After a somewhat scrappy first half in which Spurs were drawn into a physical battle that did into suit them Harry’s team talk – probably rechristened the “rollicking” – galvanised the second half into life with a typical Defoe strike from a quality Lennon cross. And when Michael Dawson scored with a brilliant diving header the points looked likely to come our way. So much so that we did not appear too concerned at missing opportunities to go three up or giving the ball away a little to easily in midfield.
All of this gave Everton some hope and after adding major firepower up front in the form of Saha and Yakubu they replied when Bale was beaten a little too easily by the debutant right back Coleman who put in an astonishing debut performance for the Toffees. This turned the on switch for the crowd and they acted as 12th man to help Everton get back into the game and equalise when Cahill stooped to head home a well hit low cross from the left wing.
At that point there looked like only one winner – and it was not us – only for a decisive break to put Palacios in the clear in the box where he was bundled down by Hibbert and ended up damaging ribs requiring hospitalisation. After the delay Defoe stepped up to smash his penalty into Howard’s feet and Andre Mariner then blew up to prevent us conceding again.
Should we have won? Of course we should but that’s football and to be fair we did it against Arsenal and Aston Villa in recent seasons to snatch 4-4 draws. As Harry says this is the way we play – an open game. And to be fair it has produced some decent goal hauls in games. But it can also backfire, against the bigger clubs and in those away games where the supporters have a bit of passion and can lift their players. Everton is one such place.
On these occasions we have to be more careful with our distribution of the ball so that we keep it better and prevent ourselves getting put onto the back foot. We also have to stand up to the opposition – not in a nasty way – so that we don’t get done over like Assou-Ekotto did on Sunday. I did not think he was that proficient in the first half against Villa and in this game he was pretty poor. It’s a surprise as he is one of our consistent players at home but in the glare of away fans he needs to assert some confidence. Bale replaced him at half time and did OK but again he was beaten cheaply by a rookie on a number of occasions that allowed the centre backs to be put under pressure.
Tom Huddlestone is another player that needs to be a bit stronger. He is a decent passer at times but can still be caught in possession and sometimes is a bit weak at tackling back. This places a bit of pressure on Palacios and encourages him to do too much. If his injury is a problem we need a ball winner in his place. Wilson also needs to sharpen up his passing. On Sunday a needless larrup across field allowed the cross that ultimately led to the equaliser so we are paying for this loose play in goals.
Many suggested that Robbie should have been brought on for the penalty kick. I don’t agree. You cannot do this – what does it say to the players on the field plus would he have scored? Defoe has missed before and maybe should not have taken it but surely someone on the field could do the job. Huddlestone as an example but we should not lambast Defoe for missing. He was prepared to give it a go and whilst you should not miss his connection was a bit “fat” and Howard was able to block it with his feet.
At season’s end this might prove to be the costly game if two points separate us from fourth. Whilst we should have won against Villa and Stoke we were never ahead in the games but we were here and by 2 goals. I hope it does not pan out like this but I think we remain a little short to get into the top 4.