Another bizarre kick-off time: 2pm on a Sunday afternoon,
courtesy this time of Pay-Per-View.
Injury doubts continue to dog Campbell and Ferguson, as
fitness once again becomes a constraint on Walter Smith's
choices from what we are told this week is a small
squad. Myhre, a totally unused player, has been replaced
by Blomqvist, a barely fit player, but he least we know from
past practice that the last thing he will experience at
Goodison is being frozen out by Walter Smith.
So who will play up-front? With Chadwick injured, Radzinski
possible tired after playing for Canada on Thursday,
Cadamarteri persona non grata (but surprisingly playable) and
Joe-Max Moore down at the bottom of the list... time for
Walter to go with one up front at home again, I fear.
Midfield should see Naysmith, Gravesen, Gascoigne and Alexandersson
appearing as perhaps our strongest combination in the absence
of Pembridge, but that leaves no room for the under-sung Scott
Other quandaries include who to play in the back line, now
that Xavier is allowed to return following his concussion,
threatening Stubbsy's brief renaissance. What's the
betting we see both of them out on the field, with Watson,
Weir and Pistone in that much-feared (not!) 5-4-1 formation
Walter sometimes like to spring on us?
And obviously Steve Simonsen will continue in goal, since
Paul Gerrard turned out for the reserves last Tuesday. Then again, second-guessing a Walter Smith formation is a lot
like doing the pools...
Chelsea have Marcel Desailly out through suspension as well
as the injured trio of goalkeeper Ed de Goey, Jody Morris and
Last season saw a welcome 2-1 win over Chelsea, with Danny
Cadamarteri surprisingly on the scoresheet... will history be
let two points slip
by Lyndon Lloyd
Had the Everton that scored confident victories over
West Ham and Aston Villa - and so nearly against Bolton
two weeks ago - turned out in front of the pay-per-view
cameras this afternoon, Walter Smith would have been
savouring another home victory and a Top 10 berth.
As it was, an insipid performance that could not be
blamed entirely on the injury crisis up front was matched
only by Chelsea's dreary display, although Everton had
emerging goalkeeping talent Steve Simonsen to thank
for the point they did earn. The 21 year-old 'keeper,
making his home debut, tipped a goal-bound Zola free-kick
onto the cross bar late on with his out-stretched fingers
to produce one of the afternoon's rare pieces of magic.
Stripped of Kevin Campbell's services because of a
back injury and without Duncan Ferguson yet again due
to an ankle complaint, Smith chose to field defender
Steve Watson as an emergency striker rather than play
Joe-Max Moore alongside Tomasz Radzinski. Even for Walter
Smith, this was a baffling decision and one that surely
sends a clear signal to the American; that if he can't
get a game ahead of a defender, then Smith plainly has
no confidence in him to produce the goods.
Watson was effective insofar as he was playing out
of position but still managed some neat passes, provided
a physical presence and at times displayed wonderful
control. But his lack of pace and striker's instinct
meant that Radzinski was effectively ploughing a lonely
furrow up front. Had young Nick Chadwick been fit, even
he would have been a better choice, but Smith was robbed
of that option - and, let's face it, probably would
have played Watson up front anyway!
The game was a singularly dreary and uninspiring event.
Everton's best chances fell to Radzinski who was sent
clear twice but dragged his shots across the goal and
wide of the advancing Bosnich. Scott Gemmill had a deflected
shot well saved and Watson saw a looping header soar
inches wide early on.
Chelsea barely made an impression on the game until
early in the second half when they slowly emerged from
their shell and Zola engineered enough space for a shot
which flew over from 20 yards. Niclas Alexandersson
saw a speculative half-volley just clear the bar at
the other end and then Zola went close again for the
visitors when he latched onto the ball when Simonsen
spilled it and fired a cross from the angle which, thankfully,
ricocheted off Stubbs and out of danger instead of into
Whereas Everton had been the better side during the
first period, it was a more even affair in the second
and the two sides continued to occasionally trade half
chances. Zenden caused the odd scare down the left wing
and flashed a shot across goal while David Weir saw
his powered header off a corner palmed over by the 'keeper.
