The injury to Tim Cahill meant a reshuffle to accommodate Phil Neville
in midfield, with Alan Stubbs coming back in to partner David Weir, Yobo
at right back. Middlesbrough, ecstatic at heir fantastic comeback on
Thursday that saw them through to the Uefa Cup Final. The best time
to play them? We shall see... they make nine changes, with lots of
young reserves coming in.
Everton were slow out of the blocks, Richard Wright worryingly
missing a kick. After 10 mins or so Joseph Yobo landed awkwardly, jarring his leg.
Boro cut through the Everton defence on 17 mins, and Morrison should have
scored but for a vital intervention by Weir.
Beattie delivered a good ball in that Jones could only punch... but why
was Beattie delivering the balls? Osman had a pop following a nice run, but his shot from 20 yards was
over the bar. Van der Meyde still looked a bit slow or lacking in
match sharpness as his final balls demonstrated. Meanwhile, the Boro
youngsters were up for it, pushing Everton hard with a succession of good
moves in attacks that brought a number of corners but they failed to test
Richard Wright. A Yakubu shot flew just wide.
From a free kick, Beattie's shot was good but Brad Jones fumbled it
away for a corner but nothing came of it, except a break in which Yakubu
turned Naysmith and left him for dead with three other players supporting
him but he then slipped and fell. At the other end, Davies got free
and ran at goal with little support but Ehiogu stopped him.
Van der Meyde was substituted after the break (pain-killing injections
no longer effective?), with Kilbane coming on. Wright had to save
well from Christie after another good turn by Yakubu, but Wright got his
right leg injured in the process and on came Iain Turner.
Middlesbrough continued to threaten more convincingly than Everton,
with a shot from Yakubu deflected fractionally wide. At the other end, a
well-taken free-kick by McFadden was pushed away although it may have been
Davies, who was having a pretty good game, made a strong run, got into
a great position, but fired into the side netting with Kilbane in a
perfect far-post position. Chance wasted, but it prefaced a good
period of attacking play form Everton, with chances for Stubbs and
McFadden swinging in some decent balls.
Yakubu so nearly scored fom close range in the last five minutes, but
fired fractionally wide. But, with two minutes left, Davies and
Osman combined brilliantly to set Jamie McFadden off and he lobbed
it superbly over the 'Boro goalkeeper, an excellently constructed and very
well-taken goal to give Everton all the points! So... perhaps it was
a good time to play Boro after all!!!
And it does wonders for Everton's record in the final five games of the
P 4 W 1 D 1 L 2 GF
1 GA 4 Pts 4
Everton win their final away game for the first time in 13 years; some
A year after finishing fourth in the Premiership and earning the plaudits and respect of the nation, Everton go into the penultimate game of the season hoping that two wins and other results going their way will earn them another top-half finish.
Their opponents are wildly erratic Middlesbrough whose success in Europe on Thursday, where they booked their place in the UEFA Cup Final, could come at the expense of their own top-10 ambitions — this weekend's game comes less than 48 hours after their last outing.
David Moyes must choose from an ever-dwindling supply of first-team players. Tony Hibbert, Nigel Martyn, Alessandro Pistone and Tim Cahill are all ruled out through injury, Lee Carsley is suspended, and while Mikel Arteta has resumed training following an injury of his own, he will not be ready for this trip to The Riverside.
That shortage of options in central midfield means that Kevin Kilbane will likely start alongside Simon Davies, but there is better news at left back with Nuno Valente's return to the squad. The Portuguese hasn't featured since the first half of March. Elsewhere in the squad, there may be substitute opportunities for young players like Victor Anichebe to get some playing time.
Andy van der Meyde is expected to be available despite playing through last weekend's goalless draw with Birmingham with the help of painkilling injections. Matteo Ferrari, however, is listed as a "doubt." Hmmm....
'Boro have injury concerns of their own, with Gareth Southgate, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Mark Viduka all nursing complaints. More than that, there will be some tired limbs in red shirts at The Riverside so plenty for the Blues to exploit.
While Everton's players were certainly more motivated and more fluid against Birmingham than they have been for a while, the same lack of bite up front prevails. That is, of course, a problem to address in the summer but it could harm Moyes's hopes of ending the season on a high.
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