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And Tonight... Mr Hyde

By Lyndon Lloyd :  02/01/2011 :  Comments (22) :

Just when you think this tortuous season couldn't plumb any new depths, along comes a winnable home tie in the FA Cup against lower-division opposition ? a gilt-edged opportunity to reach the quarter finals ? and Everton find a way to shoot themselves in both feet with a performance of belief-defying ineptitude.

The scenes of wild celebration at Stamford Bridge 10 days ago? All for nothing in the final reckoning and, in the harsh light of this evening's display and the death knell it represents for the season, all a bit embarrassing. Some springboard that proved to be...

There would be no salvation from the boot of Leighton Baines this time ? although that left peg was at times the sum total of Everton's attacking repertoire against an organised Reading team that defended stoutly for almost the full 90 minutes ? only despair as the team's last hope for silverware and, in all likelihood, Europe evaporated into the Merseyside night, lifted on a chorus of angry boos from supporters who are reaching the end of their rope.

That Brian McDermott's outfit grabbed what would prove to be the winner completely against the run of play mid-way through the first half will come as no comfort for Evertonians who saw their team's composure and cohesion fall apart in the wake of the goal. The players will be accused of lacking fight in their attempts to claw their way back into the tie and while they were certainly lacking in spirit when the chips were down, ultimately they were undone by a shocking lack of ideas and craft that really does raise grave fears for what's in store between now and May.

Having taken the game by the scruff of the neck in the early going, it seemed to be only a matter of time before the Blues would make the breakthrough and continue their march along the road to Wembley. Despite playing in the less than enterprising 4-5-1 formation, a decision Moyes is believed to have made based on Jermaine Beckford's fitness rather than the striker's late arrival at the ground due to traffic problems on the M62, Everton's domination of the opening 20-odd minutes was near total, with Mikel Arteta stroking the ball about purposefully in midfield, Seamus Coleman offering an outlet down the right and Baines the ammunition from the right.

But yet again they seemed unable to fashion anything meaningful with all that possession. For the watching faithful, a frustrating sense of deja vu as attack after attack broke down on the edge of the opposition area, a scenario that has played out time and time again all season long no matter who has been pulling the strings. But a couple of openings were fashioned during the home side's spell of early superiority, the best of them falling to Seamus Coleman at the end of the nice move down the left flank. Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, in a moment of inspiration in an otherwise wretched personal performance, chipped the ball over the defence to Leon Osman who controlled it and lofted a tempting ball to the back post but Coleman headed too firmly downwards and the bounce carried it agonisingly over the crossbar.

After Osman had seen a tame left-footer saved and Leigertwood had had a piledriver blocked by Phil Jagielka's lunge, Reading took the lead from a corner from their right. After the initial kick wasn't cleared by an Everton jersey, the ball fell to Matt Mills and he slammed it through a crowd of players and past Tim Howard. 1-0 but nothing to panic about at this stage of proceedings.

Visibly rattled, though, the Blues almost compounded that defensive lapse with an even worse one, Sylvain Distin suffering a moment of madness where he was easily robbed by Kebbe who raced towards the box to take on Howard. Thankfully, he shot too close to the 'keeper and the American beat it away superbly for a corner.

Once they did retain the initiative, Everton resumed their ineffective search for a goal, with no one seeming able to pick the lock of the Reading defence or having the confidence to just put their laces through the ball when space opened up outside the box. That left the avenue of Baines swinging dangerous crosses in from the left, which seemed like it might eventually yield dividends but all too often they found a Reading defender's head and were cleared.

Two opportunities from direct free kicks in decent areas were spurned by Mikel Arteta as both times his shot deflected off the defensive wall but the second effort at least earned a corner which Osman flung himself at a minute before half-time but the ball flew off the back of his head and an inch over the crossbar to ensure that Reading went into the interval ahead.

Obviously concerned by the toothless nature of his forward line, Moyes took mixed action at half time with the positive move of hooking Bilyaletdinov and introducing Beckford offset by the dubious wisdom of withdrawing Coleman and throwing on Victor Anichebe. And so it proved that the industry and unpredictability of the Irishman was replaced by the petulant vacuousness of the Nigerian on the right flank, effectively tying one of the team's arms behind its back.

Still, the introduction of Beckford looked initially as though it would be enough. Within two minutes of the restart, the striker had linked superbly with Louis Saha and picked up the return ball as he overlapped into the area but his low left-footed shot was comfortably saved by Alex McCarthy, who would save his more heroic act for later.

