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Hard fought win at 'The Lane'

By Paul Traill :  02/12/2008 :  Comments (0) :
Mike (a fan who seldom does home games, never mind away ones) and I actually set off on Saturday for this one to stay with a mate from uni and have a night out.

With me doing the driving I put unnecessary faith in the sat-nav which was taking us in all sorts of ridiculous directions before we finally gave up on it and just headed onto the M56, then the M6, M6 Toll and finally the M1. It’s actually a nice easy route and we found the problem with the satnav was that it was on the ‘shortest route’ rather than ‘fastest route’ setting. As we were in no rush we saw the funny side of things. Regardless, we were in London in good time to relax and had a good day and night in the capital.

My mate in London lives near Campton and my plan was to just drive from his direct to White Hart Lane for the match and park somewhere near the ground in a bid to make a quick getaway after the game. He told me it would be just as easy to leave the car by his given the complications of cost, parking, and time taken to exit North London, so having weighed all this up we just got the tube to Seven Sisters and ambled down to a pub, The Beehive, to watch a bit of the Manchester derby.

It was a nice, friendly little pub and certainly one I’ll come back to next time I come to ‘The Lane’. Was funny when someone tried to sell us some Tottenham badges, “wrong club mate” was the response. We saw Rooney score his two-yard tap-in and then run off like a mad man as if he’d just burst the net.

At half-time the bar staff switched the TV over to ITV for the FA Cup draw. The first thing I noticed was that Histon drew Swansea City, meaning they’d hilariously eliminated Leeds. A big cheer went up in the other side of the pub whilst the screen read Macclesfield Town vs Everton. From this my assumption was that all the Everton fans were in that side of the pub. After one more quick Magners we headed down the road to White Hart Lane at 14:40.

We arrived by the ground at around 14:50 and went straight to the away supporter’s entrance. We couldn’t believe the queue. There must’ve been some cock-up with the turnstile or something as it was 15:12 on the clock when we were eventually bundled through the turnstile. Prior to that some drunken Everton fan was getting a hard time off the police whilst trying to enter the ground. The guy behind me shook his head “that guy is like that every week”.

Eventually we got in and the first thing we heard over the tannoy was “SUBSTITUTION FOR EVERTON, COMING OFF NUMBER 22 YAKUBU, REPLACED BY NUMBER NINE LOUIS SAHA”. “Arrr man” said this young whippersnapper ahead of us, in a strange American accent. I sniggered. He then turned round in a Scouse accent, saying “Yakubu’s come off injured. Arrr man”. It must’ve been off some TV show or something but it was enough to make me laugh… the innocence of youth.

We finally took to our seats and tried to figure out what was happening in terms of formation. I’d already checked the team news in the pub, and knew we were playing with five in midfield, though I assumed I’d see Arteta and Pienaar occupy the wings with Osman holding.

As it turned out, it was the Spaniards turn to hold this time around, with Osman out on the left wing and Pienaar, surprisingly fit, out on the right. Lescott, much to my disbelief continued at left back in the same back four as that which rolled over and died at Wigan last Monday. Yakubu had of course already been withdrawn, replaced by Saha.

As for Spurs, the hapless Gomes continued in goal with King and Woodgate his protectors. Lennon, my main concern, was on the wing, whilst Pavlyuchenko and the overpriced Darren Bent were up front. The referee, though it took me forever to remember his name, was Steve Bennett. Queue eye roll.

We seemed to have settled into the game pretty well with Arteta looking very comfortable and confident in the holding role. I understand he’s played there before back in Spain, though this is the first time I can remember him playing this role at Everton. He looked the part. Very composed, strong in the tackle, comfortable in possession and positionally excellent. We may just be on to something there...

Elsewhere, the wingers, particularly Pienaar as that’s where all the attacks seemed to coming from, were causing Spurs a few problems whilst Cahill and Fellaini bustled away in the middle. As expected, practically everything from Spurs came through Aaron Lennon, up against Lescott. He was causing problems but once Lescott had made one good tackle he looked a lot more focused and Lennon, though still a thorn, was not having as much of an influence on the game.

He did have a good chance however when played in, I think by Bent, only to dreadfully sky the ball high and wide. Bent did have two more chances also, one only a half one when he had an air shot, and the other a tame half volley straight at Tim Howard.

