Wolverhampton Wanderers 0 Everton FC 0 - Blues draw a blank in Midlands

By Chris Beesley on Mar 29, 10 07:50 AM in Journalists

sahawolvesa450.jpg

ALONG with the relief from the home fans at the final whistle, the biggest cheer at Molineux on Saturday was when the public address announcer declared that dance club diva Jaki Graham would have to cut short her ear-splitting half-time mini concert because the two sides were returning to the pitch.

Bedecked in an old gold and black scarf, local girl Graham, 53, was an enthusiastic hostess, attempting to whip both sets of supporters into a frenzy with her soulful singing.

But such was the power of her voice, she hardly needed the aid of a microphone - they must have heard her at the Birmingham-Arsenal match at St Andrews.

The Black Country faithful, who mostly looked bemused during her performance, seemed much more comfortable singing along to their customised version of Jeff Beck's High Ho Silver Lining. Before kick-off, Graham gave a high-volume rendition of her 1986 UK number seven hit Set Me Free - but there was no such joy on the pitch as David Moyes's men were unable to break down a resolute Wolves side.

Despite a fine 3-1 win at West Ham the previous Tuesday, the shackles were back on for Mick McCarthy's troops on this occasion.

Gianfranco Zola's Hammers were woeful on that night, but last season's Championship winners netted some fine goals at Upton Park, with what could prove to be a watershed performance in terms of gaining self-belief in the Premier League.

Things at home are a different proposition though, and perhaps because he is still scarred by the meagre points return his last stint in the top flight brought with Sunderland, McCarthy seems determined firstly not to lose - especially against the division's more talented sides, which Everton must now be regarded among.

Wolves have netted just 10 goals at home, and apart from a fortuitous bounce they always looked unlikely to add to the total in this game.

Against much more gifted opposition three days earlier, Everton soaked up all the pressure their hosts brought upon them and expertly hit them on the break with a clever set-piece and a razor-sharp piece of counter-attacking football.

However, with the onus on them to deliver against a less talented group of players, they were unable to find a decisive touch in front of goal.

Although Moyes's men were shorn of the majestic talents of in-form Mikel Arteta - who missed the contest as a precaution as he nursed a slight groin strain - with the likes of Steven Pienaar and Leon Osman in their ranks there was still plenty of creativity in the visitors' line-up.


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This time out, there were none of the changes en masse McCarthy has become infamous for this season as the former Irish international named the same side that started against West Ham while Everton made just one enforced alteration from Eastlands with Jack Rodwell stepping in for Arteta.

The visitors started purposefully, displaying the kind of free-flowing intricate passing that has lit up their performances in recent weeks.

Wolves were still complaining over a forceful header from John Heitinga in the centre circle when the visitors pushed forward swiftly with Pienaar playing a one-two with Louis Saha on the right-hand side of the area before squaring the ball to Osman but the midfielder's shot was well saved by American keeper Marcus Hahnemann.

The closest moment to a goal soon followed as Sylvain Distin opened up the home defence with a diagonal left-to-right long pass which picked out Saha, but after cutting inside past Scottish centre-back Christophe Berra, the Frenchman's shot rattled the Wolves crossbar.

After failing to capitalise on their bright start, Everton gradually let their hosts back into the contest but despite visiting keeper Tim Howard struggling with the thigh injury he had initially picked up in the second half at Manchester City - and having to delegate goal-kick taking duties to Phil Jagielka - the home side did not seriously test him.

Back in the big time following the aftermath of Sunderland's 'beach ball goal' against Liverpool at the Stadium of Light, Chester-born referee Mike Jones was increasingly agitating the Molineux regulars and their ire reached fever pitch when he booked his namesake David in the Wolves midfield for seemingly taking a free-kick 'too quickly'.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Everton continued to buzz around the home penalty area but missed a string of good opportunities to score.

Saha headed over from a Leon Osman right-wing cross while an in-swinging corner taken from the right by Leighton Baines - who must have impressed watching England coach Fabio Capello along with Phil Jagielka who could yet earn a late call-up to the Italian's World Cup plans in South Africa - was headed across the face of goal by Tim Cahill.

As Everton searched for an opening, Moyes continued to shuffle his pack to try and make a breakthrough with not only Pienaar and Osman switching flanks but Cahill swapping positions with Rodwell at times with the Australian sitting back and the youngster pushing forward.

The inevitable gaps produced a couple of openings for Wolves at the other end but a curling effort from Kevin Foley following Matt Jarvis's left-wing cross was off-target along with a more explosive left-footed blast from right-back Ronald Zubar who had cut inside Heitinga.

In search of the three points, Moyes introduced Ayegbeni Yakubu, Dan Gosling and Diniyar Bilyaletdinov in place of Saha, Osman and Rodwell respectively.

Gosling almost fashioned a winner when latching on to Cahill's square ball across goal following a Distin pass upfield but Hahnemann, who is keeping highly-rated young Welshman Wayne Hennessey - a goalkeeper previously on Everton's radar - out of the side, was on to the midfielder like a flash and pounced on the loose ball, flattening the Devonian in the process.

Despite being in discomfort, Gosling played on and Everton still had time to create another opening as an improvised overhead kick from close range by Cahill was hacked off the line by Jody Craddock.

The roars at the end from the home fans suggested that a single point was welcomed far more by Wolves than an Everton side still attempting to 'gatecrash' next term's European party.

