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Everton hand Job winner

By Chris Kirwan
September 21 2003

The Blues put in a pathetic first half performance, and despite a second half improvement will have to reflect on a very poor loss at Middlesbrough. Apologies for the bawdy headline….

The first half performance was simply not good enough. The Blues lacked direction, and the work ethic that characterises Moyes’ team was conspicuously missing. The Everton defence continued their sloppy start to the season, and conceded an early goal to Joseph Desire-Job. The partnership between Yobo and Stubbs has been creaking, and Moyes will surely use the midweek cup tie with Stockport to take a look at both Clarke and Weir.

The performance of Gravesen summed up the Dane. We are constantly told by the media that he is an under-rated midfielder, and he showed his promise in the second half. But the first half performance of Gravesen highlighted the aspect of Gravesen that frustrate Evertonians. The game seemed to bypass Gravesen and Linderoth as they allowed the Middlesbrough midfield to grab the game. Boateng and Doriva were controlling the centre of the park, and as a result Kilbane and Watson were ineffective. Gravesen was like a Nationwide bruiser the way he was chasing after the ball in vain.

The Blues were lucky not to be two down at half time. The failure of the linesman to notice a Quedrue header crossing the line allowed the Blues to go in at half time trailing by a solitary goal. A situation their lacklustre first half showing scarcely deserved.

The second half performance was an improvement, no doubt triggered by a Moyes roasting at half time. The partnership between Naysmith and Kilbane looked promising, Gravesen perked up, Yobo and Stubbs looked more solid, and the introduction of Carsley added a back post threat. But the improvement was given a shine by the poor performance of Boro. The second half performance of Boro highlighted the fact that the Blues should have got more out of the game. Boro are a poor side, and the Blues never expoited the defensive weaknesses of McLaren’s side. Moyes realised the first half display was where the game was lost: "I thought in the second half we had done enough to get something from the game, but we were not in it in the first half, we were not good enough."

The plus points that came out of the game came in the shape of the deadline day arrivals. Nigel Martyn was assured in goal, and while he did not have a lot to do in the second half he communicated well with his defence and looked confident. McFadden came on and demanded the ball. Much like Rooney he came and picked up the ball deep and asked questions of the defence. Hopefully he will have a longer run-out against Stockport, as he looks like a player who can add some much needed guile to the Everton attack. And Kilbane improved markedly in the second half, and combined dangerously with Naysmith. He is one of the few players in the Everton squad who can take a full back on and beat him.

But these aspects will be of little consolation to Moyes, who will be angry that a lethargic first half performance has gifted a struggling side three points. Moyes reflected afterwards on the poor finishing of his side, telling "We missed a lot of chances against Liverpool, we missed a lot of chances today, so it can't continue. We'll have to try and do something about it because what happens is that you put your defenders under more pressure and if they make a mistake, then, obviously, it's more costly."

The failure to get anything out of a game which was there for the taking builds the pressure to get wins against Stockport and Leeds. Whoever plays in the games will know that a similar performance to the first 45 minutes is unacceptable. But Moyes feels if he can get his side to start as they finished they will be back on track: "If we perform as well as we did in the second half in our next few games then we've got nothing to worry about."

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