Four consecutive victories � including beating Arsenal and
returning victorious from Elland Road and St James Park � may lead
those naive enough amongst you to think of Charlton at home as an
easy fixture. One hopes that the players don't!
Complacency is undoubtedly the biggest threat to us this weekend
but we would do well not to underestimate an actually quite decent
Last year saw Charlton establish themselves in the top half
before failing to win any of their last eight. That form has
pretty much continued through this season which has seen them garner
only three victories from their 12 league games.
Graham Stuart � forever to be revered by Everton fans for his
penalty and THAT goal against Wimbledon � is out until February
and they are definitely missing him. They still have some
tasty players though. Jensen is a class performer in midfield
and upfront Bartlett and Euell can be a handful � young Kevin
Lisbie could also come off the bench and I rate him highly; he is
For us, Moyes managed to balance the resting of players whilst
still winning at St James Park quite brilliantly. Yobo,
Hibbert and Pembridge all had the week off though Radzinski, because
of extra time, ended up playing his now customary hour up in the
north-east. You would expect all 3 to return and Rads to
revert to the starting line-up with Rooney back on the bench.
Central midfield may cause a few problems with Gravesen still
struggling and Linderoth � who had been enjoying a very good run
� now out for up to a month. Expect Carsley to move inside
along Li Tie with Steve Watson starting in front of Hibbert on the
right � a very strong right side.
Avoid complacency and another 3 points are there for the
taking. In many ways, this is a bigger test for us than the
games against the bigger teams; we had a spell where we were not
expected to get anything but we did � the next challenge is to
deliver when expectations are high. I think we all believe
that Moyes will pass this one as well.
3-0 to the Blues and Rads to get the goal that his recent
performances so deserve.
Today's game saw Everton presented with the opportunity to move
to third place in the Premier League, if other results went in our
favour. Conversely a drop to ninth might be possible if we
failed to pick up any points at all, such is the constricted nature
of the Premiership at the moment.
That Everton should find themselves on such a lofty perch is
somewhat surprising given the slow start to the season, but with the
whole squad contributing to the on-field displays, the levels of
confidence and consistency are increasing. Against that
backdrop Charlton arrived in their most perilous position since they
climbed back into the Premiership.
Form dictated that, with an unbeaten home record, we should be
more than a match for the visitors. A near-capacity crowd
would roar on the Toffees, but Charlton would have to be treated
with caution. Last year we expected to roll them over, but we
ended up with egg on our faces. Today, under David Moyes, we
were unlikely to see any complacency at all. So although a
home win was the likely result and a fourth straight Premiership
victory beckoned, we had to beware the potential banana skins.
Gravesen's inclusion was something of a surprise after his
omission during the last few games following a minor operation to
remove liquid from a knee but, with the controlled and effective
Linderoth missing, David Moyes's hand might have been forced.
Whatever the reason, it nearly paid off after only three minutes as
a neat one-two between him and Radzinski almost forced an early
goal. The first eight minutes were one-way traffic as Everton
completely dominated both in terms of territorial advantage and
possession. But, despite the domination, there were no frights
for the Charlton keeper.
In fact it was Wright who was the first of the two keepers to be
tested as a shot from 30 yards was rifled towards him; he held it
comfortably. But it was a reminder of the sort of thing we had
to be careful about.
Throughout the half, there were excellent cameo pieces � not
least from Yobo in the centre of defence, who with one moment of
outrageous skill took out three opposing forwards as he turned a
perfect ball back over his head to Hibbert. In another, he did
a shimmy and a back-flick to turn a forward on a sixpence. But
the moment of sublime skill that was a disbelief to everybody around
was a trap and flick by Unsworth on the touchline that turned
defence into attack. Priceless.
The moment of the half, though, was Radzinski's goal. It
came from nothing. Charlton had the ball, two-thirds of the
way forward in their own half. A moment of indecision saw
Gravesen pounce to dispossess Mustoe and stroke the ball forward to
Radzinski. On went the power and Radzinski left his marker
standing and raced towards the box. With the keeper committed
he put the ball into the corner of the net. Now it was a case
of how many? Surely?
Yet it stayed 1-0 up to half-time.
The second half was a bit of a puzzle. For fifteen minutes
we again dominated. Radzinski had two more good chances that
he put over the bar. The first was a dazzling run first to the
by-line and then, as a cross was expected, he cut inside again,
beating two men and blazed his shot high. The second was a
great ball into his path from Campbell that he side-footed above the
The defence, too was getting in on the act; a rasping shot from
Hibbert was parried by the keeper and, from a midfield not wanting
to be outdone, Gravesen drove a shot wide of the post.
Pembridge had a couple of chances and the game was there to be
But we couldn't kill them off; we nearly paid the price as Lisbie
and Euell failed to take chances offered and Hibbert had to clear a
goal-bound header off the line. In the end, we were hanging on
� in a game that should have been all over as a contest by
half-time. What happened to us in the last half-hour is beyond
me. We went from being in total control to being
Whether it was complacency kicking in or tiredness after the
exertions of St James's park on Wednesday, we'll never know, but
three substitutions made no difference; if anything, we went from
bad to worse. Where the extra three minutes at the end came
from I've no idea, but at the end of it we'd won and we'd banked
another three points.
It was a game of what might have been, rather than what
was. What we didn't do rather than what we did. That in
itself is a testament to how far we've come. Twelve months
ago, a win such as this would have been welcomed with relief,
whereas today there's a tinge of disappointment that we didn't win
Four in a row... ...fourth in the table. Wow!
Man of the Match: Yobo was outrageous, but David Unsworth
was Mr Consistency... he gets my vote.
