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COLUMNIST KEN BUCKLEY

From my seat: Spurs (A)

By Ken Buckley :  23/10/2010 :  Comments (27) :
Patched up Blues draw with a tired Spurs from a game where the main talking point will be "Howard's howler".

Having received the club text showing the team selection, it seemed obvious we were short in midfield and a tight gritty performance looked on the cards... and so it proved. From the off, not a lot took place. Spurs were pretty in approach without ever looking like getting through our rearguard and the Blues broke when they could and again the approach to the final third was reasonable but chance creating opportunities never materialised. Modric did get a strong shot in early on but Howard had little trouble in dealing with it.

Near the 20-minute mark, the Blues attacked and the Yak took a tumble near the edge of the box to gain a free kick. Baines shaped up to take it and the thought went through my mind could he at least beat the wall as we have got used to Arteta hitting it. He stepped up and not only did he get it over the wall but past a stationary and beaten keeper and the ball hit the top corner. There seemed to be a split second of quiet before the travelling hoards erupted and the players engulfed Baines.

We now had something to hold onto and it was up to Spurs to make all the running. They huffed and puffed but were no more than playing in front of us and little threat seemed likely when, just three minutes after the Baines special, a looping cross was delivered from the right which looked meat and drink for Howard to deal with yet, inexplicably, after having plenty of time to get the flight of the ball and be in position, he seemed to miss the ball altogether allowing the gangly Crouch to bundle it back across goal for their Dutchman to tap in unattended. What a howler and what a downer for all of the Blue persuasion both on and off the field.

The Blues seemed affected by the howler and until half-time it was mostly Spurs doing the attacking but it was all messy and sloppy as our back four got at them and we had the usual cry from Crouch that he was being fouled as we blocked shots and tackled with purpose under the leadership of captain Pip.

At the half time interval, I wondered if the manager would make changes as, from my seat, Bilyaletdinov, Heitinga and Coleman had contributed very little. Looking at our bench it seemed unlikely we could replace all three but I did hope he would bring on Hibbert at right back and move Neville to replace Heitinga as he must be suffering the longest World Cup hangover on record. As it turned out, it was Spurs who made a change, taking off the booked Palacios and bringing on Sandro.

The second half saw us gain more possession but still unable to create a chance that really tested their keeper. Around the hour mark, the Yak appeared to be limping and the manager replaced him with yet another return to action by Saha. Shortly after this, a tiring Pienaar blasted spectacularly over the bar and then Cahill had a strong daisy cutter just wide.

Both teams were now running out of ideas and with ten minutes to go the manager at last took off the underperforming Heitinga and put Hibbert to right back and Neville in mid-field. Both sets of fans were quite quiet now as both teams had some possession in turns but a telling final ball was beyond both teams.

Near the end, Beckford came on for Coleman but didn?t do anything for me to report upon. Final whistle and most in attendance seemed to use the phrase ?I?ll take a point? yet I felt a bit crestfallen as I thought without the Howard howler we could have got all three points. Still, we got one more point there than we did last term.

Overall, I thought it was a decent point considering the players that were missing were all from the area of the field where most games are won and lost ?midfield. The makeshift crew we had today did their best but creativity was sadly missing. Tim Howard will take some flak for his howler and even more so as it is his second in a matter of games, it certainly gives him something to work on... especially concentration.

To be fair to Howard, his mistake did not affect him for the rest of the game as he came for crosses and punched away well. Although we were below par today I thought we still had enough to beat a jaded Spurs after we had got the goal but that bad error by Howard seemed to take its toll on the rest of the team. I thought Osman was a big miss today as he is a very good fill-in player when other midfielders are out.

In looking for a MotM, I would offer any of the back four plus Cahill to choose from. Stoke next and I hope for some good news on the injury front. As always against Stoke we will have to win the battle first and then hope our quality can see us gain maximum points.
UP THE BLUES

Reader Comments

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Andy Peers
1   Posted 24/10/2010 at 01:24:58

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Good stuff Ken. The remark of "the longest World Cup hangover on record" was spot on for Heitinga. It seems like he feels like he is too good for us and doesn't care of our team spirit. He is a must sell in January and hopefully use funds for someone that is good, and wants to be at Everton.
Andy McNabb
2   Posted 24/10/2010 at 02:45:49

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I'm not a Heitinga fan but in fairness, neither is he a midfielder. Not sure why Neville wasn't in midfield with Hibbo at right back. As well as blaming Howard, I would like to question the lack of cover in front of Baines. Hutton had half an hour in which to cross the ball. When Pienaar plays in front of Baines, that tends not to happen, as they work well together.

