False Sense of Security

By Lyndon Lloyd   ::  25/02/2013

Norwich City 2 - 1 Everton

It was a nice dream and one not as far-fetched as some of the more cynical or critical would suggest with the 20/20 vision of hindsight, but Everton's hopes of quailfying for the Champions League this season effectively died today.

In reality and it didn't require hindsight for this to sink in on 31st January; many Evertonians knew it in their bones at the time any realistic hopes of finishing in the top four evaporated when the transfer deadline expired with no new faces arriving beyond a fresh-faced hope for the future in the form of John Stones. The silent destruction of a Club's most fervent desires by an absentee Board from whom almost nothing positive has been forthcoming in 12 years and of whom nothing has been heard for weeks.

Neverthless, despite some noticeable flagging in the Blues' push for fourth place in recent weeks, hope remained for a big seven days in Everton's season that six points against Norwich City and Reading, with an FA Cup replay win over Oldham in between, could reignite the spark and push the team on in the final three months of the campaign.

So far so good until Kai Kamara, a substitution by Chris Hughton that changed what had hitherto been a lopsided encounter dominated by Everton, rose to power home an 84th-minute header and cut any resurgence in the Blues' season off at the knees. Grant Holt would go on to win the game for the Canaries an outcome that was unthinkable for the first hour but it was the Senegalese forward's equaliser that was the killer blow; a point was no good for the Blues today.

Only two teams have thrown away more points when leading than Everton this season and the late lapses against the likes of Fulham, Newcastle and, now, Norwich home and away, will be written in the epitaph of the Blues 2012-13 season. The truth is, though, that with the superiority that David Moyes's men enjoyed over the 90 minutes unquestionably so for the for the first hour they should have had the game put to bed before Kamara even took to the field.

The slender 1-0 advantage they held never felt like it was going to be enough even though the Canaries had barely troubled Tim Howard. A late rally by Hughton's side was inevitable and his two changes the introduction of Kamara and Pilkington were the catalyst. Moyes's own substitution, by contrast, was a less offensive one; his removal of Nikica Jelavic for Kevin Mirallas (who spent an inexplicable 77 minutes on the bench) didn't add much more attacking potency to a team that had spent much of the second half playing attractive passing footbal with no end product.

An entertaining first half hadn't been much different, in all honesty; the difference was that Everton made the breakthrough they richly deserved six minutes before the break. The lively and industrious Jelavic had gone close with an excellent chest and volley that proved too tame to concern Bunn in the Norwich goal early on. And Marouane Fellaini's attempt to finish off a nice move with a drive from just outside the box was charged down by a lunging block from Turner.

The hosts briefly threatened early on when Snodgrass' shot was deflected just over by Sylvain Distin and later when Grant Holt barged his way through but saw a low shot comfortably gathered by Howard.

For all their comfortable possession, though, the Blues didn't carve out enough clear-cut chances and their attempts to create opportunities from set-pieces were stymied by their own poor delivery both Darron Gibson and Steven Pienaar despatched corners to the first man at the near post before the South African somehow sent another from the same side straight behind the goal in embarrassing fashion or more outright illegal shackling in the box by Norwich's defenders, mostly on Fellaini.

Everything came together for Everton in the 39th minute, though, when Pienaar and Leighton Baines combined in trademark fashion and the latter swept in a superb cross that Osman steered past Bunn with his head. 1-0 to the Blues and a platform for extending City's miserable 10-game run without a win established.

Unfortunately, the lack of killer instinct that has characterised Everton for so much of the season would be their undoing in the second half. All the ingredients were there: Gibson was in command in midfield, doing all the unspectacular stuff so well and linking play through the centre; despite some occasional sloppiness with the pass inside, Pienaar and Baines were a threat down the left; the returning Seamus Coleman was also causing problems down the right; Steven Naismith was competent without providing much potency; Jelavic was working hard to end his goal drought but would, again, see precious few chances fall his way; and Fellaini was all over the place but allowed himself to be frustrated by the referee and spent too much time in the second half sulking and throwing his arms in the air in despair. But the drive, the guile, the intensity required to push on and seize the security of an increased lead was just missing and with Norwich so flaccid, it seemed to breed complacency among the Blues' ranks that all they had to do was see the 90 minutes out.

