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COLUMNIST PAUL TRAILL

Nearly an end-of-season whimper

By Paul Traill :  09/05/2010 :  Comments (4) :

Match Report: Everton v Portsmouth

I’d originally, provisionally, verbally at least agreed to make a bit of a drinking session of the game today but, with summer holidays booked and little if anything really to play for, I instead opted to drive, the three of us finally arriving in the busy Spellow for our pre-match tipple, in this, the last game of the season against the Premier League's debt-ridden basement club.

We were in the ground and in our seats nicely in time for kick-off, Everton’s main change from last week's visit to Stoke being Cahill (presumably out with a knock), replaced by Jack Rodwell.  Tony Hibbert also returned at the back at the expense of Yobo. Portsmouth offered up a bit of a patched up team with eyes firmly on next weeks FA Cup Final against Chelsea...hmmm this time last year.

On another day, Saha might have headed home his gilt-edged chance, Arteta might have buried his opportunity or Anichebe his and we could have been in for a bit of a goal-fest this afternoon. This was all in the first half as Everton created plenty of openings, but didn’t really back this up with fluent or sufficient attacking to ensure the pressure on our visitors was retained.

Instead, Portsmouth ended the first half relatively comfortable and even had a decent chance for themselves with Howard saving well from Piquionne. Tony Hibbert of all people did also have an opportunity in the first half, getting into the box but half-volleying tamely into Jamie Ashdown. At half time we were hardly devoid of opportunities but certainly were of entertainment.

The interval included one chap hitting the crossbar from the edge of the box, and Ladies FA Cup hero Natasha Dowie proudly showing off the team's trophy to the supporters.

Sadly, the second half was less entertaining than the first as Everton failed to sustain any consistent attacking threat. Moreover, I was quite impressed with Portsmouth and perhaps they won’t be the pushovers in next weekend FA Cup final that everyone thinks they will. They actually had a goal chalked off themselves when Anthony Vanden Borre slotted home after a bit of hectic passing around the penalty area, but the linesman’s flag was up for offside. A let-off for Everton.

Substitutions from both teams affected the flow of proceedings and, when Saha’s header from a corner was cleared off the line quite late on, you began to sense nothing was happening for Everton in this game… even more so when Tony Hibbert smashed one narrowly wide and over on the half volley from the edge of the box.  Ironically it was indeed a substitute, a certain Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, who settled the game in injury time with a scintillating strike from distance that flew into the top corner. You felt a little sorry for Portsmouth but you’ve got to take your hat off to a goal like that.

The full time whistle immediately followed. The Portsmouth players threw their shirts into their supporters whilst the Everton faithful sportingly applauded them. Avram Grant received a terrific reception, particularly from the Park End before disappearing down the tunnel. The Everton team then did their lap of honour, with Fellaini looking rather ridiculous with that shirt and afro look…particularly without tucking his shirt in…and away we went. All over for another trophy-less season.

Stating the obvious I know but its essential we keep hold of Rodwell and particularly Pienaar for next season. Retain them and make a couple of additions and we should be in great stead.  We definitely need another striker… perhaps another winger and another left back would be useful to push Baines on a bit more. Other than that, I think we’re pretty well covered all over the pitch.

Next season is crunch season for me. I think it’s important we achieve something next year. Whether that be a domestic cup, or Champions League qualification, you sense the time has come for this Everton team to deliver. The team is now capable. The team is looking thirsty. Let’s make next season a telling one.

All the best. See you next term.

Player Ratings:

  • Howard: Probably a busier afternoon than he expected but dealt with most things comfortably. 7
  • Baines: Got forward well and partnered nicely with Pienaar. 7
  • Jagielka: Got caught out for pace a few times but was generally OK. 6
  • Distin: Very comfortable in defense against his former club. 8
  • Hibbert: My man of the match. So not the season for the Hibbert goal but maybe we can riot next season…particularly if he keeps up his new-found attacking threat. 8
  • Rodwell: Solid if not spectacular, though the game did pass him by a bit. 5
  • Arteta: So so. Disappeared at times and not quite at his best but I can’t wait to see him flying next season. 6
  • Pienaar: Good game. Kept on going. Hopefully not his last. 6
  • Anichebe: Not in the game an awful lot. Cumbersome.
  • Osman: One of our better players. Not everything worked but he kept on going and always showed for the ball. Ended the game as captain. 7
  • Saha: A long time since he scored so hopefully he’ll get off the mark quickly next season. Put in a reasonable shift today. 6
  • Yakubu (for Rodwell): Looked tidy. The Yak looks back. Hopefully he’s back in business next season. 6
  • Bilyaletdinov (for Anichebe): Wasn’t looking exactly inspirational but then wow… what a hit! High hopes for him next season. 7
  • Heitinga (for Arteta): Very gritty and straight into action when he came on. I hope he was a great World Cup and comes back buzzing for next season. 7

Reader Comments

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Dave Wilson
1   Posted 10/05/2010 at 08:03:51

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Nice one Paul.

Some great work this season.

I see you and Ken were in agreement on our MOTM again, both giving it to Tony Hibbert again. Now Tony isn`t plugging holes right across the back four, he is showing he has little more in his locker than he`s ever been given credit for.

Maybe the new found attacking threat you refer to has something to do with not having to play behind people like Cahill or Osman who, season after season, have demonstrated they would rather be anywhere than wide on the right?

Come back next season, Paul.
Steven Pendleton
2   Posted 10/05/2010 at 09:24:42

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Didn't Osman play Dave?
Dave Wilson
3   Posted 10/05/2010 at 10:37:52

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Steven

Didn't you watch it?
Christopher Arellano
4   Posted 14/05/2010 at 22:43:34

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Paul,

Thanks for the great reports all season.
Appreciate the hard work; I wouldn't bother reading you (and Mr Buckley) all the time if I didn't value what you had to say.

Thank you!

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