I see this as a good point. Can our injury list get any longer?
Derek Thomas
3   Posted 24/10/2010 at 03:37:25

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I'll take 1-1 with 10 men. As to who the 11th is, well I couldn't possibly comment... but I have an idea where my vote goes.
Ajay Gopal
4   Posted 24/10/2010 at 05:11:28

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From my seat here (on the couch in front of the TV), it looked very much that the Front 6 were suffering from a hangover from last week's derby, plus of course, the fact that it was very much a make-shift mid-field. Under these circumstances, a point at WHL is not bad.

Hopefully next week Arteta will be back and Pienaar & Saha will have some more of their bite back. Next week it would be nice to see Moyes being bold and playing both Yakubu & Saha up front. Next week's team:

Yakubu, Saha, Pienaar, Arteta, Neville, Cahill, Hibbert, Jagielka, Distin, Baines, Howard. The subs to make an impact: Coleman, Bily, Gueye, Beckford, Heitinga, Mucha.

On another note, good to see JV get back on the scoring sheet for Crystal Palace, although from the penalty spot and for a losing cause. Moyes should extend his loan spell there to get him valuable playing time. Can't shake off the feeling that he could be the 'special one' for Everton! COYB!

Dermot Ryan
5   Posted 24/10/2010 at 06:57:22

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Great report as always, Ken. What an asset for the site. I hope you are saving them all. What an archive!

Am I alone in thinking Bily was not appalling? At least in the first half? But I agree with your reading of who should have been on the list to get the hook at half time (even including the Russian).

If we beat Stoke, I will start to get giddy.

Of course, life as an Evertonian dictates that nothing so simple will happen. They'll probably trash us.
Stephen Thompson
6   Posted 24/10/2010 at 10:02:21

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Come on Dermot, a bit of positivity please. we have beaten Birmingham who hadn't lost at home for a year, put the RS to the sword and gained a point at Spurs without a first choice midfield of Teta, Fella, Ossie and Jack, a midfield which would get into almost every team in the Prem. We are most definitely on the up. Stoke, Blackpool and Bolton to come.

Whilst I was as depressed as anyone with our start and some of Moyes' selections, we will be top six by Xmas and will be pushing for top 4. Great report Ken. A shame about Tim's howler, but all in all a good result.

Paul Olsen
7   Posted 24/10/2010 at 12:02:20

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Bily was not appalling, but he certainly offers very little of that special skill one would expect from a big-money signing.

reminds me of Osman out there on the wing.
Ian Kearney
8   Posted 24/10/2010 at 12:31:58

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The anti-jonny brigade are out again, he is a centre halve playing out of position.

The two yard dogs at the back got away with their typical slips and mistakes yesterday, lets see how they would do in midfield.
David Hallwood
9   Posted 24/10/2010 at 12:18:20

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Now come on Paul#7 Ossie always puts in a shift whether no matter what you think of him as a player which can't be said of Bily who either looks lost, out of his depth or completely drained of confidence.

Great report as ever Ken, and from my vantage point, which was the same as Ajays only a different sofa I would disagree about Coleman, because I think he was under instructions to look after Bale and reverted to being a defender and it certainly worked.

Even accounting for the slow start to the season, the thing I find most pleasing about the team is that even going back a couple of seasons there were teams that were so much better than us and we were comprehensively outplayed; drubbings by the sky four always come to mind.

However since last season, games which we have been outplayed in are few and far between, and we can match and sometimes more than match the best of them, and I think yesterday's game was a case in point. Even taking into consideration DM annoying habit of defending the 18yd line in the last 20 minutes, we looked comfortable against one of the better sides, possibly dark horses to win the league, away from home and despite having a patched up midfield we were good value for the point and if we would've won even the most blinkered spurs fan couldn't have said "we wuz robbed?
David Thomas
10   Posted 24/10/2010 at 14:02:45

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Ian Kearney,

"The two yard dogs at the back got away with their typical slips and mistakes yesterday, let's see how they would do in midfield."

In my opinion, Jagielka was awesome yesterday, just like he was against Liverpool, and is recapturing the form that made him before his injury one of the best defenders in the league.

