Sunday, April 15, 2007

Goodison Heartbreak

The only half of football that we 'lost' during the past nine days was probably the one in which we played the best. A cruel but brilliant late goal swiftly extinguished the euphoria that greeted Darren Bent's equally well taken equaliser, and now despite just one defeat in seven, we find ourselves firmly on the backfoot in the relegation scrap.

I witnessed their winning goal with relatively calm indifference; paradoxically perhaps, it was their first goal that hurt the most. Up until then, I genuinely sensed that we could (and perhaps) should take all three points having soaked up a lot of first-half pressure, and seen off James Beattie's aerial threat; Lescott's goal obviously extinguished that possibility. Therefore it is hard to reason with David Moyes' view that, "I think we deserved it..." because the clearest cut chances at 0-0 had clearly fallen to Darren Bent and Zheng respectively.

Each player makes hundreds of decisions during a game, and whilst inherently several are wrong ones, most of these pass without any harm being done (to the extent that they are even noticed).

Unfortunately Ben Thatcher's decision to concede a corner whilst under no pressure, and Madjid Bougherra's decision to chest down an injury-time cross instead of heading it were bad ones that had disproportionately damaging consequences. In between however, our goal came directly from a blatant foul throw-in, a fact which would surely have come up in the post-match analysis were it not for McFadden's brilliance.

Arguably Pardew's own pre-match decision to exclude Holland and Rommedahl in favour of Faye and Hughes was questionable also. Holland's second half introduction improved our performance markedly, whilst meanwhile it is unclear why the perennially ineffectual Hughes should be preferred to Rommedahl, particularly with two defensive-minded central midfielders on his inside.

The Dane is a frustration of course, but he would have offered a pacy alternative outlet to the ever-eager but lonely Darren Bent. In fairness to Hughes, he did okay in his unthreatening way, but it was all a little Curbishley-esque, and not in the good sense of the term. Just like Man City before them, we paid Everton more respect than their mediocre performance subsequently merited. I would assume that if we were facing Everton at home today, we would have seen a different team selection - surely after just a single away win in 31 attempts, a more cavalier approach might be warranted?

Bent's equaliser was our only goal genuinely from open play during the past five matches, and having watched Sheffield United and Wigan score three times over the weekend, it emphasised that our lack of punch upfront is the one key area that Pards has failed to improve. Stripping out the West Ham goals extravaganza, we have managed just 13 goals in Pardew's other 14 games.

I sensed after the Easter weekend, that our failure to take more than two points from the clean sheet foundation that our defence had given us would come back to haunt us, and so it proved. Darren Bent is an outstanding player but he can't carry the goalscoring burden alone; Zheng's miss after El Karkouri's flick from a corner was worthy of a feature on Soccer AM's 'Taxi' segment.

Having done so much to even be in a position to discuss realistic survival prospects, it is hard not to feel deflated after the past three games. Frustratingly our main relegation rivals have been stuttering along, affording us an opportunity quite frankly to put light between us and them, and we didn't take it. As a result, the pressure that now exists next Saturday is almost too much to bear, and whilst we count the hours until that encounter we must pray in the meantime for no nasty surprises in midweek.


At 10:13 PM, Blogger maskedtortilla said...

Surely Man Utd and Chelsea will do us a favour this week. Can't help but feel the 2-2 home draw to Fulham and the 2-2 away at Watford are the 4 points we are missing at this stage. However, with Fulham in freefall and West Ham and Watford perhaps already down, there's still a chance. But we absolutely have to beat Sheffield Utd this Saturday - anything less, and I feel that'll be it.

At 10:21 AM, Anonymous Oggy Red said...

After the cruel agony of the Everton match, there is only one thing we need do - ensure 3 points against Sheff Utd.

No point contemplating our naval or agonising over the permutations until the end of the season - it serves no purpose and just drains energy.

If Man Utd, beat Sheff Utd tomorrow, and we do what we must do against Sheff Utd, then Saturday evening we are once again out of the relegation zone.
And maybe above Fulham too.

It's all still to play for - and we are very much still alive!

At 12:42 PM, Anonymous Ali said...

NYA, I think you might be inadvertantly jinxing us. First you had Benty as the left hand picture at the top of the page - he got injured. Then you replaced him with Andy Reid - Benty recovered and Reid's out for the season. Now you put Pards up, and our momentum has stalled. Please, please, put a picture of Uncle Les up before it's too late.....

At 12:46 PM, Blogger New York Addick said...

Consider it done.

At 11:03 PM, Anonymous Ali said...

Ta! I know it sounds daft, but I've hit the "stupid superstitions" stage of the season.


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