But given Aston Villa's 7-1 loss at Chelsea, it's Moyes's men's final visit of the season to the West Midlands on April 14 which will be the acid test for their continental aspirations.

ALONG with the relief from the home fans at the final whistle, the biggest cheer at Molineux on Saturday was when the public address announcer declared that dance club diva Jaki Graham would have to cut short her ear-splitting half-time mini concert because the two sides were returning to the pitch.

Bedecked in an old gold and black scarf, local girl Graham, 53, was an enthusiastic hostess, attempting to whip both sets of supporters into a frenzy with her soulful singing.

But such was the power of her voice, she hardly needed the aid of a microphone - they must have heard her at the Birmingham-Arsenal match at St Andrews.

The Black Country faithful, who mostly looked bemused during her performance, seemed much more comfortable singing along to their customised version of Jeff Beck's High Ho Silver Lining. Before kick-off, Graham gave a high-volume rendition of her 1986 UK number seven hit Set Me Free - but there was no such joy on the pitch as David Moyes's men were unable to break down a resolute Wolves side.

Despite a fine 3-1 win at West Ham the previous Tuesday, the shackles were back on for Mick McCarthy's troops on this occasion.

Gianfranco Zola's Hammers were woeful on that night, but last season's Championship winners netted some fine goals at Upton Park, with what could prove to be a watershed performance in terms of gaining self-belief in the Premier League.

Things at home are a different proposition though, and perhaps because he is still scarred by the meagre points return his last stint in the top flight brought with Sunderland, McCarthy seems determined firstly not to lose - especially against the division's more talented sides, which Everton must now be regarded among.

Wolves have netted just 10 goals at home, and apart from a fortuitous bounce they always looked unlikely to add to the total in this game.

Against much more gifted opposition three days earlier, Everton soaked up all the pressure their hosts brought upon them and expertly hit them on the break with a clever set-piece and a razor-sharp piece of counter-attacking football.

However, with the onus on them to deliver against a less talented group of players, they were unable to find a decisive touch in front of goal.

Although Moyes's men were shorn of the majestic talents of in-form Mikel Arteta - who missed the contest as a precaution as he nursed a slight groin strain - with the likes of Steven Pienaar and Leon Osman in their ranks there was still plenty of creativity in the visitors' line-up.

This time out, there were none of the changes en masse McCarthy has become infamous for this season as the former Irish international named the same side that started against West Ham while Everton made just one enforced alteration from Eastlands with Jack Rodwell stepping in for Arteta.

The visitors started purposefully, displaying the kind of free-flowing intricate passing that has lit up their performances in recent weeks.

Wolves were still complaining over a forceful header from John Heitinga in the centre circle when the visitors pushed forward swiftly with Pienaar playing a one-two with Louis Saha on the right-hand side of the area before squaring the ball to Osman but the midfielder's shot was well saved by American keeper Marcus Hahnemann.

The closest moment to a goal soon followed as Sylvain Distin opened up the home defence with a diagonal left-to-right long pass which picked out Saha, but after cutting inside past Scottish centre-back Christophe Berra, the Frenchman's shot rattled the Wolves crossbar.

After failing to capitalise on their bright start, Everton gradually let their hosts back into the contest but despite visiting keeper Tim Howard struggling with the thigh injury he had initially picked up in the second half at Manchester City - and having to delegate goal-kick taking duties to Phil Jagielka - the home side did not seriously test him.

Back in the big time following the aftermath of Sunderland's 'beach ball goal' against Liverpool at the Stadium of Light, Chester-born referee Mike Jones was increasingly agitating the Molineux regulars and their ire reached fever pitch when he booked his namesake David in the Wolves midfield for seemingly taking a free-kick 'too quickly'.

Everton continued to buzz around the home penalty area but missed a string of good opportunities to score.

Saha headed over from a Leon Osman right-wing cross while an in-swinging corner taken from the right by Leighton Baines - who must have impressed watching England coach Fabio Capello along with Phil Jagielka who could yet earn a late call-up to the Italian's World Cup plans in South Africa - was headed across the face of goal by Tim Cahill.

As Everton searched for an opening, Moyes continued to shuffle his pack to try and make a breakthrough with not only Pienaar and Osman switching flanks but Cahill swapping positions with Rodwell at times with the Australian sitting back and the youngster pushing forward.

The inevitable gaps produced a couple of openings for Wolves at the other end but a curling effort from Kevin Foley following Matt Jarvis's left-wing cross was off-target along with a more explosive left-footed blast from right-back Ronald Zubar who had cut inside Heitinga.

In search of the three points, Moyes introduced Ayegbeni Yakubu, Dan Gosling and Diniyar Bilyaletdinov in place of Saha, Osman and Rodwell respectively.

Gosling almost fashioned a winner when latching on to Cahill's square ball across goal following a Distin pass upfield but Hahnemann, who is keeping highly-rated young Welshman Wayne Hennessey - a goalkeeper previously on Everton's radar - out of the side, was on to the midfielder like a flash and pounced on the loose ball, flattening the Devonian in the process.

Despite being in discomfort, Gosling played on and Everton still had time to create another opening as an improvised overhead kick from close range by Cahill was hacked off the line by Jody Craddock.

The roars at the end from the home fans suggested that a single point was welcomed far more by Wolves than an Everton side still attempting to 'gatecrash' next term's European party.

But given Aston Villa's 7-1 loss at Chelsea, it's Moyes's men's final visit of the season to the West Midlands on April 14 which will be the acid test for their continental aspirations.

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