THE TUCKSTER on Saturday’s draw at Everton
Another away day in the Premier League, and this time a trip to the blue half of Merseyside.
After last week`s impressive team display and a return to the diamond formation that served us so well last season, Paul Lambert decided that no changes were necessary to the starting line-up.
Grant Holt gave such an impressive display against Newcastle that even though we were away from home, the manager clearly thought that he deserved to keep his place. I was pleased that Holty kept his starting berth but slightly concerned that the diamond may leave us a little open away from Carrow Road.
As the game kicked off it seemed that we would be up against it. Everton started impressively and with the support of a crowd that roared them on laid siege to the City goal in the first twenty minutes.
Time after time, City players put their bodies on the line as blocks were made and the tackles were tough but fair. The much maligned City back four creaked and rocked but held firm.
The obvious problem for Everton is that they don`t have an obvious goal scorer – fortunately for us. In recent seasons they have relied a lot on the goals of Tim Cahill. The Australian midfielder has been a big asset for the toffees, often playing as a striker.
An amazing stat that I heard before the game was that if he didn`t score in this game then he wouldn`t have scored a Premier League goal for a year. By Cahill`s standards this is incredible and for Everton, it`s nothing short of devastating.
Louis Saha has an injury record that no-one would want but on his day can still be a top striker. Several chances fell his way and he fluffed them all. But still it looked like a goal would be imminent, and so it proved when in the 28th minute there was indeed a goal. The shock for all in blue was that it went to the away side.
Holt received the ball with his back to goal surrounded by defenders from a Morison knock down in the six yard box. He dragged the ball back, turned and fired the ball in off the post with his left foot. An exquisite finish from a man often described as a “blunt instrument” by those who don`t see him too often other than on TV replays on Match of the day.
We all know he`s so much more than that.
City made it to half time with their lead intact and despite Everton`s best efforts they still couldn`t score as the second half got going. The pressure on City continued although Holt went close with a header and Hoolahan wasted a chance after Phil Neville slipped. But for all Everton`s huffing and puffing, it seemed as though they would never score.
The turning point of the match came in the 71st minute when Drenthe came on as a substitute. He injected a new threat with pacey direct runs at the City defence but still it seemed City might keep that elusive clean sheet.
John Ruddy continued to defy his old team mates when his back four was breached until they were finally undone with just nine minutes to go.
A long range low drive from Drenthe was heading straight for Ruddy when Leon Osman stuck out a boot and deflected the ball past the City ‘keeper – giving him no chance. It was kitchen sink time but the Canaries held out for a great away point.
The stats at the end of the game showed that Everton had fifteen shots on target to our one. Thirteen corners while we didn`t manage any. The possession stats were 58% in Everton`s favour – I guess this makes it look a little one sided and it clearly was. But, on the day football is just eleven men against eleven men and it`s this sort of away performance that will keep us in the league.
Any point away from home is a good one and never mind the stats, this point was fully deserved. After this round of matches, City are comfortably in ninth place with another away match on Tuesday night at Wolves to come. If City can avoid defeat again or even go one better then we will be well placed at Christmas.
I do think that Wolves will also provide a stern test though. They are a well organised team with some very good players. Should we play the diamond again? I`m not so sure, we could perhaps do with a bit more steel away from home.
Wes was effectively playing as a third striker at times on Saturday which left us very open. But that`s not my decision to make, the boss knows best and he`s playing a blinder so far.
Tuesday night is a big night for all the teams and Blackburn will play Bolton in the must-win match of the evening. Defeat for either team would leave them in serious trouble.
We are approaching the half-way point of the season and so far so good – it`s been a great start but we need to continue in this vein. Roy Hodgson reckons that there are twelve teams in danger of relegation and by his reckoning we`re one of them.
Paul Lambert is right when he says “It`s a good start, but that`s all it is”, keep this up though and the future will be very bright.
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