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Season 2011-12
COLUMNIST PAUL TRAILL

Just when things seem to be looking up

By Paul Traill   ::  04/12/2011
 2 Comments (»Last)
?Good day for the game today eh?? said my other half. I didn?t have a clue what she was on about until I looked outside. Heavy rain and high winds?oh Lord?this didn?t look as though it was going to be fun.

I was cheered when I arrived at the bus stop by a fella whistling away to ?Z-Cars?. I was in quite confident mood following our back-to-back victories?so much so that I even felt the urge to have a little flutter at the bookies on this one ? 1-0 Cahill at 30/1 seemed a reasonable shout?little did I know we were to go the whole duration without a single shot on target ? the first time since the 2008 / 09 season.

The pub was busy and was nice to see everyone as always ? with most of the talk regarding Gary Speed really, everyone still not quite gotten their head around the situation. The TV channel was switched over for the FA Cup draw?Li Tie providing great opposition for us in the shape of non-league Tamworth at home?Manchester City vs Manchester United clearly the pick of the draw. Immediately following the draw we made our way to the ground, ?The Land Of My Fathers? sounding out over the tannoys as we got closer to Goodison Park. Once we got ourselves through the turnstyles I got to my seat just in time for the minute?s applause with several ex-team mates of Speed (including Duncan Ferguson, Earl Barrett, David Unsworth, Paul Gerrard, Michael Ball, Dave Watson, Craig Short, Joe Parkinson and Graham Stuart) all showing their respects on the pitch. As too was Gary Speed?s father?all quite touching and quite poignant. Not a bad send off at all for our ex-captain.

Onto the match and Everton?s only change from last weekends win at the Reebok Stadium was Vellios playing instead of the injured Saha. Otherwise it was ?as you were? though Neville, Distin and Rodwell were all on the bench. Peter Crouch, John Walters, Matthew Etherington, Robert Huth and Ryan Shawcross all featuring. Everton attacked the Park End in the first half. Lee Mason got the game underway.

Everton began the game by far the better team, getting down the flanks and getting some reasonable balls into the box but with the familiar outcome of nobody being there to put them home. It was quite comfortable however until a mis-control allowed I think Walters to get a cross into the box, though it was well headed out by Heitinga at the expense of a corner?and what an expensive corner it was too. The initial ball in headed away though volleyed back goalward from the edge of the box by Whitehead?Robert Huth turning the ball in from close range. 1-0 Stoke City.

Whilst this was obviously the worst thing that could have happened to Everton, it was also the worst thing that could have happened to the game with Stoke happily sitting on their lead, defending solidly and pressing the play up the field. Without much quality on the wings or up front Everton seriously struggled to get to grips with this and ultimately got what they deserved from a turgid game. Moreover, Stoke could have been out of site really as they squandered rather presentably opportunities from set-pieces whilst Everton, despite several set-piece delivery opportunities from 10 corners failed to hit the target at all throughout the match.

The closest we came first half was probably when Fellaini headed wide, I think from a corner. I think it was from the same incident where he claimed a penalty and had a bit of an argument with one of the Stoke players though it was down the other end of the pitch to me and I couldn?t really see what was going on. The second half was more of the same ? plenty of possession, huffing and puffing but with no end product. One ball across the box somehow evaded everyone, and I felt a penalty was due when Cahill tried to take advantage of a rare laps in concentration and nipped in as Sorensen and his defenders dithered. It looked to me like Cahill was brought down for what would have been a penalty though the referee gave a throw in.

It was a similar case late, late in the game when Coleman was brought down as he rampaged towards the penalty area though the referee inexplicably gave a corner. It?s a familiar gripe of mine but the referee was not up the scratch at all today. A really poor display actually though it?s becoming the norm I think now with refereeing standards. It?s hard to complain however as we all know why Everton lost and it?s nothing to do with the referee ? we simply weren?t good enough on the day.