Arteta then finally took up the invitation to shoot, raking a decent effort wide from 25 yards before Anichebe let loose with an awful left-footed effort that he dragged wide from a similar distance. Granted, they were having a go but as an increasingly ragged performance wore on, the more desperate and one-dimensional Everton became and Reading had their moments to seal the tie at the other end, not least when Ian Harte flashed a free kick inches wide of Howard's right-hand post and Tabb saw a goalbound shot deflect narrowly behind off Phil Neville.

The closest the Blues came to forcing a replay they hardly deserved came as the game moved into the final quarter of an hour. With 13 minutes left, McCarthy missed his punch off a Baines corner, Saha fired goalwards, only for the ball to strike Beckford and deflect behind for a goal kick.

A minute later, the Frenchman's trickery took him down the left channel where he whipped in a deep cross that Beckford headed neatly back across goal where Osman arrived unmarked to crash a first-time shot goalwards, one that seemed destined to bulge the net until McCarthy flipped up an instinctive arm to bat the ball away to safety from Reading's point of view.

A penalty claim on Harte as his arm visibly brushed his arm inside the box was waved away by referee Andre Marriner and Jack Rodwell blazed over from 25 yards, but as the clocked down and then into five minutes of stoppage time, Everton had abandoned all vestige of intelligent approach play, choosing instead to belt it forward with no plan and no result. That lead to the inevitability of another embarrassing cup defeat and the players leaving the pitch to a cacophony of boos.

The comparatively lowly victors from Berkshore, on the other hand, were warmly applauded off by both sets of fans as reward for a job well done. McDermott's men simply wanted and deserved it more than their supposedly superior hosts and it is they who will meet Manchester City or Aston Villa in the next round.

For Moyes and Everton, just ominous question marks and yet another post-mortem to endure on another awful display. Though the triumph over Chelsea in the last round and the weekend win over Sunderland had temporarily offered hope that the debacle at Bolton would be the nadir of the season, this defeat and the utterly insipid nature of the performance that caused it has dredged up all the fears and concerns that Moyes is incapable of getting his players to either perform to their ability or work as an effective unit with any consistency.

Certainly, with Marouane Fellaini now out for the season and Tim Cahill on the sidelines for three weeks, the manager found himself almost completely devoid of options after he'd made his first two substitutions. There was no one on the bench to whom Moyes could turn to save the game and Jose Baxter had just a few minutes at the end in which to translate his enthusiasm into anything meaningful.

His midfield was bereft of imagination and guile; Osman, so effective against Sunderland, was largely anonymous, perpetuating his reputation for annoying inconsistency; Bilyaletdinov made a mockery of his international pedigree, particularly with his near total inability to provide any sort of defensive cover for Baines; Coleman, while not as productive as usual, at least provided a threat down the right and could count himself unfortunate to be subbed as early as he was; and Rodwell demonstrated that he does yet have the experience to carry an under-performing team on his shoulders.

That paucity of options to change up his personnel and bench under-performers is going to be a constant problem for Moyes between now and the end of the season, particularly if injuries continue to mount up, so how the rest of the season pans out is going to depend on whatever effect his motivational style can have on the players and then the players' own pride and attitude.

For the supporters, the frustration of not knowing whether Dr Jekyll or Mr Hyde will show up on a given week will make the Premier League run-in a nervy experience. It would be easy for things to spin out of control in a crisis of confidence over the remaining 11 games and with the club still too close to the bottom three for comfort in terms of points, there's not much margin for error. Hopefully the team can respond in the same way they did against Chelsea and Sunderland when they travel to the northeast to take on Newcastle this weekend... they're going to have to.

Reader Comments

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Andrew Presly
1   Posted 03/03/2011 at 00:07:12

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9 years of this is too much. Life is far too short. Give me the Alan Harper / Stefan Rehn double act with no net spend required, next season would be the same or better than this crud and they only want living expenses and food / booze allowances.
John Daley
2   Posted 03/03/2011 at 00:38:53

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Harper would need a bit of extra cash for muzzy maintenance though.
Andrew Presly
3   Posted 03/03/2011 at 00:44:49

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The electoral ticket states "minimal muzzie allowance and we promise (Stefan especially) that we won't let in 4 to WBA at home, without scoring 5."

Back the bid. The management (AH & SR) will only miss 1 in every 3 crucial games to watch the Wizard Of Oz, but remember, we cost basically nowt.

David Edwards
4   Posted 03/03/2011 at 00:56:09

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Yet another false dawn highlighted by this inept performance. No passion, purpose or quality! After really having a go at Moyes in recent months (besides the Board), I'm actually beginning to realise that he is probably as low as we are with what he has to deal with (although the monthly salary must temper the prospect of his reputation going southbound).

