4 hours there, 4 hours back. Home for 2.30am. Lovely.
All so that I could see a 1-1 draw with Birmingham City. Why
oh why did I expect any different?
Well the best thing about being a Blue is that after one bad game
hope will always spring eternal and there were some good points to
take from Wednesday night's game.
Hibbert gave an assured and competitive display. Rooney
showed flashes. Li Tie fulfilled all the good reports.
So what of our visit to Maine Road?
Man City have been typical Keegan. Flashy but ultimately
lacking against Leeds (3-0 loss); brilliant against Newcastle (1-0
win); poor and drab against Villa (1-0 loss).
Which will we have the pleasure to visit?
City have got some great ball players in the middle of the park:
Berkovic and Bernarbia appear as talented as any players in the
Premiership. Upfront they have bags of pace in Anelka and
Huckerby. However the team appears unfulfilled. The players
always seem to lack one facet. Huckerby and Anelka are not prolific
goal scorers, in particular Huckerby is a poor finisher; Bernarbia
and Berkovic lack pace and stamina and "do not like it up 'em".
At the back they have the old guard Scmuch who is protected by
the pacey but positionally challenged Distin!
It will be a tough game. City at home will be quite a
proposition for any team this year. Yobo and Wright are still likely
to be missing and I can see Stubbs struggling to cope with City's
Li Tie and Gravesen will have to get involved and I for one would
like to see us revert to a 4-4-2 and find space for Rodrigo.
We were far too narrow against Birmingham and the midfield gave the
ball away far too freely, against Man City this could be
disastrous. Rodrigo even in the few minutes that he was on
looked exceptionally comfortable on the ball.
This would probably mean Rooney again dropping to the bench but
that may be a common occurrence this year and at 16 it must surely
be the right thing to do.
Overall I see a tight game but the Blues should be able to keep
their unbeaten record - 1-1 and we hit September unbeaten.
Report from Guy McEvoy
In my last few trips to City I guess I’ve been lucky. The
seat has always been in the North Stand. There is the Law of
Averages though, so it had to happen eventually — for this one I
was finally in the dreaded UU Block. For those of you
who haven’t seen this, the structure is a monument to why they’re
moving grounds. A sort of giant piece of wobbly scaffolding
bunged in one corner far from the pitch. Exposed to the
elements, you are given a plastic mac by the stewards on the
off-chance the heavens will open. Thank God we got this
fixture in August then. That they dare charge full price for
these seats says something about them. That we choose to pay
full price for these seats probably says more about us...
Moyes wisely decided that he wouldn’t risk a three man midfield
again so Rooney swapped places on the bench with
Alexandersson. Other than that, it was the same team as in
mid-week against Birmingham.
To say we started badly probably understates it. The extra
midfielder made no difference as none of the four started
well. Gravesen carried on from where he left off;
Alexandersson was ball shy; I’m not sure what Unsworth offers as a
midfielder; and even Li Tie (or Lee Tear as the announcer insisted
on calling him [— err... that is the correct pronunciation of
his name — Ed]) was passing to nothing.
While City probably did deserve to go ahead, the goal that
started it was lucky. A nothing free-kick. Anelka
speculatively hit it, and it took two deflections. Nothing
anyone can do about that. Plain bad luck.
Moments later, though, we were two down — and this time we were
culpable. They had a corner, we gave them space, Anelka took
his opportunity to score a ‘proper’ goal, and then we had a
mountain to climb.
We piddled about for the next five minutes or so. Moyes
decided to change something around, and brought off Li Tie for
Linderoth. I’m not sure why he picked on Tie, he was no
worse than any of the others and more likely to make things happen
when he found himself. Still, Moyes is the manager and that
was his call. In any case, it seemed to work, because Everton
finally joined the game.
We had a solid patch were Gravesen, Linderoth and even the
previously inept Alexandersson looked as though they may after all
practice with each other from time to time... Radzinski was
looking particularly lively and the main threat, the only
frustration being his tendency to look like he would made a fast
break, then he would suddenly decide to hold the ball up and wait
for support – usually to then be tackled. He should leave
that kind of play to Campbell and concentrate on pushing through to
goal at every opportunity.