So why weren?t we good enough on the day? Well we have nothing in attacking areas and this has never been more evident than today. I guess previously when Moyes has had tough injury problems he?s been able to rely on Cahill to chip in with the goals though this hasn?t been the case in 2011. Moyes however has to take responsibility for this having sold three strikers this year, one of which is banging them in at Blackburn Rovers. The pressing need for a striker in January is palpable.

Onwards then to the Emirates where we?ll doubtless witness another master class in predatory striking from one Robin Van Persie. A big step backwards today, lets hope we can somehow take another one forward next weekend.

Player Ratings:

Howard: Might have done better with the goal. Nothing to do otherwise. 5
Baines: At fault just prior to the goal with sloppy play but did get forward a plenty and put several balls into the box, particularly in the second half. 6
Jagielka: My man of the match, though more via default than anything else. Was solid at the back and was a lot more positive bringing the ball forward than many of his colleagues. Seems back to normal now. 7
Heitinga: Also looked a bit more back to normal. The centre backs were our best players today. 7
Hibbert: Whilst it?s never been an asset of his, the distribution really needs to improve. Probably more of a confidence issue but I can?t think of a time he?s ever looked so uncomfortable on the ball. It might be wise to pull him out for next weekend with Neville now available again?this might offer better leadership to the rest of the players. 5
Fellaini: As usual, a quite first half though much improved in the second. Got no protection whatsoever from the referee however. 5
Osman: Hasn?t impressed at all really in the centre of midfield in recent games, though improved dramatically when moved out wide to accommodate Rodwell. 6
Bilyaletdinov: Started OK though faded in the second half and was subbed without having any effect on the game at all. 5
Coleman: A few mazy runs but nothing special today from Seamus. 5
Cahill: Not at his best, far from it in fact, but at least appeared interested in carrying the fight to Stoke. If he keeps plugging away he?ll be alright. 6
Vellios: Had a shocker basically. You can see why Moyes is holding him back for now?a certain Yakubu might have just made the difference today. 5

Substitutes:
Rodwell (for Bilyaletdinov): Didn?t get into the game enough. 5
Stracqualursi (for Vellios): Did well to win the ball back a few times. Looks a reasonable player around the box. Would like to see him have more opportunities so we can see what he?s like. We mightaswell give it a go as we?re nor getting enough from our other strkers. 6
Gueye (for Hibbert): Did quite well and got some alright balls into the box. Also, would like to see him have more opportunities. Seems capable. 7

Reader Comments

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Sam Fitzsimmons
1   Posted 05/12/2011 at 04:41:59

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I was going to begin this post by saying the last time I watched a worse game of football was at an Irish league game. But that would only demean the part-timers in IPL football and more importantly their technical ability.

What a shameful performance by the referee, a tactically inept game plan by Moyes and technically piss poor football by both sides. Yes, there where brief glimpses by one or two players of ball control and some ability of being able to pass the ball further than 15 yards but overall that was painful to watch. I'm beginning to feel like a number of posters on this site and that is that I've better things to do in my life than put myself through the frustration, anxiety, stress and anger of watching my team implode

Finally... I so wanted Bily to shine today but I have to agree with many posters on TW ? he's shite!
Paul Ferry
2   Posted 05/12/2011 at 06:15:41

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How on earth can you possibly give Fellaini 5 and then Osman 6, Jags 7, Stracq 6 (FFS), Cahill 6 (FFS), Hibbert 5 (FFS). If you will insist on giving us player ratings, please make them somewhere near real. Fellaini was head and shouldets (sorry) above everyone else in a blue shirt today, apart from Johnny (to be fair, he got a 7 from you).

Next time Paul, try and be a little more balanced and insightful on your marking and that might require some toughness on your part.

How about: Howard 6, Hibbert 4, Jagielka 4, Heitinga 7, Baines 5, Fellaini 8, Osman 2, Bilyaletdinov 3, Coleman 3, Cahill 2, Vellios 4 (no service at all), Rodwell 2, Stracqualursi 2, Gueye 5

You always write a nice report for the most part, but your ratings week-in and week-out make me wonder if you keep your eyes on the pitch or your gang who you go with.

Osman 6; Fella 5 - my God!!!

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