Pete Sixsmith who, as ever, was part of the noisy invasion of Merseyside, enjoyed a pre-match pint or three, has praise for our keeper and the referee and calls for the signing of a diminutive Glaswegian crossdresser to improve our prospects of scoring from dead ball situations …
A good day at Goodison.
We don’t have many of those, but yesterday was one of them. It was a good ‘un from start to finish. We left home when it was light, supped three pints of Cain’s Bitter pre match, got a hard fought draw and got home when it was light. In my book, that constitutes a good day out.
It wasn’t a bad game, although I am sure some of the more refined media pundits would disagree. Two teams, separated on goal difference, with a league season going nowhere and a chance of a first trophy for one manager in his first season and a first trophy after 10 relatively successful years for the other. You are not going to get an artistic game like Brazil v Hungary 1966 or Everton v Sunderland 1985, with free flowing football and wonderful goals.
Instead, we got a wholehearted cup tie, well refereed and played in front of a passionate and partisan crowd. Both sides could claim that they dominated certain stages, both sides had chances to win it (Everton probably more than we had) and at the end both sides knew that they had been in a scrap.
There is little between them, although I think that we are a more controlled side who play more football. We always looked to play it to feet and we have outlets in McClean and Larsson which allows us to squeeze the opposition.
Everton, meanwhile, have a tendency to move the ball quickly upfield and put pressure on central defenders. It can work, but when you have a resolute pair like O’Shea and Turner at the heart of the defence, it begins to look like lumping the ball a la Wimbledon.
We started well and the goal was a good one from our point of view and a sticky one from that of the Toffees. Their defence was guilty of paying absolutely no attention as the impressive and calm Jack Colback slipped it to Phil Bardsley, who moved forward and hit a low shot past the heavily camouflaged Tim Howard.
We needed to hold that lead until half time, but they scored a decent equaliser, when the impressive Jelavic beat Turner to a header and, as bloody usual, Tim Bloody Cahill was on hand to divert it over the line.
That lifted the Everton fans for a while and the Park End in particular were convinced that it is against the laws of football to tackle a Toffee as they howled for a free kick/sending off/ritual disembowelling whenever there was contact between a Sunderland player and an Everton one.
Andre Marriner (not wildly popular with Sunderland fans) allowed the game to flow and did well, although I feel that those of a blue persuasion may disagree with me. It’s all about opinions, as the man with the wooden leg said.
The second half saw us limited to breakaways, while Everton became more frantic and did resort to lumping the ball up front. They had one good chance, when that man Jelavic, no doubt pleased to exchange the frugalities of Ibrox for the relative generosity of Goodison, followed up Heitinga’s shot, only to be thwarted by yet another excellent piece of goalkeeping from Simon Mignolet. His initial save from Heitinga was very good, the second one was brilliant and shows how fit he is as he sprung up from a prone position to foil the Bosnian born Croat. He really is becoming an impressive keeper and could be our No 1 for the rest of eternity if he maintains this form.
In midfield, we worked hard, but we lacked the spark that Sessegnon and Cattermole give us and their return for the replay is eagerly awaited. Everton fans moaning at Jacko on BBC Merseyside clearly assumed that Sess was some super hero who would beat them single handed – and they may well be right at that.
They are a demonstrably decent side and the replay will not be straightforward, but I hope that we saw them at their best on Saturday. Their midfield lacked inventiveness, with Coleman having a poor game and Osman getting nowhere near the penalty area to trip himself up.
R R Drenthe is an interesting one. He reminds me of the clockwork mouse so beloved by the writers of children’s fiction in the pre and immediate post war days. William Brown would set one off and it would run around in circles, frightening those of a nervous disposition, before it ran out of steam. That’s Drenthe.
Everton staff and fans claimed a penalty when Gardner tackled him (I’ve seen them given), and Steve Round, David Moyes’s assistant, said that Drenthe goes down easily because he is so small. Interesting one, that. Maybe we could sign Jimmy Clitheroe and Wee Jimmy Krankie in the hope that we can get loads and loads of pennas and free kicks – although I gather Jimmy C is rather immobile these days.
We now have a busy week. Blackburn on Tuesday in a vital game for Rovers and then, on the Saturday, QPR with three old boys returning. After that, we can but hope that the Toffees become unstuck in the replay.
The support on Saturday was outstanding. Can there be many better feelings than being one of 6,500 (or was it it 5,800 – ed?) in a proper old-fashioned football ground, roaring your team on? To add to the pleasure of the day, we found the Leigh Arms, and fell in through the front door as the bar staff arrived. Great atmosphere and a safe pub.
Liverpool in the semi-final if we get through. Blow up the beach balls lads and lasses.
And of course, the whole thing doesn’t matter one bit in the light of the sad news about Fabrice Muamba. Here’s hoping that he makes a full recovery. Our thoughts are with him and his family.
STOP PRESS: Hetton Lyons beat Oyster Martyrs 2-1 in the semi-final, so it is Co. Durham 2 Merseyside 1 at the moment. I will ignore Liverpool’s win at The Academy on Saturday morning.