Where in your opinion were his "slips and mistakes yesterday"?

I do agree with you about Heitinga though. In my opinion he is really struggling in midfield but that is understandable as he is out of his natural position.
Andy Peers
11   Posted 24/10/2010 at 15:49:24

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I agree Heitinga is being played out of position but he just acts like he doesn't want to play. I thought he should play instead of Distin at the back at the start of the season but the last 2 games Distin has been playing really well, even coming forward.If it wasn,t for Howard's mistake we would have had 4 clean sheets in a row.
Julian Wait
12   Posted 24/10/2010 at 16:17:30

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The back 4 indeed played very well as individuals and as a unit. The midfield allowed a lot of Spurs possession and pressure. Both Pienaar and Heitinga were done after 60 mins.

Neville got a lot of credit on Match of the Day for nullifying Bale, from Hansen no less, which is a step up from the usual "so and so didn't play well against Everton" (let's ignore the great tactics/defence against him). Jags looked class. Except for one schoolboy error which he recovered from; Distin looked great and Baines scored that goal and played well overall.

If I had to give a Man of the Match, I would go for Neville because he really snuffed out Bale (with Coleman's help) and led the team from the back. Jags a very close second.

Thanks for another great report, Ken.
Steve Higham
13   Posted 24/10/2010 at 17:14:42

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Would love to know what our 'wonderful' goalkeeping coach actually coaches ?
Howard has made two very similar handling error's this season. I know every keeper makes mistakes but Woods should be sorting this problem out at Finch Farm. Have never rated Woods anyway; if he is not up to the job, get a proper goalie coach in, like Neville Southall or Nigel Martyn.
Michael Kidd
14   Posted 24/10/2010 at 18:00:42

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Howard messed up, true, but how come Hutton had half an hour to send in that cross and several others during the game? Was it Bily's job to cover him? Speaking of Bily, I thought he provided absolutely nothing of importance. Osman, for all his critics, would have been better and would have marked Hutton better. For all that, I think our most unpromising youth midfielder would have offered more than Bily yesterday.

As for Heitinga, however well Distin may have played over the last few games (and every mediocre player is going to have a few good games now and then), he is a journeyman and Heitinga was the centreback in the team that came second in the World Cup. I watched several Holland games live in the World Cup and watched Heitinga carefully - he was class. What we are seeing now is a square peg in a round hole. He is not a midfielder. Not surprised he looks unhappy.

Good point to win considering that we are missing half our first team, (including those just coming back from injury).
Albert Perkins
15   Posted 24/10/2010 at 18:34:43

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I think we are getting more solid at the back, which has been our main strength. I would try Heitinga in place of Distin for part of some games to see what happens. He was great end of last season.
I would also put Magaye in place of Bily and give him a go. He would have done better at Spurs.

It seems we should be able to use Beckford better than we have. He's no fool and will stick them in if he gets the chances. Strikers, strikers everywhere and not a one to score.

Ian Kearney
16   Posted 24/10/2010 at 23:07:02

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David, to be honest with I actually though the two at the back played well, I'm just getting a bit annoyed with the rather predictable Jonny bashing.

Jagileka definately falls over himself far too often though! But back to Jonny, in the Utd game his positioning was dreadful, he has clearly worked hard at playing a higher line, and even the Spurs manager commented on him being effective against Van Der Vaart. Still a defender playing out of position, but was far better yesterday than most are making out on here.
Mike McQuaid
17   Posted 24/10/2010 at 23:37:38

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I listened to the Spurs match on Radio 5 Live and it seemed a fairly even 90 minutes with Everton good value for their point. In fact, summariser Alan Pardew said on more than one occasion that Everton were easily the better team in the second half. So why did Match of the Day's highlights give the impression that we were under siege from home attacks?

Apart from the goal, they showed not one Everton attack, yet probably included every goal attempt by the home side and padded out the package with a few lingering shots of Harry Redknapp in the dugout. I know we didn't have too many near things but, the goal apart, was there really nothing of note in our attacks?

And if we're shown fifth out of seven when we play media darlings Spurs, can we expect only the last five minutes of MotD when we face Stoke?

Kevin Gillen
18   Posted 25/10/2010 at 00:04:27

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This is an excellent thread. The frankness and simplicity of your reports Ken appears to draw the more watchful supporters to your thread. Several points emerge:

Heitinga is a very limited midfielder who does a job when we are short. He is carrying an injury. We should not be quick to question his motivation because of these points.

