COLUMNIST KEN BUCKLEY
Nothing seemed to have changed since I have been sidelined, that black scouse humour met me as I entered my loveable North Liverpool watering hole, the gang we always meet were there and after a bit of banter things settled down and the chat turned to the performance at Man Utd but that could not disguise the lingering regret of the team not turning up for a Cup semi at Wembley.
The walk up to the ground saw a muted procession and the length of the queue at the Blue Dragon chippy seemed shorter than usual. I heard on ?Bluewatch? that today the last ever edition of ?Speak from the Harbour? was on sale but not a seller in sight. Were these omens that we may lose at home to Fulham for the first time since 1948? Not a bit of it as the Blues gave us a performance akin to Barcelona with bite.
Almost 32,000 of us turned up of which Fulham contributed no more than 4 taxi loads which, as things turned out, was just as well. The team was as per Old Trafford and took no time at all to spray the ball about and create chances. With just over 5 mins gone Pienaar and Distin had a nice combination down the left and when Pienaar cut infield he was grounded some 6 yards outside the area. Jelavic elected to take it and as the ball reached the wall somewhere around head height an arm or arms came into contact with it. "Penalty!" yelled the faithful, referee Dowd agreed and the spot kick given. It was immediately obvious that Jelavic would take as he commandeered the ball. Fulham tried all the off-putting tricks but when the ref finally signalled take, Jelavic showed a cool striker's head and lashed home giving the keeper no chance. We were all delighted.
We continued with the joined-up stuff but on ten mins Fulham found themselves on the edge of our box and Dembele hammered one in which Howard did wonders to get something on and the ball was diverted over. A warning, I thought... but no, we continued in joined-up mode and won a free kick that Heitinga insisted on taking but hammered well over.
Still we came forward and it was measured build up as the quarter hour mark proved. A passage of passing back and forth across the back line saw Jagielka hit a long forward pass that found Jelavic who squirmed and turned and hit the post then won a corner. Osman who was making his 300th appearance put in a good un and Fellaini somehow got himself unmarked and had a free header with which he made no mistake. We were once again all delighted yet the crowd celebration overall was still just a little muted.
The Blues continued with silky joined-up stuff in confident mode yet not getting too carried away as to forget to defend as Fulham had the odd foray forward. Dempsey (Everton summer target?) hit one over then shortly after hit one that got deflected yet somehow Howard managed to change direction and throwing out a hand managed to tip the ball over via the top of the bar a truly outstanding save.
With half-time looming, Pienaar sent Jelavic scampering through and he had to win a race with the Fulham keeper which he did but was driven wide. He turned back and cut in and whilst everyone was expecting a cross he elected to shoot and from a tight angle hammered a shot that seemed to go through Schwarzer and between post and defender on the line. His tenth goal and all celebrated as 3-0 suggested game over or maybe not.
Half-time and whilst most were happy enough, that Wembley thing kept creeping into conversations.
Second half and Gibson did not reappear and was replaced by Cahill which resulted in Fellaini moving back one and Cahill behind the Croat. The game continued but you could just tell both sets of players knew it was all but up. The Blues continued in joined-up mode with only Jags having the long punts forward. He had put Jelavic in with a beaut first half and seemed determined to repeat the feat; he didn?t.
The game moved on to the hour mark and, after what seemed like minutes of clever inter-passing back and forth, Pienaar found himself near the edge of the box and chipped a quite delightful ball into the path of Cahill who?s early strike caught the keeper unbalanced and the ball passed into the far corner for a quite delightfully worked goal. Jelavic almost got his hat-trick when he hit a curling free kick that the keeper did well to push behind at full stretch. A good save that.
The game livened a little when the passing became quicker and it was obvious that the players were doing all they could to get Jelavic his hat-trick. On 75 mins the manager rested Fellaini and gave some game time to Ross Barkley. I thought the manager did really well in moving Cahill back into the Fellaini slot and putting Barkley up with Jelavic where he could operate without compromising the defence in any way that might knock his confidence. He did ok without doing much and at times looked a little overawed.
Before the end, Schwarzer made good saves from Osman and Pienaar. Magaye Gueye came on for Pienaar and that was about it as the whistle sounded. Anyone who waited for the players to come off will have noticed Distin was last off after he had clapped and waved to all sides of the ground. That Wembley rick is still lying heavy on his mind.
MotM ? Take your pick as all played well but I thought the most assured player was Heitinga and I enjoyed his whole match contribution. Jelavic will always get a mention as he always looks like scoring goals and does.
Overall, after my enforced lay-off, I really enjoyed my day out and revelled in some of the joined-up stuff on display, just shows we can do it... the trick is doing it when it really matters. I thought the manager did well today in overseeing our general play and making subs when required, enforced or not.
The crowd were in quite subdued mode and it took until the hour mark and Cahill?s goal for a sustained and loud "If yer know yer ?Istory" to be heard shortly followed by "He has got red hair but we don?t care?.
