Everton 2 - 2 Aston Villa

20 August 1994

Action shot

Everton: Stuart (20min), Rideout (?)
Aston Villa: Fashanu, Saunders
Yellow cards
Aston Villa: Townsend (5mins), Richardson (34mins), Yorke (87mins)
Everton: Southall 6, Jackson 6, Watson 6 (29. Parkinson 6), Unsworth 9, Ablett 7, Stuart 8, Samways 7, Ebbrell 7, Limpar 8, Cottee 6, Rideout 7

Aston Villa: Bosnich 8, Richardson 6, McGrath 8, Ehiogu 7, Staunton 6 (50. King 6) Houghton 6, Parker 7, Townsend 6, Yorke 7, Fashanu 8, Saunders 7

Subs not used: Kearton, Angell (Everton), Oakes, Atkinson (Villa)
Referee: Kelvin Morton (Bury St.Edmunds 8)
Linesmen: M. Fletcher (Smethwick), B. Lowe (Doncaster)
Attendance: 35,544


Watson was replaced by Parkinson after about 25 mins, he caught the full power of an attempted punched clearance from Bosnich. Parkinson played centre-mid, with Ebbrell switching to left back and Ablett going into the middle. Unused sub was Angell.

The first ten minutes didn't go well. Houghton beat the offside trap and should have scored (but credit to Nev for a good block). Then Fashanu was given a free header from 8 yards but missed badly. However we then got our act together and in excellent 20 minutes could have scored several. Stuart's goal came on twenty minutes, Samways found Limpar on the left, Stuart made a run to a position 10 yards to the left of the near post, received a pass, turned and chipped a lovely shot over Bosnich.

Other action in this period included a well struck free kick from Limpar which although Bosnich was right behind it, he couldn't hold. Another cross from the left was pounced on by Cottee, Jackson(I think) and a defender and although I couldn't see who touched it, the ball shot over the bar. Jackson had another chance to score when one shot was cleared up in the air and he skewed his volley into the new Park End stand.

Towards the end of the half we seemed to lose our way a little. Although the central midfielders had appeared to make little impression at any point thus far and Watson had not looked secure, his departure was probably a significant loss. I hope he will be back for Wednesday.

Having had the better share of the first half, we didn't often dominate in the second half. Villa made most of the running, with Fashanu's strength up front proving an all too familiar burden. We seemed able to cope with their attacks on the ground but the most worrying feature of the game was our weakness in dealing with high balls. Both their goals were close range headers with little or no challenge being made to the goal scorer, and Fashanu uncharacteristically fluffed another free header. I also felt that Ebbrell was seven or eight yards out of position for the second, when he could have prevented the cross, but then he isn't really a left back anyhow.

However I don't want to give the impression that we were under the cosh in the second. The speed with which we were able to clear the ball from defence was good to see with Limpar particularly valuable int this respect. Chubby-cheeks Stuart also made a lot of ground with the ball (although he did appear to tire later on) and good work between him and Cottee on the right gave Rideout the opportunity to force in our second. Good passing in the last quarter created a chance for Limpar early in the half which Bosnich saved. Another good chance was created when Rideout headed back across goal but Cottee waited for the ball to drop and was closed down. Cottee also tried a couple of flick headers, one well saved, another narrowly over. After Villa's second we took control again for the remainder of the game and never looked under any sustained pressure.

The overall impression then, was that there were several encouraging signs on display, particularly Limpar. His running was very impressive and showed a satisfying commitment on his part. Only complaint would be that he didn't always use the ball intelligently when he had got into good positions, often preferring to shoot when passing would be better. Rideout got visibly annoyed with one instance of this, but he too wasted one good position by shooting weakly from distance, as did Parkinson. Stuart also played a valuable part in creating attacking possibilities.

Negative points were the defensive frailties already mentioned, combined with Nev's continued erraticisms. On several occasions he came out to take crosses 15 yards from goal, or outside of the near post. He was lucky on one occasion in the first half when he was challenged for a ball on the penalty spot, was unable to catch but smothered the shot from the incoming player. This behaviour cost us the FA cup tie with Bolton last season and to be honest should have cost us the Wimbledon game. And if a dozen season's experience of top flight football have not taught him the basics of goalkeeping, it is a little worrying.

Player by player

Nev - see above. Made several saves which were good but not exceptional.

Jackson - misses up front aside, he looked more settled and on top of his game than I ever saw him last year. Signs that he is developing an understanding with Stuart are positive.

Ablett - Not exceptionally comfortable when at left back, did better in the middle but his clearances are weak, both with head and feet. Several which should have been pumped up to the half way line were sliced into touch or to an opponent.

Watson - conspicuous mainly by his absence. I do think that we need a defender who his stronger than Ablett and taller than Unsworth in the centre of defence.

Unsworth - generally good. Calm in possession and reads the game well.

Ebbrell - not comfortable at left back but you can't blame him completely for that. Didn't make an enormous impression in midfield either.

Stuart - Excellent performance, obviously one of our most improved players and helping to fill the old Beagrie role.

Samways - Never dominant but assured, with good control and vision when he was involved. Hopefully he will do more when he is settled.

Limpar - see above.

Rideout - Seemed a little quiet, but made some useful contributions.

Cottee - Could have put one or two away. Did make sensible runs and showed good touch.

Parkinson - Invisible almost. He seems technically competent but made little impression. I was talking to a mate after the game and he hadn't even noticed him.

So there you go. I do this off the top off my head so I have probably missed something. It was certainly a game for the neutrals, lots of excitement and chances, no dull periods. Could have gone either way but probably a fair result (so sayeth the 'Independent on Sunday' no less!).