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Season 2011-12
COLUMNIST PAUL TRAILL

Easy Trip to the Midlands

By Paul Traill   ::  15/01/2012
 19 Comments (Last)
It?s been a while since I?ve made the trip to Villa Park and it was an extremely easy drive down the M53, M56 and then the M6. We were well into Birmingham when I said ?there should be a signpost for Villa somewhere here?. Colin replied ?Paul, I?ve been down this road so many times. I guarantee there?s no signpost for Villa Park? which sent me into a bit of a frenzy, only to see a clear signpost of: ?FOR VILLA PARK FOLLOW A38 LYCHFIELD?. We took that exit and were soon enough parked up in a nice, free spot and onward towards the ground with plenty of time.

After a quick bite to eat we were in the away pub formally known as the The Cap and Gown though now titled The Witton Arms and able to sink into a couple of shandy?s pre-kick off. The pub was fun and lively with some Belgian Evertonians in there enjoying themselves and making themselves heard. Was all a good laugh and teed us up nicely for an away day.

I got hold of the team news in the pub and wasn?t too surprised to see Gibson was plunged straight into the midfield alongside Fellaini. I was pleased to see Drenthe start in place of Bilyaletdinov and it was nice to see Duffy given the opportunity at centre-back alongside Heitinga. Generally, we were all quite pleased with the line-up. The comedy moment in the pub was when Dave said ?Isn?t that guy the spit of Rio Ferdinand??when on examination the fella bore no resemblance whatsoever.

On to the ground and, following a little confusion as to the whereabouts of our seats, we were ready for the match in good time amongst a rather sparse Villa Park, Everton attacking towards the Holt End in the first half. Mark Clattenburg refereeing an Everton game for the first time in roughly four years.

Following a generally tense start by both sets of teams, we began to settle. Petrov tested Howard quite early with a free kick but, other than that, Everton seized the initiative and created a couple of decent opportunities of which we really should have scored with at least one.

Saha nipped in with a header from an excellent set-piece ball from Baines which Shay Given saved well; and a little later Warnock nearly turned into his own net with Given again athletically saving. The key first half moment I suppose came when Saha looked set to score following a quality ball from Donovan. At the time it seemed incredible that he missed though having now seen it again you can see he is impeded by Hutton thus denying him the goalscoring opportunity. In hindsight it probably should have been a penalty and a red card though it did look a tough call for the referee in all fairness. Having said that, the way Saha has been in front of goal of late I wouldn't exactly have backed him to score anyhow.

Regardless, Everton weren?t doing badly. Heitinga and Duffy looked pretty comfortable at the back and Neville and particularly Baines were doing well. Fellaini was busy and Gibson appeared to settle in no time at all. Cahill was playing his best game in ages and Donovan was having a particularly good game. The only problem was the usual one ? the final third. Howard was also coping OK as exemplified by him making a decent save following a run and shot from Agbonlahor. As we tucked into our half-time pie, you could only be reasonably satisfied with the game, particularly given our last three turgid performances against Bolton, Tamworth and Tottenham.

Into the second half and, as I feared, Aston Villa had now upped their game and were having a bit more of a go at us. They got their rewards after I think Duffy failed to clear his lines correctly and Ireland got the ball back into the box for Bent to tuck home from close range. We were sat near to the Aston Villa fans by the corner of the ground and they began to chant ?We scored a goal, you must be shit? which had to make you chuckle.

Prior to Villa taking the lead, Fellaini had nearly scored with a header from another excellent free kick from Baines. Given repelled. That was just about all Everton had offered this half though and Moyes didn?t waste any time in changing it, replacing the increasingly frustrating Drenthe with Anichebe.

Eight minutes later the substitution was rewarded. Howard threw it long to Donovan on the wing who took the ball down and ran at Villa, cut inside of Collins and picked out a beauty of a ball to Anichebe who finished well, timing his run brilliantly. Relief as much as joy from the Everton support and we, of course, retorted with ?We scored a goal, you must be shit? in the direction of the Villa supporters. It was funny though not a nice reminder of how far down these two once great clubs have now fallen.

Everton probably had the better of the closing stages though you felt they were happy enough with the point. We came close to scoring on a few occasions from corners when the ball just wouldn?t quite fall for Cahill or Saha, whilst late substitute appearances from Bilyaletdinov and Stracqualursi failed to reap their rewards.

