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 Venue: Goodison Park, Liverpool Premiership  Saturday 23 April 2005; 12:30pm
 Ferguson (84')   Half Time: 0-1
  Heskey (5')  
 Attendance: 36,828 (Fixture 34) Referee: Andy D'Urso
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Match Summary

Duncan pounced again to claim a point

David Moyes decide switch out three players from Wednesday's heroic performance that won all the honours against Manchester United.  Ferguson, Bent and Watson join Wright and McFadden on the bench, while Osman and Beattie start, with Pistone returning to left-back.

But the reversion to 4-5-1 did not work for Everton, who  looked very ordinary as the game got started and after just five minutes, Pennant laid the ball in for Heskey, whose speculative shot was well placed to bobble along the grass and in past a diving Nigel Martyn.

Not the start the Goodison faithful were looking for.  Everton struggled to gain any leverage in midfield but some superb work by Osman created a guilt-edged chance for Beattie, who's poor header was glanced wide when it looked easier for him to drive it straight past Taylor into the Gwladys Street net. 

Cahill picked up his 10th yellow card of the season for yet another of his trademark niggley interventions.  Love him to bits, but there is something about his whole body language when he goes near a player in possession that says "book me".

Birmingham continued to dominate, with Pennant continuing to terrorize Pistone, sending in a series of fearsome crosses that Everton were forced to defend Beattie was struggling to gain any space or supply against the narky Melchiot, who was booked after 33 mins.

Everton's shouts for a penalty were turned away when Osman was heavily impeded, arms all over him to prevent him from reaching a Hibbert cross.

Everton had resorted to playing too many long balls rather than structuring more intricate passing moves that the likes of Osman and Arteta could shine, with the big defender Upson and Cunningham winning almost everything.

Pistone and Carsley were scarified in palace of Ferguson and Watson after the break, with Moyes no doubt less than happy after a pretty dismal first half.  Osman started the half well, jumping onto a nice Beattie lay-off and firing it in for a parried save by Taylor. 

But the pattern of the game was little better than the first half, with far too many interruptions in play.  Birmingham finally built a bit of flow leading to a free header for Nafti who failed to score from a very threatening position on the far post. 

The final throw of the dice for David Moyes came with the introduction of Bent for Beattie, who went off to appreciative applause for his efforts against the stubborn Birmingham defence. 

Bent and Ferguson got a chance to run at the Birmingham defence but Bent checked at a crucial moment, allowing

With time ticking away, it really wasn't happening for Everton, who looked flat and lacking in ideas after the fantastic efforts of Wednesday night.  Perhaps this game, and the unnecessary switch to 12:30 kick-off, came just too soon for the Blues.

But a late flurry of Everton corners gave the Blues hopes, and after the fifth, it was Duncan Ferguson who finally stabbed home a crucial equaliser, off an attempt from Cahill.  Goodison went wild with relief as the tension was eased, and the Park End surged forward to mob Big Dunc for this crucial tying goal.

Cahill and Bent then tried to combine for the winner but it didn't come off.  Osman and Hibbert combined late, but Hibbert could not do it and a poor game ended with Everton very grateful for a vital point that opens up the gap on their rivals just a little, and raises the the stakes on the table for that magic 4th place.

Match Preview

How on earth do you follow a night like last Wednesday?   Well, as wonderful as Wednesday night truly was, it is now consigned to the annals.  Done and dusted.  This Saturday lunchtime, opportunity knocks for David Moyes's side like never before: win this game and Everton move six points ahead of rivals Liverpool with a mere four games remaining this season.  The stakes could hardly be higher.

It will be interesting to see if tiredness is a factor as Moyes's team gave their all in defeating Manchester United. 

Birmingham City are never the prettiest of teams to face (mindful of Robbie Savage no longer ploughing up and down St Andrews!) and Steve Bruce will surely be asking for a major response from his team after their 3-0 defeat midweek at Manchester City.

Expect to see a similar starting eleven from Moyes, though Pistone and Naysmith may yet come into the reckoning.  Steve Watson slotted in superbly against United, looking like he'd been ever-present.  Such experience may well count in Everton's favour as we approach the season's climax.

Mikel Arteta has revelled in his role over the past two games and will look to further impress.  His class may ultimately prove key in opening a resolute Birmingham side who will endeavour to make life awkward for the home side.

Up front, well there's no stopping Duncan Ferguson at the moment.  He was awesome when rising to the challenge of Manchester United and if any doubts remain over his future at the Club then another five-star performance against Birmingham will go a long way to convincing those who remain unsure about Ferguson extending his career at Goodison beyond the summer.  Tim Cahill, who suffered from mild concussion on Wednesday night, should be fully recovered by Saturday and keen to further add to an already impressive goal tally this season.

A win for Everton guarantees European football for season 2005-06.  The team needs no further incentive.  Of course though, as fans we've already taken it for granted that European football is secured.  The question remains in what competition will Everton find themselves?  A win on Saturday and more and more will become convinced we'll be playing alongside many of Europe's elite!  We're so close...

