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COLUMNIST KEN BUCKLEY

From my seat: Blackburn (H)

By Ken Buckley :  20/09/2009 :  Comments (18) :
A clear blue sky and full sun saw a much needed victory with a display of goal scoring art from Saha, goalkeeping of the first order from Howard plus the platform afforded by the excellent display’s of the midfielders Pienaar, Rodwell and Fellaini and that little bit of luck that all teams need.

After Thursdays walk in the park the manager made three changes with Heitinga, Saha, and Osman replacing Gosling, Jo and Bilyaletdinov who has now cemented his place as a true Blue top player by being ‘out injured’!. Blackburn are never easy for the Blues and with Allerdyce in charge there was always going to be a battle to win before quality could shine through and so it proved today.

We started on the front foot and a Pienaar Baines link up got Heitinga in but in putting his shot high wide and handsome he proved his shooting is on a par with Hibbert. Then just a few minutes later the excellent Pienaar spotted Osman’s run and fed him in only for his goal bound effort to be deflected narrowly wide. Then in Blackburn’s first attack Samba headed on to Diouf, who was later to have a confrontation with a young ball boy would you believe, hit the bar.

This spurred the Blues on, and on the twenty minute mark a well worked attack down the left was interrupted by a foul and Baines whipped in a low free kick and the ever mobile Saha gleefully side-footed home much to the delight of those assembled. The half continued with Blackburn favouring the bombardment route and Roberts with a strong physical presence giving our defence cause to be on their toes. Fellaini who was ever prominent in his box to box role was fed in on the right side of goal but his effort was out of keeping with the rest of his work.

The rest of the half saw the Blues play much the better football, much of which was joined up and the odd hoof was more of a ball to turn their defenders with a player running on rather than a ‘nowhere else to go ball’. 1-0 at the break and we were looking more settled but after last week at the Cottage some of us wondered how we would approach the second period.

As last week the jitters returned when early on Diouf had a cross parried by Howard and Dunn set up Andrews for a shot which Howard did well to parry away and his clearance was hooked to safety. The game then deteriorated in to a bit of a scrappy affair which was as much to do with referee Lee Mason as the players, he was continually blowing his whistle when others would have allowed advantage and generally being over officious even almost insisting on which blade of grass a free-kick should be taken from.

Good refs make the odd blunder but this one seemed poor and not up to such physical but mainly fair encounters much to the frustration of players and fans alike. Before the hour mark the Blues banished any further resistance from both Blackburn and the ref. First when Fellaini made another good run and was fed near the right corner, although in a tight situation he found a little space and put in a good cross that found Saha between his markers and in true Andy Gray fashion headed it back from where it had come and the ball nestled in the corner with Robinson stranded and the ground bouncing.

Just three minutes later it was party time as we gained a corner which Baines swung in and Saha got his head to it and the ball went to the far post where the lurking Yobo prodded home and celebrated big style with team mates and fans alike.

The Blues were now well in command and the football played showed a team in control but without undue exertion to add to the score. Fellaini and Pienaar had shots that were either saved by the keeper or blocked, Rodwell continued to dominate mid-field and on 70mins Jo replaced Saha and looked lively without promising too much.

The manager then withdrew Cahill and put Hibbert to right-back with Heitinga in midfield and Fellaini pushed on. This move demonstrated to me the talent of Rodwell as it was he who continued to orchestrate and give Heitinga an easy ride when many would think it may have been the other way around.

Blackburn were now spent and managed just one shot of venom that the alert Howard dealt with capably, Diouf was booked for a foul on Fellaini much to the crowds delight, Gosling was given 10mins in place of Osman and even with three minutes of injury time all 35,000 were relaxed and enjoyed giving the players a standing ovation at the whistle, the applause was split between appreciation for the display and relief at being out of what ‘Sky’ call the ‘Drop zone’. Overall I thought our team seems to be settling and I just wondered was it today that our season starts.

I thought today Yobo seemed more at ease alongside Distin and had a very good game, Saha without being outstanding in general play showed what an excellent goal scorer he is when fit and confident as well as moving himself up the goal-scoring charts. With a natural scorer we will always have a chance if the support is right and the way Pienaar, Rodwell and Fellaini played today in craft, bite and the ability to bring the others into the game then that support may become more evident. MotM was hard to call between these three but I think today for his ‘Messie of Goodison’ display Pienaar edges ‘The Kaiser’.

Am I upbeat today? You betcha, I enjoyed my day out and hope they continue. It will be interesting to see the line up v Hull in the Carling Cup but whatever it is we should have enough to go through and then on to rock bottom Pompey where three more points would be just the fillip needed to go into the Europa match day 2 then quickly into the ‘ Biff bang bash’ with Stoke at Goodison. Don’t these games come thick and fast, almost as quick as the money being added to the credit card account!

