After another encouraging start, two straight losses at Man City
and Southampton and a draw against Birmingham is not exactly what we
Long term injuries to Pistone and Ferguson is something we have
got used to but, now that Wright and Yobo seem to be joining the
party, it is verging on the ridiculous again.
Perhaps more concerning is the apparent profligacy in front of
goal. Decent team performances are being undermined but
sub-standard finishing. Despite being by far the better team
against Birmingham and Southampton and outplaying an admittedly
10-man City team, we have come away with 1 point.
If we are to avoid our increasingly draining and disheartening
flirt with the Nationwide then that has to change. Moyes has
to get annoyed.
What then of our upcoming game against Steve MacClaren's
Boro are coming to Goodison off the back of a morale-boosting 3-0
derby win against Sunderland. If they had not gifted Fulham
two very very late goals then they would be sitting very nicely
towards the top of the Premiership. As it is, they are still
happily placed and far more confident than we are likely to be.
Stubbs's suspension is over but, whilst Yobo is still unlikely to
be available, will he replace Wei Feng? I imagine he will and,
as Boro are not bursting with pace, he shouldn't be too found out.
In midfield, I cannot understand why we are not seeing more of
Rodrigo. A return to 4-3-3 would surely be a mistake but
understandable given the lack of confidence that Moyes must have in
Radzinski and Campbell. As we all feared, with a bad start to
the season comes the pressure to give Rooney a real run in the team,
in his genuine position up front (in a front two) must be
increasing. Can Moyes withstand that pressure and persevere
with his failing front duo?
Boro will come with a very stable defence of Ehigou and Southgate
with Boateng in front protecting them (yes we are playing Boro not
Villa!). They will then look to catch us on the break using
Boksic's undoubted ability and Nemeth's perseverance.
We have got to be careful. Another loss and we all know
what the headlines will be screaming.
4-4-2 must be the option and please Moyes give Rodrigo a go on
the left flank. Rooney or not? Personally I'd give Rads
45 minutes but if he fails then I'd like to see Rooney given the
chance to use the greater space that two upfront would afford him,
rather than be stuck to one flank in a 3-man attack.
Sorry but I'm not too confident. The possible retirement of
Ferguson means we are stuck with Campbell for the foreseeable future
and that is a worrying proposition. He's finished, past it,
0-0 if the back four manage to avoid the individual mistakes
we've been making recently... otherwise, get ready for the bottom
three just as Arsenal and Man U arrive on the horizon.
I'll try and finish with a touch more enthusiasm: Boro are
inconsistent. Boateng apart, their midfield is not strong and
Li Tie is improving and Gravesen still capable of controlling a game
for short periods. They both need to take control for long
spells and perhaps Alexandersson can show us flashes of his form
from the end of last season. An early goal would do us all the
world of good but can we get it?
Two home draws and countless chances squandered along the way.
Public criticism of the stand-in captain by his international
manager. An opposition that had spent millions on squad
strengthening which made the pauper's pouch that David Moyes had
been forced to dip into hardly worth a mention. Not the stuff
that made unbounded confidence a thing that was in great supply
before the game. But Everton's a strange club in that respect,
almost as strange football's a "funny old game".
A 4-4-2 formation was probably as much as was expected.
Moyes didn't surprise me with that, especially against a 'Boro side
that expected to be able to hit us on the break with a 5-3-2
formation, feeding front men who didn't lack pace.
The match started with us on the back foot. In fact if
there was going to be a side that was going to dominate this game,
early on it was Middlesbrough. They passed the ball well, they
were first to the 50-50 ball, they seemed to understand where they
were all supposed to be playing.
Contrast that with an Everton back line that looked all at sea,
with Stubbs the one who seemed to be more at sea than most.
Maybe the comments of Berti Vogts were playing on Davey Weir's mind;
maybe Alan Stubbs was worrying about the useful midweek display of
Li Wei Feng or the thought that Yobo would possibly be available
We'd played well going forward without really threatening but we
really did seem to lack any direction. So when we went 0-1
down following a Stubbs-Wier mis-communication it looked as though
it was going to be one of those days. Once Maccarone was
through it was always going to be a goal. Paul Gerrard made an
excellent save from the Italian marksman that deserved a better
result, but in keeping with them being more lively it was
Middlesbrough who were the most alert of the two teams and Nemeth
stepped forward to prod the ball into an empty net.
Unlike the last time the two teams played each other, though,
this Everton side does seem to be made of sterner stuff and sniffing
the coffee of defeat seemed to galvanise them. Alexandersson
seemed to develop a sense of purpose and Campbell started to get
stuck in up front. His efforts twice saw him need attention
from the physio, but on both occasions he got up and got on with the
job. This revitalisation of Everton, if it didn't swing the
game Everton's way, it certainly evened it up. Middlesbrough
still moved forward quickly but they suddenly seemed to have less of
an edge, although they still possessed enough of a threat about them
to see Maccarone force another good save from Gerrard.
Almost immediately came the equaliser. Pembridge picked the
ball up on the Everton left as it was cleared by the visitors'
defence and lifted it into the box. Alexandersson nodded it on
and Radzinski, of all people, beat his marker, rose to meet the ball
sweetly, but was forced to watch in horror as the ball bounced off
the inside of the post, across the gaping goal. But this time
Campbell was there to tap the ball home for about 5 yards.
The match swung from end to end for the remainder of the half.