Duncan Ferguson's introduction with 15 minutes left
did little to change the pattern of the game and it
was Chelsea who finished stronger, with Haisselbank
blazing over from 16 yards in injury time.
Ultimately, it was a bore draw that did little credit
to either side. Had Everton been in a higher gear, Claudio
Ranieri's men would have been there for the taking.
Unfortunately, whether it was due to the unsettling
effect of not having a recognised strike force or some
other mystery factor that seems to afflict the Blues,
they failed to take the opportunity and demonstrated
the kind of attitude that may well see them fail to
challenge for a UEFA Cup place this season.
In safe hands
by Matthew Fearon
Traipsing out of a dilapidated crumbling building, 4 o'clock on a Sunday,
feeling numb, dulled, uninspired and slightly hoarse from less than rigorous
singing, it took a momentous effort to convince my brain that I hadn't just sat
through a two-hour church service. Alas! For me there was to be no
The stadium announcements of the team are becoming intrinsic for setting the
level of crowd excitement. Today was no exception, Walter had wisely
decidedto stick with the promising and highly productive 4-4-2. However,
this is where Walter's clarity of thought dwindles into a messy quagmire: only
Smith could select 3 natural left-backs in a 4-4-2 and, to further highlight his
tactical genius, of the 10 outfield players 6 (Yes, that's SIX), were
Surely not even Walter could mistake Goodison for Stamford Bridge!
Think again reader. Poor old Radzinski was to be employed as a lone
striker against the two gargantuan Chelsea centre-halves. But fear not,
Walt wouldn't be that inept, he'd give Tommy some help up-front? Indeed he
did, and that help personified itself in the form of our resident right-back,
Quite understandably, the crowd appeared on the bemused side of incredulous,
and this same confusion clung onto the players as they ran out to face a
faltering Chelsea side there for the taking. I don't like to sound so
vehemently anti-Smith, but doesn't simple football intelligence dictate that you
play players in the positions that they play best in, as follows: Watson to
right-back, Pistone to left-back, Unsworth to Macclesfield, Ferguson upfront
instead of on the bench for 75 minutes and Gemmill, who was clearly lacking
match fitness, replaced by Gascoigne, who in contrast is fit and hitting another
purple patch. But then, what do I know??
The five minutes we had to discuss this lottery of selection proved to be
considerably more entertaining than the ninety to follow. Radzinski was
clearly a marked man; in the opening ten minutes he was twice on the verge of
showing Terry and Gallas a clean pair of Canadian heels only to be cynically
body-checked to the floor. Both times the referee waved away appeals but
when, a few minutes later, the same thing happened to the same man but in a less
threatening position, we were awarded a free-kick. This was just one of
many frustrating inconsistencies that threatened to ruin a potentially exciting
There is little to recollect from the first half, apart from two Radzinski
efforts, the second of which he should have at least hit the target with.
Then lovely dancing feet from Watson on the edge of the Chelsea area, he fed
Gemmill, who did well to squeeze a shot away but Bosnich saved well. We
gave Chelsea too much room throughout the match, yet they displayed all the
attributes that have made them the most expensive laughing stock of the country.
Gravesen, as ever, was tireless – the only midfielder to consistently
hassle and harrie the opposition – he linked play astutely between both sides
of the pitch. Alexandersson was unusually subdued, and Naysmith is not a
winger; he is much more at home tracking back and making tackles and pushing up
from a defensive position.
Unsworth and Pistone were both ‘solid’ in the first half, but whereas
Pistone grew in class and stature in the second-half, Unsie deteriorated into a
heap of flab capable of merely finding touch with an accuracy that would make
Johnny Wilkinson fear for his position. The glaring shining light of the
first half, and ultimately the match was Steve Simonsen. Unlike Gerrard,
Simmo is well aware that the ‘keeper can use his hands outside the six-yard
box. He dealt with every snap shot, every cross, every kick and he was always
looking to distribute the quick ball.
