Pundits had this down as a dour encounter with few, if any goals.
What is it about human nature that leads them to predict the future �
and get it invariably wrong?
And what is it about the nature of Everton that can cause you to scream
in passion one minute at some exquisite football, only to tear your hair
out in gobs moments later, and a lot more frequently, for witnessing crass
amateurish pub-league nonsense?
Yes, it was one of those games were Everton flatter momentarily to
frustrate in spades. Rooney was everywhere; the lad really is
amazing. But even he was powerless to organize a ragged defence that
had Villa running in down an empty right-side channel from which Hendrie
was set up for a perfectly executed chip that Wright could only flail at
like a dying swan.
That was on 7 mins. The rest of the first half indeed looked like
the game the pundits had forecast. Dismal Villa generally looked the
better team, which shows how dire Everton were � apart from the odd move
where they really did look Brazil, passing the ball with skill and pace,
using the width of the field, and crossing accurately from an advanced
position. Ho Hum...
Such moments proved to be rare aberrations, except for a 20-minute
golden spell after half time, following Hendrie's second goal, when he was
left in acres of space as Stubbs was guilty of ball-watching. Once
again, the Villian hit it beautifully and Wright stood not a chance.
Almost immediately, Everton were transformed, scampering up the other
end as if their lives really did depend on it. But it looked like
Gravesen was going down a cul de sacas he dribbled across the top
of the area, however, he slipped a lovely little ball to Radzinski, who's
composed turn and shot were executed with perfection � the ball passing
beyond Enkleman's fingertips and just inside the post, in front of the
massed Everton fans. GAME ON!
Everton then took the game by the scruff of the neck, and anything
looked possible. It really did. Another attack had Campbell
heading a perfect cross from Gravesen? straight at Enkleman, who parried
it away for a corner.
The delivery of that corner from Gravesen was absolutely superb.
Hard, about 7 ft off the ground as it curled in to the goal area, and
there was Campbell forcing his way in front of the lanky Crouch to angle
the the ball in with aplomb. The celebration in front of the fans
was superb, involving all 10 outfield players going nuts over Campbell's
The fact that every other header he had made all game lacked any
direction at all was completely forgotten, and all Everton needed now was
Rooney to score the third for a superb comeback...
And so what happens next? 2-2, all to play for... and Moyes
decides to make the now habitual Rooney/Alexandersson switch. And
there endeth the lesson. Not only did Everton sit back and await the
draw; they seemed to forget the basic rules of defence! Lordy, lordy,
GIVE ME STRENGTH!
A needless corner, given away when the ball should have been whacked
clear, and a comedy of errors by the blue-shirted mannequins saw Dion
Dublin's bobbling effort bounce over a crumpling Richard Wright, who
appropriately tumbled into the net along with the ball.
England's next Number One? My arse.
Had It. Finished. Kaput. What idiot said that
about Kevin Campbell?
Well actually I'm not sure that's still not the case...
Pardon me for dampening the jubilant atmosphere but I do believe
that Kev scored his first from 3 yards and his second just after
Southgate had gone off injured and no-one had taken over the
responsibility of marking him.
But three points are a marvelous thing. Marvelous,
wonderful, delightful, needed!
We travel to Villa after Villa have had arguably their worst
result for 16 years. A 3-0 loss to their city rivals
Birmingham. A team that we battered for 40 minutes with 10
Villa will be smarting but do they have a team that is good
enough to bounce back and keep them in the top half of the
Premiership? Well, thanks to the sales of Southgate, Ehigou
and Boateng, the purchases of the likes of Baloban and the morale of
Alpay and the (non-)commitment of Angel, you don't really hold out
much hope for them.
They do have the very talented Darius Vassell upfront but the
image of Dion Dublin hauling himself back on to the Premiership
stage after nearly 12 months out is unlikely to give the Villa
faithful heart. Nor is the goal return so far this season of
the aptly named Peter Crouch... well wouldn't you if you were 6-ft
For us, we have our usual injury nightmare update (Len Capeling
may refer to crying rocking horses but then facts have never been
his forte). Rodrigo, after getting very close to his full
debut, is now likely to be out for best part of 4 months and with it
goes our hope for a creative spark. Richard Wright may still be
unavailable and Yobo was not considered for the reserve game against
Big Dunc played the full 90 for the reserves but David Moyes says
he still has a long way to go... queue a place on the bench?
Chadwick also played and scored a brace; his involvement in the
first team squad would certainly spice up the competition � Moyes
definitely likes this lad.
Vassell apart, Villa lack pace and, frankly, since Merson's
journey to Portsmouth, lack creativity. Lee Hendrie has not
developed as was hoped and Kinsella is yet to establish himself.
Savage and Cisse dominated for 45 minutes against Villa and
Gravesen and Li Tie are far superior to them. If the two of
them can start well rather than needing 45 minutes to warm up, as
they seem to have needed so far this season, then 3 points are there
for the taking.
Keep Villa quiet for 30 minutes and let the Villa unfaithful do
the rest of the job for us.
At the back Villa are tall but not quick � Steve Staunton?
I say no more...
Rooney's dramatic entrance against Boro is likely to give him his
first start outside Goodison and I think his pace could justify it.
I am still far from convinced about a 4-3-3 formation but, given
Rodrigo's injury and Alexandersson's inability, you have to use what
you have. Given a solid start and lack of errors from Gerard
(maybe I am asking too much now), that should be enough.
