kick people because I respect everyone.
"Even if we are in a position where we are relegated I will keep this philosophy.
"I thought we started the game 10 minutes too late. That was our problem, and when you concede two goals it's very difficult to come back."
Referee Graham Barber also threatened to send Tigana from his dugout because he was disputing his decisions, but the Frenchman said that was the first time he has ever been in trouble with an official.
"I have never shouted at referees and I have great respect for referees," he said.
Moyes got the perfect start to his Everton career. Fit-again Ferguson was the Goodison match-winner, making one goal and scoring the other.
But although the arrival of the former Preston boss gave his side a huge boost, Moyes cannot take all the credit for the result, as coach Andy Holden picked the side.
The decision to recall Ferguson proved crucial as the big Scot had a hand in Unsworth's opener on 32 seconds before netting the second himself on 13 minutes.
Everton then had Gravesen sent off and had to withstand a late rally after Malbranque pulled one back for Fulham eight minutes into the second half.
But the home side dug deep to give Moyes an incredible start in his new job.
With Paul Gascoigne joining Burnley at lunchtime and David Ginola heading for the Goodison exit, Toffees fans might have wondered where the inspiration would come from for a goal.
They did not have to wait long. Less than a minute into the game they were in front.
Ferguson and Tomasz Radzinski combined from Alessandro Pistone's throw-in to set up Unsworth, who lashed in a shot from the edge of the box which gave Edwin van der Sar no chance.
It was only Everton's fifth goal in their last 13 Premiership matches.
Van der Sar's poor kick led to a chance for Carsley, with the Fulham goalkeeper scrambling to get back, but the midfielder screwed his shot wide.
Lee Carsley and Radzinski had other half-chances to extend the lead before Big Dunc made it 2-0 on 13 minutes.
Van der Sar's weak clearance came off Ferguson and the huge striker was first to the rebound to knock home his first Premiership goal since August 20.
Watching new Scotland boss Berti Vogts must have been impressed.
But Everton have never been a club to make things easy for themselves and it was no surprise when they shot themselves in the foot on 28 minutes with Gravesen's dismissal.
The Dane was shown his second yellow card for a late tackle on Boa Morte and Everton were down to 10.
Both teams were fined after a mass brawl when they last met in December and Barber booked Unsworth and Malbranque as tempers threatened to boil over again.
Malbranque was Fulham's biggest threat and he fired one shot wide of the post and another into the arms of Steve Simonsen.
Just before the half he went even closer, Ferguson heading his curling free-kick off the line at the back post.
Both sides made changes at half-time and Fulham threw on Barry Hayles and Abdeslam Ouaddou while Everton replaced Radzinski with Joe-Max Moore.
Fulham continued to do all the attacking - and Scot Gemmill threw himself into the path of Sylvain Legwinski's shot to make a good block.
But the pressure finally told on 52 minutes when Hayles got to the byline and pulled the ball back for Malbranque to stab it home from about six yards out.
Fulham piled forward in search of an equaliser, but the Everton back line were quite superb and held firm.
'Remember this date, 16 March, 2002, because the good times are coming back to Goodison Park'
It sounded like the Tannoy announcer introducing David Moyes before kick-off was investing far too much hope in the uplifting effect of a single training session, but he was speaking the truth. Just 27 seconds into the game Everton scored, the first goal in these parts for six weeks, and 12 minutes later Duncan Ferguson marked his return after a seven-match absence with another.
The first three points since January were as good as in the bag, for although Everton typically made life hard for themselves when Thomas Gravesen was dismissed for a second foul on Luis Boa Morte, Fulham were too poor even to profit from an hour against 10 men.
With Bolton, Leicester and Blackburn to come at home, Everton can at least see a route to Premiership survival, even if the long-term situation remains precarious. It is easy to understand why ambitious young Nationwide managers like Moyes are seduced by glamorous Premiership clubs. Why they choose to join Everton is much harder to work out, when even Bill Kenwright admits he has not enjoyed a game for years.
Moyes might make a difference though, and made a shrewd start on Thursday when describing Everton as the people's club on Merseyside. This may not be strictly correct - the fact Liverpool attract more casual supporters does not mean they have fewer traditional ones - but it was undoubtedly what fans wanted to hear.