The ?Aarrrghhh? moment came when in the last minute of the game Cahill burst forward with both Anichebe and Donavon in space on the flanks. Feeling plucky, the Aussie let fly at goal from distance only to hit his effort high and wide. It was a shame because he?d had a good game. Strangely after the full time whistle, he ran straight off the pitch and down the tunnel.

Upon leaving Villa Park, whilst you had to be happy with a point considering we were behind in the game, I was also a little disappointed not to have won. Make no mistake, that Villa team is also suffering badly at the moment and were pretty much there for the taking.

Hopefully we can get back to winning ways at home to Blackburn Rovers next Saturday. Speaking of that game, I was relieved to hear Yakubu was sent off yesterday and will now be unable to come back to haunt us next weekend? just so long as they don?t sign Andy Johnson, as rumored, in time for next weekend's clash.

An easy trip home and not a bad day out at all. Let's get back on track next weekend.

Player Ratings:

Howard: Rather helpless with the goal. Otherwise he made a few decent stops and distributed well, particularly with his throwing. 7

Baines: Very good. Fine defensively and put in some super balls of which we really should have made more of. 7

Heitinga: Good. Very comfortable and did a good job of looking after Duffy on his debut. 7

Duffy: Probably at fault for the goal, hesitant on a few occasions, slow and seems to need decades on the ball before picking out a pass. Otherwise, I felt he looked very comfortable and settled into the game fine. Apart from probably his pace, all them other errors can be eradicated from his game in time. Not a bad his first Premier League start at all. 7

Neville: Coped just fine though nothing spectacular. 7

Fellaini: Very good. Used the ball well and intelligently plus was always working hard to win the ball back. 7

Gibson. Good debut. Seemed to settle in just fine. He passes the ball around well and gets stuck in. I think Rodwell could learn a thing or two from the way he plays. He?s won me over already. If we can just add a decent striker we might be OK after all. My man of the match. 7

Donovan: Really grew into the game. He?s obviously a very fit lad and works extremely hard and had a big, big hand in the goal of course. Certainly his best game so far. 7

Drenthe: Started well but was hopeless in the second half and was rightly subbed early. 5

Cahill: His best game in ages. Was very involved and passed the ball around and dribbled with the ball quite well. Only blot on his copybook was that stupid drive in the last minute. A good pass could have been very decisive there. Still? much better from Cahill. Let's hope there?s still time for him to find his goals this season. 7

Saha: He worked reasonably hard I suppose but nothing went for him. The times he?d try to be clever he?d just get tackled. When he tried to play a pass it was always stray, and when he was about to meet the ball with his head for what should have been a certain goal he was pulled back. Not a good afternoon for Saha. 5

Anichebe (for Drenthe): Good. Got involved and scored a goal. He?s sort of hit the ground running a bit since his latest injury. Let?s hope he can keep it up. 7

Bilyaletdinov (for Gibson): Couldn?t really get involved in the game. Put in one decent ball but that was about it. 6

Stracqualursi (for Saha): Not on for long, difficult to judge.

Reader Comments

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Paul Ferry
111   Posted 15/01/2012 at 16:37:36

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Duffy, Neville, Cahill, Gibson, Howard, Heitinga, Baines, Donovan, Anichebe, ALL getting 7 Paul!!!????? Seven is the new average?

How on earth can you give the same rating for Cahill and Donovan, Cahill and Gibson, Cahill and Duffy? How on earth can you give the same rating for Neville and Donovan, Neville and Gibson, Neville and Baines? And so on.

Where was Cahill playing: behind the striker, in front of the defence, a speedy freewheeler allowed to roam up and down the pitch at will? He was awful and, with respect, his days at EFC where he will always be welcomed back warmly.

Legend? No way, we reserve that for truly legendary figures: Dean, Sager, Young, Labone, Hickson, Southall, possibly Lord Sheeds, and there are others, I know, but not, I'm not being iconoclastic, Big Dunc, he had a aura and mystique about him in dark days for us, something to latch onto (I rate Latch higher on the legend ladder), but legend, no.

