Everton have progressed to the 4th Round of the FA Cup following an unconvincing 2-0 win over semi-professional outfit Tamworth at Goodison Park.
The game was viewed as a chance for fringe and out of form players to rediscover the verve and swagger of attacking football. However, despite playing a very strong squad to avoid a potential upset, David Moyes saw his side play as a bunch of individuals rather than a team, with possession often slow and cumbersome and numerous passes going astray.
It all started so well too. Everton pegged back the visitors and knocked any chance of early enthusiasm out of their sails when Donovan floated in a corner to the back post, and John Heitinga rose amidst a crowd of defenders to bundle the ball over the line and give us the lead with just 5 minutes on the clock.
The Toffees continued to have the better of proceedings for the first 20 minutes, but once again were let down by slow build up play and negative possession tactics.
One glaring feature of the game plan was the decision to bring back every player in Blue for every single corner – which inevitably led to a period of pressure from the visitors whenever they did get a set piece. Conversely, the Conference side had the bottle to leave one or two players up top and often found themselves with a chance of a counter.
With the last ten to fifteen minutes of the first half seeing Tamworth go close on two occasions, and the perennially disappointing Bilyaletdinov misplace several passes, the Blues were booed off the pitch at half time despite holding a 1-0 lead.
There was very little to get excited about from a Blue perspective. Anichebe showed his strength and pace to spin away from his marker on the left, but he ran into a dead end instead of laying the ball off. And James McFadden used the outside of his left foot to fizz a ball wide of the right post, but that was about it.
The second half continued in the same vein. The introduction of Royston Drenthe and Leighton Baines added a bit of impetus up top, but the movement in the final third continued to be non-existent. Denis Stracqualursi does not look like a Premier League standard striker based on his cameo appearance today, and IÂ´d find it extraordinary if we looked to secure his signature on a permanent basis.
But then, no striker we have at the club looks capable of scoring. Tamworth did not play well as such, and they didnÂ´t have to to keep the scoreline down. A decent side would have put four or five past these today; at this moment in time, Everton are not what youÂ´d class as a decent side.
As it was, we put a gloss on the scoreline when Drenthe was bundled over in the box and Leighton Baines thrashed home the late penalty, but to not score a goal from open play against a side of this quality is appalling.
With Tottenham coming up, an improvement on an unprecedented scale is needed to prevent a certain defeat, and one has to worry about the rest of the season if reinforcements are not brought in this transfer window.
But without any money, what hope is there of that happening?
Rarely has a clean sheet and a win been so frustrating. On the bright side, at least weÂ´re not out of the cup, and Landon Donovan continued to re-adjust to life at Goodison again, and he hit the angle of the bar and post late on. But only the most optimistic Evertonian could envisage us progressing much further if things donÂ´t pick up quickly.