Colm Kavanagh

Matchday Stats


Steve Flanagan

Ferguson Rescues Scrappy Encounter

The early kick-off was simply put a pain in the backside today.  If there was ever a day when I just needed another couple of hours in bed it was today.  Nevertheless, after a heavy night and only about two hours of precious sleep, I was up and miserably making my way to Stes to head to the ground.

We parked up at about 11:45am giving us enough time to catch a quick pint.  I couldnt really stomach it to be honest but undeterred sipped away.  I cant have been much entertainment or use for anyone today so forgive me if this report sounds a bit depressing, although if truth be told, overall it was a depressing game.

I expected Beattie to start in place of Ferguson as surely it would have been too much to ask of Ferguson to play again after Wednesday night's exploits.  I was surprised to see him partnered by Osman but I guess some fresh legs were needed as so much has been asked of Bent this season up front.  The midfield was unchanged and Pistone came in for Watson at left-back, as Watson had a minor calf strain thanks to Lee Carsleys reckless over-celebrating of Fergusons goal on Wednesday.  Wright, Watson, Bent, Ferguson and McFadden were the substitutes.

As Gary couldnt make the game he graciously gave me his season ticket so I did have the luxury of a good seat in the Lower Gwladys for today's encounter.

We actually started fairly well with a few bright attacks.  Wed lost the toss so attacked the Gwladys St End in the first half.  Just as I was starting to get comfortable with Everton pressing Birmingham back in the early exchanges, the buggers only go down the other end and score.  I think four minutes had passed by this point.  The ball was played up to Heskey who turned Weir and Yobo on a sixpence before lashing a low drive past Martyn and into the bottom left corner from all of 25 yards.  A brilliant goal you have to say and the type of goal Heskey will score only once every three seasons.  His contribution was minimal after that, thanks mostly to Weir who had a splendid game (the goal aside).

Evertons response was jagged and they struggled to get any sort of grip on the game thereafter really.  Credit must go to Birmingham, who didnt give us a second on the ball.  The midfield was very congested which disrupted the games of Arteta and Cahill more than most.  Carsley did well in the first half and kept Everton driving forward.  Kilbane couldnt get forward as much as he would have liked as he had to track back due to Pistones poor defending not helped by the trickery of Pennant, however, who had an excellent game.  As to did Kilbanes opponent Melchiot.  Up front, Osman did well and there was plenty of movement from him.  Beattie did try but for me was woefully inadequate and couldnt get into the game.  Ill give him the benefit of the doubt.

The first half wasnt without chances for Everton however as Beattie and Cahill both missed very good headed opportunities.  How Beattie missed is beyond me.  Osman who picked him out brilliantly at the back post.  All he had to do was let the ball meet his head and look at the goal.  Instead he tried to be a bit spectacular and probably took his eye off the ball a bit which resulted in the ball ending up a few yards wide.  A very good chance dished up on plate for him.

Cahills wasnt quite as easy but you would have expected him to do better.  Osman delivered another exquisite cross but Cahill got under it and headed well over.  Not much else to shout about from the first half apart from a bit of handbags from Cahill and somebody which got both players into the book.

At half-time, the Evertons ladies team came out and a few of them tried the hit the bar contest.  No one succeeded.

The second half yielded two changes from Everton.  The out-of-sorts Pistone was substituted for Watson and Ferguson came on to replace Carsley.  Carsley was probably the pick of the midfielders in the first half but was probably extracted to accommodate the flair of Arteta and the movement of Cahill.

The second half was simply horrible to watch and was the scrappiest game Ive witnessed for some time.  Birmingham were doing their job and stopping us in midfield.  Everton didnt play particularly well but the effort and application was there. 

Two early efforts were comfortably dealt with by Taylor in goal. One an Osman drive which Ferguson got a touch to, but he comfortably plamed that one round the post; the other one was I think a Ferguson effort from the edge of the box, which was also comfortable.  Birmingham did OK and passed it around quite well, although I am struggling to think of any serious opportunities they had in the second half.

Nafti missed a similar opportunity to that of Beatties in the first half which should have been a goal really, and the only other one that comes to mind is a Heskey header which flashed wide.  Otherwise, Weir had him in his back pocked and substitute Robert Blake actually posed more of a handful than Pandamini or whatever hes called.  At the back Upson and Cunningham were about as good as any other defensive partnership Ive seen all season.

With still half-an-hour to play, Moyes had had enough and took the lumbering Beattie off for Bent, who did OK.  It really was a difficult game to play, and especially to come in to.  The referee certainly didnt help matters with constant blowing up and not letting the game flow although it would have been a difficult game to referee to be fair.  Birmingham were very crafty with their style also.

Now, if your winning away from home, you expect a bit of time wasting.  Players taking an age to leave the pitch is acceptable as I expect Everton to do this when winning away, but Birmingham were just taking the biscuit in the second half with Maik Taylor probably the worst culprit.  The referee simply failed to do anything about it until about the 75th minute and he could have put his foot down a lot sooner than that.  The very least he could have done is add the time on at the end.  Three minutes of stoppage time was a piss-take.  The crowd were getting very, very, aggravated.

