Derby day and it's difficult to explain your tormented feelings as you go through your pre-match procedure. A touch of excitement but that knot of dread in your stomach as you hope for delirium though know that, at the end of the day, you might just want to get home quick and not see anyone for the rest of the night... the week even. Welcome to derby day hell.

The evening kick-off allowed more time for a leisurely day at least and so I caught up with a few chums in The Excelsior in Liverpool city centre for some food and drinks whilst watching the North London derby. Harry Kane, by the way... what a player he is turning out to be he's doing all the things Lukaku ought to be doing. Ste then joined us in The Vernon Arms for a few more ales before we boarded the train over to Kirkdale.

We still had a little time to kill and nipped into The Albany for a quick pint before we ventured onto Goodison Park. The old lady was rocking from kick off as a huge roar met the teams as they took to the field, though this turned to a few boos when Steven Gerrard arrived... for the last time in a Liverpool shirt thankfully. Leighton Baines was the surprise omission from the team which beat Crystal Palace, the England left back out with a knee injury so Bryan Oviedo deputised. James McCarthy made a very welcome return to the midfield, replacing his Ireland teammate Aiden McGeady (also injured). Deadline day loanee Aaron Lennon made the substitutes bench, as did Daniel Sturridge for Liverpool. Mario Balotelli not even amongst the substitutes.

Everton didn't really settle at all in the first half and really needed to get on the ball a lot more and do more with it. We didn't have enough productivity in possession and Liverpool were definitely the more dominant team in the first half, albeit without creating much. A moment of indecision from Joel Robles almost allowed Raheem Sterling in but he seemed caught in two minds with what to do and ended up putting the ball well wide with an apology of a shot.

Steven Gerrard lined up a free kick and you pretty much knew he was going to score though Robles tipped it over comfortably. The surprise in Liverpool's line-up was the inclusion of Jordan Ibe down Liverpool's right wing and he did ever so well, coming very close to scoring with an audacious drive from distance which thankfully cannoned away off the post. Some goal that would have been. At the other end? Well I'm struggling really... There was one moment when the ball fell invitingly to Naismith though he couldn't control it with his head and the chance went. Still, at the break we were satisfied to be all square. We hadn't offered much and felt we could certainly improve in the second half.

The second half carried on with more of the same Liverpool on top though not creating an awful lot. Central to almost everything they did was the excellent Phillippe Coutinho. I was therefore surprised, and pretty relieved, to see him substituted to accommodate Daniel Sturridge. It still took Everton a while to force Liverpool onto the back foot but, following the substitution, Liverpool's attacking flair was practically non-existent. For about 20 minutes in the second half, though highly intense, there was precious little to get excited about.

We did finally make a break for it, it was supposed to be a football game after all, and the introduction of Ross Barkley almost won us the points. He picked out Seamus Coleman with an exquisite reverse pass though the Irishman's drive was well saved by Simon Mignolet. What a chance and I'd certainly have made no apologies to any of my Red mates for grabbing a fortunate derby win for a change. It's funny what a bit of pressure can do. Despite being the more positive team in the game, Liverpool were wasting time in the dying minutes.

All square at the end then and a draw definitely the right result. Neither team did enough to win it and it was one of the poorest, if not the poorest, Merseyside derby I can remember. Nobody should be surprised by the result either. That's the fifth draw in the last six Merseyside derbies!

Still there's plenty of positives. Three clean sheets in a row; another fine performance at the back from John Stones; Joel Robles looks fine; James McCarthy returned; Mohammed Besic looks like he can become quite a focal player for us for a good few years; Aaron Lennon looks like he'll create some chances for us; Oviedo coped fine; Coleman played his best for a while; and, perhaps most significantly of all, Ross Barkley (albeit in only eight minutes) looks to have his confidence back. I'm no longer worried about relegation and can look forward to us hopefully having a good crack at the Europa League now at least the season is still alive.