My prediction ? Blue Bill miraculously finds a buyer/investor to prevent him being lynched at the end of the season (relegation or not!) or stonewalls again ? in which case Moyes will walk if only to save his reputation ? which remains high with the Five Live and TalkSport idiots.

It's going to be a watershed summer ? I'm just hoping three teams are worse than us (because it ain't over yet folks!)
David Hallwood
5   Posted 03/03/2011 at 02:19:25

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Moyes has got to go public and criticize the board for lack of investment that has left us so threadbare at the business end of the season. I just want this season over.
Dave Wilson
6   Posted 03/03/2011 at 06:06:54

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Uncomfortable read, Lyndon.

By drawing attention to the lack of options as opposed to screaming about the team selection, you point your torch into a very dark place. Even the manager's biggest critics have to realise. Tuesday's team picked itself... Shite manager? If only it were that simple.

Ian Edwards

What is it you want lad? A website were everyone has the same opinion? Somewhere you can log on and every post says the same thing?

Do you really believe if Doddy comes on here today and calls Kenwright a cunt we will zoom up the table, move into a super new ground, win the CL and play like Barcelona? Really???

It's a fans website lad, his comments are merely his opinion. If you want the board removed, do something about it! This "you are holding the club back" mentality propagated by you and the Alan Clarkes of this world is a cop out, an excuse offered up by people who don't have the courage of their convictions.

If anybody is stopping you from getting what you want it's you yourself! What's the point of constantly grumbling about the club but sitting on your arses and doing nothing? Don't you get it? Richard Dodd won't do it for you. He`s content!

Stop whining, Get Active! By rounding on good contributing Evertonians, you are merely taking a cheap shot and guess what? After seasons of it, the Board is STILL here.

David Bridge
7   Posted 03/03/2011 at 09:45:42

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We will not improve and can not improve because some beauts who claim to be Blue still support BK and still think Moyes is the best we can get. Some even think Moyes rescued us from being a relegation threatened club and turned us into.... yes, a relegation threatened club!

Until everyone agrees with the matchgoing Blues that BK and Moyes are woeful and should both be ousted urgently and we actively campaign against them, starting away at Newcastle, then we cannot expect change and do not deserve it.

I have said before, it may be for the better that we drop to the Championship, this will enforce regime change, the club would be sold for a reduced reasonable amount and the lost Premier League money (we don't see anyway in transfers) would be Kenwright's loss!

As for not being able to afford high wages in the Championship, it's simple: Fellaini is going anyway, Arteta should be offloaded and, if we let Tottenham take Neville, we won't be worse off.

Sam Morrison
8   Posted 03/03/2011 at 10:50:00

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Some interesting thoughts there David (8) ? lose Fellaini, Arteta, Neville, drop down a division and that will add up to a positive? Not sure about that.

The problem with getting rid of players is there's no guarantee their replacements won't suffer injuries/loss of form or conversely play really well ? and then get sold. Arteta is getting better, Neville's qualities as a leader are well documented ? if still debated, admittedly.

And, if we dropped down a division, there is no guarantee we'd come back up. Long-stayers in the top division like Forest, Coventry, Leeds, Charlton did not.
Charles King
9   Posted 03/03/2011 at 10:48:51

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Dave Wilson, I disagree with your supportive view of the manager but I accept it's your view and nothing wrong in that.

Why do you insist on calling people "lad"?

You have no idea of people's youth, seniority or life experience; "coming the old soldier" is naff, presumptious and weakens your argument.
Sam Morrison
10   Posted 03/03/2011 at 11:32:24

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Dave is 109, that's why!
Charles King
11   Posted 03/03/2011 at 11:33:44

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Ah, it explains so much.
David Holroyd
12   Posted 03/03/2011 at 11:34:01

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To see the manager on the touchline from the start till the end of the game barking orders telling where to stand, and where to move, shows that the players have lost the will to play. Fresh blood is needed and quickly.
Dick Fearon
13   Posted 03/03/2011 at 09:05:47

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Excellent report, Lyndon. I am a bit surprised you so lightly passed over Beckford's late arrival. It was bizarre that a first teamer was on the road from Leeds just a few hours prior to kick off in a very important game. Surely it is not normal practice that players are dealing with road hazards so close to a big game? An important game to the fans, if not so important for the players and management.
Phil Bellis
14   Posted 03/03/2011 at 12:57:23

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"...if Doddy comes on here today and calls Kenwright a cunt..."
Priceless Dave; as if he'd ever see the light.
Steve Webster
15   Posted 03/03/2011 at 13:28:53

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I'll keep this short. A change in tactics is needed.

