The day started at 1pm for Gary and me. Following a rather desperate phone call from Everton earlier in the week butchering us too buy a half season ticket, we were advised to get to the ground early on Sunday to view our seats and sort it all out.
Upon arrival at the Box Office we were told that we could not view our seats now, and also that the seats that had been reserved for us were no longer available for us in our fist game of the half season ticket at home to Sunderland on Sunday 28 December. Stumped, we asked where we’d be sitting instead and were told Row OO, quite the pisstake when you consider that our half season ticket seats plonk us on Row D of the Lower Gwladys! Its not the persistent cock ups which agitate me with Everton its more the complete lack of service response or service recovery. We didn’t even receive as much of a smile or an apology from the hopeless Box Office attendant. I work for a computer parts company and if we send out the wrong computer part then we take it that we’ve fucked up and do our best to make a quick recovery. Friendly customer service is the first step towards this as we don’t want to lose the customer, and as we’re parting with £263 each for a half season ticket, and £29 each for an Everton vs Aston Villa ticket, you’d think Everton might at least offer an apology or you’d hope better for this but no. I’m used to it now and ruddy sick of it I must say. Can’t you tell!
Anyways with that shenanigans out of the way we had plenty of time to kick back in The Spellow and it was nice to get a seat in the pub for once. Ste said he was meeting us at 2pm in there though Ste is frequently late, and just as we were wondering if he’d arrive at 3pm or 3.30pm in he came at 2.05pm. What do you know…some things do change. Maybe Everton could change their home form too!
We took to our seats just after Z-Cars had boomed out. We knew there was no changes from the Spurs game – there can’t be, we’ve no players, though the big surprise was having Andy Van Der Meyde on the bench. Perhaps a reprieve for the Dutchman after all. We attacked the Lower Gwladys in the first half.
From the kick off Neville played a long ball up to Cahill who challenged, though the ball was cleared for Villa up towards Yobo who sliced his clearance out for a Villa throw in. From this the ball somehow ended up getting laid off to Sidwell in space with a good shooting position from about 20 yards. You sensed danger and Sidwell didn’t disappoint, smashing the ball accurately past Tim Howard. 0-1 after about 40 seconds. Incredible. “Well that’s the best time for them to score” said Gary. At least we had plenty of time.
It was just as well too as it took Everton a good 15 minutes or so to settle into this game. When they finally did it was much better though and we were knocking the ball about pretty well. Cahill got himself into the box ahead of his defender and rasped a half volley pretty much straight at Brad Friedel. In a stoppage in play I took the opportunity to go for a quick piss and on the way back, peckish and with an empty stall I decided to get a sausage roll, only to encounter the most infuriatingly slow lady at the other side of the counter. Quite what she was doing I just don’t know but she seemed oblivious to the fact that I was keen to get back to the game as a loud shout went out around the ground. When I finally returned back to my seat Gary told me that Fellaini had been held down whilst trying to challenge for a ball, similarly to an incident earlier this season at home to Fulham. Well I missed that one but didn’t miss a different one moments later when Anichabe got taken out by a clumsy defensive challenge. It looked a ‘stonewaller’ to me but not to the hopeless Martin Atkinson, one of the better referees I thought before the game.
Everton continued to probe and got their rewards when an Arteta free kick was flicked on by Osman for Lescott to poke home. Goodison erupted. Lescott took a quick look towards the linesman before wheeling away in delight. Get in! You felt we could do it.
It makes you wonder how much of a different game it’d have been had we have converted one of our chances, as in the remainder of the half Fellaini twice went close with headers, one enforcing a decent save out of Friedel, and the other cleared off the line by a Villa defender. I’d gone down for a pint by this point, and ended up on ‘beer watch’ duty as three separate people asked me to “jus’ keep an eye on da’ pint there lad”. The moral of the story is – don’t stand by the wall as you get roped into such duties. A poor Villa free kick was the last action of the half. You felt optimistic at half time.
At the start of the second half Fellaini was at it again, this time seeing his header canon back off the Aston Villa crossbar. He’s really starting to settle a bit now and is an obvious goal threat and seems to be looking better each game. We were certainly on the up, playing well and it was unbelievable what happened next. Jagielka, with little to no pressure on the ball for some reason decided to pass the ball back to Howard. I guess it wouldn’t have mattered if he’d have actually passed it to Howard, but he passed it so dreadfully short and wide, straight into the path of a grateful Ashley Young who finished smartly past the onrushing Howard.