Howard has made two high profile errors and cost us four points. This has to be taken in the light of three consecutive clean sheets. Consistency needs to improve but I would say if we were scoring more goals in open play his errors would not have been as costly in terms of points.

The back four have improved dramatically and this does bode well for the coming weeks. I called for Distin's head after the Man Unt game but he has been fantastic since (note to self - don't be quick to judge).

The jury is out on Bilyaletdinov. I think he has potential but his performance has to improve or as someone above quite rightly points out, one of the young tyros, Baxter perhaps, will bypass him. He is one of the guys most likely to score so perhaps we should be a little more patient with him.

Good point won on the whole, I thought, now we need to string a few wins together. I thought the Yak was off the pace again but he did win the free kick that led to the goal. It was good to see Saha back, we need him to explode as we know he can and then we might start scoring a few goals. In my opinion an excellent performance given the resources at our disposal.

Peter Norris
19   Posted 25/10/2010 at 07:55:41

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Ian # 8 & 16. Those yard dogs were class from my seat at WHL. Distin missed one header in the second half but otherwise had Crouch and the Pavlychenko stitched up. JH had a great first half but what is worrying is his ability to seem to want to come off at the 70-minute mark ? a World Cup Finalist who can't play 90 mins due to "cramp". (If you were there, you would have heard the mixed reception of boos and applause as he left the field.)

If you put him centre back at the moment would you want to be disturbing a crucial formation each game as he needs a rest after 2/3rds of the game... then it would be another opportunity for the Moyes boo boys to criticise his substitutions.

Iain Love
20   Posted 25/10/2010 at 09:03:56

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Watched the game on t'internet and thought we did well considering the absentees, we just fell short in the last 3rd . A point at Spurs is no bad thing and as pointed out previously we where good value for that.

How I'd like to see a more attack-minded midfield player a la Donovan in that side having a right go at them ? that would have seen them off in my opinion.

Roger Trenwith
21   Posted 25/10/2010 at 12:07:47

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MotD highlights were a tad one sided weren't they? However according to the stats at the end they had 10 on target to our 4, so maybe given the short amount of time given to the highlights it was fair after all.

I thought the pundit (Hansen?) was right to highlight Pip's performance ? he had Bale in his pocket, and I thought Pip was our MotM.

Next 3 games are crucial ? we need 7 from 9 imo.
COYB!

Liam Reilly
22   Posted 25/10/2010 at 12:20:14

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It's a wonder why Moyes doesn't give the young Frenchman a chance. He's done well on the wing in his brief cameos thus far and surely would be better than Bily on the right.

Bily must be awsome in training, just doesn't look match fit.

John Sheron
23   Posted 25/10/2010 at 12:30:24

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I am uncomfortable that Howard seems to have adopted a new method of goalkeeping that includes punching more than catching when dealing with crosses.

I'm not sure this is a good idea especially as not every punch will connect or when it does connect the contact may be more flap than punch.

This needs to be urgently re-visited.
Tony J Williams
24   Posted 25/10/2010 at 13:24:35

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John, I was aghast on Saturday... as I actually agreed with something Andy Gray said at half time. He suggested that Howard should have just pushed it out for a corner.

There is a tendency nowadays to punch rather than catch, possibly this may have something to do with the balls... or is it training?

Last week in the Derby, a ball straight at him and he punched it... that would never have happened 10 years ago. It would have been a catch.
John Brennan
25   Posted 25/10/2010 at 16:55:05

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Howard is not good enough for our team.

Our best player was Baines, but even he was suspect at times. When he is fit, our best player will be Fellaini!!
COYB

Paul Maguire
26   Posted 26/10/2010 at 09:14:28

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I thought Bily did OK in the first half, certainly did little wrong. Passed well, although a little tentative. Got some decent crosses in the second half. Interestingly, Scott Murray's 'minute by minute' report in the Guardian sang his praises. I think he needs more game time and hopefully his confidence will return. I hope so because I think he could be a real asset to the club.
Keith Knowles
27   Posted 26/10/2010 at 12:13:10

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Heitinga is a centre-back and is pissed off that he is playing midfield; although Distin has improved of late he is still very prone to appalling lapses of concentration with regard to positional play. Bily adds very little and his work rate is poor; we should flog him in January and use some of the dosh to give Piennar the wages he wants!

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