|Venue: The Hawthorns, Birmingham||Premiership||Sunday 3 April 2005; 4:05pm|
|Gera (63')||Half Time: 0-0
|Attendance: 26,805||(Fixture 31)||Referee: Graham Poll|
James Beattie is not even in the squad for this vital match, but the good news is that Mikel Arteta returns to hopefully provide much-needed creativity, while Tim Cahill also starts, hopefully bereft of any jet-lag!
Even the Official Everton website doesn't know why Beattie is missing "presumably through a late injury."
Everton started brightly but the first real attempt on goal came after Horsfield fooled the linesman and went to ground far too easily under pressure from Pistone. The free-kick was swung in well and Gardsoe's header smashed against the Everton bar with Martyn well beaten.
Cahill was definitely jet-lagged for his first yellow card, coming in late to catch Albrechtsen after the ball had taken off. Richardson immediately followed him into the book for a cynical tackle on the rampant Arteta. As the half progressed the football got increasingly less attractive, with Everton failing to really put much pressure on a poor West Brom side that were nevertheless able to present a reasonably solid defence to stifle Everton's endeavours.
Pistone pulled up with a hamstring problem as West Brom got the bit between their teeth just before half-time, Yobo eventually coming on in his place moments before the whistle, swapping sides with Tony Hibbert and conceding a corner that gave the confused Everton defence a real testing.
Arteta was next in the book after flailing at a West Brom player when his shirt was grabbed. Poll finally blew the whistle on a tense and really rather scrappy first half.
It took a while, but Everton started playing better, carrying the game to The Baggies. But was not until the hour mark that the heartbeat started to race, with a lovely passing move slicing through the solid West Brom defence. An excellent cutback to Bent laid it on a plate for him, but he buried it in Row Z with the most awful strike you could ever imagine. Woeful in the extreme!
Moments later and the cost of Bent's miss was made starkly clear. A good cross was whipped in by Greening to the far post, where Gera beat Yobo to nod the ball past Martyn. And it looked far too simple, but Everton, despite a good start to the second half, found themselves once again chasing the game.
Cahill tried to make amends but his swan-like dive for a penalty after Gera grasped his hand was fooling no-one; he was very lucky not to draw a second yellow and a red-card dismissal. For good measure, West Brom then conspired to hit the Everton post on their next attack!
Everton pushed on, with Ferguson replacing Carsley, and good pressure leading to a flurry of corners. But the high arcing deliveries by Arteta lacked pace and failed to create the much-needed goal-scoring chances Everton so desperately wanted.
Bent finally got in a good swerving shot on goal but Hoult managed to deflect it away. Minutes later, Bent had another chance but shot tamely across the face of the far post. At least Everton were piling forward and trying to change the game, but the packed West Brom penalty area was just too crowded for the Blues.
Pushing forward with intent, Everton then let Gera in for a fierce shot that Martyn blocked away to save more Everton blushes as precious time ticked away, with a generous 5 minutes added by Referee Graham Poll.
An utterly dreadful result for Everton. Another must-win game; another loss. Three defeats in four, while it's three wins in four for West Brom. But no complaints, eh? It's been a wonderful season and we're still fourth!!!
The gap continues to close behind Everton as the hungrier Reds pile on the pressure, coming to within one point of the Blues going into this game after their win over Bolton on Saturday. Remember how we crowed when Rafael Beneath-Us was 10 points adrift?
David Moyes is expected to have a relatively full teamsheet to choose from for this crucial game against one of the bottom three. James McFadden is injured with hamstring and ankle problems, while Li Tie is still making a long and drawn-out recovery from fracturing his shin in February 2004 and has been ruled out for the rest of the season.
"Must-win" has become such an over-blown demand for the Blues in recent weeks that it seems to have lost it's meaning... but this really is a must-win game for Everton if they are to hold on to fourth place and the hope of qualifying for the Champions League next season.
But David Moyes's tactical choices are limited by his small squad, and by a reluctance to waver from the tried and true path of the 4-5-1 formation that took the Premiership by storm, but which has now been well and truly sussed by any manger worth his salt (David O'Leary being the obvious exception).
The real test of David Moyes's mettle as a top manager comes in this most challenging of run-ins, were he alone has to decide whether to continue with his favoured formation, as he has done with very poor results in recent games. Or will he come up with something new and different that actually works on the field, and envigorates the players who seem increasingly bereft of creative ideas when the opposition shows any sign of playing up. The team appears to be still struggling to come to terms with James Beattie, who has had precious little service and has a correspondingly poor scoring record to show for it.
Is our only hope then our current leading scorer, Tiny Tim Cahill? He is hopefully up for this one after flying around the world in the last 10 days to play (or warm the bench) for his beloved Australia side. Jet-lag? We shall see...
