After throwing away 2 points at home against Newcastle, we went
one better and tossed 3 away at the Riverside last Sunday, so hardly
ideal preparation for the annual banana-skin... Without the
inept initial 45 mins (well actually 40 - we dominated for 5 mins
right up to them scoring!) we would have walked away with 3 points
and kick started our season.
Instead we are left to do that in the Carling Cup (the League
Cup's latest disguise) at home against Stockport. Due to the
sacking of Carlton Palmer last week — did Royle really try to sign
him? — Kevin Richardson arrives in joint charge.
The last time Stockport
came to Goodison in '96 they very nearly embarrassed us in a 2-2
draw. Back at theirs a last minute thunderbolt from John
Ebbrell (!!) saw us scrape through 3-2.
Then their front-line was led by Alun Armstrong who went on to
get a big move to Middlesbrough, their hot shot this time around,
Luke Bennett, is out injured.
There's not really much else to say. Moyes suggested that
he would have given Osman a chance but a possible fractured rib has
put paid to that, but we should see McFadden granted his first start
given that Kevin Kilbane is cup-tied. Duncan Ferguson is
strongly rumored to be in the starting line-up, and Chadwick's form
for the reserves may see him given an opportunity later in the
game. At the back Weir must surely be given a game.
Even with a few people rested we should have far too much for
Stockport but then we should have had far too much for Shrewsbury
last year, and a myriad others the years before that, so a certain
degree of nervousness will undoubtedly exist.
An early goal would help but surely we can't embarrass ourselves
again... can we?
Stockport started quite brightly and their No. 19 (Welsh?) was
giving Hibbert plenty to do. Early touches from McFadden
looked very promising as he pushed down the left wing, while in the
middle, Gravesen was showboating a bit but he was effectively
running the show, so who's to argue?
You have to judge the performances with reference to the calibre
of the opposition but the back four were playing very well.
Pistone was commanding; Yobo was ice cool compared to his recent
performances; and Weir was posing the question, "Why haven't I been
Hibbert was pushing forward well and in the 17th minute Everton
got their first of umpteen corners but it went straight to their
goalie. Five minutes later, Gravesen gave us our first shot on
goal. Two or three minutes later and Hibbert was brought down
in the box. Dunc stepped forward to smash the penalty home.
1 - 0
The next few minutes showed Everton stepping up a gear.
Chadwick started to lose his early nerves and was working hard,
getting into the box but getting no luck. McFadden was really
coming in to his own down the left wing. Weir came close with
a powerful header from a Gravesen corner and Chadwick just failed to
convert a flicked on header from Steve Watson. The first 45
minutes had elapsed when Gravesen threaded a delicate pass through
to Chadwick who forced it home from close range. 2-0 as they
trooped off at half-time.
Half-time reflections included some furrowed brows about the
enigma wrapped within a puzzle that is Sandro Pistone. Apart
from one careless backpass which put Martyn under needless pressure,
he was superb. I was pleased for Chadwick who had been working
hard with little result before his goal but I fear that he still has
a lot to do before he persuades Davey Moyes that he's worth a
regular starting place.
No change as they emerged from the tunnel and within a couple of
minutes, Chadwick had a good chance to make it 3-0 as he blazed a
shot over the bar from the edge of the area. A couple of
minutes later, Yobo had a deft flick tipped over from a Gravesen
Duncan seemed to be striking up a good relationship with McFadden
(Scottish Mafia at work?) and was constantly feeding the lad with
intelligent flicks and nod-downs. There was also the
remarkable sight of Dunc running a good 60 yards to chase a ball,
the like of which I thought I'd long seen the last of from our
talisman. He's certainly looking fitter and happier these days
and was playing like a seasoned pro.
An inspired run by McFadden saw him go past three or four County
players, showing great resilience to keep his balance under
challenge, before cutting it back past the despairing hands of
Stockport's keeper for Ferguson to smash it home. Duncan wheeled
round to start his celebratory run before checking and turning back
to congratulate the youngster. Nice touch, I thought.
A quarter of an hour into the second half, one Stuart Barlow came
on for County. Jigsaw got a good reception before he soured it
somewhat in a spat with Gravesen. A few minutes later,
Gravesen, Yobo and Hibbo went off to be replaced by Rooney, Clarke
Rooney was obviously under orders to sit deep behind the front
two, a la Liechtenstein. I got the impression that he was
relishing the opportunity to develop this role and was not averse to
defending against corners etc when required. He was playing
quite well but to be honest, McFadden was the star of the show with
Duncan Ferguson orchestrating many of the moves.
As we moved towards full-time, Stockport had a few attempts on
goal and a couple of corners but they were mostly dealt with by our
lads with ease. When the final whistle blew, we saw Wayne
graciously obliging Stuart Barlow with a shirt swap. Duncan
was first off the pitch, you'll be interested to know, but for once
you didn't get the impression that this was because he was in a
So overall marks:
- Martyn - 5, did everything he was asked to but needs
time to establish a proper rapport with his defenders
- Pistone - 8, looked comfortable on the ball and was a
regular provider down the right
- Yobo - 7, showed none of the indecision that has marred
his recent performances and was unlucky not to net early in the
- Weir - 6, played well and should be preferred to Stubbs
- Hibbert - 5, not at his best and got caught out a
couple of times
- Watson - 6 industrious throughout and had a couple of
good chances on goal
- Gravesen - 8, the classic alpha male tends to sulk if
he's ignored but fair dos, he was at the heart of most things
- Carsley - 6, covered every inch of the pitch but
remains a squad player at best.
- McFadden - 9, I dont think many people present tonight
would contest that he was man of the match. Showed skill,
composure and great energy
- Ferguson - 7, very pleasing return to form and I think
he should stay in the team for the weekend
- Chadwick - 6, gets into the right positions but doesnt
convert enough of his chances for me. Subs:
- Clarke - 6, thinks about his game but still needs work
to become the finished article
- Unsworth and Rooney - both rate a 6 for
competent but unremarkable contributions