I saw it a little differently mate:

Howard-7 - Neville-4 - Baines-7 - Heitinga-6 - Duffy-7 - Gibson-7 - Drenthe-4 - Fellaini-5 - Cahill-4 - Saha-2 - Donovan-8
Denis Richardson
112   Posted 15/01/2012 at 16:44:30

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Paul, thanks for the write up. Each to their own but think you're being very generous to Cahill and Fellaini in giving them the same rating as Donovan - thought Donovan was miles better than both of them (and not just for the assist).

Would have given them a 5 each myself and Billy a 4 - even if he was only on the pitch for a short while.

Chris Smith
133   Posted 15/01/2012 at 20:16:29

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I am generally in agreement with Paul Ferry on the ratings. I thought Neville was a 5 and Fellaini was a 6. Saha was very poor but I thought Drenthe was worse. I thought he was absolutely woeful and he will be in trouble for that performance.
Mal Christopher
135   Posted 15/01/2012 at 20:51:43

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Howard-7 - Neville-5 - Baines-6 - Heitinga-6 - Duffy-6 - Gibson-7 - Drenthe-4 - Fellaini-5 - Cahill-5 - Saha-4 - Donovan-8
Alexander Sterpikov
137   Posted 15/01/2012 at 21:05:16

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I don't understand why you think Cahill played better than Saha. In my opinion Saha got into more dangerous positions and also made opportunities for others, ie. his flick-on to Donovan in the right side.

Saha was also fouled in the box which should have given us a penalty - again he was in a dangerous position.

Cahill is nowhere near as dangerous as he was 18 months ago, and I think Big Vic or Vellios should start ahead of him.
Peter Bourke
139   Posted 15/01/2012 at 21:27:23

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Alexander,
Cahill in general wasn't too bad. It was his visionary pass that put donovan through down the right when he crossed it in for Saha when he was fouled in the box. His passing game was quite good and he defended well considering he was asked to fill a number of positions throughout the game. Timmy has been poor in a few games recently but i don't think this was the case against Villa. It seems if he doesn't score people rate him a 4 or 5 regardless of his play in general.
Jamie Sweet
143   Posted 15/01/2012 at 21:34:55

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Good to hear Gibson having a decent debut. I guess he wouldn't have played as much as he did for SAF is he couldn't at least do the simple things well. Add a few screamers from distance in the next few weeks and we could well see him become more valuable to us than being "just another Utd reject" as many have him labellled.

Credit to Big Vic for a fine run and finish. Is there still a good player in there somewhere? I truely hope so.

Next weeks game will be very interesting. Two clubs in turmoil off the pitch and not much better on it. Blackburn finding some kind of form having showed what they can do at Old Trafford. Defeat is not an option for us though, that's for sure. I would love to see a new striker at Goodison in time for this fixture. Someone to get the Old Lady bouncing again. She's been a bit flat of late.
Dick Fearon
149   Posted 15/01/2012 at 21:32:25

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Moyes's over emphasis on defence has resulted in a paltry goals-per-game ratio plus a deserved reputation as being very low on the entertainment scale. This goes for his entire reign as our manager, even in his more successful years.

Cahill's extra-ordinary goal poaching skills covered up for Moyes lack of attacking nous. Timmy's current lack of goals having dried up and has resulted in Moyes messianic reputation taking a dive.

To give Tim a chance of regaining his confidence, he should concentrate on a single role and not try to be everything to all men. It would not be too difficult to tally the number of ball contacts made by some in the team yet I would dread having to do that for Tim. Barely a second would pass by that did not see Cahill getting involved in some way or other.
Russell Buckley
185   Posted 16/01/2012 at 02:47:54

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Completely agree with your Cahill comments Dick. We all know his best position. Leave him there and it will come.

He hasn't lost what makes Tim Cahill Tim Cahill.
Dave Lynch
206   Posted 16/01/2012 at 08:58:49

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I honestly thought the team looked better balanced.
We created a few chances in the first half and only for their keeper would have gone in 2 up.
James McPherson
210   Posted 16/01/2012 at 09:06:27

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Dick, never one to criticise fans who keep the faith from afar, but I'm afraid you will have to remove those gold-tinted glasses and be more objective around Cahill.

Like you, I believe Cahill has been a fantastic servant to Everton - in many ways , the epitome of all thta we represent as a club,

However, his best days are now behind him. Hear what you say on Moyes' lack of clarity contributing to Tim's demise. However, by far in a way the biggest reason for Cahill's lack of form in my view is age and time. For one thing, he's lost that prodigious leap.

