Look on the bright side, at least we can’t complain that Everton dominated this one but just failed to score.
It has become extremely boring writing that story every week, so the Blues very generously offered up something a bit different this time, performing, in the words of L’Equipe, ‘like 10 pounds of shite in a five pound bag’.
In the first half at least it looked as if the outfield players had all agreed not to show Steven Naismith up. Sadly, we are sort of getting used to games passing the Scotland international by, but on this occasion he was matched by more or less the rest of the midfield as well as the strikers.
If we were to draw a parallel between the first 45 minutes at St. Mary’s and perhaps your job, imagine a Friday afternoon when all the managers have already sloped off early and you have had three pints of Stella with your lunch. Any fellow anaesthetists will understand exactly what we are talking about there.
Southampton, despite the shock of Nigel Adkins’ death – oh, really? – were quite good indeed. The Saints, with Mauricio Pochettino in charge for the first time, ably assisted by someone who looked like Mike the Cool Person from The Young Ones, did all the basics, the man-stuff, far better than the Blues. They won tackles and headers, held the ball up and made runs for each other. That gave them the – here come the ‘we know this is cliché’ marks again – ‘platform’ to rag an oddly passive Everton all over the place.
Ricky Lambert in particular, the striker who looks like Donal McIntyre’s cousin from Craggy Island, had a stack of chances but was continually denied by a thankfully inspired Tim Howard.
Everton’s only effort on target in the first half was Naismith’s snapshot straight at fat tramp Artur Boruc. The fact that the Blues hardly troubled the ropy keeper who looks like he should be lying on the his back while Jim Watt says that David Price really needs to start stepping up in class now, says all you need to know about arguably their worst 45 minutes of the season.
Everyone expected some sort of reaction from Everton after the break and five minutes in they produced their first decent move of the match. Seamus Coleman, easily the most positive player in the first half, broke down the right and hung a cross up to the far post. Fellaini’s initial header was blocked but the ball broke again for the Belgian who forced a decent save from Boruc at the near post.
Five minutes later Coleman was forced off with a thigh injury, replaced by Victor Anichebe. Phil Neville went to right-back, Fellaini dropped deeper into midfield and the whole team instantly looked better.
Anichebe has looked Everton’s most lively attacker recently and again his movement up front made a world of difference. Indeed, on the hour it looked as if his introduction might be decisive when he found space on the left and squared the ball perfectly for the inrushing Jelavic. Unfortunately for the out-of-sorts striker though, it looked as if someone had tied his bootlaces together as he miskicked horrifically.
To add to his his frustration the Croatian was replaced six minutes later by the returning Kevin Mirallas.
There’s a temptation to over-analyse players’ performances, especially strikers, when they aren’t playing well. Perhaps over-sympathise too. If Jelavic has got anything about him he just needs to do his job, work hard, and eventually he will start scoring again. You watch someone like Fernando Torres, for instance, looking like he’s living out some great Greek tragedy in his head every time he sets foot on the pitch and you just feel like saying ‘grow up, knobhead, or go and get a fucking proper job if you don’t like kicking a ball any more’.
Everton’s bright spell continued with Boruc making a good save from Anichebe and then Mirallas blasting wide after wrong-footing Maya Yoshida, but then they faded once again and the game limped to its rather unsatisfactory conclusion.
At which point Bill Kenwright received a text from ESPN that said simply: THAT’S WHY.