Unbelievable and you felt sorry for Jags as he’s been fantastic this season. It was pleasing to hear the Lower Gwladys singing his name just after this as he looked distraught. Still, again there was a long way to go and plenty of time to get back into the game. This is what made it so disappointing for me that we failed to test Friedel really at all during the 30 odd minutes we had. In the last 10 minutes we seemed to seize the initiative a bit more as Moyes made a few changes.
Andy Van Der Meyde got himself on, I think replacing Neville, and Baines also got on, to replace the battered Anichabe. Arteta was getting more and more into the game at this point as Everton pressed. The referee signalled for three minutes of injury time. After about a minute of this Lescott bulleted a header narrowly wide. Thinking that would be it Gary and I decided to leave. I just went for a quick piss first when Goodison erupted. I hadn’t actually started pissing and so legged it back upstairs to see everyone celebrating. A steward meekly asked everyone to return to their seats but nobody was listening. I caught the replay on the giant screen and saw Jagielka head the ball across the box, Cahill force a header forward, and then Lescott acrobatically semi-overhead volley the ball into the back of the net. Get in.
And then, just when we thought we’d rescued a point, Howard seemed to hesitate before booting the ball downfield. My how I wish he’d have bowled it out instead. Next thing I knew Young had the ball and darted through the defence. Why neither Lescott nor Yobo just took him out I just don’t know but he burst through and finished smartly past Howard before wheeling off in delight. I just couldn’t believe it and trudged off. The guy in front of me took everything out on a giant Chang bin at the bottom of the stairs. I felt numb.
On reflection, I felt we were the better side overall, but more importantly for me, is that I didn’t think Villa were very good. Yes they work hard, and were missing Carew, but were generally nothing special and offered very little in attack — we set up two of their goals! I still fancy them to drop a lot of points, and us to improve on our performances in the last two games. If we do that, then we’re a match for most teams in the league, and certainly for Villa. We’re still in a healthy-ish league position and with so long to go in the season I’m now much more confident than I was about a month ago. Its nothing a win away at City next week won’t put right and the home form will surely, surely improve.
Howard: Really not a great deal to do but was helpless with all three goals. Commanded his box pretty well. 7
Lescott: My man of the match. Yes I reckon he could’ve taken out Ashley Young for the winning goal but regardless of the goals he scored himself, his all round performance was much more like our player of the year last season. Hopefully he’s turned the corner. 8
Jagielka: Flawless other than the mistake. Feel sorry for him but he’s a strong character I reckon and will bounce back OK. 7
Yobo: The weak link at the back if you ask me. Just doesn’t seem confident at the moment. 5
Neville: Generally solid. 7
Arteta: I think he likes it in the holding role. One thing about that position is the man’s gotta be comfortable on the ball and he certainly is that. He was really influential as the game pressed on and one tackle and then resulting dribble he did was simply world class. He’ll only improve in that role with games I feel. 8
Osman: Had a bit of a shocker really but it wasn’t for want of trying. 5
Pienaar: Worked tirelessly, though not quite as effective as he was away at Spurs last weekend. 6
Fellaini: Was unlucky not to score with at least one of his three chances. He got yet another booking though for a foul which, again, I don’t feel was a yellow card. There were certainly plenty of worse tackles (which weren’t necessarily bookings either) that went unpunished by Martin Atkinson. It makes me wonder if there’s a bit of a witch hunt against him ‘cos he seems to get penalised every time he makes a foul. Regardless of all that, he had a good game. I think we’ve got a player there. 7
Cahill: Badly struggling for form but nothing a goal won’t fix I reckon. Maybe away at City next Saturday. 5
Anichebe: Toiled up front, apparently nursing a back injury. I thought he did OK. I hope he’s fit for next sat as, unless Saha recovers, it seems we have nobody else. 6
Van Der Meyde (for Neville): I guess he did OK but its difficult for him given how precious little time he’s had on the pitch. Maybe there’s a reprieve for him after all. 6
Baines (for Anichebe): Had a fairly disastrous few minutes out there from what I recall. 5
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