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 Blomqvist (27') (1-0)  
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Everton v Sunderland:
Prior League Games
 Overall  
 Everton 42
 Sunderland 17
 Draws 10
 Premiership
 Everton 1
 Sunderland 1
 Draws 1
 Last Season:
 Everton 2-2 Sunderland

 
Illness to both Duncan Ferguson and Abel Xavier decimated the Everton squad once again and Walter Smith was forced start with Kevin Campbell, finally half-fit after 11 weeks out with a "mystery" back problem that stumped the crack team of new Everton physios but a French quack fixed in 15 minutes.  And Tony Hibbert finally gets only his second Everton start.

After a quiet five minutes, the first Everton attack saw Kevin Campbell get back into the swing with a customary miss. Hibbert whipped in a lovely cross which Alexandersson flicked on and Blomqvist played it back for Campbell, stretching, who just couldn't score from all of 2 yards!

After 12 mins, Alexandersson had an even worse miss of an open goal after Sorensen fluffed a brilliant Unsworth cross as Everton started to press a little harder.  

A great move by Alexandersson and Campbell on 19 mins had them both free and past the goalie but he failed to shoot and took a fatal extra touch when he really, really should have scored.

Then a brilliant cross after Alexandersson got great space on the right, and Jesper Blomqvist placed a perfect header into the Sunderland net.  GOAL!!!!!!!  And in the same net as his only other goal in English football, for Man Utd over three years ago.

Gascoigne then got himself in trouble with David Elleray after a hard tackle on Gavin McCann, even though he won the ball!  But all he got was a stern warning. 

Sunderland finally started to wake up just before half-time but Everton weathered the brief squall from their otherwise woeful opponents.

Everton started well in the second half and great work by Naysmith led to a chance that went inches wide as Everton looked to consolidate their lead.  But the injection of  Nail Quinn into the game upped the stakes as it gave Sunderland a new lease of life.  Everton consequently lost their shape and handed the initiative to a buoyant Sunderland team for much of the second half.

A nervy period followed until Walter Smith finally started to ring the changes in the last 10 minutes, bringing on Chadwick and then Cleland (who he?).  But the last 5 minutes were fearful for Everton.  But Naysmith did well again to force a late save from Sorenson as the final action swung from end to end.  

In the end, it was desperation stuff, and Everton in a state of nervous exhaustion ended the dreadful 5-match run of defeats with a very nervy win after failing to convert a number of glorious chances in the first half.

A vital, vital win nevertheless; without it, Everton would have dropped to 16th position!!!



M A T C H    F A C T S
 Sports Match Info  
  FA Premiership 2001-02, Game 22
3:00pm  Saturday 12 January 2002
Goodison Park, Liverpool
Referee: David Elleray
Att: 30,736
Position: 13th
Line-ups Subs not used
Everton: Simonsen; Hibbert, Stubbs, Weir, Unsworth;  Gemmill, Gascoigne, Naysmith; Alexandersson (86' Cleland), Campbell, Blomqvist (83' Chadwick).  Gerrard, Tal, Moore.  
Unavailable:  Ferguson, Xavier (ill); Cadamarteri, Gravesen, Pembridge, Pistone, Radzinski, Watson (injured); Nyarko (loan) 
Sunderland Sorensen; Haas, Craddock, Varga, Gray; McAteer (58' Quinn), Thirlwell, McCann, Arca (46' Bellion); Phillips, Kilbane. 
 
Williams, McCartney, Macho.
Playing Strips Formations
Everton: Royal Blue shirts; white shorts; blue socks. 4-3-3
Sunderland: Red & white shirts; black shorts; red socks 4-4-2
  Yellow Cards Red Cards
Everton: Unsworth (68')  --
Sunderland: Haas (85')  --


Premiership Scores
Wednesday
Sotton 2-0 Liverpool
Saturday
Aston Villa 2-1 Derby 
Blackburn 4-1 Charlton 
Bolton   2-2 Chelsea 
Everton 1-0 Sunderland
Fulham  2-1 Middlesbro
Ipswich  2-1 Tottenham 
Newcastle 3-1 Leeds 
West Ham 1-0 Leicester
Sunday
Sotton 1-3 Man Utd
Arsenal 1-1 Liverpool
 


