COLUMNIST KEN BUCKLEY
Another three points that give us the faintest of chances to join the Euro train from a game that at times resembled a training match with the exciting bits being reserved for the start and finish of the second half — albeit excitement in the scoring of two home goals to give us the points that paled into insignificance regarding the rumours sweeping Goodison regarding a investor/buyout of the club that meets the Chairman’s right and proper person criteria... plus the insignificant one regarding Gerrard, his missus, a 15-year-old girl, and a Derby County player. Just as well these rumours were circulating as it masked a day out in brilliant sunshine interrupted by the outbreak of a truly unmemorable game.
Fulham made nine changes and understandably so in light of their progression in Europe and a look at our bench made me realize just how far we are behind Fulham in the squad size stakes that makes so much difference in a successful season on the important fronts.(Fulham?).
The Blues started brightly and no sooner had the game started Cahill had a shot smothered smartly by Schwarzer, a pity it didn’t go in as it was Cahill’s 200th appearance for us. Just two minutes later Bilyaletdinov smashed one against the post with keeper beaten after a superb Hibbert run and cross.
The half continued with the Blues in control and it seemed a matter of time before we punctured the Fulham reserves who were no more than getting bodies behind the ball and defending well as time after time we saw good approach play particularly down the right with Hibbert contributing well only for a lack-lustre final third approach to be our downfall. We passed when we should have shot and shot when we should have passed.
Our effort in that final third was abysmal and the crowd were getting ever restless. Surely a goal would come and it did on the 36th minute mark when a cute passing movement at the back saw Baines put in a pass, without thought or looking, toward Howard that merely fed Nevland who gleefully and adroitly chipped over Howard leaving the hapless Baines with his head in his hands and a wag near me to yell ‘Baines for England’ — the irony being he was a Scotsman.
This really deflated both players and fans and in the period to half-time we were lucky not to go further behind when a chip into the box saw Dempsey sky over with only Howard to beat. Arteta was felled and left the field for what looked like a stitching job.
Half-time, and the chat was not so much of what changes the manager might make but more of an acceptance that, no matter the outcome, the season was just being played out and the hope both rumours were true. (How sad...)
The manager did make a change for the second half, introducing Big Vic for Bilyaletdinov — a move I applauded as I am still bewildered as to what exactly the Russian brings to the team or indeed what his role is.
Big Vic isn’t the most accomplished of players but he has a strength and willingness to run at people and, after just four minutes of the second half starting, he found himself in the box as Arteta jinked one in which the Yak had an extravagant bicycle kick at that almost beheaded Big Vic as he headed into goal despite desperate efforts from Schwarzer.
Cahill had a power shot parried by the keeper as we dominated. On the hour mark, a great shout from both players and fans for a penalty when Big Vic crossed and it was handled by Shorey but the Ref Mr Mason was as indulgent has he had been about any contentious decision all match.
Hibbert once again got forward down the right and his flashed cross hit a defender and whistled just wide of the post. Neville then came off (must have had a knock) and Saha came on and within minutes missed a sitter when he headed over off a defender when very well placed.
We then almost paid a heavy price as, from our attack, Fulham broke quickly and the nippy Nevland put in Okaka with only Howard to beat but fortunately produced no more than a back-pass to the keeper. A big let off.
Ten minutes from the end, another move involving the impressive Hibbert saw Cahill blast one from close range that Schwarzer somehow parried away, it really was point blank range. With time running out Arteta tried his luck but only produced a routine gather from the keeper.
With the board showing 4 mins of injury time, many were leaving the ground but the Blues kept attacking and yet another move down the right saw a ball into the box in the very last minute, Cahill burst forward and seemed to be bundled to the ground, the Ref didn’t bottle this one as it seemed so blatant and immediately pointed to the spot. Up stepped Arteta, sent the keeper the wrong way and hey-ho three points.
The Ref blew his whistle for the restart then immediately blew again for time up – it was that close.
Overall, not a game to write home about but we did play the joined-up stuff up to that 18-yd box then it was less than convincing as we just don’t seem to have that all important urgency and nous where it matters. With proven strikers like Yak and Saha, it is a bit disappointing to be looking to Cahill to nip in all the time.
MotM was difficult today as variously quite a few shone then faded throughout the game so I give mine to Hibbert, who I thought played his position better over 98 mins than anyone else played theirs.
Stoke next and the away end is once again sold out so I hope the players hang on to just the faintest hope of securing the European entry slot of 7th and give us a performance to match. It’s improbable but not impossible in footy world and what an end to the season usurping our city cousins would be.
With prayer beads in hand, I dream...
UP THE BLUES
Note: the following content is not moderated or vetted by the site owners at the time of submission. Comments are the responsibility of the poster. Disclaimer
1 Posted 26/04/2010 at 01:37:55
2 Posted 26/04/2010 at 04:36:23
3 Posted 26/04/2010 at 08:00:51
4 Posted 26/04/2010 at 09:46:58
I don`t buy into the belief that Bily will improve after the summer break — Donovan had also played without break for a year when he joined us — but it may well be that the Ruski is on his way home if the jungle drums are right.
All our strikers fall short when it matters and Saha's recent form is a gross disappointment. The comfort of a premature long-term contract has obviously gone to his head and we can expect the `niggling injuries` to return as time goes on.
On current form, Hibbert is streets better than Neville but will no doubt find himself back on the bench come August -— and it most certainly won't be as cover for Coleman, as so many would hope.
Verdict on the season: Another lost opportunity to break into the big-time although the first-half injury list provides a ready but genuine excuse.
5 Posted 26/04/2010 at 10:58:12
Just on a side note that I have noticed again on Sunday MotD, we don't even get highlights shown or post match comments/analysis?? If you look at the rest of the games this happens, very frustrating from here. We are probably one of the best in-form sides of 2010 and yet they can't even spare us some positive viewing or comments.
Will we ever be noted or appreciated by the media? What do other people think?
6 Posted 26/04/2010 at 11:26:11
7 Posted 26/04/2010 at 11:22:44
Great report Ken, though I have to disagree with your paragraph 2 – we were without 3 or 4 first team players and had a decent enough bench, and I thought we had moved on from some of the players Fulham had in their team.
In short, I'm much happier with our squad than theirs thanks.
8 Posted 26/04/2010 at 11:46:45
9 Posted 26/04/2010 at 13:00:07
l looked in the Radio Times to see if we were the commentary, saw Chelsea and Liverpool were playing... enough said!
As for us getting into Europe if the RS win it! Reminds me of a joke about mixed feelings, your mother-in-law driving your new Jag over a cliff!!
10 Posted 26/04/2010 at 13:16:00
11 Posted 26/04/2010 at 14:42:09
My MOM would have been Hibbert also, very solid and put in a number of very good crosses. But as ever all our good stuff is dictated by the spanish magican, how this season could have been different if he had of been fit!
12 Posted 26/04/2010 at 16:37:43
I notice both TW match reports give him MOTM.
Tony has his limitations but he undoubtedly has his strengths too, that makes 6 points out of 6 since he came back, dont bet against that becoming 12 out of 12.
13 Posted 26/04/2010 at 18:43:24
Add Your Comments
In order to post a comment to Column articles, you need to be logged in as a registered user of the site.
Or Sign up as a ToffeeWeb Member — it's free, takes just a few minutes and will allow you to post your comments on articles and MailBag submissions across the site.