COLUMNIST KEN BUCKLEY
FA Cup replay and a derby to boot and this just had to be a special Goodison night. From early on the pubs were buzzing and on my walk to the ground the atmosphere was already electric with songs and chants raising the temperature of a chilly winter's night.
The Blue fans were looking for nothing but a home win and the mood they were in nothing was going to stop them.
The bulk of the crowd were unusually in the stadium with time to spare and although a bigger than usual contingent of Reds were in due to cup regulations they never were going to stand a chance when it came to the wall of sound.
The teams came out and Z Cars was almost inaudible such was the roar of the Blues assembled.
Normally, I would now go into match report mode but this was different, Goodison was a bear pit and from the off both sets of players seemed affected by the partisan nature and the tone of the play reflected this. In the first fifteen we had Alonso firing just wide and a roar from the Evertonians fit to welcome a win as Gerrard limped off. He was left in no doubt of the regard he is held in by the Blue faithful.
The rest of the half was a hotch potch of unconvincing play and bookings for both Cahill and Pienaar (his fifth so a suspension) many stoppages and complaints from both sets of fans about the refereeing which indicates he was doing ok in the circumstances and the half ended in this vein.
The second half started as the first had ended with muscle being preferred to joined up play.
Lucas and Neville quickly went into the book, Fellaini who was having the nightmare of nightmares was hauled of in favour of Gosling just some seven minutes in. I hope the lad was injured as he had been more of a 15pence player rather than a 15 million pounder.
This called for a reshuffle and both Arteta and Osman shared second striker role variously but to lttle effect amid the helter-skelter that was posing as a football match.
It took until the hour mark for the first serious attempt on goal as Jags made a mess of things by sloppily conceding possession to Alonso who put Riera in only for Howard to hurtle from his line to block the shot for a corner.It was also at this point that Rodwell was introduced to replace Pienaar who had buzzed and worked but always seemed weak in this red hot encounter.
We now had two holding mid-fielders so Arteta pushed on and was instrumental in fashioning the one real move of the game when he found Cahill with an excellent pass, Cahill pushed the ball first time into the path of Osman who from the angle of the six-yard box thumped a post when he should have scored.
The last fifteen minutes and we were looking the more likely and this was helped along when Lucas was shown a second yellow for cynically upending Lescott and the Blues assembled waved him bye-bye.
As the half ended we had managed only a long range tame effort from Rodwell.
The first period of extra time again brought more of the same with the highlite being when Osman shot and Reina could only parry it away but he recovered quickly to deny Gosling.
Torres was withdrawn to the sound of 'Ladyboy' echoing around Goodison and the the lesser seen Van de Meyde replaced Neville.
The second period of extra time was notable for one excellent piece of play that saw Van de Meyde put clear on the right and his excellent cross eluded a few heads and fell for Gosling.
He moved the ball from his left foot to right and then curled a shot passed Reina and in off the post.
The noise was above legal limits as all celebrated, just two minutes to go and we avoided the curse of Villa and Arsenal to set up the party of parties at the whistle.
The streets around the ground were full of songs and chants, people hugged, stray reds were berated although there were not many of those as there was a mass exodus from their enclosures as Gosling's shot hit the net.
Back to my watering hole and the red dolly-wearing the obligatory Liverpool badges who both served me and told me we had no chance pre-match also served me (minus badges) post-match and didn't speak. It said it all.
Overall, I thought it was a game that will have no bearing on any other that we play as it was more of a local difficulty than a football match in it's true sense.
My man of the match amid all the mayhem was Lescott who remained imperious and level headed throughout. Rodwell handled the occasion with an aplomb that suggests a bright future indeed and Gosling will become part of Goodison folklore as well as showing promise for one just turned nineteen.
Big Vic must be reflecting on his enforced absence after such a night and from what I read in the Echo I can only conclude that he must be a sandwich short of a picnic.
After all the songs and chants I have heard tonight I will leave you with the one still going around in my head.
Super, super Dan
Super Danny Gosling.
See you Saturday.
UP THE BLUES
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