Premiership Table
Pos Team Pts
1 Man Utd 42
2 Newcastle 42
3 Leeds 41
4 Arsenal 40
5 Liverpool 39
6 Chelsea 34
7 Aston Villa 32
8 Tottenham 31
9 Fulham 30
10 Charlton 29
11 West Ham 28
12 Sunderland 27
13 Everton 26
14 Blackburn 25
15 Southampton 25
16 Bolton 24
17 Middlesbrough 22
18 Ipswich 21
19 Derby 19
20 Leicester 16
After 13 January 2002 
M A T C H     R E P O R T S
Everton Web Sites
ToffeeWeb Match Summary
EvertonFC.com Match Report
When Skies Are Grey Match Report
From The Terrace Match Report
Blue Kipper Match Report
Everton Fans' Reports
Matthew Fearon Swede Taste of Victory
Rob Burns Pilgrims Progress
Richard Marland Match Report
Links to Other Media Reports
Electronic Telegraph Match Report
BBC Sport Match Report
FA Premier Match Report
Sky Sports Match Report
Sporting Life Match Report
SoccerNet Match Report
The Sunday Times Match Report
The Observer Match Report
The Guardian Match Report
The Independent Match Report
The Times Match Report
Daily Post Match Report


Match Preview

Welcome home, Inchy!

If there is a manager that is experiencing more stick than Walter Smith at the moment, it must be that old Evertonian Peter Reid.  And, if the Sunderland fan's websites are anything to go by, Adrian Heath is even less popular.  So what a perfect time to welcome them back into the comforting loving bosom of Goodison ... as long as they respond by granting us 3 points!

Most of the comments that I made relating to Sunderland those few weeks ago still hold true: they are over-reliant on Quinn; Quinn is past it; Phillips is therefore suffering; their midfield lacks guile; and their defence is not up to standard.

They still beat us 1-0.

Reyna was the goalscorer that day what a change someone scoring their first goal for their club against us!  Fortunately he looks likely to be out of action until February which may lead to Schwartz returning to the fray, but rumours are circulating at Sunderland that he has had a personal fallout with Reidy so team selection in that area could be interesting.  McCann is also unsettled but I feel sure that he'll be well up for this one.  (How much would it cost to buy him back?  Hell, why even consider it 'cause Walter won't!)

For us?  Well, after the "magnificent win" at Stoke, where we were missing 8 first teamers, news of returning players has been very quiet.

You'd like to think that "same again" could lead to another 1-0 win,  and it could well do, but my main concern relates to Xavier at fullback.  The guy has no pace at all.  He has put in some magnificent performances in the centre but looks distinctly uncomfortable out wide.  Personally I would love to see Hibbert given a go.  

I guess, with the pressure on against Stoke, Walter wanted experience at the back.  I think we all know that, when pushed (or even if not), Walter will choose experience over youth.  Also, it may be that he feels it important to have Xavier playing at the moment due to contract negotiations (and Xavier's very strong support of Smith last week) but surely the time must come when Hibbert is given another chance.

Elsewhere, I think Walter basically was forced to pick whoever was fit.  Blomqvist was looking dangerous and should cause Sunderland plenty of problems and Dunc should be getting sharper.  As he's hit the post in each of the last two games, maybe it's time that luck was on his side.  Varga, the player likely to pick him up, is a donkey but a very large donkey and Dunc may have to show a bit more movement that he has done recently to get around him.

JMM will probably start alongside Dunc but I have to say that he does not convince me at all.  He certainly works hard enough but in the Premiership you need to have something special about you; pace (Henry), power (Hasslebaink), aerial threat (Ferdinand), finishing (Fowler), vision (Sheringham), movement (Zola).  Pepsi just doesn't seem to have anything special about him.  When he first arrived, he showed promise of simply being a poacher but that ability appears to have deserted him.  His inability to support Dunc or provide a goal threat does leave him as a bit of a liability and in my mind not worthy of a place upfront.

