We received more praise after last week's gutsy display and ultimately
valiant defeat than we had after our two previous draws. Such an
irony is unlikely to be lost on a man as realistic as Moyes. What
will also not be lost on him is the simple fact that another gutsy defeat
will see Everton slip into the relegation zone. After last year's
summit-threatening performances, a come down and an unpleasant dose of
Much has been made of the sparseness of creativity from the Everton
midfield. With that in mind, people should recall the two perfect
passes Gravesen slid to Radzinski which put him through for two glorious
chances against Chelsea; also recall the cross from which McFadden
volleyed wide against Southampton.
It is clear that, whilst Gravesen is the most frustrating Everton
player I have watched for a decade, he is undoubtedly the most talented of
the present midfield crop. Perhaps moving him to the right to
replace the injured Watson will allow him a touch more freedom and enable
him to operate in a slightly less dangerous (for us) area of the park.
Elsewhere, Moyes's conundrum of Radz or Jeffers continues to be
unsatisfied. Pace or movement? You do feel that he has to
select one of them and let them have a good run for a full 90 minutes.
Both missed gilt-edged chances but both also troubled the excellent
Chelsea defence. Given the "respiratory problems" that are affecting
Duncan Ferguson, and Kevin Campbell's injured toe, Moyes is likely to go with Rooney and one of them
Elsewhere, Stubbs will replace the very unlucky Weir as the backline
otherwise picks itself. Little has been made of the injury list,
which is now up to an amazing 10 players out of Moyes's already limited
first-team squad. Will we see youngsters Peter Clarke or Leon Osman
given a chance? Probably not; Moyes has proved to be persistently
reluctant to blood these players.
Blackburn themselves are in the middle of a terrible run of form,
having lost their last five games and failing to win in
their last six home games. Whilst they have a solid midfield, Barry
Ferguson is still, er, settling in to the Premiership and the loss of Dunn
and Duff has severely dented their creativity. Upfront, Andy Cole is
suspended and Dwight Yorke will carry the burden with either Jansen or
Grabbi alongside him.
At the back, Blackburn are rather poor in the centre which may see
Craig Short (!) rushed back from
injury as Amoruso is out until the New Year. They are desperately
short of pace which should see any of our three aforementioned strikers
We had a great run against Blackburn last season, doing the double
over them, and we owe them for pipping us to the last Euro place
last May. It will be tough but we can win this scary
bottom-of-the-table clash — and quite frankly
we need to. Everton slipped to 17th place on the basis of Sunday's
Back to 1-0 wins if you would please, Mr Moyes!
dig their own grave... again
If the valiant nature of their defeat at the hands of Chelsea
had served to breathe life into the dying belief that Everton
under the effect of Moyes's magic, this calamity in a must-win
encounter against fellow-strugglers Blackburn has surely dispelled
After starting yet another away game in appalling fashion, the
Blues found themselves 2-0 inside 13 minutes as Rovers made a
of their ability to defend telling crosses from the right by Brett
The Australian ran Everton ragged in the opening 45 minutes, sending
a dangerous ball into the area after five minutes that Peter Clarke,
starting in place of Alan Stubbs who along with Wayne Rooney, had
been struck down with flu, inadvertantly flicked directly into the
path of Marcus Babbel who nodded past the stranded Nigel Martyn
with an unchallenged header.
Eight minutes later, after Babbel had forced a tremendous point-blank
save from Martyn, Emerton found Dwight Yorke with a free header
in the six-yard box and he planted the ball past the 'keeper with
ease. Deja vu for Everton's long-suffering supporters,
all 6,000 of them who had made the trip to Ewood Park on a week
night despite the match being available on television for free.
As is customary, Moyes's side woke up after a quarter of an hour
with their grave already dug but they offered precious little in
the way of resistance as Blackburn continued to be first to every
ball and give their hapless opponents lessons in how to deliver
a telling ball into the box and how to create danger from set pieces.
Indeed, for such a noted student of the game, Moyes's team are remarkably
inept when it comes to dead-ball situations. It's hard to remember
the last time they actually threatened anything with a free kick
or corner let alone actually score from one.
It took Everton 42 minutes to cause any sort of commotion in the
Blackburn area when Radzinski was sent clear down the left channel
but by the time he had turned inside and set himself for the shot
he had been caught by the defence and his effort was blocked. That
was the sum total of the Blues' attempts to break down the home
defence in the first half.
Completey unable to keep the ball for any length of time, Everton
deserved to go into the interval behind and they were fortunate
not to be three or four goals in arrears, particularly after Todd
had headed just wide of the far post 8 minutes before half time.
No doubt resigned to another miserable defeat on the road, Moyes
made a double switch at half time, removing the dire Kevin Kilbane
in favour of James McFadden and replacing Alex Nyarko (who at least
had shown a willingness to pass the ball to feet) with David Unsworth.
It was to be McFadden who transformed the team from a collection
of directionless wasters into something resembling an attacking
outfit and within three minutes of his introduction he had laid
on Everton's goal.
