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Past Battles With Rovers

Stuart Appleby, 18th January 2012 - 11:28

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Stuart Appleby

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Freelance journalist and Everton supporter.

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As Everton prepare to do battle with Steve Kean’s resurgent Blackburn Rovers on Saturday, I thought I’d take a trip through the archives to revisit the 11 matches the two clubs have contested against one another at Goodison Park, whilst David Moyes has been Blues boss.
It is probably a fair assumption to make that Evertonians haven’t always looked forward to the visit of Rovers. The Lancastrian outfit have enjoyed more than their fair share of Goodison joy down the years, as you will soon reminisce.

There is no doubt that Everton will be preparing for a tough test come Saturday. The absence of Yakubu through suspension, a player we know all about could prove a factor, but they still had enough goals in the tank to see off Fulham last time out. For Everton, the expectation and onus could well be on Landon Donovan to provide a cutting edge yet again.

It provides an intriguing backdrop to cast an eye over Goodison showdowns against Rovers. The importance of each fixture and the impact on the teams’ respective positions in the Premier League table has varied.

On March 16, 2002, Moyes took charge of Everton for the first time and the club won four of their next seven Premier League games at the backend of the 2001/2002 season - lifting the club away from the perils of relegation.

In that same season, the Blues last home game of the campaign (and penultimate match of the term) was against Blackburn. The incentive for Everton? Simply, to try and stay in 11th position, and for the players to stake their claim to the new boss. Neither really happened.

James McFadden celebrates his goal with Joleon LescottJames McFadden celebrates his goal in the 1-1 draw with Blackburn in the 2007/08 season.

Blackburn arrived and promptly went home with all three points courtesy of a 2-1 victory (April 28, 2002). For Everton, whose goal came from up and coming youngster Nick Chadwick, it was clear Moyes’ intentions were to develop youth and oust the flickering influence of the likes of David Ginola, Paul Gascoigne and Jesper Blomqvist.

Everton were a changed team by the time Blackburn visited Goodison again (December 14, 2002). Flying high in the top half of the table, the Blues disposed of the away side courtesy of goals from Lee Carsley and Wayne Rooney.

That day, the central midfield trio of Carsley, Li Tie and Thomas Gravesen bossed the match. However, it was Blackburn, who would have the last laugh that season. Having remained in 6th place right until the final game of the season, Everton’s defeat at home to Manchester United and Blackburn’s thrashing of Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane, meant the Ewood Park side secured European qualification over Everton by a single point.

The 2003/2004 (April 24, 2004) and 2004/2005 (March 6, 2005) matches brought little cheer with Blackburn winning by a goal to nil on both occasions. Does the name Jonathan Stead ring a bell? The former Huddersfield man bagged the winner in consecutive seasons and made Everton’s push for a Champions League spot falter (they lost their next two games away to Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion) but the Blues clung on. Recalling both of those matches is a pretty dismal experience for every Evertonian.

Probably one of the more remarkable games between the two came during the 2005/2006 season (February 11, 2006). Everton goalkeeper Iain Turner was dismissed after only eight minutes for a handball outside the penalty area, and in the absence of Nigel Martyn, reserve goalkeeper John Ruddy came on. It turned out to be his only appearance for the club but he did not put a foot wrong as Everton ran out 1-0 winners with James Beattie netting the winner.

The two teams locked horns twice at Goodison the following season and the FA Cup third round tie against Rovers (January 7, 2007) will be remembered for the wrong reasons.

Everton fell apart and lost 4-1 (Andy Johnson scoring a penalty for the blues). Mercurial Dutchman Andy van der Meyde was a rare starter that day and he would go on to make only 20 appearances for the club. Everton had the opportunity to atone for that defeat in the Premier League four games later (February 10, 2007) and Johnson slotted home the winner in a 1-0 victory.

Louis Saha celebrates his opener with his team matesLouis Saha celebrates his opener with his teammates against Blackburn at Goodison in 2009/10 

The only draw between the two sides on Goodison turf happened during the 2007/2008 season (August 25, 2007), with James McFadden scoring in a match that finished one apiece.

The fixture list has had a habit of pitting both teams against each other in August (both home and away) and the 2008/2009 campaign (August 16, 2008) proved no different. Rovers arrived at Goodison on the opening day of the season and went home with all three points. Former PSV defender Andre Ooijer grabbed a 94th minute winner at the Park End to give Blackburn a 3-2 win in what was then manager Paul Ince’s first game in charge. Mikel Arteta was among the goalscorers for Everton with a sumptuous free kick.

However, the game is more remembered by Blues for the debut of Jose Baxter. After coming on as a substitute, he became the club’s youngest ever player in the process, aged 16 years and 191 days – beating the record previously held by teammate James Vaughan. It also turned out to be Nuno Valente’s last appearance at Goodison.

Following that defeat, the Blues have redressed the balance by comfortably beating Blackburn in each of the last two seasons. Louis Saha bagged a brace and Joseph Yobo got the other as Everton won 3-0 in the 2009/2010 campaign (20 September, 2009). It was a match which also saw the home debut of John Heitinga. Last season (April 16, 2011), the Blues sent the visitors packing convincingly, as second half goals from Leon Osman and Leighton Baines (penalty) wrapped up a 2-0 win.

In those eleven matches, to break down the statistics, both Everton and Blackburn have been victorious on five separate occasions in all competitions. Everton’s five wins have all come in the Premier League, whilst of course, Blackburn’s FA Cup win in 2007 also adds to their success at ‘The Grand Old Lady’. There was just the one solitary draw during the 2007/2008 season.

Having looked back (albeit briefly) into the recent history of this fixture at Goodison, it could not be more even. For an away team, Blackburn’s record is strong but they have lost on their last two visits to Merseyside. It is sure to be a tight affair but hopefully Everton can draw inspiration from recent successes and will edge it.

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