Another goal from Nick Chadwick in the reserves win over Newcastle (1-0, Gerrard MotM) may see him retain his place on the bench.  Again, it would be great to see him get on the pitch at some point... but don't hold your breath; I think Unsworth is next in line !

Nick Chadwick may well have been one of the kids who got a bit concerned when Bill announced the new "financial package" last Thursday. A new striker must be top of Walters wish list and if Nick is not getting on now with injuries to 3 strikers how will he do when the injuries ease (if they ever do!) and another striker is bought?

Mind you when will this purchase take place?

I noted that Bill on the Official WebSite says that he "hopes" the new financial package will be in place "by the end of the month".  What??  That's not the way it was first sold to us.

It was also very worrying that, despite Bill's assertion that he and Walter speak 3 times a day, Walter declared that he knew nothing about the package other than what had been stated publicly!  Way to go, Bill!  Surely your manager should know exactly what the financial picture is?  The fact that he still doesn't know how much he has to spend suggests that Walter really is way out of the picture.  I don't think Bill should be shouting figures out (although it appears "accepted knowledge" that the figure is 25M from Allied Irish Bank - who still hold the mortgage over Goodison and did before this deal) as that just leads to clubs hiking up their prices; but surely Walter should be informed of the financial situation a bit better than Joe Public !

However, the "expected" financial package is at least a step in the right direction.  It should have been a shot in the arm to the club and the victory over Stoke (and the draw at home to Orient) should ease some of the tension that has been settling on Goodison.

A victory over Sunderland with the defence again being the backbone to the result should see us easing a bit further clear of the relegation trap door.

The victory should come. Shackle Quinn, push back their midfield leaving Phillips isolated and put pressure on their defence.

2-0 I reckon this time.  A goal in the 1st half would certainly make things easier but then I guess I'm asking for far far too much!

BlueForEver



Swede Taste of Victory

by Matthew Fearon

Another victory like that and we are doomed, sighed an exhausted Pyrrhus after defending Tarentum against the Romans, 281 b.c.

Todays match was good for the soul, but threatened to leave both heart, blood pressure and fingernails doomed.  We needed a win desperately, and desperately we played.  Once again Smiths team sheet provided widespread confusion: at five to three the decision to play Campbell upfront, on his own, after missing the last seven weeks without even training, was frankly incredulous.  As it transpired, Captain Campbell did himself and Everton proud but he was chasing shadows, alone, for the last half an hour.

We began as we always do, by conceding possession from our own kick-off by hoofing the ball straight to the opposition.  Opening exchanges were tentative, with both sets of players fully prescient of the need for three points.  We created the better chances, hitting Sunderland on the break, with both Swedish wide-men looking exciting going forward.

Alexandersson wasted the best chance of the first 20 minutes, choosing to dally on the ball and lay responsibility at Campbells feet, when he should of finished himself.  For this, the crowd must take full responsibility.  I admit Nic hasnt been on top of his game for the last five matches, but nobody deserves to be booed off the pitch the way he was against Charlton.  For Nics lack of confidence in front of goal, which was exhibited again at the beginning of the second half, the only people to be blamed are those who booed him off.  Today you cost us two goals!!

Our 4-5-1 formation wasnt allowing us to take the pressure off the defence; a bunched midfield seemed unsure of their roles, with Unsworth, Gemmill and Gazza all afraid of putting their foot on the ball and calming everyone down.  One man who is calmness personified is that man David Weir; he allowed the red-and-white Super Kev very little space and, just before the half hour mark, he released Alexandersson down the right.  With immaculate vision and precision, one Swede found the other, and Blomquist finished off the free-flowing move with a downward header inside Sorensons far post.  One-nil it stayed through to half-time.

For the first five minutes of the second half, it looked like we would have nothing to worry about; Alexandersson twice broke into the box, but twice our attacks were nullified by our lack of numbers upfront.  With 35 minutes to go, tactical genii Smith and Knox decided it was backs-to-the-wall time.   Quinns introduction induced collective panic, and highlighted how much more effective he is than Dunc.  One-nil might have been enough against a side including only Kevin Phillips up front.

