Reality check at Loftus as Everton disappoint
It’s been a strange feature of Moyesy’s reign recently that more selection options don’t always seem to help. It’s to his immense credit that when we are down to bare bones the team seem to thrive. But on Saturday, with a few players coming back and a strong bench, we didn’t offer enough.
The first question to be answered was who would replace Gibson? We all knew deep down that the option of Osman would be overlooked in favour of the more pragmatic choice of Neville.
Neville’s limited passing ability is one issue but the main impact is on Fellaini. He seems pretty comfortable next to Gibson and is given his best platform from which to ‘boss’ the game. It doesn’t work as well with Captain Phil in there.
Also, Neville in midfield means Hibbert back in the side and our ball playing ability reduced further. An increasingly exasperated (and inebriated) blues support was ‘treated’ to the spectacle of ‘a triangle of right backs’ trying to unpick the home defence once Seamus came on.
But that was at the end, back to the start.
First of all, and it’s been a while since we’ve visited, Loftus Road is like, really small. Sort of quaint but not really, just small. It’s pretty hard to fathom the motivation of a player like Barton leaving Newcastle, playing in front of fifty thousand at the Cockney Mafia Arena, to come to this. Or maybe the reduced scrutiny helps. Or perhaps it was a wheelbarrow full of cash. Yeah, probably that.
Also, the pitch is tight and in relatively poor condition, probably due to rugby (?), so it made for a scruffy old game really. The were some severe outbreaks (pandemics) of players giving the ball away with alarming regularity.
And it all started so well……..
The Blues were pretty bright for the first half hour, attacking the away end and soon a Cahill shot thwacked the bar. Shortly after, Johnny Heitinga had a good chance to score but couldn’t react quickly enough.
With Everton in the ascendancy (for the last time in the game) the goal came. Felliani, who oozes class at times, serenely stole the ball, strolled forward and knocked it to Royston, who did the rest. Multi-flawed is Drenthe really, but it is great to have a midfielder who can shoot from distance. And it’s been a while.
The man they don’t really call Royston Ricky went straight over to his manager, for an understated low five. Moyesy doesn’t really strike you as the hugging type, a Glasgae kiss is probably more his style.
One of RRD’s aforementioned flaws is giving away free-kicks. And after joyous Blues had dusted down an Ian Marshall’s Matters fave ‘Never felt more like singin the blues’, the R’s were level. Dangerous position and forced in by one time EFC transfer target Bobby Zamora.
Seems aeons ago that Walter Smith was ‘running the rule’ (or maybe Archie’s baseball bat) over the young Zamora. Didn’t he miss a pen for Brighton when he was being watched by Walt? Mr Dignity presumably didn’t think he could make the step up. Turns out he probably has.
The obligatory ‘Pigbag’ followed the goal. Ace.
Also, around this time there was a weird presence on the pitch. A strikingly-haired imposter, getting far more attention than he deserved and causing mirth and adoration when he should just have been completely ignored.
Enough about Joey Barton, there was a squirrel too.
Just before half-time, there was a mad sequence when it looked like QPR had hit the post twice. A very lucky escape.
The second half was hugely frustrating really. Rangers seemed to really fancy it and despite some nice contributions from Pienaar, nothing really came from the Blues.
A word on our two centre forward options now. And we did have two on the pitch at the same time – and it didn’t really work again.
Denis’ cult status is assured after the Chelsea and City games. On Saturday he barely touched the ball. His workrate is legendary but when trying to beat a bottom six team away from home, that’s not going to be enough.
We also saw a bit more of Jelavic. Initial signs are ok, his workrate looks decent (more Denis than Louis) and he’s a big lad with a decent touch. There was one moment late on yesterday when it looked like he may unleash a shot from the edge of the box, only to try (unsuccessfully) to slot a team mate. Hopefully he will show us a lot more – he’s clearly an intelligent footballer, as he chose to ditch Rangers just before the wonga stopped.
You’d expect us to revert to one up front against Spurs, so it has to be the Croatian’s first start.
Turns out that yesterday was a bit of a wake-up call for fans expecting us to sweep aside all-comers. This month will sort our season, no question.
The good news is that we have players coming back and we’ve shown in recent weeks that we’re well equipped to deal with teams above us in the table.
The bad news is we are not exactly an irresistible attacking force.
It’s all about March with Moyesy’s army.