Nemeth brought another fine save from Gerrard and an Alexandersson
attempt at curling the ball around the keeper didn't quite come back
enough and went beyond the post. At half-time it was honours
even, but both sides might have felt they had done enough to have
The second half was so different it was untrue. The
introduction of Rooney for Alexandersson gave Everton a bit more
composure going forward and saw Middlesbrough struggling to cope,
even with five at the back. We played with more composure and
more desire, but were never completely on top.
Middlesbrough never really threatened much but Gerrard still had
to pull off another fine save as the ball came back off his
left-hand post from a Maccarone strike. But most of the
pressure was at the other end, with Wayne Rooney just failing to
open his account as he sent a free kick fractionally over the bar
with Schwarzer well beaten. The pressure eventually told as,
after a series of corners which had been easily claimed by the 'boro
keeper, Gravesen put one in short and Campbell was able to glance
the ball into the net, just inside the undefended post.
Middlesbrough changed to 4-3-3 after that but, even after they'd
replaced all three front men, they didn't really threaten the
Everton defence. David Moyes reverted to 4-4-2 late on as
Tomasz Radzinski made way for Lee Carsley, but by then the game was
over as an event.
Man of the Match: Tomasz Radzinski
Referee: M Messias — a generally very poor display from
this new face at Goodison Park.
Despite the season only being five games old, and despite the
tightly packed nature of the middle part of the table, a descent to
16th place is always a cause of mild concern. It's easy to
start thinking in terms of what-if's and fretting over worst-case
scenarios. The sixth game of the season could never be
described as a must win game, but this did have the feeling of an
important one to win, if only to fend off some unwelcome attention.
The only real decision in terms of team selection was to stick
with 4-4-2. This meant a place on the bench for Rooney.
Simonsen was fit enough to occupy the bench, Gerrard's display at
Southampton meaning we didn't have to rush Simonsen back.
First half we were crap. Passing game was non-existent, we
looked shaky at the back and Middlesbrough were able to pass it
around us with embarrassing ease. Maccarone was lively and
pacy and caused us lots of problems. Opportunities came
Middlesbrough's way — not gilt edged chances but opportunities
That Middlesbrough took the lead wasn't a huge surprise;
typically though we contributed to our own problems. A
slightly panicky punt forward by Weir was intercepted by the
Middlesbrough midfield who immediately released Maccarone, his shot
was parried by Gerrard but only as far as the lurking Nemeth who
found the empty net.
Middlesbrough continued to play the better football. We
undoubtedly tried but didn't seem to have the necessary cohesion to
get ourselves back into it. When we did equalise it came as a
bit of a surprise. A cross came in, the ball looped up for
Radzinski to get a clear sight of goal, his header came off the
inside of the post (he should have scored) and Campbell was lurking
to convert the rebound. An equaliser we didn't really deserve
but we didn't complain.
Half-time brought a change as Rooney came on for the
disappointing Alexandersson, and we went to 4-3-3. It brought
about a distinct improvement; we still weren't particularly good but
we were playing with more purpose and you could actually imagine us
scoring a goal. Middlesbrough were never out of it though —
something we were reminded of when Maccarone got through yet again
and this time managed to find the inside of the post with the
resulting rebound falling close enough to Paul Gerrard for him to
divert the ball away. A big let off.
Throughout the game we forced a lot of corners. For the
most part, we didn't get the delivery quite right. Finally
though it came right, a good Gravesen corner and Campbell timed it
right to get a glancing header into the far corner.
By now Middlesbrough had lost their way a little — Southgate
had gone off, presumably injured, and they had also withdrawn the
dangerous Maccarone. We were therefore able to play out time
with undue alarm.
This was a result that was chiselled out. In the first half
we looked like also rans, we certainly didn't deserve to be level.
The second half brought a distinct improvement but even then I can't
recall Schwarzer making too many saves. Middlesbrough have a
strong case for getting something from the game. They didn't,
though, and although this wasn't a total steal we should think
- Gerrard 7 A number of good saves, but also some
uncertainty with his defence.
- Hibbert 6 Did OK for the most part but has a worrying
tendency to get caught out by the ball over his head.
- Unsworth 6 Committed and hard working — didn't let us
- Weir 7 Got better as the game went on. Gave the
ball away cheaply for their goal.
- Stubbs 6 His defending bordered on the desperate at
times, but largely got away with it. Not having the best
of times as evidenced by his poor passing.
- Alexandersson 5 Some good moments but there is a
palpable lack of urgency and dynamism about his game. Time
must be running out for him.
- Gravesen 6 A better, more consistent performance than
of late, but still had his headless chicken moments.
- Li Tie 6 Still doing OK but really needs to bring his
game on a notch or two. Very impressed by the way he keeps
possession in tight corners.
- Pembridge 7 The usual battling, effective performance.
- Radzinski 7 Worked very hard without the ball ever
quite falling for him in the penalty area.
- Campbell 7 Made up for him. I thought he did OK
throughout, linked the play well.
- Rooney 7 Thought this was his best display yet —
definite signs of him calming down and settling into things.
Brings the urgency and directness which Alexandersson doesn't.
A couple of excellent runs and one sublime pass to Radzinski
which hints at a superior football talent. Is he really
Team 6 Deserve credit for hanging on in there and
ultimately snatching the victory that looked very unlikely in the
first half. But the football was largely prosaic and we
desperately need Yobo.
Man of the match - Super Kevin Campbell.