That changed when Kamara was introduced and had, within the space of eight minutes, caused two moments of consternation in the visitors' defence. First, an acobratic scissor-kick forced the first save of note from Howard of the second half; then, he guided a header off Hoolahan's cross a foot wide of the upright with the goalkeeper arguably beaten.

At the other end, Gibson flashed a side-foot shot inches over following a corner from Distin'a lay-off and Fellaini and Pienaar both sliced 25-yard efforts high and well wide, but they were rare attempts on the Norwich goal and the feeling grew that Mirallas needed to introduced to help counter the Canaries' growing belief and threat. He wouldn't arrive for another 10 minutes, though, and, even then, with Jelavic the man to be replaced, it didn't have the effect of making Everton any more potent in the final third.

Given the precedents set earlier in the season, it shouldn't have come as a surprise to any of the traveling Blues when Norwich equalised with six minutes to go. Coleman had shown excellent powers of recovery to chase down Pilkington and deflect his attempted cross behind, but when Fellaini lost track of Kamara's run at the resulting corner, the Senegalese had the freedom he needed to head powerfully downwards and past Howard and the man on the line.

Three minutes and change into injury time, the Blues went to pieces at yet another set piece and Holt reacted instinctively to prod home amid the melee from close range. From 1-0 up to 2-1 down... lingering Champions League dreams in tatters. Moyes would protest to referee Lee Mason that the goal had been scored after the minimum three minutes had elapsed but it smacked of clutching at straws.

Moyes has made much of his team's fatigue and while the shallowness of his squad was a factor at Carrow Road, there didn't seem any visible tiredness among his players. There was a general lack of conviction in their play, particularly in the final third of the field, where time and again and this has a been a recurrent theme this season the killer final pass just wasn't there.

Granted, a busy seven-day period lay ahead but Moyes should have put his best foot forward and played Mirallas from the start. If fitness was a concern, better to play him from the start in the hope of establishing a greater lead than a narrow 1-0 and pull him off after an hour than persist with the energetic but ultimately ineffective Naismith and only give the Belgian 12 minutes at the end. The wisdom of his omission would have been glossed over had the result held in Everton's favour but in the agony of defeat it was questionable at best.

Moyes will claim indeed, is that the uncertainty over his contract isn't a factor and with the group of highly-paid professionals concerned, it absolutely shouldn't be. They are human, though, and with belief in a top-four finish ebbing away, his unsigned deal is becoming an increasingly big elephant in the proverbial room.

What the manager has also inadvertently done by dragging out a resolution over his future is allow Evertonians, many growing pessimistic that he will stay beyond the summer, to ponder life without him at the Goodison helm. From that will come an inevitable detachment and loosening of loyalty to a man who raised the very standards his team is struggling to meet.

In short, what promised to be the pinnacle of his 11 years in charge is in danger of falling very flat, and if he isn't able to quickly recapture a winning mentality among his players, Everton could struggle to even finish in the top six this season.

His task begins, of course, on Tuesday in the Cup replay against Oldham where victory would move him another step closer to that elusive trophy. With glory in the League slipping away, redemption lies down Wembley Way but Moyes's Blues need to rediscover some defensive resilience and ruthlessness up front... and quickly.

Reader Comments

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Ray Robinson
437 Posted 25/02/2013 at 09:29:45
Agree totally Lyndon. I never felt comfortable at 1-0 even though we seemed in total control. The number of matches that we could have and should have won this season if only we'd got a second goal when dominating is amazing. Is it something in the collective psyche that Moyes has instilled that encourages us to hang onto what we've got? We seemingly seem able to come back from a goal down, so maybe it is?

In tandem, the biggest "failure" under Moyes to my mind is our inablity to counter attack effectively. I know that top notch, quick, skilful players cost a premium and are beyond our means but it IS possible to acquire pace throughout the team at a reasonable price. Could you imagine Everton defeating Bradford 5-0 in the Capital One Final like Swansea did for instance? There ARE players like Dyer around who can inject pace into the game. We have Mirallas but he's spending most of his time on the bench. Even with him playing though, there is too much precision in midfield and very little incision. There were several occasions on Saturday when we broke out of defence only for the attack to peter out just beyond the halfway line because the player with the ball had run out of steam and there weren't enough people up in support.

