Frightnight – Everton report

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Latics 1-1 Everton
Tuesday 1st February 2006

What, for much of the 90 minutes, looked like to be a game to forget exploded into 10 minutes of controversy, red cards and confusion. Ok, you’re right, I’m taking a bit of Journalistic license there. The game had little to recommend it, and anyone who was surprised by the events following the introduction of Duncan Ferguson is either an optimist of the highest order, or should be checking the ‘improve your memory’ adverts in next Sunday’s papers.

I’ve promised myself that I’ll try to stop going on about our current lack of form so I’ll try and concentrate on the game. Everton got off to a bright start closing down the midfield and despite the lack of a recognised striker looked dangerous going forward. It didn’t take them long to benefit from their dominance.

A clever ball into the box from Arteta, the sort of ball that we so often struggle to play, resulted in a shot from Cahill that deflected off a defender across the face of goal. David Thompson, one of few who’d looked up for it at this stage, was chasing back to clear but pressure from Osman ensured that he could only find the back of the net.

Shortly after more good play, this time down the right from McFadden, ended up with a shot that Pollitt could only parry into the path of Cahill, who fortunately had been in an offside position for the first effort on goal. The disallowed goal was a close call and just about the first thing the ref had given us all night in what was going to be a frustrating performance by him and his assistants.

They leveled things off soon after with Roberts having a goal ruled out, again for offside, again close and again correct. At that stage it was hard to be disappointed, we hadn’t put enough into the game to get anything out. Things were to improve a little as half time approached but when Chimbonda’s header was converted with a fine finish from Scharner the feeling was more that we’d got away with a bad performance than one of any justification.

Thompson didn’t make it out after the break having paid for his early enthusiasm with a knee injury. His battle with the Everton right back, Hibbert, had been niggley from the outset. A word said here, a foot left in there and then a full blooded 50/50 and straight away you knew there was a problem. He’d struggled through the last 20 minutes or so of the half, but was increasingly off the pace. Hopefully he’s just jarred it, but with the knee problems he’s had you have to be concerned.

The second half couldn’t be as bad, but it still wasn’t great. An almost exact reverse of the first half, as Latics dominated proceedings with Everton struggling to make an impact. However whereas Everton used their dominance to produce some neat attacking play Latics didn’t look like they could produce the goods.

We could have easily won the game, but failed to take advantage of the numerous half chances and set pieces we were presented with. Notable amongst these were De Zeuuw’s header just past the corner of post and bar and the goalmouth scramble that provided Jimmy with his latest opportunity to court the Soccer AM cult status he’s attaining.
Seeing him vault over a pile of players was funny, and certainly one of the bright spots of the evening, but you have to wonder. Did he do it to make us laugh or to get on TV? Does he want to be a character to his own fans or the next Lee Trundle? Think carefully Jim.

Having said that Everton were struggling, you should all know what follows. Enter stage left their version of the Equaliser, the man for all occasions (as long as a bit of thuggery is required), Duncan Ferguson. His short performance was so ‘typical’ that you could be excused for thinking it was a Mike Yarwood skit of the man. His sum involvement in the game being, causing a nuisance to defenders by being big and ugly, manhandling our full back into the hoardings, deliberately elbowing a defender at a corner and then whacking him in the gut when he had the audacity to complain.

Seven minutes on the pitch and a red card that even Robbie Savage wouldn’t dream of appealing against.
That and the kafuffle that followed got everyone’s blood up, McFadden ended up in the book for a challenge that extracted an angry reaction from DeZeuuw and the niggles that we’d seen earlier threatened to boil up into something more. Everyone decided to give a rest a few minutes later though with the decision that effectively ended the game as a contest (or at least one we were going to win).

Eyes on the ball, Roberts raised his arms in a way that only he knows whether it was intended to mark his space or something more sinister. Either way, Weir ended up on the floor and the referee saw red.

For what it’s worth, I think the defender was looking for something (he’d spent a lot of time on the floor after a soft challenge in the first half) but in the context of the game, Roberts was at best naïve to get caught out. A three game ban is a lot to pay for a lack of foresight, especially when there’s such big games coming up, and I mean Bolton and Liverpool not the cup final.

That was pretty much that, but it would be remiss of me to go without mentioning the Everton fans. Remember this was a team that was lauded before our visit to Goodison as a proper club, with a proper ground and proper fans. I’ve no objection to away fans sitting in our stand, as long as they play the game and keep it relatively low key. In fact it’s sometimes good to have a bit of craic during the game as well as before and after, but announcing your presence is so 1980s (unless you’re from Stoke) it’s untrue.

There were a couple near us who quickly realized they’d made a mistake jumping up after the goal and were reminded of it for the rest of the game. Elsewhere I believe they were a little more brazen and the conflict more heated and as you can guess, the stewards weren’t quite sure how to handle it. It may be unlikely that Liverpool or United fans would be quite so obvious but there’d better be a bit more forethought on what will happen if they’re not. Come on, when it’s going off in the family stand, you know you’ve got problems.

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