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COLUMNIST PAUL TRAILL

It's Cruel at the Bottom

By Paul Traill :  02/03/2009 :  Comments (0) :

Match Report: Everton vs West Bromwich Albion

The early kick offs always makes it a bit of a catastrophe in terms of getting to the game, meeting up etc. It was made a bit more complicated by me having a bloody busy day so I was out and about from early on. Gary’s a postie and so had to rampage through his round just to make it in time and Ste, well Ste likes his sleep so the early kick off was an inconvenience to him also. Despite all this we did manage to congregate in the pub at 12.15pm-ish for a few cheeky scoops before the game. I’d heard the team news on the radio and was rather shocked to hear Lescott had been dropped for this one with the only reasoning I could offer being that being one booking away from a suspension if he played, he’d miss next weekends FA Cup Quarter Final with Middlesbrough should he have received a yellow card. Hibbert replaced him at right back with Yobo continuing at centre. Elsewhere obviously we knew the unfortunate Arteta and savaged Anichabe were unavailable and were replaced with good quality in the form of Fellaini and Pienaar, whilst Rodwell was also missing, presumably injured as he wasn’t on the bench. Cahill, back from suspension, was in for him.

Everton lost the toss again and had to swap ends before the game. The match official Steve Bennett got the game underway and West Brom certainly started the more positive side, taking the game to Everton from the off. You felt Everton generally had them at arms length but it wasn’t exactly comfortable for us. Mostly led by Stephen Pienaar we found our way into the game before long though and actually had the ball in the net through Cahill who smashed home a volley though the whistle had long since gone for a push by the Aussie I think.

Cahill had another good opportunity shortly afterwards when he failed to connect with a half volley when the ball bounced to him, I think from a corner. Whilst we were now more in the game, it didn’t mean West Brom were out of it, and their noisy fans were almost up on their feet celebrating when they though Morrison had scored. It must’ve looked in from their angle but he screwed into the side-netting. When you’re down the bottom you’ve gotta take your chances. When you’re down the bottom you’ve got to mark up at set pieces and West Brom were made to pay big time when Cahill was astonishingly left completely unmarked to head home from a wicked Leighton Baines free kick delivery.

That was enough to lead us into the break a goal to the good but you felt we’d have to improve for the second period to make sure of victory in this one.

Improve we didn’t but win we did. We were under a lot of pressure for long periods of the game and West Brom will go away wondering quite how they didn’t at least score. They actually may well have done when I think substitute Luke Moore headed from close range. I was pretty close to it and felt the ball may just have crossed the line before a combination of Jagielka and Howard just about cleared their lines. The West Brom players certainly appealed long and hard but Bennett said no. I’ll be interested to see that later on Match of the Day.

Again this demonstrated the cruel Premier League world we live in as down at the other end substitute Louis Saha turned his defender beautifully before smashing a peach of a shot beyond the despairing drive of Scott Carson and into the corner of the net. Get in there! The place erupted more with relief than anything else I think and the game was safe you felt.

My mind began to wander towards a bet I’d made at William Hill prior to the game. I asked the bookie if it was possible to bet on Everton winning 2-1, Cahill with both goals. He said that couldn’t be done but I could bet on Cahill first goal and Cahill last goal with the score at 2-1. I did that and got a generous 28-1 both ways and put £2 on each possibility. Imagine then my exasperation when West Brom laid siege upon our goal in the final 10 minutes only to be denied by woeful finishing, a ball bouncing down off the underside of the bar and out from a long range Luke Moore strike, and decent last ditch defending perhaps by substitute Castillo more than most.

I really have to stop making these silly bets.

Player Ratings:

Howard: Made a decent save in either half but otherwise, despite plenty of chances for West Brom, was rather under-worked. 7
Baines: Had a very productive game both defensively and offensively. Links up fantastically well with Pienaar. Wonderful ball for the first goal. 9
Yobo: I thought he had a bit of a shocker last weekend so was surprised to see him stay in the team at the expense of Lescott. However he responded brilliantly and was one of our better players today I thought. 8
Jagielka: Solid as always. 7
Hibbert: was doing fine until coming off injured. I hope that ain’t a serious one but it didn’t look it. 7
Neville: Fine both in the midfield and at right back. 6
Pienaar: Awesome. Was our heartbeat today. Unlucky not to get on the scoresheet as well. All our positive play came through him. My man of the match. 9
Gosling: Had a good game. He’s getting into the workload rhythm, is very composed on the ball and is getting up well to win headers also. Looks like he’ll be a player of real quality if given the right protection and time to develop. 8
Fellaini: My only criticism of the referee today would be for his victimisation booking for Fellaini. This is getting ridiculous now. As for Fellaini, he took a while to get into the game but was well into the grove just when he got substituted. 6
Cahill: Worked hard as always. Nice (though fairly straightforward) header for his goal and worked well with Jo. All in all a good days work for Tim. 7
Jo: Did OK. His first touch could do with improving but I can’t help but think he’d struggle terribly against a good defence. 6

Substitutes:
Osman (for Hibbert): The midfield improved a notch once he came on. Showed some delightful touches of the ball and I think we’re a much better team for having him in there. 7
Saha (for Fellaini): Superb. Scored a splendid goal and put himself about well. If ONLY he could stay fit. 8
Castillo (for Jo): A few loose passes aside he did well in the holding role. As contradictory as it sounds, I think he should be given more responsibility with the ball as I think he’s got it in him to pass it about a bit. 6

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