Anyways you somehow (probably through blind optimism) sensed the goal would eventually come.  Everton pressed very heavily in the final ten minutes and got their rewards.  Several set pieces from Arteta had been well defended and a few half chances had come and gone; ultimately it was always going to be a scrappy one which decided this, and fittingly it was Dunc who scored it.

The goal came when Weir played Cahill through and he tried to take it round Taylor but his shot was well saved.  The ball fell back to Bent who banged it goalwards into Taylor's body and it bobvbled across goal towards Dunc who used his strength to hold off the challenge and smash it side footed into the net past a desperate defender on the line.  I think Goodison breathed one huge collective sigh of relief.

Its amazing how goals change games and Everton pressed like mad in the final four minutes.  Ultimately they could have won it at the death.  Deep into stoppage time, Osman tricked his way into the box and teed up Hibbert.  With a free shot on goal from maybe about 16 yards out, he scuffed it slightly and Taylor made a decent stop down to his right.  That was that.  Hibbert didnt do an awful lot wrong to be fair as it wasnt all that easy a chance.  Put it this way I would have backed Beattie or Bent to miss it.

Full time and a draw was fair.  Birmingham may feel hard done to being so close but we could even have won it at the end; Evertons willingness and determination got the point in a match we simply (at the time) could not afford to lose.

On the way back we heard that Palace had scored.  I just went home and crashed out.  I awoke to hear the full times: Liverpool losing and Bolton drawing have been two very good results for us.  If only wed have won today.

Overall a fair result.  Many of the players were visibly drained from Wednesday's excursions with Hibbert in particular looking a bit fatigued after what has been a very testing season indeed.

Its ours to throw away now.

Player Ratings:

  • Martyn: Dont think he can be blamed for the goal, but his distribution was pretty poor.  He had precious little else to do really. 6
  • Pistone: Just couldnt get into the game and was subbed at half time. 5
  • Weir: I think it was he who got turned for their goal but I thought he was solid as a rock after that.  Kept Everton going. 8
  • Yobo: A few erratic clearances aside, he didnt do a lot wrong. 7
  • Hibbert: Looks knackered.  Didnt cope well with the height of Heskey when the ball was played into the corner and his distribution is a continual worry.  Dont think hell get a better chance to score his first goal for a while. 6
  • Kilbane: Did well.  Attacked when he could but unfortunately a lot of his game today revolved around tracking back which he did to good effect. 7
  • Cahill: As ever, he never stopped running and used the ball well.  Would be interested to know his pass completion rate.  Reckon itll be pretty high. 7
  • Arteta: Wasnt given any space to manuvre really and so could not pull the strings as well as he did in the last two games.  Excellent set-pieces and good all round work rate though. 7
  • Carsley: A bit unfortunate to be subbed at half time but I can see why he was.  Put in a good shift in the first half. 7
  • Osman: Had a good game.  Looked lively in the first half and showed good industry in the second.  Got stuck in. 7
  • Beattie: Very poor.  Missed a sitter and ended up on his backside a lot of the time.  Did try though. 5
  • Watson: Had a good half at left back and supported Kilbane they way Pistone should have. 7
  • Ferguson: Battled and got the all important goal.  Contract talks beckon, I think... 7
  • Bent: Changed things a bit and used the ball well.  Will probably start next game. 7

Paul Traill

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EVERTON (4-5-1; 4-4-2)
  Pistone (46' Watson )
  Carsley  (46' Ferguson)
  Beattie (60' Bent)
Subs not used
  Stubbs (injured)
  Naysmith (injured)
  Fox (on Loan)
  Turner (on Loan)
  Maik Taylor
  Anderson (79' Clemence )
  Pandiani (68' Blake)
  Subs not used
  Martin Taylor
Premiership Scores
Saturday 23 Apr 2005
Everton 0-1 Birmingham
Chelsea 2-1 Fulham
Aston Villa 1-1 Bolton
Blackburn 0-0 Man City
C Palace 1-0 Liverpool
Middlesbro' 4-0 West Brom
Norwich 1-0 Charlton
Sunday 24 Apr 2005
Portsmouth 4-1 So'hampton
Man Utd 2-1 Newcastle
Monday 25 Apr 2005
Arsenal 1-0 Tottenham
Tuesday 26 Apr 2005
West Brom 1-1 Blackburn
Wednesday 27 Apr 2005
Newcastle 0-0 Middlesbro'

Premiership Table
Pos Team Pts
1 Chelsea 85
2 Arsenal 74
3 Man Utd 70
4 Everton 58
5 Liverpool 54
6 Bolton 54
7 Middlesbrough 50
8 Tottenham 48
9 Aston Villa 47
10 Man City 45
11 Charlton 45
12 Blackburn 41
13 Birmingham 39
14 Newcastle 39
15 Portsmouth 38
16 Fulham 35
17 Palace 30
18 West Brom 30
19 Norwich 30
20 Southampton 28
After 27 Apr 2005

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