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The Blues Keep On Pushing

By Paul Traill   ::  13/04/2013 Whilst we all went into the game optimistic we could record a win against doomed QPR, we all know that Everton never do these things the easy way and failure to overcome QPR was at the back of my mind. Thankfully I left Goodison Park satisfied we had done what we had to having witnessed a QPR team so devoid of fight it was quite remarkable… I guess Darron Gibson’s deflected goal just prior to the break was just too much for them, killing what was a decent first-half performance by the sure-to-be relegated Londoners.

With Gary opting for the train and Ste driving straight on to Manchester after the match I was able to relax a little longer and head to the match on my own a bit later than usual. I parked up at the same time and place as Ste, even beating Gary and Sue to the pub where we mused about what we could and should have been doing this weekend at Wembley rather than in the drizzle at Goodison. We also reminisced about the ‘90s as we close in on 20 years since THAT game against Wimbledon when we stayed up by the skin of our teeth and what we were all doing that day. I was celebrating my birthday in Pleasure Island as it turns out but that’s another story… On we walked to the match... an impeccably observed period of silence prior to kick-off in memory of the 96 who perished at Hillsborough in 1989.

There were no surprises at all with the team news, Moyes fielding his strongest possible team with Fellaini and Pienaar both recalled at the expense of Barkley and the unfortunate Heitinga. With Zamora suspended, Loic Remy lead the line on his own up front for QPR with Cesar, Bosingwa, Samba, Jenas, Granero, Ji-Sun Park and Hoilett all in the starting line-up in what, on paper at least, was a very strong team.

Judging from their first half display, QPR are indeed a strong team as, for the most part, they had much the better of the first half, twice coming close to scoring, firstly when Hoilett cut inside and curled an effort just past the post, and secondly when Remy’s drive from the edge of the box was well saved by Howard. The crowd were rather flat until match official Lee Mason made the incredibly harsh decision to caution Fellaini for a nothing foul on the half-way line. This seemed to get the players a bit more on the front foot and the crowd certainly responded.

Distin should have scored when he jabbed Gibson’s effort wide of goal (talk about the ball falling to the wrong player); however, we didn’t have to wait long for the breakthrough when Gibson DID score on 39 minutes via the help of a sizeable deflection. The Irishman was encouraged to shoot by the crowd as the ball broke to him about 25 yards out, the ball deflecting off Clint Hill, wrong-footing Cesar and landing in the net. 1-0 to Everton and you wondered how big that goal was in the context of the match. QPR, for all their hard work in the first half looked out of luck once again. We went in 1-0 ahead at the break.

What struck me in the first half was how quick QPR were to get rid of the ball in defence… preferring to just put the ball behind for a corner or whack it into Row Z rather than try and play it out from the back. At one stage Samba even found the Top Balcony. Well I don’t know if Everton picked up on this also but QPR’s haphazard defending was never more evident than in the opening 15-20 minutes of the second half. I don’t know how many corners Everton forced in this period but that we had 13 in the match compared to QPR’s five tells its own story. The visitors were simply all at sea at the start of the second half and a goal was inevitable. Anichebe should have scored with a great chance that cracked the post. There was another chance which was cleared just short of the line and Distin was unlucky not to score when his header was well saved by Cesar.

The corner kicks kept on raining in and Distin, practically unmarked, again got his head on it and this time it was touched in by Anichebe just short of the goal line to put Everton two goals ahead and even with 35 minutes still to play, you felt we were now out of sight. Had we have needed more goals or continued at full throttle, I think we would have gotten more as QPR had no answer. What would have disappointed me more than anything if I was a QPR fan was their tangible lack of fight. Bosingwa, Onuoha, Granero and Hoilett are four which stand out for me as just having no fighting spirit at all. I’m intrigued to see what happens to that circus when it rides into the Championship next season.