For me, this is a side of the modern game that Moyes has never got to grips with and it's costing us winning positions.

Richard Tarleton
457 Posted 25/02/2013 at 11:10:51
I've only managed two away games this season, this one and the Reading game and to be honest, Everton always have me feeling that they are going to do something stupid.

They may have possession, but being actually in control of the game is beyond them. Their finishing is inadequate and poor Jelavic does not look anything like the player who came and made such an impression as a cool, controlled finisher.

Sometimes I wonder at Moyes's selections, Mirallas is rarely given a start, yes I know he's had injury problems, and Oviedo looks useful, certainly more useful than Naismith. Osman scored on Saturday, but since his elevation to international status has looked anything but an international class player.

I hope we finish in the top half and if possible above the other side from Liverpool 4, but I seriously doubt it.

Brian Waring
460 Posted 25/02/2013 at 11:32:19
For all our posession, Norwich had 10 attempts on goal with 9 of those on target, we had 11 attempts with 5 of those on target.
Tom Evans
462 Posted 25/02/2013 at 11:27:30
One day, I will grow up. By this, I mean I will cease the stupid superstitious routines whenever I am not present at games and only tune in to the radio/television when the game is over.

On Saturday, I overheard we were one up at half-time and that is when all the old insecurities kicked in again and I thought a Reading repeat was on the cards.

At 16:56, I put on 5 Live just in time for the presenter to announce "quite a turnround at Carrow Road"... I didn't even listen for the score. I just switched the radio off and cursed Moyes, Kenwright & EFC.

Come on Everton, victory tomorrow will hopefully springboard us to another win on Saturday and reignite the final portion of the season

Michael McIvor
463 Posted 25/02/2013 at 11:24:38
Lyndon, very good articlute as usual. I have never contributed before but feel the need at the moment.

I have been a Moyes supporter but have grown disillusioned by his leadership of late. A leader leads from the front and shows complete loyalty to the cause or the cause becomes diluted and the followers become less committed and enthusiasm wanes. This is what is happening to Everton at the moment IMHO.

Yes, you could argue that the leadership comes from the Boardroom and I agree, but to the players the leadership and determination comes from the manager. To me Everton (the supporters) should demand complete loyalty and commitment to the cause.

The fact that a manager does not want or refuses to sign a contract with the club that we love speaks volumes to me. A club like Everton and its supporters deserve a manager who will lead from the front, no matter what obstacles are in place, and only then can the players follow. If Moyes does not sign a new contract soon, then Everton should find a good manager who will and for me, the sooner the better.

Tony J Williams
475 Posted 25/02/2013 at 12:14:22
"Is it something in the collective psyche that Moyes has instilled that encourages us to hang onto what we've got?" - That's the whole point though Ray, we don't....initially. We go forward and then usually blow easy chances to go further ahead and then start falling back in the last 10 minutes to see off the game.

It's not a case of scoring one then falling back for the remainder. Take Oldham, 10 minutes before the score the equaliser, Jelavic should have made it 3-1, that's not sitting back defending a lead.

It when it gets later on, we start falling back deeper, not straight away.

Tony Draper
480 Posted 25/02/2013 at 12:40:13
Can't be "Dithering Davie's" fault. He's had a contract on his desk for 18 months.
Ray Robinson
491 Posted 25/02/2013 at 12:47:51
Tony, on reflection, you have a valid point and certainly the game that you mentioned (and others) was a case of us not sealing the game by taking chances. However, there have been games such Reading and Norwich (away), Norwich, Wigan and WBA at home where I've had the distinct impression that we've stopped trying to attack far too early.

I do totally accept your point though that it's missed chances when in a winning position that have cost us most dearly this season. I still think that the "protect what we've got" attitude that often appears, stems from Moyes though and is often reflected in his substitutions. That might even be a valid tactic if we could counter-attack with pace - but we can't!

Robert Collins
505 Posted 25/02/2013 at 14:03:03
A bit of rant here, but I believe it to be valid.