The first half had demonstrated that this match could be ours, we just needed
someone to take the game by the scruff of the neck and ‘make something happen’,
as it happened we gave them even more space to spray the ball across the park
with ease, and Gazza was left idle on the bench for the whole ninety. This
is Exhibit X in my case to prove that Walt had a stinker of a game, if such a
thing is possible for a manager.
The blades of Goodison turf, the wooden beams that hold up Gwladys St, the
man asleep in row KK, the game, the players, were all screaming at the top of
their exasperated lungs for a little piece of magic to spark the match.
They were all bloodcurdlingly yelling for the introduction of Gascoigne (what
else do we pay him 30K-a-week for??)
Smith ignored these pleas, with the result that the game was on the verge of
petering out into a timid 0-0, until……
87th minute… Lampard dives… wins a free-kick… 25-yards out… Zola
emblazoned all over the ball… it was going to be one of those games, like
Villa last season… one bit of magic… sweetly struck… right-footed curler…
flown past the wall… top corner… CROSSBAR… via the immaculate finger-tips
Nil-Nil. Not the end of the world but, in all honestly after watching
Chelsea, that can be classed as points dropped. Pondering the match on the
train home, it reflects as a mirror image of last-season: we lose a few players,
Smith panics, goes defensive, plays players considerably out of position, we
have no shape, and there is a distinct lack of action on the bench until it is
too late, if at all!
Smith appeared to be on the brink of lucid tactical insight. After the
Newcastle game, despite the result, I was full of optimism; the Bolton game did
nothing to temper my optimism; but today Smith abandoned this season’s
progressive attractive football for last years’ banality.
Today’s match posed a number of questions that I think need addressing:
- How can a team play six natural defenders in a home match?
- Why was Gemmill left on the pitch for 90 minutes when he was quite clearly
shattered, and we had 2/3 midfielders on the bench?
- Why on his return from injury was Watson played grossly out of position,
when we clearly had other options, Tal, Ferguson, Moore, Chadwick?
- Where on earth are Tal, Hibbert and McLeod?
- Why has it taken 3 years for Simonsen to make his full debut, despite his
obvious talent? Today he was my man-of-the-match! It was tight
between him and Weir, but you have come to expect it of Weir and Simmo did
not put a foot wrong, commanded his box, claimed crosses both high and low
with a minimum of fuss and, when called upon to excel himself in the closing
minutes, he did just that!!!
A lack-lustre performance that can easily be forgotten by claiming maximum
points from our next two matches: Leicester (a) and Saints (h). Congratulations
A Cagey Affair
by Richard Martland
I guess that this was one of those games where a win could be described as
desirable rather than essential. We are on a run of form whereby we are
playing quite well without really picking up the results and points. This
has seen us drift down the table a little and, whilst we are a long way from
flirting with the relegation zone, sooner or later we are going to have to pick
up some points to avoid that prospect.
Memories were still fresh of last years unexpected win against Chelsea.
Last season rather summed Chelsea up - undeniable talent but very inconsistent.
After his largely competent display against Bolton, it was only right and
expected that Simonsen would get the nod again today. Another who kept his
place after a decent performance at Bolton was Alan Stubbs, I fully expected
Xavier to replace him today but Stubbs, as the man in possession, kept his
The real eye-opener was Steve Watson partnering Radzinski up front.
Quite rightly it was deemed that Dunc's fitness only warranted a place on the
bench but to keep the shape of the 4-4-2 we needed a physical prescence up
there. We have often been told that Watson had played up there for
Newcastle, so it was time to see if he could, a la Hutchison, do a job up there
We undoubtedly had the better of the first half. We weren't especially
good but we passed it around fairly well and looked pretty comfortable.
Radzinski looked to be our best bet for a goal. We managed to put him
clear through the channels on a number of occasions. On two or three
occasions his shots were either scuffed or pulled wide, on at least two
occasions his runs were unceremoniously blocked, without punishment, by Chelsea
defenders (throughout the game in fact the referee seemed to have a strange,
inconsistent interpretation of the shoulder charge/obstruction law).