At the other end, Everton at least made Gomes work to protect the Spurs goal. Fellaini had a great chance when you felt a drive either side of Gomes would have resulted in a goal. This came from a Lescott punt forward which clipped the head of Pienaar and rebounded straight into the big Belgian’s path. He waited for it to sit, bringing it forward before unleashing a volley straight at Gomes, who could only really parry up into the air and away. Osman got hold of the rebound and worked it remarkably well back to Fellaini who drove again at the edge of the box, again straight at Gomes, but the panic-stricken keeper could only fumble it round the post and away.

Towards the end of the half, a cross in from I think Pienaar was met by the head of Louis Saha. He looked certain to score though could only head the ball meekly, straight at Gomes who again made a meal out of gathering the ball. What a chance! That was pretty much it for the first half, with plenty of reasons to be optimistic for the second period.

Mike attempted to get a pint at half-time though needn’t have bothered as there was nothing left at the stall. We also learnt that Manchester United had won their derby, with Christiano Ronaldo being sent off in the second half.

The second half was a bit more of the same from both sides, with Everton really putting up a good fight, particularly in midfield, whilst being stubborn in defence. This was much more like it and reminded me of one of those performances that became our trademark when we finished fourth back in 2004-05.

The goal came from a quick free kick when Lennon felled Arteta. Before Spurs were ready Arteta knocked a quick ball to Pienaar who took a couple of touches before smashing goalwards. The ball deflected off Corluka and past the helpless Gomes, leading to scenes of jubilation amongst the fantastic support and the players. Stephen Pienaar took off his shirt unveiling a message though I’ve no idea what it read.

The support from then on in was nothing short of fantastic and Everton seemed determined to hold on to this win as Spurs attacked, though without really creating much against Everton resilient defence. Howard had to make one great stop from Pavlyuchenko but otherwise everything was repelled by Everton’s fantastic defensive unit, marshalled superbly by Phil Jagielka.

An injury to Saha threatened to upset things a little bit but thankfully Anichabe was passed fit and was able to replace the Frenchman. I felt the referee was biased throughout however and this certainly didn’t help. Cahill, Fellaini and Pienaar (booked for taking off his shirt when scoring, I thought this was OK so long as you didn’t bare your chest, is this right?) were all booked very harshly I felt when a couple of worse challenges from Spurs players went unpunished.

The referee signalled for six minutes of stoppage time. My word! Spurs attacked... Everton repelled and we felt sure we’d won when Tim Howard came and claimed a cross to mass chants of “USA! USA!” from the Everton support. His boot down field was collected by Anichebe who turned smartly, driving at goal but just wide. The referee blew for full time here. Get in! Well done Everton!

We decided to wait for the traffic to pass us by in the pub to watch the rest of Arsenal’s win away at Chelsea thanks to two Robin van Persie goals. We then got the tube back, got in the car and blitzed it back down the motorway — no sat-nav required this time. The only sour point was the news on Five Live that Yakubu was out for the season and Louis Saha for six weeks. Now that’s a kicker. Hopefully we can sort something out in January. HOPEFULLY, we’re finally back on track now. Let's cement that at home to Villa next week, eh!

Player Ratings:

  • Howard: Not a great deal to do but made that cracking save late on and caught some important crosses late in the game also. 8
  • Lescott: I was amongst the probable majority calling for him to be dropped after the Wigan game, though he did very well today and lets hope he can kick on from here. The game seemed to change for him when he made a cracking tackle on Lennon in the first half. 7
  • Yobo: Was solid enough. Still not as commanding as we know he can be, but like Lescott, is hopefully getting there now. 6
  • Jagielka: Made several great clearances in the second half and repelled practically everything Spurs threw at us. 8
  • Neville: Had a solid game at right back. Has been his norm this season really. 7
  • Arteta: Had a cracking game and looks very comfortable in the holding role. I’d definitely keep him there for now. 8
  • Pienaar: My man of the match. Was like a man possessed chasing around in the second half and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player put such effort into a game. Scored the goal as well of course. 9
  • Fellaini: Battled hard in the middle and made some useful tackles. Good off the ball movement also. 7
  • Cahill: A patchy game from Cahill but certainly put the work in. You only get what you give as they say. 6
  • Osman: Didn’t see much of the ball as most of our attacks were down the right hand side but when he did have the ball he used it well. 7
  • Yakubu:Off early... we were in late: missed him!
  • Saha (for Yakubu): Was doing well until coming off with his own injury though did miss a sitter. Unbelievable luck and I hope he’s not too bad. 7
  • Anichebe (for Saha): Did alright, though felt he could have put a bit more work into it. 6
  • Baines (for Osman): Not on long, can’t judge. Guess he’s getting used to his five minute cameos. We could’ve kept Naysmith for that!

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