Still we can only go from one game to the next and hope that form, injuries and squad hold up and by the time the final whistle goes v Stoke we will be able to see what the hectic fortnight has brought us as we enter a fortnight's break.

UP THE BLUES

Reader Comments

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John Wells
1   Posted 21/09/2009 at 03:43:53

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Good display against an average side. Good article and true to the point. It was lovely to watch them string some passes together. Rodwell is going to be so so so good. How long can we keep him? Did you notice when he lost the ball at the edge of the Blackburn area and then they headed down field he was back to put in the block at the edge of our box. He’s like one of these race horses that there is loads of talk about and then makes his debut, wins easy and then is ante post favourite for the Derby. The problem is the arabs always come with the cash for this type!! When Gerrard makes those surging runs against us now we have the man that will be there every step of the way, Jack will make it to the World Cup, class act.

What about Saha’s finishes yesterday? Pure class, he really will be lethal this year and it’s great that he will be kept on his toes with the Yak sitting there wanting to be No1. You simply cannot beat competition for places. Fellaini did really well yesterday and I know a lot of people moan about his price tag but in the end he will prove a good signing. Remember he had a bad virus and if there was anyone on our squad that did not need to loose a big amount of weight, it was him. Pienaar is like a man possessed and will be player of the year if he keeps these displays up!!

Tim Howard was great also. Would be nice to get a few more performances like this under our belt and get ready for the Red Site!!!
Michael Lynch
2   Posted 21/09/2009 at 11:36:30

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Well done Ken.

Great performance again by the lads. Pienaar is turning into a beast of a player. Saha is immense at moment. Gareth Barry is a poor mans Jack Rodwell. What a prospect. Cant wait to get Arteta and Jags back. With a fit squad weve got some first XI.

COYB.
Alan Kirwin
3   Posted 21/09/2009 at 11:30:17

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That game was akin to what we were doing late on last season, i.e. cruising it against poor teams. And of course, as Ciaran says, without Arteta and Billy, and indeed Yak and Jags.

We also know we have the beating of all the other "challengers" like Villa and Spurs. I don't think it’s risking hubris to believe the ascent has started and will continue.

That then leaves how we fair against the Sky 4. Based on the Arsenal game we haven’t got a clue. But we have an almost unnatural habit of shooting ourselves in the foot at the start of every season. There was something going on (as usual) and it was a bit of an aberration.

We (i.e. David Moyes) has got to get in the frame of mind to have a go in the big games. There is absolutely no reason not too and every reason in the world to do so.

When Arteta is back our midfield will be the best since 1985. We also have 2 of the best goalscorers in Premier League history, Yak and Saha, backed up by Jo and Anichebe. The point here is that we have the means at our disposal to keep defenders busy & nervous whoever they are.

The idea of flooding midfield, sitting back and allowing so called better sides to come at us, and eventually succumbing, should be history. And even if they do, despite losing Lescott (I won’t miss his distribution) we retain a formidable defence.

Without hanging my coat on the arrogance peg, Moyes really has to now learn the art of rotation. We don’t need to be fielding our best team against everyone, and certainly not in the stupid Carling Cup. But our first choicers are beginning to look a bit tasty and by end of this year that might become delicious.

Howard
Hibbert Neill Heitinga Yobo Jags Distin Baines Coleman
Billy Rodwell Arteta Pienaar Fellaini Neville Cahill Wallace Osman Peterlin
Yakubu Saha Jo Anichebe Agard Baxter Arnoux Vaughan

We’ve got our best first team, by a country mile, for a quarter of a century. And we’ve also got a strong & talented set of squad players (I include Osman & Cahill in that) and youngsters.

Tony Marsh will probably disagree but, whisper it quietly, I believe we are on the march.
Dan Brierley
4   Posted 21/09/2009 at 12:25:45

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I do agree with you Al Kirwin, this does seem the best side we have had for a long time. I guess the problem now is though, that we are 20 years too late in assembling it! The standard of the squads of the Sky 4 is impressive to say the least. We are still someway behind at the moment.

But we are on the right road, that's for sure. Little by little, the squad is improving. I am looking forward to the next four games, if we play in a similar positive and confident vein. Though personally, I dont think we are in a position to be challenging the top 4 for the title just yet. I think it would be pretty suicidal to try and match them head on in a game of football.

Apologies if that sounds a bit negative, but I am not getting too carried away after beating poor AEK and Blackurn sides. This is a view I would be more than happy for the team to prove me wrong on!!

