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Season 2011-12
COLUMNIST PAUL TRAILL

Just one game away...

By Paul Traill   ::  18/02/2012
 6 Comments (Last)
Out and about quite early and if I had any lingering ideas of getting the bus to the match they were quickly diminished by the horrible wind and rain and I decided on driving to this one. Come set off time and conditions had noticeably improved with the sun shining bright. We parked up on the usual street? nervously ignoring the demanding cries of ?watch yer car mate? from the young lad.

Given the match was a sell-out it was no surprise to see the pub busier than usual. More of a surprise to see Ste tucking into a few beers. We received the disappointing team news in the pub that Landon Donovan wouldn?t be making a farewell appearance. With Pienaar cup-tied the wingers were Gueye and Drenthe. Cahill was also unavailable so Neville pushed up into midfield with Hibbert drafted in to right back. Blackpool featured a few familiar faces from last season with Gilks, Cahthcart, Sylvestre and Taylor-Fletcher all in the starting line-up. Kevin Phillips also starting in attack. It was busy getting into the ground though we made our seats in time for kick off. The teams switching ends and Everton attacking the Gwladys Street in the first half?

Attack we did?straight from the kick off?Everton won the ball, Baines scampered down the left and put a low cross in for Fellaini who controlled nicely and showed good awareness to pick up Drenthe who steadied himself and curled a lovely effort into the far corner. 1-0 after just 49 seconds and the Goodison crowd went wild.

We weren?t quite still celebrating the last goal before the next one went in but we were rather buoyant still when Straqualursi further enhanced his burgeoning reputation by stabbing home from close range from a corner following a Gueye flick. 2-0 and Everton were well on the way to a quarter final. I?d read before the game that the last time we played an FA Cup fixture on this date we beat Norwich 5-0 on the way to Wembley back in 1995. Being 2-0 after five minutes I hoped lightning might strike twice though this wasn?t to be.

Fellaini and Straqualursi both had presentable opportunities to make it 3-0 before the break and who knows what may have happened had one of those went in. As it transpired we ended the first half defending when Sylvestre?s drive was tipped round the post by Howard and we then had to defend three corners before the half time whistle went. You had to be satisfied at the break.

Being two goals to the good coming into the second half Everton had a bit of a different game plan for the second and sat back a little, albeit with creating quite a few chances ourselves. Blackpool came mighty close to scoring on three occasions however. Firstly when Kevin Phillips smashed a free kick onto the top of the bar and over. That seemed to come from nowhere as you couldn?t see anything from our position such was the mass of bodies ahead of him in front of the goal.

Secondly, when substitute LuaLua picked the ball up and ran at goal, clipping a lovely effort goalward which Howard had to turn onto the post and behind. A great save by the American.

Thirdly and finally, when Heitinga brough down Bednar in injury time Kevin Philips had the chance to produce a nervy finish to the game from the penalty spot. With Howard making a nuisance of himself and dancing around on the goal line, the ex England striker blazed well over the bar. His humiliation was exacerbated by the big screens replaying the penalty over and over again.

Full time and though not the most comfortable second half it?s a delight to be in the hat and now just 90 minutes from another trip to Wembley. Here?s hoping for a lucky draw tomorrow.

Player Ratings:
Howard: Very good. Seems to have gotten over his sticky game or two against Wigan and Chelsea. Made some very good saves. 7
Baines: Very comfortable and solid throughout. 7
Distin: My man of the match. A very composed display defensively. Mopped up nicely several times. 8
Heitinga: Not as on the ball as he has been of late. Hopefully it?s just a one-off. 6
Hibbert: Did well. ?Back pocket? springs to mind. 7
Neville: Had a solid, steady game in midfield and filled a lot of holes. 7
Gibson: Had a brilliant first half I thought though didn?t bring this form into the second period and was subbed on 81 minutes. 6
Gueye: Had a good hour or so before being subbed. Had a good impact on the first half. Showed promise. 7
Drenthe: He?s so infuriating. Absolutely brilliant at times?a complete idiot at others. It was great seeing him take players on and go for it today and he got good rewards with his goal. Perform like that against better opposition however and you?ll see him lose the ball a lot more. Needs to find the right balance of when to pass and when to dribble. If he can master that we?ve potentially got a great player there. 8
Fellaini: Was everywhere really though can notch it up a few gears for sure. Really should have scored with one at least one of his opportunities. He came particularly close in the second half. 7
Stracqualursi: Was excellent in the first half though not as involved in the second such was the dynamic of the game. Could have gotten more than just the one goal. Perhaps could have been subbed sooner to give Vellios more game time. 7

Substitutes:
Coleman (for Gueye): Great to see him back on the pitch and the reception he received from the Blackpool supporters was excellent. It?ll be interesting to see how much he plays over the rest of the season with Donovan departing. 7
Barkley (for Gibson): Great to see him playing again for the first time in three months. Showed good flashes of skill and awareness. Will be great to see how he develops?hopefully in an Everton shirt. 7
Vellios (for Straqualursi): Not on long difficult to judge.

Reader Comments

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Steve Guy
844   Posted 18/02/2012 at 23:07:41

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Is it just me or does "a trip to Wembley"...for a semi final....just not feel right ?
Ian Kearney
852   Posted 19/02/2012 at 00:26:05

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Harsh on Heitinger imo, I'd have Drenthe as motm, run close by Felli, as always though aways enjoy your reports and ratings Paul
Colin Gee
854   Posted 19/02/2012 at 00:35:54

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Steve 844# Spot on, Semi Finals should not be at Wembley... but, as the song goes:

"Tell me ma, me ma,
To put the champagne on ice,
We're goin' to Wembley twice,
Tell me ma, me ma."
Howard Don
971   Posted 19/02/2012 at 15:14:30

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Agree about Drenthe Paul. Brilliant ball skills, but scary in that you're always waiting for him to lose it or give it away in bad positions, which as you say will get punished by better opposition. He could learn a lot from watching Piennar.
Steve Barr
976   Posted 19/02/2012 at 15:50:58

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If we play Drenthe on a more regular basis then Moyes may have to make one of the defensive mids his "minder", ready to cover for him on the many occasions he will inevitably lose the ball in dangerous positions!

On balance, I'd still play him though.
Anto Byrne
805   Posted 24/02/2012 at 06:26:16

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He scored a very good goal and went on some intersting runs across the park. Nice to be entertained... I would prefer he keep the dribbling for the final third of the pitch and play as a creative midfielder/winger.

I would like to see a Thomas/Latchford develop with Drenthe/Stracq/Vellios. It won't happen till we get an attack-minded manager who goes for the kill when 2-up.

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