By Andy Munro.
It may have been a 2-1 reverse but it wasn’t a bad result against a Toffees side far stronger on paper than the Carling Cup Blues, never mind the current Blues set up. In fact if Blues had taken their chances, they could have been out of sight before Everton scored direct from a freekick. At least, under Chris Hughton, they were making chances with some excellent football and I would hope that once they have the missing forwards back – or at least a couple of new forwards – those chances won’t go begging.
Apparently there was a pre-match demo against Carsson that I missed but the fairly small crowd was, in fact, noisy and good natured despite two factions of the Tilton competing with the verse “We hate Carsson more than you.” It was definitely a positive vibe with Blues fans returning to a Millwall-type siege mentality, dark humour abounding.
Blues started with one up front, I would think, mainly due to the paucity of forwards available but they played some excellent football and undoubtedly the Everton back four were the busier. How refreshing it was to see wing play where both wingers actually wanted (and had the pace and skill) to beat opposition defenders, something Larsson even in his pomp couldn’t manage.
In the centre, Fahy, Mutch and Gomis gave as good as they got, the latter showing a Palacios-type enforcer mentality. At the back, both Caldwell and Curtis Davies were excellent in the air and, at the risk of being accused of sour grapes, as good as, if not better than, Johnson and Dann. Carr was superb as usual, finding time to eat up the ground to overlap and even Murphy looked useful. However, this left Rooney up front alone and I think even Wayne might have got disillusioned because the ball was frequently moved quickly through the wide areas and sent across but, apart from Rooney, the midfielders were too far behind to add a threat in the penalty area.
Blues were generally on top in the second half but Everton showed clinical Premiership qualities when they scored direct from a free kick which gave Myhill no chance and then Louis Saha was allowed too much room to score a bit of a soft goal which must go down as the keeper’s mistake – that’s a shame because he generally acquitted himself very well and showed far less fear than Foster in kicking situations.
Blues pulled one back thanks to the dazzling skills of Redmond and the goalscoring awareness of a Rooney before Aseinte came on for the last few minutes although, to be fair, he looked a bit raw. Overall this was a very encouraging performance with, to be frank, more entertaining football in ninety minutes than the whole of last season. All the players that have left (defence and midfield) were not, to be honest, missed apart from maybe Gardner’s box to box ability. Where we lacked was up front which is no disrespect to Rooney, who has probably yet to gain the full awareness to be a successful lone forward.
If we can get some more depth and numbers in, I remain fairly optimistic and perhaps my only criticism was Chris H’s decision to not really use his subs unless you count a five minute appearance by the young centre forward. Let’s hope the still-talented Michel remains patient.