Eventually, Gravesen carried the ball forward, looked up, saw the
advancing Gary Naysmith, played a perfect ball into his path,
Naysmith was then brought down by Wright-Phillips. No doubt
from where I was sitting — a penalty and red card to go with it [although
the red card was evidently for 'foul and abusive language' — Ed].
Unsworth confidently slotted the ball in. Game on!
It stayed 2-1 until half time. By then, they’d done
enough to leave us in a confident mood. Maybe it was the
effect from Wednesday; certainly the thought of the extra man...
Make no mistake, Everton had far, far more of the second half and
by far the clearer of the chances. We had long, long periods
of possession — passing in triangles, switching the play, neat
one-twos, and so on. All of which was pretty enough but, with
no-one making meaningful breaks into space or trying anything likely
to open City up, the Mancunians were able to shrug off their lack of
possession. There is no problem in the opposition having the
ball the whole game, so long as you are winning and they don’t
dare advance more than midway into your half, and habitually cross
into an empty box.
Don’t get me wrong, we did get some chances, just not as many
as our possession should have provided. Campbell only had to
get a scuff from anywhere on one cross to see the ball in: he
missed. Unsworth blasted inches wide. Rodrigo had a
first timer whistle wide. Rooney looked on to score but his
touch deserted him (the later two having come on for Unsworth and
I think the sense of those there was that we would still do it
somehow. That was until Naysmith lost his head for the first
time in the game and was dispossessed by Anelka. With no-one
to beat but Simonsen, Anelka was never going to miss and drilled the
ball home for his hat-trick. There were still a few minutes to
go but the psychological damage was such that it was game over.
In terms of performance, it was virtually identical to our
showings during all three earlier games so far this season.
For some periods of the game, we were good; for others, we were
simply unacceptable. If you do that over four games you can
expect to loose at least one of them — and probably be grateful if
that is all you have lost. In that sense, this result was
So, baring a cup-tie, that is that for us and Maine Road.
- Simonsen 7 – Fine. Nothing he could reasonably
be expected to do about any of the goals. Those apart, he
did some good work, make two very good saves, and always looked
comfortable from corners and crosses.
- Hibbert 7 – Thought he had another decent enough
game; his confidence is growing and it is reassuring to see him
willing to take men on as he has a good touch and clearly more
flair than I used to give him credit for.
- Stubbs 6 – I thought he looked whipped for pace a
couple of times. We will not be worried by his suspension
if it is timed with Yobo recovering.
- Weir 6 – I was thinking on the way home, maybe it is
all very well having a ‘solid pro’ as captain but, in games
like this, maybe we would have been better off with a ‘character’.
Not that there was anyone in our team who meets that
description... it was just a thought.
- Unsworth 6 – We know all about his bottle and
commitment; I’m just not sure they are enough in this midfield
- Naysmith 6 – Lots of positives, most notably winning
the penalty. Still in the habit of going forward very
well, looking so at ease advancing with the ball, then knocking
one in to nowhere and no-one.
- Li Tie 6 – No worse than anyone else in midfield at
the time of the change so I was confused by his
substitution. Still – credit to Moyes – it did seem to
- Alexandersson 5 – Only very briefly in the
game. Work shy, and no positional sense.
- Gravesen 6 – Started off awful, but found himself
again for a chunk before and after half time. His
rediscovering himself was pivotal in our threatened
revival. He was also the key man in the move that led to
the penalty. Oh, for some consistency.
- Campbell 6 – Had a couple of half-chances that, at
his best, he would have put away. Missing from the box
time and again when we finally did put the ball in the area.
- Radzinski 7 – Again, he looked by far our greatest
threat, at least in terms of opening them up to create chances,
if not actually converting them. Looked reluctant to shoot
a few times, which is worrying because, if he gets in a doubtful
mood, I’m not sure what opposition we will offer!
- Linderoth 6 – Certainly did nothing wrong. But
it was noticeable that he kept it numbingly simple (passing to
the man next to him first touch) which too often added
nothing. We need flair and vision from midfield; I think
that, with a bit of a kick, this lad could offer that.
Take a risk every now and then Toby. Dare ya!
- Rodrigo 7 – This bloke was willing to take a risk,
and some paid off and created chances to justify them. I
like him. I think he’s due a start.
- Rooney 6 – Quietest game to date. Not that he was
given much to work with.