A Tale Of Taking Chances - The Verdict
Martin O'Neill's post match verdict on the FA Cup clash against Everton boiled down to our failure to take our chances.
Speaking on the official site after the game O'Neill picked out specifically Tim Howard's 'world class' save in the second half from John Carew as a major turning point.
He also insisted that the 3-1 scoreline flattered Everton somewhat as the teams weren't that far apart on the day.
'We had a number of good chances and their goalkeeper made a wonderful save from John Carew.
'I thought it was a major point in the game. We were in the ascendancy at that time - driving them back. We were camped outside their box but we couldn't get the equaliser.
'We had a number of efforts in that second half - more than Everton.
'It was a frenetic start to the game but after that we were the more polished side.
'We settled down and we were the better side going towards the half-time break. I thought we could have equalised - Gabby had a great chance with that header.
'In the second half, we had the best chance but obviously they scored when we were still pressing forward. That kills the game with not long to go.
'Overall, we tried to win the game - as you could see - and I am disappointed. I thought we were unlucky.
'We should have got something out of the game. We deserved better.'
We may well have deserved better but if you don't take your chances you don't win games. Yes we were missing plenty of players but that's no real excuse when you consider Everton's injury problems.
Sidwell and Carew were pretty much non existant and although our options on the bench weren't fantastic, surely Harewood or Delfouneso on for Carew could've changed the game. Gardner isn't a right back so why not take Sidwell off for Shorey, put Luke back on the right and free Craig to get involved in the midfield battle?
The options weren't fantastic admittedly but we had options to try something different. Giving Delboy 8 minutes was just pointless.
That said, it's a blip in what has been a fantastic season and whilst it's easy to get carried away and remember the cracks in our team that the wins have painted over, we have to remember it's only a blip and we've had them before and bounced back.
If anything, following on from the UEFA blips when we've had the second string out, it serves as a perfect reminder to O'Neill that we aren't strong enough to compete on all fronts when injuries and suspensions hit, and our backup isn't good enough to step in and do a job when players are off form.
Treat the Everton match for what it is, a hard earnt lesson and reminder that for however well we have been doing so far, we are nowhere near the finished article yet.