And so it proved to be, but only because they demonstrated a blandness of imagination that I havent encountered since I read the first ten pages of a Harry Potter book, and because 10 players (Gemmill was again merely average and frequently got lost in a midfield demonstrating fight and bottle that has been inexcusably absent from the team of late) sweated blue blood for the team.  Gascoigne was outstanding, playing with so much effervescent effective energy it was as if both him and Gravesen were on the pitch together.  Unsworth was awesome, not pretty, but this boy would die for club.

With Campbell crying out for a partner upfront, Smith duly obliged; seven minutes to go and Nick Chadwick came on for his first league appearance.  Not only was the lateness of this substitution frustrating... the fact that we brought a big lad on to replace the truly magnificent winger, Blomqvist, does little to improve my assessment of Smiths tactical insight.  Too many times this season I have thought to myself, in Scotland, yes, but down here where 20 teams compete for 20 places, NO!

We hung on; for 35 minutes we hung on; for 35 minutes we played like it was the final minute.  You just cannot get away with that more than once in a season.  We deserved to win, we wanted it more, we werent any better, despite having more quality in our side, but out there today the boys did the crowd and the jersey proud.  And we did them proud!  

For the last 10 minutes, the hairs on the back of my neck wouldnt sit down, they have barely tingled since the opening 10 minutes of the derby, but today we were how a Goodison crowd should be win, lose or draw.  So lets have no more of booing individuals, lets have no more dull incessant droning of Kopites are gobsh**es, and more of supporting and encouraging our beloved Everton.  

We dont fork out good money for season tickets just so we can clap the opposition politely, boo our own players, moan about those from across the park.  From this day forward, let us make Goodison as intimidating as it used to be; let us remind the players who there are playing for, the history that this great club has created.  Because remember, IF-YOU-KNOW-YOUR-HIS-STORY, its enough to make your heart go whoa...

As is becoming type, my report must conclude with my man-of-the-match candidates.  Today there were many:

  • Hibbert, that right-sided youngster, who showed Smith exactly what sort of mistake he was making by ignoring him when Stevie was playing upfront and Pistone was being forced to play out of position.  
  • On the other side of defence, Naysmith was a rock, and looked threatening coming forward, one determined run almost sewed the match up in the final minute.  
  • Also at the back, Mr Weir, who I am deeming no longer eligible for this accolade because he is too good.  
  • Wide on the left, Blomqvist always looked dangerous, and took his goal wonderfully well.  
  • Unsworth showed just why he is nicknamed Rhino
  • Alexandersson worked tirelessly up and down the right-flank, got himself into goal-scoring positions, provided the lethal cross, and responded in fine fashion to his disgusting treatment against Charlton.  
  • Campbell played well on his return, I just hope Walter didnt ask him to do too much!

However, todays man-of-the-match, was One Paul Gascoigne.  He was everywhere, in the last minute taking out man and ball defending his own corner flag, and when the defence cleared, chasing the ball right down to the opposition corner flag.  If we play with as much heart as we did today for the rest of the season, not even Smith could take us down.  Roll on Spurs!!!!



Pilgrims Progress

by Rob Burns

Though rarely mentioned in the same breath as Lourdes and Chartre, Goodison Park must surely be growing in spiritual significance following today's show of rejuvinated passion - a hugely energetic 90 minutes of nail biting football in front of just over 30,000.  

Walter made changes to the starting lineup - Hibbert in for Steve Watson; Alexandersson returning to the side after injury; and Kevin Campbell stepping into his 'minor role' as a sole striker for Duncan Ferguson out with a strain - of flu.

The formation was exotic to say the least.  A flat back four included Hibbert at right back, Weir and Stubbs in the centre berths and Naysmith on the left.  Gemmill, Gascoigne (fresh from his hysterics on Sky's Soccer AM this morning) and Unsworth made up a midfield of three behind Campbell, who played alone between Blomqvist and Alexandersson. This is Walter's 'Emergency' formation - which was successful against Chelsea and Arsenal last season - when the chips were similarly in the 'down' position.

