COLUMNIST KEN BUCKLEY
Very few notable passages of football took place and the talking points were of the odd missed chance and overzealous challenges that left today’s referee, Mr Wiley, looking less than capable. Less than a quarter of an hour gone and, amongst the scrappy nature, Cahill hit a superb pass to release Big Vic in the area but his hesitation brought groans from the faithful as, after what seemed a lifetime, he allowed Robinson to slide in and rob him... if only he had swung the Birmingham left boot at it. Bolton’s main threat was from set-pieces with the giant Zat Knight failing to make a good contact from a Lee cross and Howard picked up.
Big Vic had Robinson go right through the back of him, that for some reason the aforementioned Wiley saw no malice, left him writhing on the deck. Neville urged him to get up but within minutes he had gone down again and ended up being stretchered off, allowing the mercurial Russian to replace him.
This episode of play seemed to fire up the Blues, none more so than Cahill, who showed less than professionalism when he went through Wilshire and was booked. The half continued in sloppy fashion and it was Bolton who put together what must have been their only decent bit of football in the whole match which saw Elmander combine with Lee who fed Wilshire to play Davies in on goal only for him to shoot straight at Howard. The half was notable only for the amount of time added on by the Ref: 5 mins, which only served to prolong the agony for the footy aficionado.
Half-time and the chat was of how dire the first half really was with one team not willing to give an inch and the other without the guile to prosper.
Second half started with us on something of a front foot and saw a Pienaar volley blocked and the Yak follow up, finding the keepers arms after a deflection. Heitinga had a long ranger saved and Cahill handled one around the keeper that had the faithful up but the quartet of travelling fans calling for a second yellow.
Just after the hour mark, the manager did well to withdraw the less than effective Cahill and introduce Saha and go 4-4-2. This approach at last paid dividends when within a few minutes, with the crowd getting more and more restless with our efforts, the Yak was put clear and he actually sprinted toward goal... only to be pulled down from behind by the Bolton defender. Red card from the ref and an exquisite free kick from Arteta that left the keeper rooted to the spot as it sped in just inside the post. That lifted the mood and in truth all assembled knew that was 3 points for us, such was the paucity of any semblance of class from the visitors.
Osman was introduced for the Yak, going back to 4-5-1, and for once we did not drop deeper and deeper but pushed on in search of a second as Bolton looked spent; however, they did rally enough for Knight to head over when afforded a free header but that was about it for them. Bilyaletdinov headed over an Arteta cross and then Saha shot straight at the keeper as we looked to kill the game.
Osman then had two moments, one good one bad when firstly he somehow managed to hit the post after the keeper had parried out a Heitinga shot to his feet but then redeemed himself by expertly playing his way into the box and laying off a pass that Pienaar rocketed home with a minute of normal time remaining.
Added time was perfunctory and the whistle sent all home less than entertained but in the knowledge that the three points served us well in climbing one place courtesy of a Brum loss and the thought that all our remaining games may well be fought out in similar fashion rather than the flowing joined-up stuff such is the scramble for points at both ends of the table.
Overall, a good three points from a poor spectacle which left me grateful that we are not in a Bolton situation as their loss will leave them looking over their shoulders whilst our win sees us looking upwards and the unlikely chance of Euro footy still achievable with the help of other results.
MotM was difficult in such a game and I am sure many a newspaper will nominate Arteta considering the free kick but from my seat I will nominate Distin who over 90 mins was consistent. Again today I thought Jags was poor in delivering no more than a good Championship performance but I applaud the manager in keeping him on to help him build up his match fitness and regain that sparkling form pre-injury.
There were other poor performances today but at this stage of the season 3 points is the target and I am not expecting much of a change from the ‘up and at em’ error strewn games from now until season end. Get the points – go home – see where we end up type of finale.
City Wednesday night and maybe a chance of a proper footy match but again it will be ‘don’t lose’ from both teams as season goals are in the balance for both teams.
Nothing to play for? Yer havin’ a laff. See you there.
UP THE BLUES
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1 Posted 21/03/2010 at 07:31:40
I tend to agree with your MOM - Distin has had poor games, but he was immense yesterday.
Jags couldn't find a blue shirt to save his life, but I'll forgive him if he gets back to his usual standards.
I thought Billy came good in the second half - he is very strong in the air and think we could see good things next season.
Baines and Pienaar worked their socks off as usual.
I love Cahill to bits, but the last 2 games in particular he has been a passenger. Would much rather have Ossie in that position. Heitega again was class.
Like you say, a game not to remember and my day got worse - but that's another story. But 3 good points
2 Posted 21/03/2010 at 09:11:48
Overall a nice report and I would agree with your MOTM....others worth a mention include Baines, Pienar and Arteta.....BUT, did you notice that Pienar did not look his usual effervescent self and hardly celebrated his goal...he also left the field alone and did not look happy.
Hope Im just dreaming !!!!
3 Posted 21/03/2010 at 10:10:09
Cahill wasnt great, but its worth pointing out that he did some sterling defensive work, a couple of crucial headers and when Bolton surprised us all with a really slick move, it was The Tiger who had covered half of the pitch to make life a lot more difficult for Davies.
Cahill or Ossie ? depends on what you want, Ossie`s a footballer and we are far easier on the eye than when The Tiger plays.