I wonder how long it is since we have scored 4 goals in 3 consecutive league matches, any statos out there?
Stoke and Wolves away then Newcastle at home. 9 points would be nice and 4 goals per game to us would be the icing on the cake.
See you there
UP THE BLUES
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350 Posted 28/04/2012 at 21:28:59
358 Posted 28/04/2012 at 21:33:48
A question back. What is the away fans' allocation for league games ? I ask because I've been to Fulham games in the past, and your remark about them providing "no more than 4 taxi loads" is not far off the mark. This therefore contributes towards a relatively low attendance, as their section is vastly under-populated.
360 Posted 28/04/2012 at 21:46:00
361 Posted 28/04/2012 at 21:46:30
Peter- I think it's normally meant to be up to 10% of capacity for Premier League games, depending on the opposition, with 15% for cup games. Probably judging by their record at Goodison, the distance and the fact that it was a pretty meaningless end of season game, the Fulham crowd haven't bothered to turn up (and neither did their team!)
362 Posted 28/04/2012 at 21:42:27
We are playing well and really there should be no reason why we cannot carry this forward into next term.
363 Posted 28/04/2012 at 21:54:46
364 Posted 28/04/2012 at 21:56:32
368 Posted 28/04/2012 at 22:17:51
I hope that there are many more to follow.
376 Posted 28/04/2012 at 22:42:09
Long may you stay in good health and the Blues back on the road to the top.
379 Posted 28/04/2012 at 22:26:22
I can well understand your mates returning to the disgrace at Wembley and I bet the 3-0 Anfield debacle also got a few mentions.
The only semblance of self esteem that Moyes can salvage is to finish above Dalglish in the league.
Failure to do that would leave Moyes reputation in tatters and the entire season condemned to the dustbin of history.
Assuming the points and GD remain the same going into the final game will Moyes have a go or will he revert to his usual pinch a point style.
The thought of that scenario leaves me feeling pessimistic.
382 Posted 28/04/2012 at 23:15:49
385 Posted 28/04/2012 at 23:31:31
386 Posted 28/04/2012 at 23:34:09
387 Posted 28/04/2012 at 23:28:49
I stand by my belief that Moyes ingrained pinch a point outlook has been responsible for a lot of fans anguish and dull uninspiring football.
388 Posted 28/04/2012 at 23:32:10
Everton 4 - Villa 0
Spurs 2 - Everton4
Everton 6- Forest 1
The week previous to the Everton 4 Villla 0 we beat Birmingham 3-0 and the week after we beat Forest we beat Blackburn 2-1
All on here
391 Posted 29/04/2012 at 00:00:15
Incidently I thought that Distin had another excellent game and he has so far not been affected by playing left back... I must admit I was concerned when Baines got injured but Distin has allayed my fears. He was brilliant against Man Utd and played Valencia as well as anyone I have seen. He still has pace and agility which is testament to his working on his fitness... a fine Everton player.
392 Posted 28/04/2012 at 23:07:29
This team has quality from front to back, and Fulham are no pushover. But that's what happened today. Is this the best squad that Moyes has assembled?
395 Posted 29/04/2012 at 00:28:27
As for Speak from the Harbour sellers, saw one just outside the Blue Dragon, but he seemed to be saying "last of the season"
397 Posted 29/04/2012 at 00:34:56
404 Posted 29/04/2012 at 01:10:00
405 Posted 29/04/2012 at 01:29:55
I don't see how Moyes' outlook is to blame for dull football, but seemingly not for the good? Our form since January has been Champions League level; unsuprisingly in January we brought in 4 players, all of whom were and are to varying degrees extremely influencial in our recent resurgence. Among them, Pienaar has been essential, and I think we would have put in a better performance in the semi with his ability and experience. The squad needed freshening up, and if we had been able to buy in the summer, like most of our ostensible competitors, I expect we would be in the race for the Champions League right now.
Great performance again today, however, and to have a scoring striker again feels wonderful. If only we could build in the summer and enter next season with genuine potential for improvement. Unfortunately, given our financial position, I don't think it will be possible.
I think 2 wins from 3 would give us 7th. Stoke up next though which is always a horrible place to go. Although playing as we are, I wouldn't fear anyone.
410 Posted 29/04/2012 at 03:19:42
Glad you're back and wishing you a full recovery.
As you always say, Up the Blues.
428 Posted 29/04/2012 at 08:31:31
A return to normality at last....
Above the RS
Lawro and Hansen getting digs in on MOTD
432 Posted 29/04/2012 at 08:50:58
Spot on with your point that wembley thoughts linger with our fans and our last 2 performances make us all think "why did'nt we just do that at wembley and we would have beaten them"
As for yesterdays performance 1 player you did'nt single out who was excellent and who more often than not gets a pasting was Phil Neville - he was excellent at Old Trafford too.
Jim #405 I also think the 2 players who left in january - saha and bily - has been a factor in our all round improvement - 2 negative influences on the pitch and we were better off without them.