Picking up the ball on the byline, he faked a cross, turned back
and chipped a teasing left-footed ball across the face of goal that
Brad Friedel could only palm in front of Radzinski who had the simplest
of tasks to nod into the empty net. 2-1 and we had a game on our
hands providing Everton could step up a few gears and rediscover
whatever it was that spurred them to a 4-0 destruction of Leeds
Unfortunately, the first response was for Yobo to make a hash of
a header back to Martyn that broke kindly for Peter Gallagher but
Martyn saved easily from the Scot. However, while Moyes's side were
far better in the second half — they could hardly have been
worse — Blackburn continued to have the better opportunities
as the tension of the occasion brought the game to a simmer around
the hour mark.
After McFadden had curled a 20-yard free kick over the bar, Barry
Ferguson (who, of course, decided to choose the game against us
to finally put in a decent performance in the Premiership) was chopped
down by Tobias Linderoth and the Swede was booked. Then Ferguson
himself was yellow-carded for a block on his compatriot, McFadden.
On 62 minutes, Emerton watched another curling effort drift wide
of goal before Martyn had to be at his best save well from Gallagher
and parry the ball to relative safety.
With a quarter of an hour to go, Everton's desperation was becoming
tangible, not helped when Unsworth finally produced an effective
ball into the box that found Linderoth at the far post but he could
only guide his diving header a yard wide of the post. Blackburn's
frustrations centred around McFadden who was tormenting them first
down the right, then the left so it was little surprise when Gresko
was booked for poleaxing the Scot with a poor challenge.
Still, despite the industry off McFadden and Gravesen, the Blues
failed to create enough chances to force a draw. Radzinski managed
to engineer a cross that was flicked on by the boot of Campbell
but Jeffers, on as a substitute for Naysmith, couldn't muscle his
way past a defender to make contact. Jeffers also produced a moment
of excitement with a sudden snap shot from the edge of the area
that arrowed, unfortunately, onto the roof of the net.
The gilt-edged, served-on-a-platter chance, however, arrived four
minutes from time when a dangerous ball beat everybody in the area
except Unsworth at the far post but from a yard out he hoofed the
ball straight up into the night sky, sending Everton's hopes of
a point with it.
All in all, David Moyes's regime is in deep trouble. If he thinks
the flu outbreak that robbed him of key personnel for tonight's
match is contagious, it's nothing like the endemic Evertonian condition
that destroys confidence with devastating speed and consequences.
With this result, this grand old team are once again in the bottom
three of the Premiership facing the kind of battle we had all consigned
to history, at least for the next few years. The spectre of relegation
is once again looming at Goodison Park and with rumours of player
discontent doing little to inspire confidence, it's going to be
another cruel winter.
Martyn 8 — Had to be at his best tonight
and, for the most part he was, making some crucial saves to keep
the score down. He could do little to prevent either of Blackburn's
goal; the blame for those lies firmly with the defence
Hibbert 5 — Plenty of industry in defence
but going forward he was poor, summed up perfectly by an absolutely
horrible attempted cross that ballooned well back into the stand
behind the goal.
Naysmith 6 — Continued his recent revival
of fortunes with a middling display. While he wasn't great, he wasn't
as bad as some of the others around him.
Clarke 5 — Appeared to have a 'mare in the
first half, flicking two crosses onto the heads of opposition players,
one of which led to a goal, the other required a smart save from
Martyn to prevent number two. However, he was noticeably better
in the second half and made some crucial headed interceptions.
Yobo 6 — By his standards he had a poor
game, despite making a slew of great tackles and interceptions and
contributing in attack late on. Made a couple of howlers at the
back that, thankfully, went unpunished but is still head and shoulders
above any other defender at the club.
Linderoth 6 — Will no doubt be kicking himself
for missing with a diving header but overall he was solid without
being spectacular. Still displays little that suggests he will ever
be the answer in central midfield.
Gravesen 7 — Despite giving the ball away
far too often, he remains our most inventive and incisive player
in the centre of the park.
Nyarko 6 — While he appeared to be the most
willing to get the ball down and spray passes across the midfield
to feet, he was rendered ineffective as Blackburn continued to maraud
through the midfield and cause problems for the Everton defence.
Was probably the right choice to be removed at the break, although
Unsworth is not who I would have brought on in his stead.
Kilbane 5 — A cross from the byline midway
through the first half was probably the only positive thing he did
for the 45 minutes he was on the field. Overall had a poor half,
giving the ball away at almost every opportunity and was rightly
replaced at the interval.
Campbell 5 — On his day he can be a fantastic
asset to the team as a target man to hold the ball up and lay balls
off for his fellow attackers, but today he looked like an ageing
player hampered by a history injuries. He no longer looks capable
of scoring regularly.
Radzinski 6 — When given the service he
at least tried to create something but although he was frustrated
in his attempts to wreak havoc down the channels, he was well placed
for the goal and took it well despite the fact that it was a routine
McFadden 8 (MotM) — Quite simply, he transformed
the team from the moment he first touched the ball as a second-half
substitute. If he can find some consistency, he could provide part
of the solution to Everton's dearth of midfield creativity. Far
and away the best outfield player on the pitch despite only playing
half the game.
Unsworth 4 — His time is up. It really is.
How he has carved out a career in the top flight with such appalling
distribution is mystifying... and why did it have to be Rhino one
yard out at the far post when the ball came fizzing in in the 86th