Oh and just an aside: is there a more overrated player in the league than Jordan Henderson, or "Jordinho" or even "Hendo" as the Reds adoringly title him? OK, he can put a few tackles in, though can't really pass, can't shoot, and creates minimal assists. You're never really worried when he has the ball. Not a patch on McCarthy for me. With Steven Gerrard on his way out (loved the crowd reaction to his exit by the way) is he really to be their new leader, captain and midfield hard man?

Then happy days!

Player Ratings:

Robles: A bit of hesitation early on aside, he did fine, albeit without really being tested. Anything he had to save was pretty much straight at him. Did well to swoop on the ball ahead of Ibe first half. Have to say I'm pretty confident in him. I don't think I'd be rushing Tim Howard back at his expense upon his imminent return. 7

Oviedo: Did fine defensively though didn't look comfortable on the ball in the first half. He improved in the second and put in some pretty good deliveries from set pieces. An able replacement for Baines. 7

Stones: His reading and composure on the ball really is top draw. We seemed to have found a decent defensive partnership at last. I think playing alongside Jagielka really helps his game. I'd be delighted if we make that four clean sheets in a row at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night. 7

Jagielka: Also very good defensively. Not a lot got past the pair of them. 7

Coleman: I liked that he often took responsibility in the game and tried to take the game to Liverpool more than most. He was so close to becoming the derby hero at the end. My Man of the Match. 7

Barry: Gave away possession countless times. As Besic is still learning in the Premier League, I would keep Barry in the team quite regularly for what's left of the season as I feel he does a good job for the team. However, next season, I really like the idea of a Besic and McCarthy midfield two as I feel they could compliment each other pretty well. Anyhow, a good job for the team Barry may generally do, that he did not yesterday evening. The game seemed to pass him by. He is yet to have a good derby for us, probably never will. Somehow survived the game without getting booked so is available for Wednesday. Whether he should play or not is another matter... 4

McCarthy: Great to have him back. His drive and desire makes such a difference for us and I think we would be bare minimum six points better off (and then 10th and looking up rather than down) had he not have succumbed to injury. Hopefully that's his hamstring worries behind him. 7

Besic: Did fine in there. I like that he's not afraid to stick his boot in and offers flair also. I fancy him to really impress next season. 6

Mirallas: Very forgettable performance. Didn't look interested and hardly got involved at all. I think his head is elsewhere. He needs to get his act together and fast for the remainder of the season before he leaves. If we can gain a bit of momentum in the Europa League, I think that might invigorate him. 5

Naismith: Great effort and endeavor but he was woeful at times yesterday. I'd be tempted to field Barkley instead at Stamford Bridge but then you lose Naismith's work rate. Tough call. 5

Lukaku: Was offside way too often though I felt he was very isolated up there and really didn't have much to work with. Effort was there though. I fancy him to make an impact this season yet. 6

Lennon (for Mirallas): Good. Got involved and comfortable on the ball. Coleman should benefit from him being in the team massively. I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do for the rest of the season. 7

Barkley (for Naismith): To be fair to Martinez, it was really important not to lose this one so I can see why he kept it as it was for so long; however, I can't help but feel that, had Barkley have been introduced earlier, we would have created more opportunities. Having said that it nearly worked. Good to see him playing positively. Hopefully he's got that mojo back and can make a difference in the remainder of the season. 7

Alcaraz (for Besic): I couldn't believe it when I saw Roberto wave Alcaraz over as he was warming up. He settled into the back OK as we shored things up. Brought on to negate the "threat" of Ricky Lambert, I suppose. 6

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Reader Comments (24)

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Mike Childs
1 Posted 08/02/2015 at 20:19:44
Decent rating across the board, Paul. Barry only gets the 4 because of the defensive stops he made inside our own box; other than that, he'd deserve a minus one.