Dick Anderson
5   Posted 21/09/2009 at 12:51:18

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After the Fulham defeat it was all doom and gloom. Poor players, bad manager.

Now after two very convincing wins (albeit against two poor sides) its all smiles and high hopes again.

I’m not disagreeing, I do think Everton’s fully fit starting 11 is the strongest since the 1980s but it just makes me laugh how football fans are up one week and down the next.
Ciarán McGlone
6   Posted 21/09/2009 at 13:00:55

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I’ll explain Dick.

Your team playing shite and lossing = pain.

Your team winning and playing well = joy.
Colin Malone
7   Posted 21/09/2009 at 13:12:19

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Sorry to the Felliani fans but we need Pienaar as our center mid playmaker. He'll be even better. We don't want to put to much pressure on Rodwell, that means putting Heitinga as our defensive midfielder when Rodwell will need a rest.
Dan Brierley
8   Posted 21/09/2009 at 13:21:49

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Colin, maybe he would be better playing through the middle. But you do you propose should play on the wing in his place then? Fellaini?
Ciarán McGlone
9   Posted 21/09/2009 at 13:26:35

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As much as I’d like to see everybody playing their favoured positions..we simply don’t have the personnel to accomodate Pienaar in the middle...
Mike Green
10   Posted 21/09/2009 at 13:45:07

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I’m with Ciaran McGlone all the way on this one.

Fellaini is still very young, he’s still adapting to the Prem (at a rate of knots in my eyes) seems to be making a concerted effort to stop giving away those silly gangly fouls and has shown that he really has some genuine quality under that ’fro.

He’s also a right menace to the opposition - I would bet my bottom dollar Wenger looks at him and thinks "I could really turn that boy into some kind of player".

I just hope we can do the same.
Ian Tunstead
11   Posted 21/09/2009 at 14:18:18

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Alan, you missed out Gosling.
Colin Malone
12   Posted 21/09/2009 at 14:49:40

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Dan, Bily can replace Pienaar on the wing. Fellaini just has not got the pace and engine for the play maker role. Yes, Fellaini is still young but I can only see him as an impact player at this time.
Dan Brierley
13   Posted 21/09/2009 at 15:02:39

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Colin, I don't think the centre-midfield has been the problem mate. It has been the right-hand side. I cannot see Pienaar winning many tackles in the centre, can you? He is very lightweight for someone who is expected to be able to distribute when going forward, but just as importantly defend when we are not in possession. And I cannot see him battling with centre-halves to head home crosses like Fellaini or Cahill are able to do.

He is more effective down the flanks for me, as he has a little bit of trickery and guile.
Ciarán McGlone
14   Posted 21/09/2009 at 15:08:20

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I thought last Thursday more than proved that we have most balance with Bily and Pienaar on either side...
Colin Malone
15   Posted 21/09/2009 at 15:22:58

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Dan, when Arteta comes back, he will go back to the playmaker role. Pienaar is the only other option to fill Arteta's role.

When we come up against better sides, that's the position that they will take advantage of. We need someone with a good engine and guile.

Gerry Western
16   Posted 21/09/2009 at 21:17:12

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Yet another terrific performance with Fellaini, Rodwell and Piennar at the heart of everything. I find it interesting how our fortunes have changed dramatically now that Fellaini has replaced Neville in the middle and just about everyone’s game has benefited from his inclusion. Rodwell who struggled at Fulham now looks an accomplished midfielder and Piennar’s game has got even better.

Cahill also made a significant contribution and played a key part in many of our best moves. Apparently he’s scored more headed goals than any other player in the premiership sine 2004, a truly amazing stat. Now that we have a player like Bilyaletdinov who can deliver real quality crosses in to the danger zone. I can see him and Cahill wreaking the sort of havoc we once enjoyed with Dunc and Andy Hinchcliffe.

People are making much of Arteta’s imminent return but I’m beginning to think he might well struggle to fight his way into the starting line up at this rate, which is all good news and will no doubt create even more competition for places.
Frank McGregor
17   Posted 21/09/2009 at 21:49:35

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I am really pissed off after yesterday's game, I predicted a 3-0 defeat with Osman in the starting line up and Hibbert on the bench, fully expected plenty of hoofball with Moyes getting things wrong again.

To make matters worse the team came out and played the game the way it should be played and the final disaster of the afternoon the team moved up to thirteenth place in the league. What a real lousy day we had.

Jamie Crowley
18   Posted 22/09/2009 at 03:30:05

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The last 2 games have just been superb.
I have a good feeling it’s going to continue.
Rodwell seems to be the key. Moyes should have had him in there and Neville at RB from the beginning.....

If if and buts were candy and nuts we’d all have a Merry Christmas.

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