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 Venue: The Hawthorns, Birmingham Premiership  Saturday 19 November 2005; 5:15pm
 Ellington (pen:44', 68')
 Clement (50')
 Earnshaw (90')
Half Time: 1-0

 
    
 Attendance: 24,784 Fixture 12 Referee: Dermot Gallagher

An absolute disgrace


And now?

Just when you think that things were moving — however slowly — in the right direction, along comes another of those performances that makes you wonder what on earth has gone so spectacularly and so quickly wrong at Everton. Unfortunately for David Moyes, it also raises all sorts of questions about the manager's ability to lead the team he has assembled over the long term if results like this are going to keep destroying the fragile confidence of his players and testing the faith of the fans.

This was supposed to be another stepping stone along the road of gradual recovery from a disastrous start to 2005/06. Two largely unconvincing but crucial victories on the back of a hard-fought draw with Chelsea had taken the focus off Moyes's threatened tenure at Goodison and put it back on building for the future.

What morale and momentum had been built up over the last three games was torn away by a shambolic display at The Hawthorns that plunges Everton back into the bottom three.

A midweek illness forced Duncan Ferguson to start the match on the bench and Tim Cahill also failed a late fitness test on a groin strain sustained playing for Australia in their triumphant World Cup qualifying playoff against Uruguay. So, Marcus Bent deputised up front and Kevin Kilbane was drafted into the midfield, with Andy van der Meyde switching flanks and Mikel Arteta moving inside the partner Simon Davies.

From the whistle it looked as though the injection of Bent's pace was going to give the Blues the edge. The hitherto out-of-favour striker exhibited plenty of running and some nimble footwork in the very early stages but it largely came to nothing given the ponderous James Beattie's lack of movement and the fact that the Blues were playing so deep.

Nevertheless, Kilbane, who never stopped running or chasing all afternoon, made one of his charging runs inside in the fourth minute but when he was clipped by a defender and managed to stay on his feet, referee Dermot Gallagher made the first of countless terrible decisions when he blew up instead of allowing the advantage.

The free kick was in prime Mikel Arteta territory but, for the second game running, Beattie took responsibility and the chance was wasted. Direct free kicks around the area are Arteta's speciality, so why does Beattie keep taking them, particularly when he makes such a mess of the opportunities?

The home side, capitalising on the visitors' propensity to giive the ball away seemingly at will, responded by making some chances of their own. Junichi Inamoto found space for a 25-yard shot that Nigel Martyn gathered comfortably before Kamara waltzed into the area and fired from the angle, only to be denied by Joseph Yobo's lunging block that diverted the ball out for a corner.

A minute later, the home fans were screaming for a penalty as Phil Neville blocked a cross with an arm raised across his face before Nathan Ellington turned and shot at Martyn with the Everton players complaining that the game was not stopped to allow Yobo to receive attention following an awkward fall on his back.

By this stage, WBA seemed the more likely of the two teams to score. Everton seemed to have learned nothing from the success against Middlesbrough, resorting as they did to endless balls from the back or deep on the right flank that were lumped in the general direction of Beattie and Bent. Predictably, the ball ended up with a striped shirt and the midfield and defence were under immediate pressure once again.

Van der Meyde, the one player around whom Moyes could build his strategy, was barely in the game. Hugging first the right and then the left touchline, he was isolated from much of the Blues' moves. And when he did find himself with the ball, he was either presented with no options ahead of him or didn't feel confident or willing to take a man on. So, he too resorted to whipping balls in from deep on the flanks with no success.

The Dutchman did have a chance after 32 minutes, though, when he was picked out by Hibbert's cross but he could only head over the bar from about 12 yards out.

The game was drifting towards a welcome half-time interval when Ellington danced past Hibbert who could only foul him with a despairing outstretched leg. The contact was clearly made outside the area but the Baggies' striker eventually fell well inside the box and the referee pointed to the spot, much to Everton's chagrin.

Ellington stepped up himself and cleverly sent Martyn the wrong way before rolling the ball into the opposite corner of the net to break the deadlock.

The second half wasn't even five minutes old when West Brom doubled their advantage thanks to yet more poor Everton defending against set pieces. Beattie lost track of his marker and Neil Clement profited by rising to power a header past the 'keeper.