Brent Stephens
2 Posted 08/02/2015 at 20:38:32
Paul - Oviedo 7, Besic 6?
Colin Glassar
3 Posted 08/02/2015 at 20:37:57
I just hope to god that Mirallas is nowhere near the squad on Wednesday. His attitude stinks.
Andy Crooks
4 Posted 08/02/2015 at 21:22:43
Another excellent report, Paul. Would you start Barkley ahead of Naismith against Chelsea?
Paul Traill
5 Posted 08/02/2015 at 21:35:46
Andy #4. I don't know mate. Tough call as wouldn't want to lose the effort of Naismith.
Steve Hogan
6 Posted 08/02/2015 at 22:39:56
Paul, I generally look forward to your reports, as they offer something different then Ken Buckley, just a different style I guess.

However, Oviedo struggled woefully at left back throughout the game, and was beaten for pace time and time again.

Not quite sure how you can give Oviedo a 7 and Besic a 6?

I guess we all see the game differently.

I hope we don't see Oviedo up against Eden Hazard on Wednesday night.

Tom Bowers
7 Posted 08/02/2015 at 22:58:36
A good report and pretty much bang on. So the Blues playing a good disciplined game, kept the big money club and our mortal enemies scoreless, which is not a bad thing given the woeful season they are having.

On the other hand, the Blues had little offence which has been the story in many games and far too many at home. Nobody seems to know the answer, least of all RM but sadly it says how far behind the top teams the Blues really are with only 3 home wins this season.

Whilst Lukaku gets most of the flack it's hard to expect him to get going when he has little support, much like Marcus Bent and Andy Johnson when they had to battle on their own in many games.

Naismith is a trier but has little pace and Mirallas with a couple of lengthy injury spells over the last 2 seasons is now somewhat ordinary.

Perhaps Lennon will add some spark and maybe also Barkley if he is given another opportunity to start but I don't like the idea of Besic, Barry and Macca all starting together but that may happen again against Chelski for obvious reasons.

Chelski have far more firepower than the Reds and so a backs to the wall may be the only ploy that RM can use.

Regarding Oviedo, I would say he is better suited to left midfield rather than left back but that depends on what the opposition have regarding speedy players.

Personally I think Baines is passed his best and the left back position has to be addressed by next season as does some serious back up for Stones and Jags especially as Alcaraz gets injured too much.

Others out of favour or injured too much, such as Pienaar, Gibson, Distin, Hibbert and Osman should be considered surplus along with one or two others so that the youngsters can step up to the plate.

David Hallwood
8 Posted 08/02/2015 at 23:22:47
Good report Paul, and apart from the Besic mark, pretty accurate with the marks out of 10.

Andy(#4) If it was up to me I'd have Barkley in place of Barry and have a midfield 3 of McCarthy-Barkley-Besic. I've been droning on about putting Barkley as a CM for some time, because IMO that's what he is, not a No 10.

A front 3 of Lukaku and perm any 2 from Nais/Lennon/Miralles.

Phil Walling
9 Posted 08/02/2015 at 23:45:43
Generous to a fault, as ever, Paul. And biased as most against Nais.

If anybody earned a 7 it was Besic who played it like the local kids used to do. Barkley 7? Do me a favour!

Jamie Sweet
10 Posted 09/02/2015 at 01:23:40
A pretty dire game, but a few things to be positive about, particularly when you think about the new partnerships that are forming.

Jags and Stones seem to be bringing the best out in each other.

A midfield duo of McCarthy and Besic would be very interesting. Can't think there would be many midfielders in the league who would enjoy facing those two beasts working in tandem.

Coleman / Lennon is another partnership which could flourish. I quite liked to look of Lennon when he came on. Looked assured on the ball and very positive when in possession, and the type of player Coleman could really link up with well.

Probably the most worrying pairing was Naismith / Lukaku. When your two most advanced players have, let's face it, rather poor ball control, it makes advancing up the pitch rather difficult. Aguero / Silva they are not. I just feel that we would do better if at least one of these was replaced by someone to whom the ball sticks to a little easier. Lost count of the number of times a ball was fired to their feet in promising positions only for everything to break down.