The match had been billed as a six-pointer with both managers under considerable pressure.  Reid's players looked lively at the start, playing on the enthusiasm injection which they had surely been given from their manager before kick-off.  But enthusiasm was seemingly all that they had as they failed to complete a meaningful pass for some minutes. 

They too had struggled, significantly to Evertonians.  McCann's presence was heavily fancied to provide one of 'those stories' - a returning player who shows his former manager what for.  But there was also a nervousness about the Black Cats which led them to play Philips up front alone with Quinn warming the bench.

For their part, Everton started brightly, and the ring-rusty Campbell was far from it - quick footed and mobile.  On 5 minutes he had his first taste, firing wide from close range from Jesper Blomqvist's flick header. Then it was Blomqvist who set out his stall, with some silky skills on the left side which Unsworth followed with a first-time cross to the far post.  As Alexandersson arrived, the bounce just eluded him and the ball continued harmlessly toward the touch line.

Attacking in waves, the confidence was growing and the football was improving.  With a lack of striking opportunities in the middle, it was out of necessity that they attacked down the flanks.  Two capable, attacking full backs in support, the two Swedes were rampant.  

Sunderland's defence was AWOL, as on three occasions Alexandersson had to look again to believe that he had so much space.  His run into the area met a wall of three Sunderland players, easily beaten with a pass slid to Campbell who took a touch too many in front of stranded 'keeper and gaping net.  Perhaps the most worrying aspect of this was the speed in which the boo-boys were sparked to life, barracking the Everton Captain as 'useless' and 'lazy' even young kids seemed destined for an adult life as sad and naive as their accompanying parents 'Campbell yer crap!'

As a return after three months of injury, this could only be a pleasant surprise to Evertonians - more chances created in 20 minutes than in the previous 6 weeks with a combination of Ferguson, Watson, Radzinski and Moore leading the line...  This guy was doing it on his own in the middle, leading the line and providing a mobile breath of fresh air for our wing commanders to aim for.  But then KC is more of a millstone to our club than David Scapegoat Unsworth if the educated minority are to be believed!

Sadly it wasn't Campbell who finally broke the deadlock, but a combination of the two wide men again brought first blood as Niclas Alexandersson waited and waited for his moment on the right and then lifted an excellent cross to the far post to find the flying Blomqvist anything Giggs can do!

Sunderland argued: McCann shouted the odds, Sorensen argued with Gray, Philips came deep to do it for himself, McAteer kept his head down and played for the cause.  Disarray was the only way to describe it.  

Peter Reid's half time show would surely have required an X certificate if shown on the big screen.  As if guilty of altering the clocks for a little respite, the red and whites returned to the field well in advance of the home side.  And waited.  Enter our conquering heroes to a recently unfamiliar ovation.

Reid introduced Quinn as, after 10 minutes Everton continued to run them ragged.  To the groans of the home fans the man who makes Emlyn Hughes look like the happiest, sickliest Butlins Redcoat entered the fray with a foul in the Everton area.  In true Quinn style, he climbed, manhandled, pulled and pushed and began to make the defence earn their living.

In response, the Everton midfield upped the pace and, dare I say, defended outside of the box.  Unsworth provided a weighty, reliable stopper, with confident, accurate distribution and not the characteristic thump unless absolutely necessary.  His awareness on the left helped to give Naysmith an outlet and support for Blomqvist.  Gemmill was probably the least impressive of the three but there wasn't a player on the park who was not eclipsed by the undoubted man of the match, Paul Gascoigne.

Not one to bow to the hype, I have made my feelings clear on Gazza in recent weeks, but today's performance was the best he has shown at Goodison since his arrival.  Ironically his performance jogged memories of the visiting manager, as he ran the midfield for both sides, harrying, leading by example, tackling.  Breathtaking skills and superb distribution were commonplace and the crowd reacted in accordance. 