We have no width, while Baines is our most attacking player ? yet needs to also defend. I like Phil Neville, but attacking is not his game. If we adopt a wing-back approach, I could see Coleman operating on the right with licence to go forward, while Neville could slot in as a 3rd centre-half ? a job he can do.

A 5-3-2 is worth a gamble ? we've nothing to lose.

Back 3: Neville, Jags, Distin

Mid 5: Coleman, Rodwell, Arteta, Cahill, Baines

Front 2: Saha & Beckford

Benefits: we still have the extra man in midfield holding ? Rodwell ? in the absence of Fellaini. Baines can bomb on knowing that a centre-half will cover. We play with two strikers up front and actually pose a threat.

We have to work with what we've got until the end of the season. The 4-5-1 is too predictable and devoid of invention. It might work if we were to bring L Donavon back in the summer, but right now, we have no pace or width and subsequently do not get in behind defences at all.
John Ford
16   Posted 03/03/2011 at 13:26:20

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'tThe petulant vacuousness of the Nigerian on the right flank'

...beautifully put.

Whatever anyone's opinions on the causes of all this, and likewise the solutions, it is now imperative that the club is able to access some money. Nothing will change without it, regardless of manager/chairman. It just so happens that an influx of money is only really likely to come with a change of chair.
John Ford
17   Posted 03/03/2011 at 13:32:06

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We started with two 'wingers' ? Bily and Coleman ?and still couldn't create anything. Moyes then swapped one for a statuesque African drama queen, which didn't help.
Jeff Magee
18   Posted 03/03/2011 at 13:27:57

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Lyndon ? appreciate your balanced report ? pretty much as I saw the game.

My question for TW contributors is, rather than slag off anyone who does not happen to agree with your own opinion does anyone have any ideas as to how to overcome such opposition?

I watched it on ESPN and had that dickhead Waddle screaming that we had to get around the back of the two banks of four without offering any suggestions as to how this might be achieved.

I have noticed this season that if you want to beat us, or at least not get beaten, particularly at Goodison, ?all? you have to do is set up to frustrate us for the first 20-30 minutes with two banks of four just outside your own penalty area, then wait for a break or counter attack opportunity ? if you are lucky enough to score on one of these breaks you revert back to the frustration line up ? repeat for 90 minutes and likelihood is you will have won. I have been to the Wolves, Newcastle and Wigan games this year and seen this tactic work very successfully.

It is not just an Everton problem but appears to be the preferred tactic of almost all away teams and better teams than Everton have consistently failed to overcome it, recent Chelsea v Redshite comes to mind and almost all Man City?s games, hence the incredible numbers of shite games that Sky have billed as ?Mega? but are anything but.

This is a genuine question and one I presume almost all coaches must be trying to solve every week and so I would ask that when answering this please bear in mind our current squad and our inability to change it either now or in any transfer window soon, and that ?sack Moyes??. ?the entire playing and coaching staff? or ?? ?run Kenwright out of town? do not constitute as valid answers.

If there is no answer I think that we as fans then have to decide would we prefer that David Moyes reverts back to these tactics as he was so successful with in 2005 or do we try to move on and play the sort of football we did on Tuesday night (and most of this season) and have to suffer these frustrations?
Ian Edwards
19   Posted 03/03/2011 at 19:08:11

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Dave Wilson #7

Are you getting your Edwards's confused. I haven't slated Moyes on this thread? Everyone else is doing it instead..

There are many people named Edwards but thankfully only one idiot called Moyes.
Ian Smitham
20   Posted 03/03/2011 at 23:01:33

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Dick, We have not seen eye to eye re Osman, I offerred an olive branch in my recent comment to you re longstanding supporter and you retorted by having a pop at me on another thread. Fair enough.

But if we want to continue, let's get facts, that's facts straight. Why the mention of Leeds above???
David Watkins
21   Posted 04/03/2011 at 10:26:00

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If everyone is fit and healthy, I believe we have a well balanced squad. Moyes has done a great job with what has been available. Sadly, nothing is available anymore and hasn't been for some time. We just can't keep up, our squad lacks any depth to even cope with 1 injury.

We need a new owner who has enough business sense to run a successful football club in the modern world and throw Moyes a bit of money to reinvigorate the squad. If this doesn't happen NOW, I predict Everton to be relegated to the depths for an extended period, maybe not this season, but quite possibly the next.

I think Moyes is secretly hoping retirement is on the mind of Ferguson while his reputation as a top manager he has worked so hard for remains intact.
Andrew Rimmer
22   Posted 05/03/2011 at 01:01:03

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Dear Dave 22, We will never, like all clubs, have all fit players! And if we did.... Moyes would pick the wrong ones!

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