Clearly rocked on their heels, Everton responded with a Van der Meyde cross that was looped over his own bar by a defender, followed by a direct free kick from the Dutch winger that evaded everybody and was sneaking inside the far post when Kuszczak dived full length to turn it around the post.

A minute after that, a nice move involving Arteta and Beattie ended with the latter firing a cross to the back post but Bent could only steer his header the wrong side of the post.

At the other end, Ellington was put clean through past a leaden-footed David Weir but ended up making a mess of the chance by blasting high over the bar from the angle. He atoned for the error two minutes later, though, when substitute Kanu found him with a square ball across the Everton area and, after checking back on his left foot, the striker curled a terrific shot past Martyn to make it 3-0.

Everton were clearly dead and buried. James McFadden came on for Van der Meyde and then Osman replaced the increasingly frustrated and ineffective Arteta, but as they pushed to try and restore some pride, they left gaps at the back that the home side were willing to exploit. Kanu had a gilt-edged opportunity to deepen the Blues' embarrassment with 6 minutes left but, from 8 yards out, he could only head straight at Martyn.

Everton did threaten to make a game of it in the last ten minutes. Ferguson stung the 'keeper's hands with a powerful free kick that was almost parried over the line Roy Carroll-style by Kuszczak and Curtis Davis came within a foot of toe-ending the ball into his own net from McFadden's cross.

Everton's afternoon was summed up in the final two minutes, though. At one end McFadden's fizzing left footer was parried by Kuszczak but Ferguson could only knee the ball over the bar with the goal yawning in front of him. And when Kilbane's lazy backpass missed Weir by a mile, Robert Earnshaw raced through to put the ball past the helpless Martyn to complete the rout.

Irrespective of the performance — while dreadful, it was not the worst display of the season — losing 4-0 to West Bromwich Albion is a disgrace whichever way you cut it. In the context of this pitiful season, it shouldn't be all that surprising, but the fact remains that the team that finished 4th last season should not be humiliated in the manner that they were by the team that survived the drop on the last day of the season.

That is the reality, though, and it's not the first time that Everton have collapsed in such dramatic fashion this season, which makes you question the belief or commitment of the players and the longevity of Moyes's motivational style of management.

This is a team with big problems, ones that were masked by the effectiveness of the 4-5-1 system last season before it was found out after Christmas last year. As a unit, despite the talent that exists in the ranks, there appears to be no attacking plan. What works one week is ignored the next, the players falling back on the tired long-ball tactic which does nothing but regularly gift possession to the opposition team.

The two players, Arteta and Van der Meyde, who should be the driving creative force are either isolated on the flanks with no support or are presented with next to no options when they do have the ball because the team as a whole plays too deep and the strikers don't offer enough off-the-ball movement. The one tactic that has borne fruit this season is that of getting the ball to the byline and getting in crosses in and around the six yard box. You could count on one hand the number of times they achieved that today.

Where we go from here is anybody's guess. Yes, the team was disrupted by injuries and has been all season but the core team is the same as the one that finished the previous campaign. At the very least, Everton should have the defensive basics down and be comfortably mid-table, treading water until the next transfer window. As it is, damaging defeats like this are perpetuating the crisis at Goodison and increasing the likelihood that this is going to be a campaign of fighting against relegation unless things change very soon.

Player Ratings:

Martyn 6 — Once again he had little to do apart from the pick the ball out of the back of the net having had little chance of preventing any of the four goals
Hibbert 5 — The first goal wasn't a penalty but he was caught flat-footed by Ellington's movement and his challenge was clumsy. Elsewhere on the pitch his passing was typically poor.
Neville 5 — Played well in patches but poorly once again for much of the rest of the game.
Yobo 7 — Once again the saving grace at the back. Made a couple of crucial blocks and his pace was a crucial factor in keeping the score down to four
Weir 5 — Caught out for pace numerous times. At what stage do we start building for the future by playing Kroldrup? Probably now seeing as our three-game unbeaten run has come to an abrupt end
Van der Meyde 6 — The one spark of creativity on the day but all too often he took the easy way out with an overly-ambitious long pass or ineffective deep cross. He looked as though he didn't want to get into a sprint lest he injure something
Ateta 6 — Had a frustrating afternoon. Unable to get much going in attack and saw a number of 50-50 decisions go against him
Davies 5 — Busy and industrious but with almost no end product
Kilbane 6 — A decent performance, arguably his best of the season, was utterly ruined by a suicide ball in the last minute that gifted WBA their fourth
Beattie 5 — No pace, no skill, a poor first touch, and relied upon all too often for fulfil the Ferguson "lamp-post" role.
Bent 6 — Ran all day long as usual but with no real end product. He doesn't seem to know what to do with the ball when he has it at his feet, either because his confidence is shot or because he doesn't think there are any options open to him from the players around him