434 Posted 29/04/2012 at 09:05:41
You keep referring to joined up football. I guess by this you mean, good passing and movement, playing it on the ground, no hoofing.
You are spot on. I have bored everyone on here with my moaning about caveman football, the "get your crosses in" school of thought, where the ball is played out wide, up the wing then a high, aimless ball lumped in. We seem to have left that behind again. Paul makes an interesting point about no Saha or Billy, but it is great to see us playing decent football, on the ground, with balls played forward in front of the attacker (like thouse that led to goals 3 and 4 yesterday). Pienaar certainly is one reason for this but maybe he gives inspiration to other payers too?
456 Posted 29/04/2012 at 10:36:55
Well balanced, accurate reporting as usual, Sammy (364) says it all. Guys like you are streets ahead of some of the so-called journalists in the National press.
458 Posted 29/04/2012 at 10:38:33
With all this talk of JUF,it has to be acknowledged that we have,at last,got the players capable of playing that style and a FINISHER who can ensure it brings its just rewards.
Which,of course,begs the question why the `fear factor`once again set in when we played `them`in the semi! Was the fear induced by the manager or did certain of our players just freeze on the big occasion?
Whatever the answer to that conundrum,the opportunity to revenge the defeat by finishing above the old enemy must now be the incentive to keep the style in place and the goals flowing.
461 Posted 29/04/2012 at 10:52:11
Someone was asking recently why Everton took up such a small allocation for QPR (a), when we have a strong attendance at London games (all aways really). Whilst looking up this rule in my 2011/12 copy (!) I found that half of the away allocation are to be offered on a sale-or-return basis. Hence in the QPR case Everton opted not to take up a bigger allocation and carry the financial risk.
Of the many changes in rules I'd like to see, I'd like to see all away tickets on a sale-or-return basis, although it could be argued that this could deprive some home fans of tickets.
Man U for this season have moved away fans up in the gods a la Newcastle, and I believe have got the number down to less than 3k now, which they must've done with a special dispensation. I'm sure they'd do away with away fans completely like Luton did if they could get away with it.
462 Posted 29/04/2012 at 11:06:43
466 Posted 29/04/2012 at 11:27:09
468 Posted 29/04/2012 at 11:31:09
I didn't go to Old Trafford last week, but have been for the previous 3 years, and our fans have been "up in the gods", I thought - the old "Scoreboard End", but just the upper slither !
Allocating even just the lower Bullens section to away fans of poorly-supported clubs like Fulham deprives home fans of decent (unobstructed !) seats, so maybe we should just provide a small portakabin in future !
471 Posted 29/04/2012 at 12:00:38
476 Posted 29/04/2012 at 12:03:17
we were not up in the gods at old trafford. We were in the corner of the east stand next to the south stand. At the level below their hospitality boxes.
477 Posted 29/04/2012 at 12:12:37
484 Posted 29/04/2012 at 12:18:05
487 Posted 29/04/2012 at 12:29:36
Just like to say, I thought Hibbert had a great game today, and last week at united. seemed to spend most of saturday afternoon in the oppositions half. He has been putting in a few decent crosses too. Not the world best right back, but a great credit to himself and the club.
488 Posted 29/04/2012 at 12:24:06
500 Posted 29/04/2012 at 13:06:56
Great to have you back. For those of us who can't make it every week you are a jewel.
Hope we don't become the best team in the League to win when it does not matter.
I don't work for SKY and don't buy in to the race for 7th place.
557 Posted 29/04/2012 at 17:34:36
my understanding was that we had 2500 but could not sell them all - it looked like we had over 2000 there. Some mancs had bought some as well - only a few but they were well behaved (probably wise).
Our support was its usual self and we had a good day in the end.
595 Posted 29/04/2012 at 19:52:25
I hope you are feeling much better....
As always, great to read your match reports.
672 Posted 30/04/2012 at 12:12:34
Our spine of Jelavic, Fellaini, Heitinga and Howrad is looking good. We just need to adresss our midfield as its still one of the weakest in the prem. We need Neville and Cahill as impact subs and need to secure deals for Pienaar and maybe 2-3 more players who are comfortable on the ball.
682 Posted 30/04/2012 at 13:20:16
Like most others I just cannot understand why we didn't turn up 2nd half at Wembley. We missed Pienaar big time in that game. What a difference he makes!
Also having someone who knows where the net is, can shoot with both feet and got a good head on him.......10 goals already and no doubt more to come before the seasons over. Bit fortunate for his 2nd on Saturday as he was slightly offside but what a nice take to squeeze it through the keepers legs and between the defender and goalpost!
I know it was only Fulham at home and we usually turn them over but generally speaking there is good cause to be proud Evertonians right now.
687 Posted 30/04/2012 at 14:40:58
688 Posted 30/04/2012 at 14:51:07
691 Posted 30/04/2012 at 15:45:54
Glad to know that you are up and running.
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