As for Everton, well the only thing which disappointed me was the substitutions. With the game all but won, I’d have liked to have seen the introduction of Barkley or Oviedo to give them a chance to bed in, though instead Naismith was given another opportunity. I’ve nothing against Naismith as such — I actually think he does a good job for the team — but there was surely no harm in giving some of the others a few minutes on the field instead… though others may point towards the importance of keeping a third clean sheet in our last four games and the confidence this may inspire throughout the team.

Regardless, there’s not an awful lot to moan about and we seem to be the team which just won’t slide out of view at the top. A win at the Emirates on Tuesday night would really put us back in the hunt for European football next season at Goodison Park.

Player Ratings:

Howard: Made an excellent save in the first half and was solid throughout really. 7

Baines: We saw glimpses of the classic Baines-Pienaar partnership down the left with Baines putting in some good balls. He also played in some great corners, particularly in that period at the start of the second half. QPR had no answer really. 8

Distin: Did well in the opposing penalty area and looked comfortable defending his own 18-yard box also. 8

Jagielka: Our new skipper made some good, solid and brave blocks and tackles in the second half which were important in keeping our clean sheet. 7

Coleman: Made some quite woeful mis-controls in the first half and for once the better part of his game was defensive rather than offensive this afternoon. 6

Gibson: Had an excellent game in the middle. Was our scrapper and did so to good effect, also getting on the scoresheet, albeit fortuitously. 7

Osman: Scrapped well in there and was subbed with 10 minutes to go… carrying an injury also according to Moyes after the game. 6

Pienaar: My man of the match. Was always busy and always on the move, combining well with Baines. Hopefully he can now have quite an impact on the rest of this final stage of the campaign. 8

Mirallas: Always a threat and was busy and dangerous throughout before tiring towards the end. Like Pienaar, lets hope he can continue this form into the final yards of the season. 7

Fellaini: Seemed a bit out of sorts I thought, particularly after his booking, but his presence alone is always a factor for opposition and he did cause them problems. Needs to be at his best on Tuesday you feel. 6

Anichebe: Was great for the most part but tired in the last 10 minutes and you got the impression he couldn’t wait for the game to be over. Still, prior to that, he was good nuisance value to QPR and managed to grab himself another goal. He is in good form. 7

Jelavic (for Osman): Worked hard at least though didn’t see a lot of the ball to be able to make an impact on the game. 6

Naismith (for Mirallas): Got involved I suppose. 6

Heitinga (for Anichebe): Pointless bringing him on at that late stage. Impossible to judge him.

Reader Comments

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Kunal Desai
616 Posted 14/04/2013 at 09:51:57
Not sure about Pienaar being MotM, he had an opportunity to shoot on goal in the second half rather than play in Mirallas. Once again Distin was rock solid and did not put a foot wrong IMO.
David Hallwood
667 Posted 14/04/2013 at 12:56:28
Good report Paul. Watched the Arsenal game and, if we're up for it, we can go to The Emirates and get the points. I'd like to see Osman who seems to be carrying an injury be given a rest and put Jelavic & Anichebe up top with Fellaini dropping back because Arsenal look woeful at the back.

Obviously Moyes won't entertain 4-4-2 especially away but the 4 in midfield is strong enough to cope with Arsenal.

Steve Carse
850 Posted 15/04/2013 at 09:54:35
Pienaar MoM??? His weighting of passes is awful. The one where we had 3 on 1 and he overhit the easiest of through balls into the hands of the keeper was typical.
Kev Johnson
852 Posted 15/04/2013 at 09:57:31
I thought Osman, Pienaar, Fellaini and Gibson were all a bit average. However, it being a sunny morning I am inclined to be optimistic: they are all due a good game against Arsenal. I suspect our plan will be similar to that against Spurs: stifle their midfield and swiftly counter attack. Although, come to think of it, that works better without Fellaini up top. Rethink: play Fellaini deeper and give Mirallas a more central role behind Big Vic - that would work.
Paul Andrews
868 Posted 15/04/2013 at 12:14:22
Kevin Johnson,
Spot on with the tactics for tomorrow.
3 at the back with wing backs for me,and the midfield you suggested.

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