The pattern of recent games has descended into a sad predictability that is likely to appear yet again at The Hawthorns. Everton will start in 4-5-1 formation with Bent (who works tremendously hard but has managed just two goals in the last 23 games) alone up-front. Everton do well to neutralize the game but eventually fall behind, and take a while longer to switch the formation while as end up chasing the game...
Fans who love to play the game on paper already have this one down as a win, which is foolhardy in the extreme. Each game is there to be played, the points are there to be won. But of we don't do it on the day... well, you know the story.
Failure to win this one will give Liverpool the opportunity they need to finally take fourth place ? with the full support of the media. And if they succeed, we will only have ourselves to blame for failing to take advantage of a fantastic points cushion that has now all but evaporated.
The Baggies will have a familiar face to call upon: Kevin Campbell, who has scored three goals for them since he left Everton for The Hawthorns in January.
Come on you Blues! Let's put on a good show for those Sky cameras! And for overseas fans in North America and other nations who implement summer time/daylight savings on Sunday: please make sure to put your clocks forward or you may miss the first hour of the *live* TV coverage in your market.
This will be the 146th meeting between Everton and West Bromwich Albion in all competitions, and the 70th at The Hawthorns.
Everton's full record against West Brom is:
Our record away to West Brom is:
The last match between the sides was earlier this season on 28 August when a brace from Leon Osman ensured Everton?s 2-1 win was their first home victory of the season. The last meeting at The Hawthorns was on April 12 2003 when a disputed David Weir goal and another from Kevin Campbell saw Everton win 2-1.
There have been 9 Everton hat-tricks against West Bromwich Albion over the years. The last was on 28 September 1968 when Alan Ball scored three in a 4-0 home victory as well as getting 4 goals in a 6-2 away victory on 16 Match 1968. In between, Albion secured a 1-0 victory at Wembley in the 1968 FA Cup final.
Obviously the most famous scoring feat for the club against West Brom was on 30 December 1893, when Everton won 7-1 at Walton Breck Road. This was the day when Jack Southworth scored a club record 6 goals in one game, with the other Everton goal coming from Jack Bell. Southworth?s record was in the middle of an 8 game consecutive scoring streak for the club, which saw Southworth score 16 goals in those 8 games which helped him to a season tally of 27 goals in just 23 league and cup appearances.
The most common victory for Everton is 2-1 which has happened 12 times in Everton's 59 victories. West Brom?s most common victory over Everton is 1-0, which has happened 9 times in their 53 victories. The most common draw between the sides is 1-1, which has happened 15 times in the 33 draws between the sides.
Everton's record for 3 April is:
This is the first time the clubs have met on this day. Everton?s last match on 3 April was in 2004, when Newcastle United won 4-2 at St. James? Park with the Everton goals coming from Thomas Gravesen and Joseph Yobo.
Steve Simonsen was born on this day in 1979 in South Shields. Signed from Tranmere Rovers in September 1998 in what was potentially the biggest deal for a goal-keeper, Steve went on to make 37 appearances for Everton, including 2 substitute appearances, before he was released by the club at the end of the 2003-04 season. Steve then moved to Stoke City in July.
Alf Milward and Edgar Chadwick made their last England appearances (as Everton players) on this day in 1897 in a 2-1 defeat by Scotland, with Jack Bell appearing for the Scots.
Bertie Freeman also made his last England appearance (as an Everton player) on this day in 1909 in a 2-0 victory over Scotland.
Alan Ball and Ray Wilson were in the England side that beat Spain 1-0 in a European Championship qualifier on this day in 1968.
Milestones that can be reached in this game:
? This match will be Everton?s 250th away match since the inception of the Premier League. The club?s current record in away matches in the Premier League is P-249 W-58 D-64 L-127 F-256 A-392
? If Alessandro Pistone starts the match, it will be his 100th start for the club in all competitions.
? If he makes a substitute appearance, Duncan Ferguson will beat Danny Cadamarteri club record for the most number of substitute appearances in the league for the club. Both are currently top of the list on 54 substitute appearances each. Ferguson is still behind 4 substitute appearances behind Cadamarteri in all competitions (Cadamarteri is on 60 whilst Ferguson is on 56).
It has been a wonderful dream but the prospect of Everton playing in the Champions League next season is looking increasingly unlikely after a weekend in which Liverpool did what they had to to earn three points against resurgent Bolton Wanderers and Everton continued a run of form more befitting their relegation-haunted conquerors today than a team hoping to play Europe's elite next season.
This was the Blues' fourth defeat in five games, two of those being supposed bankers for three points, and it is going to take a supreme effort for David Moyes's side to reverse the current trend and hang on to fourth spot with just a single point separating them and their Merseyside rivals in fifth.
