Wolves 0, Everton 0: Blues can't quite hit the high notes of the 1980s

By Greg O'Keeffe on Mar 29, 10 08:10 AM in Journalists

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EVERTONIANS need no excuse to sit back and reflect fondly on the Eighties.

The decade that spawned the most successful side in their history will always be a favourite.

Not everything about that era was perfect though. Bosses at Wolves' Molineux Ground reminded everyone of that by recruiting soul singer Jaki Graham to commit grievous bodily harm on 28,000 ear drums with a rendition of her 1986 hit "Set Me Free" on the pitch before Saturday's game.


Her enthusiastically awful performance set the tone for what was to unfold.

For a side almost safe from relegation Wolves gave it their all, expanding every last breath in their lungs. But the end product wasn't much to bother the producers of Match of the Day.

Everton, for their part, were the better team but they needed all three points. If European ambitions are certain to be satisfied, their unenviable task is to win every remaining game.

Instead, far too many clear-cut scoring opportunities were wasted for a side intent on clawing back points on Aston Villa and Liverpool.

During most 1980s daydreams, Blues usually get a nostalgic twinge for Graeme Sharp and Andy Gray.

What they would give for a centre-forward in the mould of either of those men now? A forward who could routinely convert the chances Everton consistently create, could be the difference to David Moyes' ambitions.

The only other times Everton have played on March 27 in their history, Dixie Dean, Bob Latchford and Graeme Sharp respectively, were all on target.

In the Midlands such finishing was conspicuous by its absence. Louis Saha is a world-class front man but he missed the best chance of the match, failing to get his header on target when Leon Osman practically served the ball up to his forehead on a plate with side salad.

It was a shocking miss. But Osman and Tim Cahill were also guilty.

Even without Mikel Arteta, an infuriating loss during this season of abject injury misery, the Blues created several gilt-edged chances.

Victory would have seen them clamber over Aston Villa into seventh place, adding to the Villains trauma after that 7-1 demolition by Chelsea.

Fabio Capello, present to cast his eye over Leighton Baines, Phil Jagielka and Phil Neville, saw Everton fluff an early chance to take the lead when Pienaar slipped the ball to Osman, but the midfielder's weak snap-shot was saved.

Osman had another half-chance five minutes later, when a Baines cross was not dealt with by Wolves and he narrowly missed out with his header.

Then clever link-up play in midfield had Wolves panicking. Neville's crafty square pass on the edge of the area was smartly dummied by Pienaar and Osman, for Saha to fire a low effort.

Everton undoubtedly enjoyed the better of the early possession, but Wolves can play a bit too.

Their impressive right-back Ronald Zubar turned Osman inside out on the wing, before bending a wicked cross into the area which Tim Howard had to punch away.

Mick McCarthy's men then exerted some sustained pressure which got Everton nerves jangling, but Kevin Doyle was feeding on scraps alone up front.

The pace of the first half gradually deflated, with chances for either side becoming sporadic after the lively opening. With his usual blend of work-rate and alertness, Baines was doing his World Cup chances no harm. The left-back engineered a chance for himself near the break, his smart drive from 20 yards flying straight at Hahnemann.

Then an enterprising turn by Saha resulted in a powerful strike from the edge of the area which struck the crossbar.

He was unfortunate then, but the start of the second half heralded the moment which Saha won't want to see again on TV. His header from that perfect Osman cross was woefully short of such deadly usual standards.

Undeterred, Everton pressed on as Wolves increasingly sat back and surrendered the ball. Zubar threatened briefly, but Wolves' focus was firmly on keeping the Blues out.

Yakubu replaced Saha with 20 minutes left to try and add some potency to a wilting Toffees attack. David Moyes has strong substitute benches lately, and next he was able to ask Diniyar Bilyaletdinov to enter the fray and repeat his last-gasp strike against Wolves at Goodison in October.

It wasn't enough though, as Everton seemed destined not to score.

The ruthlessness and efficiency which won the plaudits against Manchester City was conspicuous by its absence.

It has been suggested that Everton's remaining fixtures in the battle for European football are easier than most of their rivals.

But places like Molineux, Ewood Park and Stoke are tough places to get three points from. Those sides may not be fighting for Europe, but they have managers who will ensure they scrap in front of their own fans.

Everton will have to take their chances against them. Their centre-forwards need to finish the season in far better tune than Jaki Graham, and maybe look to Sharp and Gray for a bit of Eighties inspiration.

EVERTON: Howard, Neville, Distin, Jagielka, Baines, Rodwell (Bilyaletdinov, 86) Cahill, Pienaar, Osman (Gosling, 82), Heitinga, Saha (Yakubu 73). Subs: Nash, Hibbert, Yobo, Senderos. Bookings: Pienaar.

WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS: Hahnemann, Elokobi, Craddock, Berra, Zubar, Mancienne (Guedioura, 72) Henry, Jones, Jarvis (Ward, 90) Doyle (Iwelumo, 90) Foley. Subs: Hennessey, Ebanks-Blake, Keogh, Milijas. Bookings: Jones,

REFEREE: Mike Jones

ATTENDANCE: 28, 995.

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