Walter Smith never came out with much to make Everton hearts beat faster, and though admired for his stoicism and dignity through almost four years of financial uncertainty, neither he nor his teams succeeded in winning the affection of the blue half of Merseyside.
The record books will show that Smith and Everton never won anything, though there are reasons for that. Much-loved predecessors like Harry Catterick and Howard Kendall had resources at their disposal commensurate with Everton's former status as one of the country's leading clubs. Smith never had, though neither did Joe Royle, who at least won an FA Cup in his three-and-a-half year attempt to halt the slide.
Supporters know that times are hard, and they would not begrudge Smith an award for good housekeeping after maintaining Premiership status with net expenditure of less than £1 million, but they also know they are watching the worst Everton side in living memory.
Some would argue that is the board's fault, and that Smith has been sacrificed to protect his employers, but a manager who has been at a club for almost four seasons ought to bear some responsibility for a fundamental inability to score goals. Smith's judgement in this area was eccentric, to say the least, and he did not always spend effectively.
Not only did he make the colossal mistake of buying the injury-prone Ferguson back from Newcastle, thereby sullying one of the smartest bits of business the club ever did, he brought in three midfielders last month when the need for a new striker was obvious. And more damning than a willingness to gamble on extending the careers of Paul Gascoigne and David Ginola has been the drift out of established players.
Obviously Smith would not have willingly sanctioned the sale of Francis Jeffers or Michael Ball to raise funds, but a whole squad of his signings, from Marco Materazzi to Ibrahima Bakayoko, John Collins to Olivier Dacourt, quickly developed an itch to play elsewhere. Again, that might not have been all Smith's fault, but with Nick Barmby and Abel Xavier preferring Liverpool and Alex Nyarko famously giving up the ghost, this has been an oddly soulless period in Everton's history.
Moyes is not a magician who can change all that overnight, but if he can avoid the drop this season he is the sort of manager who can help Everton adjust to a quieter life as Premiership non-entities. There is no reason why the methods that stood him in such good stead at Deepdale will not work at Goodison, for Everton these days are not all that different from Preston North End.
It is not as if Moyes has to crack the Champions League or compete with Manchester United for South American internationals. He just has to produce consistent results on a limited budget, which is what he has been good at.
Preston were the only team to take four points off Fulham last season, but the bad news for Moyes is that most Premiership sides are not this easy. The visitors could do little about the first goal, lashed in by David Unsworth after Ferguson had headed on from a throw-in, but a botched clearance by Edwin van der Saar presented the Everton captain with an unguarded net for the second.
The second half became a non-stop siege of the home penalty area once Barry Hayles had helped Steed Malbranque put Fulham back into the game in the 51st minute, but the closest the visitors came to an equaliser was when Louis Saha headed against the bar just before the end. Such heart-stopping moments are familiar enough to Everton fans. Moyes will soon get used to them.
DAVID Moyes launched his Everton career with more than a victory - he had the Goodison crowd starting to believe in miracles.
Not only did Everton pick up three points in their fight against relegation, they did it despite playing with ten men for 62 minutes after Thomas Gravesen was sent off.
There was also the fact that Everton scored twice in a Premiership match for the first time in three months and Duncan Ferguson made his first start for six weeks - and not only played heroically, but scored, too.
No wonder Evertonians had that feeling that the good times were back - for a day at least.
A rapturous welcome for Moyes, Walter Smith's successor, had just died down when Everton surged into the lead after only 32 seconds.
A Ferguson header reached Thomasz Radzinski. The £4.5 million striker's shot was blocked, but rebounded invitingly for David Unsworth to drive home from the edge of the box.
Ferguson extended the lead on 13 minutes, charging down Edwin van der Sar's attempted clearance before slotting home with his left foot.
Danish international Gravesen, booked for a foul on Louis Boa Morte on his return from suspension, was looking particularly influential until he was dismissed in the 28th minute after a second bookable offence.
Fulham's improvement and numerical advantage began to tell and in the 52nd minute Steed Malbranque forced the ball home from close range.
Fulham went so close to snatching an equaliser but Everton held on for a vital victory to give 38-year-old Moyes the dreamstart he wanted.