We can analyse this latest losing performance until we're bored, but it's identical to most of the other defeats and draws we've suffered and here's the reason. I believe that even if DM had the money and a talented squad with flair throughout, he would still put out defensive minded formations with the hope that a RvP, Rooney (or similar could edge the game for us). It simply doesn't matter what type of squad is at his disposal; he's genetically conservative/defensive, he just simply can't go for the win from the first whistle. Teams like Norwich just exploit this.

EFC is going through a very uncertain period (despite what DM says about having a team of pro's who can cope) with both the managers situation and performances of late on the pitch (or lack of them). Most of the "Glass is half-full", Moyes (how will we survive without him) sycophants have only just noticed the evil presence across the park are just 3 points behind and the Gunners are doing their usuall consistant thing (quietly moving up the table), our general trend is downwards. There's a few bookies out there who think LFC will finish above us this season, it's not an unreasonable assumption.

BK has allowed DM to build a very old squad (by EPL standards) and it's probably got one maybe two years left of any kind of quality football. We're currently competing (I believe) for 6th or 7th (or maybe lower) with LFC, 4th & 5th will go to the Gunners or Spurs. In the coming years we're about to become not even the "The Best Of The Rest". And "The Best Of The Rest" is something many pundits regarded us as.

Also, it's an established fact Moyes has gambled on experience over youth and now we will pay the price for that over the coming years. This is probably a lot more serious a problem than DM's negativity and tactical ineptitude; simply put, we've only got a few players anyone would want to buy from us (and after we've sold them???). Shame on you, BK, for not directing your manager to assemble a youthful squad over the long term.

Do you Moyes followers really want to put the Fellaini/Baines money in his hands for more of the same over the coming years? Think it through before you answer, please.

Tony J Williams
519 Posted 25/02/2013 at 15:03:28
Robert you can spout as much speculation as you want but the facts show your assertion to be wrong.

When Moyes brought in better players, we played better and finished last season well and started this one well. Injuries to the creative and better players happened and surprise surprise our form dropped. We needed to get players in in January and didn't and that again is costing us.

It's quite pathetic that some people are using speculation to try and have a go at Moyes.....if he had eleven great players, he would still be defensive. He wouldn't, as shown by our attacking style for a little while whilst we were lucky with injuries. And that's will just a couple of good players players, Not your Rooneys or your Van Persies.

If you want to have a go at him, use the facts of his over reliance on experienced players, his formulaic substitutions, but not some daft speculation that he wouldn't use World Class players in an offensive formation.

Mike Allanson
560 Posted 25/02/2013 at 17:32:43
Saturday started positively, I was confident and for most of the first half we looked like we had the measure of Norwich. Sadly, a lack of goals again let the opposition in and a familiar last 10 mins unfolded.

Sadly I've now come to the conclusion that Moyes's time is up. We're tired of the same defensive tactics, he's obviously tired of working miracles with a tiny squad thin on quality.

Let's face it Pienaar should have been dropped weeks ago, Baines looks goosed, Fellaini is half-hearted (but not on Saturday), our squad is getting older and what youth we bring through, Moyes seems reluctant to use (Duffy).

Sadly I just think Moyes has run out of ideas and motivation. I don't think he'll sign and I can't say I blame him.

The real culprits are the Board who are well happy with mid-table survival and the odd final/semi-final. The Board have given him little money each year when we know that it wouldn't take mega bucks to reach the top 4. Sadly, the Shite show us each season that with the right money and ambition even they can get close to top 4 again. BK hasn't or won't give DM money he and this board are strangling the life out of the club. It's a poisonous mix which can really get nasty like Leeds/Coventry and a host of former Premier League teams.

Moyes's non-signing is beginning to turn people against him believe me, the atmosphere at the end on Saturday was bad towards Moyes. It can be turned around we may win the cup! Maybe Moyes deserves a chance with a Board with dosh. Sadly at the moment he's fed up, we're fed up, and BK isn't arsed as long as we stay up.

Robert Collins
597 Posted 25/02/2013 at 18:54:01
Tony J Williams @ 519

With or without money he's not a winner!!!

And so let's have a look at your give him the money and he's an instant winner argument. Firstly let's compare like for like, our performance against lesser or equal teams. Let's start with lesser teams (Norwich?) home and away, what's the value of our team compared to theirs? what kind of results are we getting against them (with our money team)? I've heard it said by a few blues, that this is probably his best ever team (roll on the next 11 years!). It's not just Norwich, there's a long list have come back to draw or win against dour Dave.

