Thursday 22 March 2018

Everton defy constraints to claim points

Tim Rich

In the award-laden appreciation of Brian Clough, Provided You Don't Kiss Me, it was observed that in the trophyless years of the mid-1980s, the Nottingham Forest manager did something that carried almost the same degree of difficulty as winning two European Cups -- "He balanced the books."

This is something David Moyes has been attempting to do at Everton for as long as he cares to remember and the strain is beginning to show. It says something for the age of austerity which has gripped Goodison Park that for the second successive Saturday they began without a recognised striker. It says something for the fight and grit that has always accompanied Moyes' sides that those matches have produced four points and five goals.

There were two strikers available to the Everton manager. One was Louis Saha, whom he decided not to include at all. This being 2011, Saha took to Twitter. "I am not good enough," he tweeted. "Destroyed. It is because I have confidence in my ability that I am gutted." Moyes does not do Twitter but replied via a host of journalists' tape recorders. "Good," he said. "I want them upset if they are not involved."

The other was the less well known Apostolos Vellios, who effectively won the game with a muscular header a few minutes from the scheduled finish. When there were protests at the lack of spending under the chairman, Bill Kenwright, someone baked a cake to mark the second anniversary of the last time Everton had paid a transfer fee.

But this was not strictly true. The club had paid Iraklis Thessaloniki around £250,000 for the Greece under 21 international and with one header it was probably repaid in full. Wigan, who had taken the lead through a deflected drive from Franco di Santo, almost equalised immediately afterwards.

But they conceded again when another of Moyes' bargain boys, the on-loan Real Madrid winger, Royston Drenthe, burst through to give the scoreline a rather undeserved sheen.

More importantly, Roberto Martinez, who was already without three first-choice defenders, saw his centre-forward, Hugo Rodallega, stretchered off with a suspected medial ligament knee injury. The Wigan manager did not need to be told there is no worse time to lose a major player from a squad as thin as his than in mid-September, four months before a replacement can be drafted in.

There was little triumphalism in Moyes's assessment of the afternoon. "Am I pleased? If you judge them on goals, it was great. If you judge them on performance, then no."

Whatever their lack of specialist forwards, Everton at least responded well to Di Santo's opener. Tim Cahill, whose ability in the air marks him out as a formidable makeshift striker, thundered Leighton Baines' corner against the crossbar and Phil Jagielka headed home the rebound, perhaps grateful he had turned down a starring role in the big money disaster movie that is Arsenal.


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