Moyes's plans for this one were disrupted by a knee injury to James Beattie apparently sustained in training late in the week. It meant that he had to resort to the line-up that carried his team into the top four in the first place with Mikel Arteta playing the Thomas Gravesen role, albeit in a more under-stated manner. The rest of the starting XI was the same as usual but something is still clearly missing compared to the first half of the campaign.
Everton started brightly enough. At the prompting of the assured Arteta, their passing was quick and tidy without being especially incisive in the final third and their technically inferior hosts found it difficult to make inroads through the midfield. Nevertheless, Albion might have taken a ninth-minute lead had Gaardsoe's header from a free kick needlessly conceded by Alessandro Pistone by the corner flag not cannoned off the crossbar and out to safety.
At the other end, the Blues were keen to exploit WBA's defensive frailties with some well-placed balls over the top, one of which Bent latched onto in the 13th minute but when the ball did drop for him, he fired straight at the goalkeeper from an angle. Seven minutes later, Lee Carsley finished a lovely passing move with a tame side-foot from 25 yards that went wide as he tried to sweep it into the top corner.
Two incidents of note followed shortly before the halfway mark. In the first, Tim Cahill was rightly booked for a terrible challenge on Albrechtson; it was significant because he might have received a yellow card in the second half for trying to con Graham Poll into awarding a penalty for almost non-existent contact in the home side's box. The second saw Kieran Richardson booked a minute later for scything down Arteta, a challenge from which the Spaniard got up very gingerly and never seemed to really recover despite finishing the first half and reappearing for the second. While his mobility returned, he didn't look the same player after taking the knock and, just as his absence from the Liverpool game seemed crucial, so his influence on Everton's forward movement was sorely missed.
Another injury disrupted the Blues even further. A couple of minutes before the break, Pistone pulled up with a tweaked hamstring and Joseph Yobo came on to replace him. Half-time couldn't come soon enough at this point. The momentum lost due to Arteta's injury and the chaos caused by Tony Hibbert's switch to left-back left the Blues all at sea in the closing stages of the half as the home side pressed for the opening goal.
The second half started in a similar vein as the first but, again, Everton were lacking in the final third. A lovely move on the edge of the area on the hour mark which Arteta might have finished himself but ended with Bent skying it embarrassingly high over the bar was illustrative of what the Blues are capable of with the Spaniard pulling the strings but also the cutting edge they lack.
A minute later, the die was cast. Jonathan Greening surprised the Everton defence with a terrific early cross from the left that Gera met at the far post with barely a challenge from Yobo and diverted the ball past Nigel Martyn to break the deadlock.
Everton responded by upping the tempo slightly but with little end product and it was Albion who nearly scored again when great work by Richardson put Albrechtson in but, thankfully, he hit the post.
Moyes threw Duncan Ferguson on but his impact was to be almost negligible. Instead, all the chances fell the way of Bent who forced a good save from Russell Hoult 11 minutes from time with a powerful shot, although the unmarked Leon Osman felt that he was better placed for a square ball. A minute later, Ferguson glanced the ball on for Bent but he pulled his shot across the face of goal and wide as Everton probed for the equaliser.
Despite their frustrated efforts, it was Bryan Robson's plucky outfit who were making the better chances as they got in behind the Everton defence three times in the last 10 minutes with Martyn making a miracle stop to prevent a second goal when Greening got to the by-line and squared to the unmarked Gera right in front of goal. The Blues were handed five minutes of added time but much of that was chewed up by the home side's highly effective time-wasting techniques and the affair fizzled out to a highly unsatisfactory conclusion as far as Everton were concerned.
The cutting edge is clearly gone from Moyes's side. Whether it's because they're missing the on-field leadership and set-pieces of Thomas Gravesen or their determination to prove the critics wrong has been replaced by hesitancy brought on by the daunting prospect of Champions League football is hard to ascertain. But this is no longer the team that soared so confidently into the top four in the first place; the cracks that appeared after Boxing Day have widened and done much to undermine a charge into Europe's elite tournament that looked so likely just a few short weeks ago when Everton's lead over Liverpool in the table was a yawning 11 points.
As their confidence takes further knocks and the reds across the Park continue to pick up vital points from their perspective, it's also hard to see the players rediscover that drive and potency that were the hallmarks of the first 19 games. It's sad and frustrating to see us fade so markedly at the same point in the season as the last two years and while all is not lost — we are still clinging to that fourth spot — we have some awfully difficult games to play between now and season's end. Unless they undergo some miraculous change in effectiveness and form, it is, unfortunately, only a matter of time until they relinquish that treasured Champions League place. But maybe that was too lofty an aspiration in the first place...