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Colm Kavanagh considers the latest derby defeat and takes heart at some of the positives that suggest all is not lost




'Tis a thin line sometimes between hope, expectations and reality.  As ever, on derby day, you wake up and hope for the day to go according to plan.  It's a terrible feeling if you're a kid and you live more in fear of facing your schoolmates in the event of a derby day defeat.  It hurts.  By God it hurts! 

Has that emotion softened with the advancing years?  Like hell it has!  Today hurts.  My only consolation is, being a shopkeeper, I have to smile through gritted teeth as the many local Kopites who've not darkened my door pop in for whatever it is they want. Oh they'll get what they want.  But at an inflated price.  As you do. 

3-1 is a fairly convincing score, there is no denying, but unlike last weekend's abject surrender against the Mancunians I cannot question the spirit or the commitment today.  The team were beaten by a better side and, when we went 3-1 down, I feared the worst.  How many would Liverpool score?  In fairness, the lads ploughed on and created a few chances which, on another day, may have changed the game.  That's the thin line.

However, there can be no disputing that Liverpool were by far a superior side.  I was worried by the absence of Scot Gemmill - easily our most creative of midfielders.  Is the injury menace making inroads already?

Anyway, main gripe of the day is my favourite target of late - Mr Niclas Alexandersson.  Is he shit or what?  Why does Walter persevere with using him?  Does he add to the team?  I saw more from young Tony Hibbert as an attacking option whilst he was on than Alexandersson offered all game.  

But not only does Alexandersson not do enough as an attacking force he also leaves gaps when supposedly defending.  Too often today, Steve Watson was left on the back foot with a Liverpool player bearing down on him with options aplenty.  Not good.  I'd rather see Watson pushed up into Alexandersson's position with Niclas being demoted to the reserves - where he can somehow find the form and confidence Walter saw in him at Sheffield Wednesday that encouraged him to part with a few shillings. 

I don't deny that Alexandersson has talent but we sure as hell ain't seeing him do whatever it is he is supposed to do.  How many chances does he get?  Yer man Riise had a field day at Alexandersson's expense.  Persisting with a misfiring Alexandersson is a luxury we can ill afford.  Hibbert and Watson offer us better options in my opinion - both in attack and defence.

Surprise of the day, happy to say, has to be Paul Gascoigne.  Now, I still firmly believe him to be past his sell by date but fair play to him today.  He did well and passed the ball about well.  A player who can do that in Everton Blue stands out a mile, sad to say these days.  Although he has no pace, and tackles look more likely to injure him, he does exhibit at least the thought, if not the execution.  If only he was ten years younger and fitter...

A thing that bugged me today was the ref's interpretation of two attacking styles of play.  I'm talking of Duncan Ferguson and Emile Heskey.  Late on there was an incident which really highlighted the refs interpretation of both.  I've always lumped Duncan in with players like Niall Quinn - in that, nine times out of ten, when they jump for a ball the ref will blow for an infringement against them, whether right or wrong.  

Duncan Ferguson is often more sinned against than sinner.  How often did we see today Durkin blow up for infringements against Duncan - yet he saw Heskey's body strength and usage of as being legal.  Late on in the game we saw Dunc being stopped in his tracks for jumping up and illegally challenging a cumulonimbus as it made its way across the park; and thirty seconds later we saw Emily play (that's for Floyd heads everywhere!) in our box and a bloody good version of the Dying Fly - and an attempt to con the ref into awarding a penalty.  The ref didn't fall for his histrionics but at the same time neglected to show the yellow card which should've been the case.  Would he have been so lenient if it were Duncan taking a dive in the box? I don't think so.

Walter Smith watch?  Well, despite a good start, we got it wrong with the defensive line up.  We rarely looked comfortable at the back.  It's time to bin the back three in favour of a return to a more familiar four.  I think the team would perform better with a more familiar shape. 

Too often we get caught out by anyone who has pace.  Pace frightens us big time and no matter how many defenders we have on the pitch - be it three or six we do not look at ease with facing it.  

Speaking of pace - can we buy some please?  Yer man Radzinski looks to have it in spades.  He'll need games though before we can judge him.  I thought Walter at least tried to do something positive with the changes at half time as we were heading for a drubbing otherwise.  

Sad thing is we are simply not a good side and as a creative force we barely register on the scale.  I know where I place the blame for that and, if we continue to find ourselves on the wrong end of results, then there can be only one conclusion - whether or not there's no apparent manager in waiting out there...  Managers live and die by results. Yes, that even includes our Walter.  Well, it should anyway.  Today though, a second-half improvement when fearing the worst, means there is something to cling onto, to build upon.  

We were always second-best on the day but, with a little luck in front of goal, it could've been a different result.  Let's hope Walter can build upon that and get our season back on track before the storm clouds currently hovering reside permanently over Goodison Park and Walter Smith's XI.  No shame in losing the derby today - as disappointing as that is.  Beaten by a better side on the day but at least showing signs of life in the side yet.

And on that note I'll be off to tackle the oncoming Kopites across the counter.

"How'ya lads.... Ah, sure... we hadn't the heart to dump you in the bottom three."

Chin up, everyone.