In the first half he had chased down a lost opportunity and stolen the ball from Varga in his own area and with a little luck could have steered the ball in.  Frequently in the second half he ran the length of the pitch to close down a back-pass or make a tackle on a defender who had dwelled for a second too long.  As usual, 10 men came back for corners, but the disadvantage was almost negated by the rediscovered pace of the Geordie.  Gazza's occasional lack of timing went unpunished as Schoolmaster Elleray remembered the referee's 'Code of Gazza Conduct'.

Quinn had made the difference to Sunderland's cause and chances did come.  Kilbane was switched to the left after running alongside Philips for the opening minutes; Bellion was introduced on the Mackem's right.  Everton found danger on the flanks, with the impressive and heavier Tony Hibbert at fullback soaking up the pressure, strong in the tackle and clever in releasing the ball.

Campbell continued to encourage both team and crowd, and seemed to have restored the rapport with the Goodison crowd even if certain elements would have preferred it otherwise.

An intelligent change from Walter saw Blomqvist move up front - support for Campbell and more pressure on the centre of Sunderland's defence where much of their forward play began - and Unsworth add much needed strength to the left-back position with Naysmith the lively runner ahead.  Cleland replaced Alexandersson in the final minutes, and Chadwick made an appearance in place of Blomqvist. 

In a limited time Cleland appeared to get too involved in the defensive line - giving ground away and confusing Hibbert, Stubbs et al.  Chadwick looked willing and extremely able on his introduction, and another player who appears to have added some beef since we last saw him.  Everton pushed out of their own half an regained full control into injury time.

A relieved crowd applauded the blues off the field.  Campbell personally thanked the crowd for their support, but the biggest ovation was saved for Gazza, for whom many had stopped on their way out for a final chorus in honour of a man who had defied all of the odds to add much needed sparkle to a Goodison tarnished by recent performances.

Everton's revival was miraculous, and was symptomatic of a number of factors coming together at once.  Blomqvist is almost fully healed and is showing the form which years of top European football demands.  Dragging the unpredictable Alexandersson with him, we have genuine width that will frighten any opposition.  

Behind them the full backs - Naysmith and Hibbert - are showing courage and confidence in their willingness to go forward.  In the middle Gascoigne showed for 90 minutes and worked without any sign of fatigue, quite out of sync with his age, and Unwsorth looks settled in the midfield berth. 

Up front there is no doubt that Campbell will need a partner but given the difference today - the workrate, the danger, almost the cutting edge - Everton have a goalscoring rest of the season to come barring disastrous injuries.  Now, I wonder if the baths of the  home dressing room can do anything for my tennis elbow?



Match Report

by Richard Marland

Another important 'must-win' game at Goodison.  That run of five straight league defeats just had to be broken or our freefall, and the resultant pressures, would have increased to an very unhealthy level.  That fact that we were playing Peter Reid's Sunderland, who had enough problems of their own, just added spice to the occasion.

The team news was dominated by the absence of three who were expected to play: Ferguson, Xavier and Watson.  Watson seems to have been playing with one knock or another for most of the season.  Ferguson's and Xavier's absence hadn't been forewarned, other than their own past records.  Apparently Ferguson had the 'flu and Xavier had some sort of stomach upset.

This all meant a starting berth for Tony Hibbert, a return for Niclas Alexandersson and a premature return for Kevin Campbell.  The return of Campbell highlights some of the problems that Walter is working under.  Campbell has only just returned to fitness, in reality he needs to be eased in.  The same happened to Dunc over the holiday period, he too needed to be eased in.  But, it seems that as soon as we get one striker fit, another cries off with injury, and we are forced to play players who aren't fully match fit.  This is a Catch-22 situation as the player is much more likely to pick up an injury.

Walter went for an enterprising 4-3-3 with Alexadersson and Blomqvist encouraged to play in support of Campbell.  Blomqvist in particular seemed to be given free rein to roam the pitch.

First Half

The first half was a poor, turgid affair between two sides struggling for form and confidence.  Without ever playing especially well, we undoubtedly had the better of the first half.   We weren't creating chances by the boat-load but chances there were.  Campbell's lack of sharpness accounted for at least one; Alexandersson's lack of confidence for another.