Ferguson 6 — Won plenty in the air after coming on but no one was picking up the scraps. Almost forced the 'keeper into an embarrassing own goal late on but should have scored at 3-0 but lazily kneed it over the bar from about 5 yards out.
McFadden 6 — Did well as a second-half sub, making the 'keeper parry a decent angled shot and almost forcing an own goal from Davis
Osman 6 — Lively and inventive for the 15 minutes in which he was on the pitch

Lyndon Lloyd
 


Match Preview

After going six games without picking up a single point, Everton are on something of a roll with three games unbeaten under their belts and the uptick in confidence that comes as a result.

Sure, neither of their two consecutive single-goal victories were candidates for performance of the season — the Premiership season, not Everton's! — and there were certainly elements of fortune about both games, but in the context of the relegation struggle that appeared — and may yet, who knows — to lie ahead, the wins against Birmingham and 'Boro, were a massive boost.

Time now to build on that momentum with another of those "winnable" games against a West Brom side who have a lost all four games in all competitions since their surprise victory over Arsenal at The Hawthorns a month ago.

David Moyes's biggest headache remains the left back position where Gary Naysmith remains a long way back from recovery from a series of operations on his troublesome ankle, and neither Nuno Valente nor Matteo Ferrari are likely to be fit enough for the trip south to the Midlands this week.

Phil Neville will, no doubt, be called upon once more to the fill the breach; despite having an awful game against Middlesbrough he remains the best option in that spot.

Elsewhere in the team, Moyes may have to break up his first-choice forward line as Duncan Ferguson is a doubt because of illness. The concern there is that he will be tempted to leave James Beattie up front on his own in a 4-5-1 when it may be worth trying Andy van der Meyde in a forward position or giving James McFadden another shot.

Tim Cahill will have a late fitness test on a groin strain picked up playing for Australia this week but the management are hopeful that he will be passed fit.

Bryan Robson's side have shown what they can do by beating Arsenal but, by the same token, their weaknesses are also highly evident. Newcastle United — admittedly put three past them in their last home game — but Blues everywhere would be elated with another 1-0 win.

Lyndon Lloyd


Not A Good Day Out

We were supposed to leave at about 1:30pm and Gary finally rolled up about 2pm.  Off we set.  We figured that the best route was to fly up the A41 but having missed the turning and somehow headed on towards North Wales the day had not started well.  To complicate matters even further we then made the schoolboy error of taking the wrong turning again at the roundabout and ended up heading back towards the Wirral except in major traffic.  Not an ideal start whatsoever and we started to worry if wed make it there at all.

Luckily, once we did get onto the A41 it was pretty plain sailing all the way.  Once we did get to somewhere approaching Birmingham it was as difficult to navigate round as ever and Gary noticed a car with a West Brom flag.  Is right.  Lets just follow that flag was the cry until we realised he was heading well out of town and was evidently not going to the game.  Eventually we got a tip off from some Baggies fan on where to park cheaply and we were sorted.  It was even right opposite a nice friendly pub (The Globe) and we had a few jars in their before shooting off towards the Hawthorns.

Once inside (the game had already started) we looked at our tickets and quickly realised we were near the back.  Row XX! Actually, we turned out to be right at the back.  Still a decent view though and a brilliant stadium I thought.

Everton had stupidly changed it slightly when I feel they should have just left well alone.  I can understand the trail of thought behind resting Cahill and I dont know much about Duncs illness so maybe Im being to critical but the shape somehow never looked right.  The defence was the same: Kilbane was on the left; Van der Meyde on the right and Arteta and Davies together in the middle; Beattie and Bent occupied the attack.  The bench consisted of Ferguson (maybe not so ill after all then?), McFadden, Osman, Krldrup and Wright.