Probably our best chance fell to Gemmill; good work by Watson gave him the
opportunity but his too-precise shot was well saved by Bosnich.
At the back, we were doing pretty well. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was
reduced to a whinging irrelevance; Zola was sparking intermittently but to no
real great effect. We seemed to be following the pattern of recent
matches, doing OK without being really truly convincing.
After a big build up, our new signing, Jesper Blomqvist, was introduced onto
the pitch. Said it all about our current state really - trumpeting the
arrival of a free transfer signing with a bad injury record....
Chelsea made two changes at half-time bringing on Zenden and Stanic. It
changed the face of the game. Suddenly they had an outlet through Zenden
and they were playing with a new sense of conviction and purpose. In the
first half, they had made a lot of pretty passing patterns, but that was in
their own half. Now they were doing it in our half and we were chasing
It seemed to be heading towards a Chelsea goal. Shots were coming in,
not overly taxing on Simonsen but they were testing his handling and
positioning. He was doing OK but then he spilt one and was very fortunate
to get away with it. The goal never came; we continued to defend well and
Chelsea lacked the killer touch to really force the issue.
Later on in the half we seemed to stem the tide. The game became a bit
fragmented thanks to injuries. Without us really getting a grip, a bit
more of the game was being played in their half. Our passing was still
woeful and it was a surprise that neither Gascoigne nor Pembridge were called
Weir had a header well saved by Bosnich; Zola had a free kick destined for
the top corner touched onto the bar by Simonsen. Despite this, real
chances were few and far between.
This was a largely cagey affair where neither side really did enough to
justify victory. We had the better of the first half; they had the better
of the second. A draw was fair and not to be sniffed at – it was a clean
sheet, another point in the bag and a continuation of our decent, if not exactly
stellar, run of form.
- Simonsen 7 An absolutely top-draw save to deny Zola's free kick and
a generally assured, competent display. He had a couple of fumbles
catching the ball and one bad mistake when he spilled a shot into the path
of Zola. Those mistakes shouldn't be overlooked as they could have
proved costly, but overall earnt the right to continue his run in the side.
- Pistone 8 Another assured performance, this time at right
back. Doesn't seem to matter where he lines up in defence.
- Weir 7 Good steady game.
- Stubbs 7 Thoroughly justified his selection ahead of Xavier.
- Unsworth 6 Defensively did his job, came in for the usual stick
over distribution but I think that was slightly unfair as the whole side had
lost their way in terms of a passing game.
- Alexandersson 6 Not his most effective game but plenty of work rate
and at least a couple of dangerous attacking moments.
- Gravesen 6 Regular students of my match reports, if indeed there
are any, may have picked up the impression that I'm not totally convinced
about Thomas. This is a true impression. I don't think that
Thomas is anywhere near as effective as some of his press would leave us to
believe. I don't think for one second think that he is a bad player,
but I feel that at his worst he is just rushing about to little real
effect. What he has is the ability to pull the crowds heartstrings
effectively. There will be a couple of thumping challenges, there will
be a couple of dribbles, a couple of shots and a bit of fist clenching
exhortation to the crowd. All very good but in the context of the game
not necessarily that useful. Today he seemed to lose the plot midway
through the first half, harshly booked he then made a couple of rash
challenges that he could conceivably have walked for. In the second
half as we lost our passing game I thought he largely disappeared.
- Gemmill 6 Not one of his better days. Did OK first half but seemed
to give the ball away rather a lot in the second.
- Naysmith 6 His usual diligent, unfussy display.
- Watson 7 Did pretty well, made a nuisance of himself, held up the
ball and used it, for the most part, with some intelligence.
- Radzinski 7 In need of a goal. Did plenty of running but just seems
to be lacking that bit of confidence and sharpness. Had a few sightings
which a top quality striker should really have made better use of.
- Ferguson 6 Came on and made a bit of an impact. Looked eager and up
for it and had a couple of good moments.
Team 6 OK first half but the wheels came off after the break when our
passing game just fell to pieces.
Man of the match The contenders were all defenders but I reckon
Pistone was the pick of them.