Player Ratings (from Deep Blue):
- Wright 7 - Solid display again. Didn't have too
much to do and made one or two bad punches where he could have
caught it but overall, very good.
- Hibbert 7 - Barnstorming first half in both defence and
attack. Drifted out a little in the second half. Didn't
put a foot wrong though.
- Unsworth 6 - Some poor quality crosses and looked a bit
- Stubbs 8 - Did his cause no harm and Davie Weir may
find it a bit hard to get his place back now. Passing and
- Yobo 9 - Looks to be developing a great partnership at
the back with Stubbsy. Oozes composure and class, is fast
and very good in the air
- Gravesen 7 - Slotted back into midfield like he'd never
been away, great tackle and through ball to set the goal up
- Li Tie 7 - Another good performance. Passing and
awareness very good although he did look to be tiring somewhat
at the end
- Pembridge 7 - Made some great runs at the Charlton
defence. Turning into an automatic choice for the first
- Carsley 6 - Fairly ineffective for most of the
game. Looked tired.
- Campbell 7 - Understated but by no means
ineffective. Led the line well
- Radzinski 8 - Once again caused problems with his pace
and trickery. Missed a couple of chances but he was there
for the winner
- Subs - Rooney 6, Naysmith 6, Weir 6
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All week, I've had a nagging little voice worrying me about this
game. Whether it was the realist, the pessimist or the cynic
in me I don't know; but it was there none the less. We were
playing well and on a roll; Charlton were struggling at the
bottom. It looked like a walkover. However, I still
carry the scars of the Charlton and Ipswich games of last season �
games we widely anticipated winning but ended up getting tonked.
The team showed no real surprises but, with Linderoth injured, it
was a relief to see Gravesen return to after his recent knee
We started the game like a team on a roll, a team playing with
confidence. Gravesen was at his best, we passed it about and
looked in total command. It was very pleasing on the eye, but,
crucially, we didn't actually create a proper chance or force the
'keeper into a save.
Needless to say, that sort of domination couldn't continue and
Charlton began to drag themselves into the game. We were still
the better side but it wasn't one way traffic anymore.
It took us 30 minutes to finally find some penetration.
Gravesen caught Mustoe dallying on the ball and immediately put
Radzinski through; his first time shot found the bottom corner of
the net. The goal had been a while coming but it was
The start of the second half was like the start of the first,
only with a bit more directness. The instruction had obviously
gone out to stop the over-elaboration and general arsing
about. For ten minutes or so we battered them, forcing corners
and putting them under real pressure. We should have cashed in
but, like in the first half, failed to do so.
Charlton once again, dragged themselves back into it. They
didn't look like scoring but at least acquired parity. This
was actually when we created our two best opportunities, both
falling to Radzinski. First, he cut in along the by-line,
danced past a couple of defenders until he'd opened up the perfect
angle for himself, whereupon he blazed high and wide. Shortly
afterwards, he was fed in by Campbell; he had just the 'keeper to
beat but again blazed high and wide. Two bad misses, both
should have been converted.
The problem with not taking chances is that, at 1-0, the
opposition always have a chance and, crucially, they know that �
it gives them a lift. As we reached the last 15 minutes, they
were pressing us more and more and our defending seemed to get more
and more panicky.
Moyes began to make changes, first Weir for Stubbs (injury
related I presume) closely followed by a double substitution: Rooney
for Radzinski and Naysmith for Li Tie (Pembridge went to centre
midfield). Not even Rooney could wrest control of the game
back for us, his most significant contribution being to get booked
for a rash tackle after losing his head when fouled.
During the last ten minutes, Hibbert cleared one of the line,
they had a couple of chances where they missed the target, and we
looked nothing like a team on the rise.
Crucially, we rode out the storm and got the three points we
undoubtedly deserved. It was just a pity the final 10 minutes
had to be such an undignified scramble. It's an old adage in
football that you have to make your periods of dominance pay; we
failed to do that and nearly paid a high price it.
- Wright 7 Still not totally convincing.
Certainly playing well but there's still the odd flash of
uncertainty � a dodgy punch a couple of slightly fumbled
- Hibbert 7 The most improved player this
year. I harboured doubts but he is visibly growing in
self-belief and confidence.
- Yobo 7 Some sublime stuff � an overhead pass to
Hibbert, beating an attacker with a drag back in our penalty
area, but slightly negated by some panicky stuff in the closing
- Stubbs 7 After some of the ill-informed crap that
came his way early in the season, I'm so pleased to see him make
a positive contribution.
- Unsworth 7 Another who is growing in self-belief
- Carsley 7 Just does the job.
- Gravesen 7 One of his more complete performances,
although he still leaves me frustrated at times � most notably
when we were under the cosh late on.
- Li Tie 7 Did OK, contributed a few fancy turns
and flicks as well.
- Pembridge 7 Ditto Carsley.
- Radzinski 7 Deserved his goal but should have had
two more. Just works so hard for the team. One
moment sticks out for me: a long ball towards their corner flag,
Campbell closed down the covering defender and Radzinski
sprinted fully 30 yards just to close off the option to the
'keeper. The defender did manage to clear it but it shows
the pressure we put defenders under and how hard our players all
work for each other.
- Campbell 7 A selfless, hard-working
performance. Never quite fell for him in the penalty
area. Funny how no-one mentions his contract anymore...
- Weir 6 Slotted in relatively comfortably.
- Naysmith 6 Did OK
- Rooney 6 One of his quieter introductions.
I daresay Moyes has had a word about his silly bookings...
Team 7 Really should have been an 8 or 9 if we'd
cashed in when playing well. That in itself speaks volumes
about our progress � quibbling about not winning in more style!
Man of the match Yobo, Gravesen and Campbell were the
standouts for me, though I reckon Campbell just edges it.