We started very poorly and West Brom seized the initiative and took the game to us.  It was only really a few last ditch interceptions from Yobo which saved us at this point.  Everton struggled to respond to the tempo and just couldnt get into their stride with Inamoto pulling the strings for West Brom in the middle.  About midway through the half West Brom should have had a penalty when a cross into the box hit Nevilles elbow.  The ref must have seen it as ball to hand although I thought he stuck his arm out.  As it turned out, the ref didnt see a lot in this game.  Meanwhile the stewards did their best to spoil things by making everybody on the back row sit down.  Now thats just crazy.  Its not like we were blocking anyones view is it?

In the last 10-15 minutes of the half, Everton finally seemed to get it together and stifled West Brom.  They did what they should have take the sting out of the game.  This allowed us to become more positive and Bents running gave Everton  some good opportunities to put the ball in the box.  On two opportunities they did so intelligently only for Kilbane (who could have half-volleyed but instead took it onto his right foot (!!) and had a shot charged down) and Bent (who headed over from a decent Neville cross) to miss the target altogether.  I was happy enough now, though, as Everton now looked capable of doing something.  I felt we had them.

Well it was looking good anyway until Beattie took the ball in his own half and decided the best option was to take on the entire West Brom team despite having good options from Kilbane, Davies and Arteta.  His touch resembled something more like an ape would be capable of, and he gave the ball away very poorly.  The defender picked it up effortlessly (a bit like taking candy off a baby) and got the ball forward.  Everton won it back though and played the ball towards Beattie.  This time he mis-controlled woefully and a ball forward suddenly found West Brom in a good attacking position.  Kanu slipped it through to Ellington who had a run on Hibbert.  He went to ground early, Ellington went over, and the ref gave a penalty.

Everton didnt look happy and seemed to feel it was outside the box (Ive since been told it was).  But it looked one for me and they should have had one sooner anyway.  Ellington stepped up and clipped it sweetly into the corner.  Jubilation amongst the players and youd have thought it would be the same for the supporters given the situation they were in, but all they could do was that now pathetically annoying Soccer AM easy overhead clap.  Shit!  Thanks Beattie.  Gives the ball away twice Brett Angel style and now were going in 0-1 down as we were in injury time by this point.  At half time it was hard to stay positive.

In the second half, Kilbane was moved into the middle and Van der Meyde to the left and Arteta on the right.  Probably to try and stifle Inamoto a bit more.  God I cant wait for Lee Carlsey to come back!  We actually started the second half quite positively and had a half chance when Artetas cross was flicked on by Bent but cleared.  Bent then had a glorious chance when a rubbish volleyed clearance was sliced back towards his own goal by a Brom defender.  All Bent had to do was control the ball and he was through on goal with just the keeper to beat.  His control was (like Beatties earlier) of Brett Angel proportions and it was heading out of play.  He saved face I guess by at least getting it out for a throw in to us but was still pathetic.

Youve got to take them chances, particularly away from home.  We didnt, and got punished.  Kanu took on the Everton defence almost on his own but Hibbert got back to hook it behind from a corner.  The marking was (yet again from a set piece!) simply awful and a free header was buried into the corner.  Awful, and that was pretty much game over.

The game could have changed down the other end I guess when Beattie was chasing a through-ball.  The keeper came out to get it and with the ball slipping away from him and Beattie bearing down on him, he kept both feet in his box but clearly (and it really was that clear) grabbed it outside.  I checked the refs position and he had a good view of it.  This was getting hard to take. 

Ferguson came on and Beattie came off.  He won his headers and was his usual menacing self but nothing was happening.  A Van der Meyde free kick missed everyone but didnt creep in as the keeper was alert.  From the corner we came close but couldnt force the ball home.  West Broms defence was piss poor so its obviously are own attacking frailties which are the problem.  Highlighted further when down the other end Ellington curled an effort from about 25 yards into the corner of the net.  I felt Martyn may have saved it as it was at a nice height but our humiliation was complete.  Their keeper celebrated with a somersault which compounded things a bit more.  Van der Meyde (who was never interested from the start) was hauled off for McFadden.  More bemusingly, Osman came on for one of our better players Arteta.

