COLUMNIST KEN BUCKLEY
Blues win battle of the draw kings
A lovely sunny evening and almost 34,000 descend on Goodison to watch the two teams at the very top of this season's draw table so a good bet at the bookies for a stalemate. This overlooks the fact that we always beat Fulham at home and so, as it panned out, history won over stats.
This was not a game that set the pulses racing but, nevertheless, a game that was important for maximum points, considering the tightness from top to bottom of this season?s league. It turned out the sort of game that produced workmanlike performances rather than any joined-up flowing stuff and determination was the order of the day rather than flair.
Everton were the dominant side of the first half and, from the off, Baines was a constant threat down the left and Osman flitting about with menace in those quick feet. The returning Neville organised well and Hibbert, Distin and Jags looked solid. Cahill also returned but, apart from being good in the air, looked the worse for his heroics for his country in a tournament that took him away from the battles that have made him very rich and have now left him looking weary.
Not a lot took place in the half except for some promising runs that eventually came to nought. Plus points were Osman curling one over and Baines dragging one wide. Saha had a run on goal that looked promising but the giant Hangeland tackled well. We sort of looked threatening without actually threatening then Baines delivered a good corner which Saha met and headed into the deck toward goal but a well positioned defender headed clear from the line. Again Baines got down the line and put in a great cross for Rodwell to produce a header that was a mere back-pass to the keeper.
With ten to go until the break, we at last got some quality flowing when Baines again got free down the left, fed Osman who with deft touches left his markers and put in a peach of a cross to the far post that was met by the industrious Coleman who this time steadied himself and found the corner of the net rather than straight at the keeper. I couldn?t say the roof came off but a loud cheer of relief was heard.
Our tails were up and Coleman went on a run of purpose but was felled on the edge and the free kick from Baines struck the wall. Right at the end of injury time, Fulham had their first glimpse of the half when, after good work by old boy AJ, Dempsey was narrowly wide.
Half-time and all seemed satisfied but the first team should have witnessed the under nines who got an accolade for keeping clean sheets. Progress in the making?
I expected Fulham to start the second period all guns blazing but it was the Blues who started sharper and, within five mins, the underperforming Rodwell was brought down in clumsy fashion near the edge of the box. Baines and Saha were over the ball in conversation, Baines rolled it to Saha who shot with his wrong foot hard and low, the ball went through the wall and past the unsighted keeper in a flash. Much celebration between players and the crowd burst into life.
The half then saw us go into a defensive shell, inviting Fulham on and relying on breaks to do more damage. It became fast and furious at times but craft and guile were absent. We blocked shots and scrambled for second balls with a sort of 'we have what we hold' attitude. Coleman was set free and he ran on goal at pace but his shot was straight at the keeper from distance.
On the hour mark, Zamora was sent on and this move paid instant dividends when his quick turn fed Duff who immediately played in Dempsey who rifled into the bottom corner. Stony silence met that one as Fulham don?t seem to do away fans. Many a Blue mused ?here we go again? as our scrambling defence creaked a little more but we persisted with trying to create breaks using in the main the pace of Coleman. One of these produced a corner expertly taken by Osman and met by Jags and, but for a goal-line clearance by a well positioned defender on the far post, it would have been game over.
At the death, which included 5 mins of injury time, we had goal chances for each team and an unwanted injury. First Zamora had a headed chance wasted then Saha landed heavily from an aerial dual that saw the need of a stretcher to take him off. A break saw Beckford, on for Saha, head for goal from the left and Osman busting a gut to get in a great position in the box. Beckford was either greedy or just plain head down and didn?t see the bigger picture and ended up shooting to no avail. We saw out the remaining minutes without incident and, on the whistle, most greeted the win with polite applause and a feeling of ?A win is a win?
MotM ? A hard call as no-one really stood out but I would share it between Baines and Osman purely on the grounds that they showed the most class.
Overall nothing more than three points gained but those points got us to the 40-mark and the crowd able to witness a win. Maybe a glimmer of hope toward Europa qualification? With the league and our team as it is this season, anything can happen but today I think at least we put relegation to bed... so onward and upward. Today, I thought it was a game too soon for Cahill, while Rodwell failed to live up to his high price tags... was he preoccupied with the sight of a female assistant ref? She demonstrated that she knew the offside rule well and was admirable but seemed less sure of what constituted a foul.
On leaving the ground, an amusing interlude took place outside the ticket office with a knot of well bladdered fans chanting in unison. Was it a protest? No-one could understand them and the gathering was brought to an end when a fan shouted toward them and requested in strong scouse Anglo-Saxon that they should indeed return to Norway.
Villa next and another win would be welcome but we have to wait a fortnight
for that as it's international break next week. I hope all our players involved
come back with a clean bill of health and free from tap-ups. See you there.
UP THE BLUES
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1 Posted 20/03/2011 at 11:22:31
For me he should have been in the middle instead of Rodwell, who seemed to get bypassed for a lot of the game. I can see why Moyes played him however, keep him sweet. I'd be seriously considering £25M...
I got very frustrated after Fulham scored though. Wrong substitutions and sitting back when we needed to relieve pressure had me shouting again. It was so obvious.
Bily needs to go. I've got loads of time for him and he's got plenty of skill but at present he's just a passenger and we can't afford any of those.
Looks like Moyes will be forced to play Baxter and Gueye a bit more, given Saha's glass ankle. The lumbering She-Hulk of Victor is much more likely though... and pout... and sulk... slap that ground, girlfriend!
2 Posted 20/03/2011 at 11:43:05
Took his goal well, which shows he's got a cool head when given half a second.
3 Posted 20/03/2011 at 13:06:44
4 Posted 20/03/2011 at 14:52:26
Is it really that difficult to come up with your own views and opinions?
5 Posted 20/03/2011 at 22:28:56
6 Posted 21/03/2011 at 08:48:32
7 Posted 21/03/2011 at 08:54:17
8 Posted 21/03/2011 at 10:20:45
9 Posted 23/03/2011 at 04:38:23
Amusing to see the female linesman update in there - i forgot about her after initially noticing it, so she must've done okay - bless!
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