1-0 to the Blues and Villa stay down in the dumps.
Last gasp Dublin ruins Moyes
Having shown terrific fighting spirit to come back from a
clumsily conceded 2 - 0 deficit, Everton once again contrived to
disappoint their long-suffering supporters by conceding the
initiative and allowing Dion Dublin to snatch a calamitous late
winner at Villa Park.
I have been prevented from attending any matches by a late taken
holiday and my wife's sudden illness; the opportunity to watch this
televised game was my first chance this season to see the Blues
'live'. So, while I wouldn't normally report on a match I'd
not attended, at least this gives me the opportunity to make some
observations and compare thoughts with those other Evertonians who
have been reporting our progress so far this season.
The match itself was a typically depressing affair. Having
conceded an early lead to a sweetly struck curler by Lee Hendrie,
which gave the recalled Richard Wright no chance whatever, Everton
dominated proceedings over the first 45 minutes without creating one
As so often in recent seasons, there was plenty of time to
reflect on the depressing nature of the game being played out in
front of us. Here were two clubs, whose traditions and fan
base deserve at least the ambition of a top-half finish, showing �
after only 6 games of the season � the tension of sides already
looking over their shoulders at the lower reaches of the league and
the dreaded drop.
Villa, having snatched the early lead and threatened briefly
after that when Wright made an excellent save, seemed content to
defend deep and try to hold on to what they had for the best part of
80 minutes. Everton, on the other hand, despite the willing
running of Rooney and Radzinski, suffered from having arguably the
least creative midfield in the Premiership. They held the ball
for long spells but passed it across the park seemingly devoid of
any ideas as to how to carve out a goalscoring opportunity.
Whatever Moyes had to say at half-time was swiftly rendered
irrelevant as, within two minutes of the restart, some desperate
defending saw Hendrie left in oceans of space at the far post with
all the time in the world to smash a fine volley past Wright.
But, astonishingly, this new blow seemed to galvanise the Blues.
Suddenly, not only were we dominating possession, but we actually
looked like getting a goal. Sure enough, the erratic Radzinski
provided one through a fine strike.
Tommy Gravesen set off on a dribble along the edge of the Villa
box. He looked for all the world as if he was in typical
fashion about to disappear up his own arse, but instead slipped a
nifty little ball to the Rad, who swivelled and hit it hard and low
through the defenders legs and into the bottom corner.
In this spell we had numerous chances and half chances and we
really were battering them, with Radzinski's pace and Rooney's
willing running causing most of the problems. Then, with 65
minutes gone, SuperKev gets a perfect cross, just yards out.
Just our luck, the gaffe-prone Enklemann chooses this moment to
redeem his derby match blunder with a brilliant reflex save.
But, from the resulting corner, SuperKev rises ahead of the �6.5M
beanpole Crouch, and glances in a fine header. Simply
After their morale-sapping reverse to Birmingham, having a 2 - 0
lead slip at home, and with the home crowd on their own players'
backs, particularly singling out the ineffective Crouch, Villa were
there for the taking. The three points were ours if we could
simply keep up the pace and intensity of our game.
So what do we do? We sit back, concede the initiative,
replace the menacing raw talent of Rooney with the perennially
underperforming Saint Nic, and allow Villa back into the game.
The signs were there that we were about to throw this away when
Vassel got free one-on-one with Wright and looped his header a foot
wide. Then, in the closing stages, woeful defending from a
corner allows Dublin to scramble in an undeserved (on the 90 minutes
balance of play) winner. Desperate.
What this tells us, if we were to na�ve to think otherwise, is
that we have another long hard season ahead of us.
Moyes, after an early impact, is stuttering a little. His
substitution of Rooney for Alexandersson was part of the reason why
the initiative in this match was conceded. Like the players,
he seemed to lack the confidence to believe that the game was there
to be won and was too happy to try and settle for a draw.
By my calculations, under Moyes we are averaging around 1.3
points per game including last season. Smith's long term
average was around 1.15, so there is no real sign there of a corner
having been turned. Of course, as has been observed on this
website before now, 'you can't polish a turd', and Moyes was
bequeathed a disorganised rabble of a squad.
In terms of performances, Rooney, of whom too much was expected,
offers options and the chance of doing something unexpected, but
hasn't announced his arrival with the avalanche of goals that I
think many of us were fervently hoping for. Radzinski is
looking half a decent striker this year other than his tendency to
miss the proverbial barn door.
In midfield, we really are lacking. Gravesen works hard
enough and wins the ball, but, by God, his passing is woeful; most
of his 'passes' in this game were punts which ended up in the arms
of the Villa keeper. Li Tie is also willing but limited; ditto
Pembo. At the back, Vassel's pace served to highlight our
woeful lack of it; until the allegedly useful Yobo is fit, we will
struggle. Even the usually dependable Davie Weir had a 'mare
� was he playing in carpet slippers? He certainly spent most
of the match slipping on his arse.
All in all, pretty depressing stuff. However, we showed in
brief patches, in coming back from two down, that there is enough
there for us not to be too concerned about relegation this year if,
and it's a big if, we can sustain that level of performance more
often and for a full game. However, considering we haven't
played any of the top teams yet, a return of 8 points from 7 games
represents a very average start.
I can only say again, fellow Evertonians: it's going to be a
long, hard season.