I think we all know neither can play on the wing
4 Posted 21/03/2010 at 12:15:02
5 Posted 21/03/2010 at 12:23:19
I thought Bolton deserve credit for sticking to their gameplan and it was a disciplined defensive performance, obviously the gameplan would've gone out of the window if Vic had put he chance away. But I think these are the games that make you if not champions but at least contenders, we can't win by 5 & 6 every week and at times results have to be ground out, so for me a satisfactory afternoon's work, and it keeps me away from Tescos
6 Posted 21/03/2010 at 13:13:57
Cant argue with your MoM nomination either.
Unlike other posters I think Billy is a passenger right now.
It looks to me as if he left his heart and soul in Russia
I dont normally comment on the opposition but I totally abhor Boltons style of play which is to beat and cheat your opponents.
Justice was served when they had a man sent off and we scored from the subsequent free kick.
I am sure they werent THAT obnoxious under GAry Megson but it seems a shame that the likes of Bolton look like staying up when Burnley,Portsmouth and/or West Ham are looking at the exit door.
On a closing note at least football has returned to the home side at GP at least for some of the 90 minutes.
7 Posted 21/03/2010 at 14:33:53
Bolton had a game plan which we eventually managed to work around and get a very important win.
For me the MOTM was Mad Johhny! Not always high profile stuff, but important foot ins and clearing up. I'm really beginning to warm to this guy. Last off the pitch and enjoying the "contact" with the supporters. Is all this "Everton gets to you" stuff true??? It appears that may just be the case.
Billy? Someone said he's strong in the air? Did they mean onboard a plane? I thought there were one or tweo little touches yesterday, but that's not enough for me. Giving him the benefit of the doubt at the moment. Next season will tell.
Can't slag Jags AT ALL! After his injury he deserves our patience and understanding, and I for one will give him it every time.
A good hard working performance in the end for me.
Justice was done!
8 Posted 21/03/2010 at 16:18:43
The brother's first thought was that Moyes probably had a quiet word in Jagieilka's ear at half time -' pass the ball, son', or words to that effect. Which he did, and it helped a lot.
But what about Leon the 'impact sub'! It was a bit like Star Wars when Luke Skywalker took out the Death Star. Big guns couldn't stop the mazey run - let's hope the force is with us.
And maybe that's a good way to use Cahill and Osman, in tandem. Let Tim wear them down, bring on fresh legs with Leon. The adjustment that a defence has to make late on in a game is beyond many teams, especially if we have been playing a passing game which has kept them running around all day.
All to play for!
9 Posted 21/03/2010 at 22:49:22
Jags blatantly not back to his best at present, personally I'd be sticking Heitinga back there until he gets his fitness back and stickin rodwell or osman in the middle.
Cant'f figure why Saha didn't start instead of Yak
10 Posted 22/03/2010 at 00:03:52
11 Posted 22/03/2010 at 01:13:32
12 Posted 22/03/2010 at 02:12:28
I think your assessment of the Everton performance was a bit harsh. We did run out of ideas by the end of the first half, but they are playing joined up stuff consistently now. We will get frustrated by the likes of Brum and Bolton from time to time. But we undeniably look and feel like a superior outfit to them. And that was not the case even two seasons ago.
Bolton were playing on a knife edge. We did not have many clear shots at goal but there were a number of last ditch tackles going in e.g. on Anichebe and a couple on Baines in the first half. We were very close to cutting through them. Eventually we produced the one moment of sufficient class to break through (actually two - the pass to Yakubu that led to the free kick, and the free kick itself).
Although Bolton did have a few chances, which if taken would have changed the result (like the cup defeat to Birmingham), we dominated the game, and could have added more once we had the breakthrough and Bolton were down to ten men.
Agree that Distin had a great game. I wonder if Coyle had given instructions to pressure Jagileka in possession. Its always been a bit a weakness and he had season's full of shaky moments in the first half.
Arteta, Pienaar and Baines were excellent, if not quite as precise as in the game against Hull. Yakubu looks back in shape and caused problems. Anichebe also caused problems and I think the lad might yet turn into a genuine first team player. Osman had a great impact, and good to Saha back from injury. Heitinga and Distin both looked the part.
Also great to see a bench with so many optoins now available. Billy, Saha, Osman, Rodwell, er,,, Hibbert and Nash.
I think we have a very good team at the moment, with good strength in depth. We just need to hold this squad together over the summer and get a break from our awful run of long term injuries, I feel a top 4 place is now possible (next season).
13 Posted 22/03/2010 at 12:15:39
We played patient, joined up football and I never thought, even during the (agreed) poor first half, that it would be goal less.
Distin narrowly my MOTM from Heitinga - every thing seemed to go through Distin at one stage.
Baines and Peinaar works well and I too was impressed with Bilya in the air.
I thought Jags second half was very good and he cooly took the dirty stuff from Davies in his stride and imposed himself until Davies visibly gave up!
I wa slevel with our 6 yard box second half and was concerned with Howards preference to stay on his line, but defensively we looked sound.
Ossie is unfairly slated on here and made a difference. Cracking little footballer and just because he didnt cost us 6 million seems to get unfair stick.
Hibbo and Rodwell were constanly warming up so I reckon they are being coaxed to fitness.
Heitnga is a hero! Future blue legend and captain!
This team can do well next year.
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