John Maxwell
12 Posted 09/02/2015 at 02:25:51
Season is a bit of a write-off, let's get to 40 points and give the Europa League a big shot.
Christopher Timmins
13 Posted 09/02/2015 at 06:50:47
Paul, the Besic substitution laste in the game resulted in us playing a back 3... Did that not result in Coleman and Oviedo pushing forward into more advanced positions and in Coleman's late effort?
Rick Tarleton
14 Posted 09/02/2015 at 07:46:11
Surely Mirallas, after the penalty incident and his recent comments, is out for the rest of the season? Isn't that why Lennon was brought in?
Phil Sammon
15 Posted 09/02/2015 at 08:18:00
Absolutely astounding that anyone watching that game could give Besic a 6.
Steve Pugh
16 Posted 09/02/2015 at 08:18:31
With regards to Mirallas, I think that if we give him something to get excited about he will start playing again.

I would love to see Coleman and Lennon down the right, Baines/Oviedo and Mirallas down the left and Nais with Lukaku through the middle. Besic and Macca centre mid and a Stones Jags pairing at the back. After an hour swtap Nais and Rom for Ross and Kone to take advantage of a tiring defence.

Ant Dwyer
17 Posted 09/02/2015 at 09:16:29
Shite game with two shite sides who were happy to not lose the game. We had an opportunity to go at them after 60/70 min by taking off Barry and Naismith and bringing on Kone and Barkley but instead stuck to seeing the game out for a draw. The sooner Martinez is sacked, the better.
Ralph Basnett
18 Posted 09/02/2015 at 09:26:08
Agree with most but think a little harsh on Besic and Lukaku.

Giving Besic a 6 and Barkley a 7 for what was mediocre except the ball to Coleman?

Lukaku is offside a lot, I agree, but modern players tend to hang around offside to hold defenses back when there is options for other players, sometimes it is therefore the player who is passing the ball's fault to not recognise this.

Both sides set up not to concede and playing against three centre halves on your own is no mean feat.

Other than the above, a good balanced summary. Thank you.

Norman Merrill
19 Posted 09/02/2015 at 12:46:07
Steve Pugh, you have stole my thunder mate, the team selection you have presented has my 100% backing. I hope Roberto has similar thoughts, on Wednesday night, which will be a good marker, to see if he has?

We need to really show at Chelsea we are on the up, by having a go at them. Lesser teams have, so COYB.

Lee Gorre
20 Posted 09/02/2015 at 17:08:58
Lets not make Besic into a legend before he's even started, which is what many seem to want to do. He was only a 6 on Saturday, he started great but faded badly from the half hr mark onwards and gave the ball away too often and also needs too many touches of the ball at times.

I could see the logic in taking him off as at the moment he looks a red card waiting to happen. However, he does play a lot more progressively than both Barry and McCarthy and I can see a good partnership forming with McCarthy in time.

Brian Garside
21 Posted 09/02/2015 at 20:13:13
I like Oviedo but I want to see Garbutt given his chance. He is better than Shaw and potentially better than Baines.
Tony Doran
22 Posted 09/02/2015 at 20:38:37
Can't understand why Kone is not playing. Lukaku is no way up to it. Is RM trying to justify his fee. This one decision alone is costing us precious points.
Colin Smith
23 Posted 09/02/2015 at 20:55:18
Brian 22, agree about Garbutt, I like Oviedo, but think Garbutt has all of Oviedo's ability + greater strength and power. Lee (21) spot on about Besic we're banging away as if he's the new Peter Reid, needs to work on his distribution.

Similar problem with Lukaku, whether or not he's been played the right way or not, his ball control/1st touch is awful. He can have the all the pace of an Olympic sprinter, but it's bugger all use if he can't control the ball.

Dick Fearon
24 Posted 09/02/2015 at 22:18:14
Seeing it was 1:30am in these parts when the game kicked off, I was a bit bleary eyed the next day... with my main memory being Lukaku did his best as lone striker yet needs to learn how to hold things up until reinforcements arrive.

He will desperately want to have a good game against Maureen's table toppers, look out for fireworks eh!

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