I can only judge him europe-wise against the teams we've played in the europa and it's been woeful, he hasn't go a clue when he comes up against foreign teams with any kind of ability that are evenly matched with us.

I've decided not to look at the teams above us after 41 attempts to try to win away and that performance against RS at wembley (their worst team in 50 years and we collapsed again). That game will be my abiding memory of him!

For what it's worth I think DM will be with us next season, BK is only interested in 42 points each season nothing else matters. Although in 11 years time when we come full circle for a second time I'll have long given up my season ticket (the thought of paying £40m to him for the next 11 years sickens me) and won't be here to listen to say "He need more, give him more!!).

Matt Woods
720 Posted 25/02/2013 at 23:18:12
Basically we are not good enough to finish fourth. We have one genuine striker, and since the lad has lost his mojo we have struggled. We have on the whole played well in most of the games this season, however we just can't kill teams off. Moyes reluctance to shuffle his pack hasn't helped and the criminal lack of business in the transfer window was the final straw. Whatever way you look at it, I feel we have just come up short.

However, we are at home to Oldham in the Cup with the prospect of Wigan at home in a Quarter Final....what more could you fucking ask for. Yes we are frustrated, yes we have been let down so many times, but for fucks sake, what a fantastic position to be in. We can do any team on our day, all I am asking is that we give it everything in the cup.

The tangible pessimism needs to be stymied and we need to get on the march. So what if you love or hate David Moyes, Everton have an unbelievable opportunity to get back to Wembley. Come on you Blue Boys, do the business for us the fans. This is the FA Cup and we want to win it!
Andrew James
725 Posted 25/02/2013 at 23:56:38
Rob - to be fair Norwich recruited in the last window and we didn't!

I think we will lose tomorrow. I hope we don't but there's something about our team that turns wins into draws and draws into losses.

The thing I cannot understand is that we are so called negative but cannot defend for toffee.

Tony J Williams
821 Posted 26/02/2013 at 12:15:22
"With or without money he's not a winner!!!" We wouldn't know, as he has never had money. The last time he was given money without having to sell his best players, we managed to get into Europe for a couple of seasons.

"I've decided not to look at the teams above us after 41 attempts to try to win away", I'm pretty sure that we have beaten Man City and Spurs away, they're above us.

John Keating
827 Posted 26/02/2013 at 12:28:25
Over the last few seasons, Moyes has brought in bodies during January, whether it's been Donovan on loan, or Gibson and Jelavic for money. This has seemed to gee up the team and the introduction of fresh faces has coincided with an upturn in form.

This season, January was a disgrace. We were in a great position equal with Spurs, above Arsenal and well clear of the RS. It was obvious to all where we were short and January was approached with great expectations. We are all aware of what happened, some squad players went out and nobody came in.

The Fer fiasco, what an embarrassment! We've been arguing whether it was a genuine approach or not: Did we have the money or not? Regardless, we are where we are and so far, whilst our main competitors are either moving ahead or catching up, we seem to have come to a grinding halt with only one direction on the cards.

There's only one culprit in my opinion for this and I lay the blame fairly and squarely on our so-called Board of Directors. They supply the money for the manager, the manager keeps his face straight and motivates the players, in the past, the players respond. Just recently it appears everyone has just given up! Thank God we've reached 40 points already.

Robert Collins
860 Posted 26/02/2013 at 14:23:10
Tony J Williams @ 821

How did we do in the Europa League? Your qoute "The last time he was given money without having to sell his best players, we managed to get into Europe for a couple of seasons." We had the money and where in a better off financial situation than many of the clubs we met in the Europa League.

His leadership was inspirational, astute substitutions (just like in the prem) and revolutionary tactics that had the opposition dazzled.

You're splitting hairs now: "I'm pretty sure that we have beaten Man City and Spurs away, they're above us". Man City and Spurs have only just begun to cement their positions in the big time. I'm talking about our (41 attempts to win) against the traditional Sky 4.

And for what it's worth both Man City and Spurs would spank us on a good and bad day; if you think anything else you're not watching the same EFC as me.

I stand by my statement With or without money!

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