It just got worse.  West Brom were now showboating.  West Brom!!!  That just takes the piss and for me and was just too much to take.  I had to leave.  Gary agreed and we left.  As we did so some knobhead steward wouldnt let us come back the way we came in which simply got us completely lost.  As we were wandering around we heard a big roar from the ground. Full time then.  We hoped.  Or worse?

On our search for the town centre we asked some shop keeper who could only point us so far. We asked him the full time score and he told us it was 3-0.  Phew!

Eventually, we found our way back to the road we needed and then back to the car.  By this point it was no fun whatsoever.  Wed just been battered away from home by a really poor team; we were lost and it was very cold.  I guess you have to take the rough with the smooth on away games.  We got the car and headed back in a sombre mood, finally arriving back at home at about 10:30pm.  I met the lads in the pub for a few jars and all they could taunt was 4-0.

Oh fuck off.

Player Ratings:

  • Martyn:  Says it all when your keeper's your most positive player.  Felt he should have saved the third and havent seen the fourth so dont know about that one. 6
  • Neville:  Not a left back.  Awful stuff.  I cant believe we have four left backs injured. 4 
  • Yobo:  Saved our bacon more than once in the first half but looked pretty lost in the second. 6
  • Weir:  Once again showed his inability to organise his team when defending set pieces.  Not spectacular before that either.  Time for Per? 5
  • Hibbert:  Gave away a soft penalty in my book.  You shouldnt dive in like that.  Not one of his better games. 5
  • Kilbane:  Useless.  Didnt do anything right in the first half.  Fractionally improved in the second when in the middle. 5
  • Davies: My man of the match.  The only one who did well for me.  Needed to be set free from his defensive duties. 7
  • Arteta: Did well for most of the game and then faded. Can do better. 6
  • Van der Meyde:  Never wanted to know all game.  Awful, particularly when you consider what you know hes capable of. 4
  • Beattie: Dreadful.  Cant remember one thing he did right. 4
  • Bent:  Should have scored when he mis-controled but his all round play was good apart from that, but the usual problem he cant shoot.  5
  • Ferguson: Looked up for it. 6
  • McFadden: Only contribution I saw was two crap corners. 4
  • Osman: I missed his cameo. I was leaving when he came on, although I somewhat doubt he put in a match-saving performance...

Paul Traill


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WEST BROM (4-4-2)
  Kuszczak
  Clement
  Albrechtsen
  Davies
  Wallwork
  Greening
  Watson
  Inamoto
  Kamara (Carter 63)
  Ellington (Earnshaw 85)
  Horsfield (Kanu 36)
  Subs not used
  Hoult
  Moore
 
EVERTON (4-4-2)
  Martyn
  Hibbert
  Weir
  Yobo
  Neville
  Vd Meyde (McFadden 74)
  Arteta (Osman 76)
  Davies
  Kilbane
  Bent
  Beattie (Ferguson 63)
Subs not used
  Wright
  Krldrup
  Unavailable
  Cahill (injured)
  Pistone (injured)
  Carsley (injured)
  Naysmith (injured)
  Ferrari (injured)
  Valente (injured)
  Vaughan (unfit)
  Li Tie (unfit)
  Turner (on loan)
  Ruddy (on loan)
 
Premiership Scores
Saturday 19 Nov 2005
Charlton 1-3 Man Utd
Chelsea 3-0 Newcastle
Liverpool 3-0 Portsmouth
Man City 0-0 Blackburn
Sunderland 1-3 Aston Villa
West Brom 4-0 Everton
Wigan 2-3 Arsenal
Sunday 20 Nov 2005
Middlesbro 3-2 Fulham
Tottenham 1-1 West Ham
 
Premiership Table
Pos Team Pts
1 Chelsea 34
2 Wigan 25
3 Man Utd 24
4 Arsenal 23
5 Bolton 23
6 Tottenham 21
7 Man City 21
8 West Ham 19
9 Liverpool 19
10 Charlton 19
11 Middlesbro 18
12 Blackburn 18
13 Newcastle 18
14 Fulham 12
15 Aston Villa 12
16 West Brom 11
17 Portsmouth 10
18 Everton 10
19 Birmingham 6
20 Sunderland 5
After 25 Nov 2005
 

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