The goal finally came courtesy of the Swedish chef's.  Gemmill won the ball in midfield and released Alexandersson into acres of space down the right.  Campbell went near post dragging two defenders with him, Blomqvist came in behind him.  Alexandersson, who had been looking up throughout, delivered a cross right onto Blomqvist's head who had an easy conversion.  A good goal and a bit of quality all round.

We deserved the lead at the interval.  We had a few a chances while Sunderland hadn't had a sniff.

Second half

If we'd had the first half, Sunderland had the second.  I guess some harsh words had been exchanged at half-time and they clearly came out to battle to save the game.  For all their efforts, though, they never seemed to have the quality required to cause us real problems.

They were already gaining the upper hand when they rolled out Niall Quinn about 15 minutes into the second half.  This gave their players and fans a lift, and seemed to send us into panic mode.  Fortunately David Elleray came to our aid by penalising Quinn five times within the first five minutes of his arrival.  In the past, Quinn seems to have been able to get away with this at Goodison; today, Elleray was wise to the wiles of an old lag.

Needless to say, Sunderland were now pumping an inordinate number of balls into our box.  We defended admirably and barely gave them a sight of goal.  Certainly I cannot recall a Simonsen save of any note; his work was reduced to collecting the odd cross.

If we were defending well, it was the only thing we were doing well.  Our passing game completely disintegrated and we posed no threat whatsoever to the Sunderland goal.  It was a wretched passage of play for us as we seemed to defend deeper and deeper.  The feeling throughout the second half was "Could we hold out?"

It was only within the last few minutes of normal time that we were able to exert anything like pressure on the Sunderland goal we even managed to force a corner.  In the three minutes of injury time, it got truly desperate as we were reduced, even Gazza, to kicking for touch.

Summary

The first half we did OK.  The second half the nerves jangled, we defended well but we couldn't string two passes together.  However, this was one of those days where the result was paramount and in the return of Campbell and the continuing rehabilitation of Blomqvist, there is cause for cautious optimism.

Ratings

  • Simonsen 7  Can't recall a proper save.  Dealt well with a few crosses and looked largely assured except in his kicking which went astray somewhat today.
  • Hibbert 7  Occasionally showed his inexperience but did well and coped well in the second half when we were under pressure.  Wasn't seen much in an attacking sense, perhaps wisely concentrating on his defensive duties.
  • Naysmith 7  Becoming a bit of a favourite of mine.  Uncomplicated, unfussy, won't let you down.
  • Weir 8  Fought a magnificent rearguard action in defense.  Someone else who won't let you down.
  • Stubbs 8  Another of the reasons why we were able to keep Sunderland at bay.
  • Gemmill 7  Looking a bit more comfortable than of late. Did OK.
  • Gascoigne 8  Covered a prodigious amount of ground and worked very hard for the cause.  Occasionally over elaborates (licence I will allow him!) and had a worrying five minutes when he seemed more intent on kicking Gavin McCann than playing football.
  • Unsworth 6  Did his job shoring up the left side of the field.
  • Alexandersson 7  It's easy to see why coaches and managers like him he works hard, always tracks back and can deliver quality (witness his part in the goal).  He infuriates the fans because he is inconsistent in his delivery and his shooting is undermined by his current lack of confidence.  I reckon he's worth persisting with.
  • Blomqvist 8  Has been a bit of a revelation.  Got a deserved goal and was bright and dangerous until he ran out of legs.  A good footballer.
  • Campbell 7  Shouldn't have been playing but surprised me with how fit he seemed.  Lacking a little sharpness but that's hardly surprising.  What you forget about Campbell is his intelligence and I just love the way he lets the ball do the work for him as he lets it run across his body as he turns the defender.
  • Cleland 6  Came on for Blomqvist, did OK with getting overly involved.
  • Chadwick 6  Came on for Alexandersson, got stuck in, did plenty of running, did OK.

Team 6  Important win, good defensively but in all reality pretty poor.

Man of the match  For me it was the defenders who saved the day.  I'd give it to Stubbs.



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