DOn't take this the wrong way, but playing for Australia has accelerated Cahill's demise. Representing his country has always been important to him - I accept World Cup/ Oceania championships - but meaningless friendlies??

Australia's gain - our loss. Trouble is Dick, we pay his wages. I would have liked Cahill (like many other prem players) to have called time on his international career after 2010 World Cup campaign.
Dick Fearon
240   Posted 16/01/2012 at 10:33:47

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James, # 210, I agree with most of what you say but I think it is a bit soon to write Tim off.
His international games have not helped particularly as he injured his leg in his next to last Australia game and I was unhappy and could understand why he didn't immediately return to Goodison for treatment. Only a few days later he exacerbated the injury while playing for Australia.
Soon after returning to Everton he broke down with the same the injury.
This caused a lengthy spell on the injury list and in my opinion he has never fully reached the same high standard.
Many months ago I expressed that same view in Toffeeweb post.

Despite all that I still maintain he does a good job to hold a place in the team but I wish he would curtail his box to box work rate.
I am very keen to see Australia progress yet I think Tim has more than fulfilled his obligation in that field and its time he retired from international international duty.
Ernie Baywood
245   Posted 16/01/2012 at 11:42:20

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Just out of interest, what position do people think Cahill played? I keep seeing criticism of him as a forward but I saw that as a 4-5-1 with Donovan and Drenthe the players tasked with supporting Saha, rather than Tim; so not the 4-5-1 that converts to a 4-4-2 when we have the ball, but one that becomes a 4-3-3 when we attack. Even with Drenthe having a dog

Certainly in the first half Cahill played pretty deep and did a good job starting our attacks.
Robert Workman
272   Posted 16/01/2012 at 13:41:07

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What is it about bogey teams? Have watched the Saha "penalty" many times. He is clearly held back when about to head the ball. On Internet stream Trevor Francis was repeatedly adamant that it should have been both a penalty and a red card. Of course we got a very soft penalty recently against Sunderland - who have us as their bogey team. Both decisions were incorrect, if reversed = 3 points rather than 2.
Dave Wilson
275   Posted 16/01/2012 at 13:56:52

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Robert

This is just the latest in a long line of nailed on penalties we havent been awarded.

I don't get it; we get a soft one at Sunderland and OUR fans are up in arms, but nobody wants to talk about the clear-cut ones like Drenthe's at WHL or Gosling's at St James.

We`re getting robbed blind and it's driving me up the fucken wall!
Dick Fearon
381   Posted 16/01/2012 at 22:33:35

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Ernie,# 245, That is the very point I was thinking about.
Is Tim to be judged solely as a striker, attacking or defensive mid fielder, in the middle, out wide or what?
At corners against us, he is a key defender while for corners at the other end he is our main attacker.
In comparison, Osman and Donovan are assessed by what they do in attack and others are judged by whatever they do in their designated position.
To be fair to Cahill particularly at a time like this when he is misfiring in front of goal he should be tasked only with a particular role.
After what the lad has done for us over the years that is the least we should expect.
Martin Mason
435   Posted 17/01/2012 at 03:40:50

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As I'm working away I watched the game on ESPN and I thought that EFC played some nice football at times in a very competitive game. Good positives from Duffy, Gibson and even big Vic; Tim actually had a reasonable game but sides have him sussed out now. Drenthe probably doesn't have a future at EFC and Saha has probably seen his best days. Donovan would bless the side as a permanent fixture but alas that won't happen.

All in all I thought they did OK given the obvious weaknesses that we have and that they are only a couple of players away from being a good side. Barkley is one of them and I'm still amazed at why he's not playing.
Mark Stone
271   Posted 20/01/2012 at 18:18:00

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Barkley is injured, Martin. Due back end of the month (?) hopefully he'll get a run out when back to fitness.
Graeme Beswick
893   Posted 22/01/2012 at 20:36:39

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Does anyone really give a shit on how you get the game or who you go with? I've stopped going now after years and years of greatness and torture watching the greatest football club in the world. However I did watch it on the 'foreign' last week and thought Fellaini was diabolical so maybe I did make the right decision in stop going every week coz if that's what classed as 'excellent' then I'd be better off giving 50quid to a big issue seller than watch that every week.

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