COLUMNIST PAUL TRAILL
With Newcastle being quite a distance we usually decide to book into a hotel
and make a night of it also for this fixture. In years gone by Gaz has usually
helped us out with driving though as he can?t get to the game as much these days
it was left to yours truly to get behind the wheel. Getting there weren?t quite
as bad as I feared as its pretty straightforward and we got quite a good run
down the M1 following heavy fog on the M62. Once into Newcastle, and once I?d
been confused by the odd city centre ring road we were away, bags dumped in the
B&B a quick bite to eat and into the pub, The Bodega, for a few pre-match
beers?for Adam and I at least?Andy just came for the night out.
Following our dreadful display at home to Reading midweek we really didn?t expect much from the game at all. St. James Park is always a tough place to go and with Fellaini and Cahill both out injured we didn?t carry much hope. Phil Neville was into midfield to do the holding with Hibbert introduced at right back. Osman was on the right flank and Arteta moved to the wing to replace the now noticeably leggy Coleman. Saha and Beckford partnered in a welcoming boldness in attack. Newcastle Utd began with Best and Lovenkrands up front and Kevin Nolan (fresh from a letter from Anichebe?s lawyer) featuring in midfield. The referee was Howard Webb. We took our (very high) seats as the teams switched ends.
The Geordie crowd were reasonably subdued as Everton pressed into a reasonably good start, Arteta probably coming closest to scoring when he cut in from the left onto his right foot and struck goalwards?Harper saving well. We were doing well, Arteta and Osman both making good inroads down their flanks. I think Baines and Hibbert both benefited from their partners also. The former a better performer with a more quality player working with him who always shows for the ball, the latter benefitting from playing with someone he?s played with for years and knows his game.
It was typical Everton then that they went and conceded a soft goal when in the ascendancy. Nolan driving at goal, Howard parrying it not so well and Leon Best on hand totally unmarked to nod into an empty net. Thankfully this was the only defensive blunder from Everton as they were solid defensively thereafter. Thankfully also, it wasn?t long at all until we were back in the game?
Osman ran quite a long way with the ball before playing it out wide to Arteta. The Spaniard cut inside into the penalty area acutely and picked out Osman in space. Leon had time and used it, thinking about where to place the ball before tucking it nicely past Harper and through the legs of a goal-line defender. 1-1. Game on.
Everton continued to apply some dominance to the game and this was rewarded just five minutes later when Phil Jagielka got on the end of a wicked free kick delivery from Baines and smashed the ball home on the half volley to send us away fans wild. A fantastic response from Everton and we suddenly found ourselves ahead.
There were a few shaky moments towards the end of the first half, most notably when I think Williamson jabbed wide from inside the box. Half time we were 2-1 to the good and all set for a cracker of a second half. At the break I nipped to the toilet which was a mission in itself. Downstairs was packed, lads singing and swaying, beer swilling everywhere?was quite a sight.
The second half was as we expected?very exciting. Newcastle Utd threw everything at Everton though just couldn?t find a breakthrough. Leon Best did have the ball in the net via an excellent header though was adjudged to have fouled Jagielka in doing so and so the goal was chalked off. A free kick was blocked and then cleared just short of the goal and I think Howard made a decent save at one point. That was about it however in our box.
The rest of the play was at the other end of the field and really Everton could have scored four or five with the chances they wasted. If that was Manchester United they?d have won by a hatful. With Newcastle Utd pressing so high up the pitch the amount of space Everton were finding on the wide pitch was just unbelievable?and Arteta reveled in it. Jermaine Beckford was foiled a couple of times by Harper, Saha headed over and narrowly missed his connection from a lovely Arteta ball, and Saha also came mighty close with a simply magnificent half volley from the edge of the box which fired just wide after being set up by substitute Anichebe.
Coleman also probably should have scored when also set up by his fellow substitute. The away support delighted in the victory with several renditions of Depeche Mode?s classic hit ?Just Can?t Get Enough?. It all made for a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon and a vastly deserved ? and required ? three points for Everton.
So how many more season-defining wins can we have only to become disillusioned and disappointed the following game? All of a sudden the season looks potentially alive. Liverpool battering Manchester United hasn?t done us any favors at all but if, and it is a big if given how the season has gone, we can beat Birmingham City on Wednesday night we will be up into eighth and then just three points off sixth and well away from the relegation zone. Birmingham City have slipped into the bottom three this weekend also so the match will have bigger importance to them than perhaps it would have done. It?ll be tough on Wednesday, no doubt about that, but if we can win it will give us one last shot at salvaging something from this bazaar season after all.
Howard: Flapped a bit with the goal but otherwise solid and quite commanding. 6
Baines: Did great. A very good job in defence and attack. He worked well with Arteta and set up the second goal. A very good shift. 8
Distin: Was perhaps culpable for the goal but was very good at repelling danger in the second half. 7
Jagielka: Had a cracker. Got on the scoresheet and was behind everything in defence. Marshaled well. 9
Hibbert: Nice to see him back. Picked up quite an early booking but that didn?t affect him and he stuck to his game well?albeit with his usual shoddy distribution. 7
Neville: Was doing well and getting stuck in until forced half injured. Let?s hope that?s not too serious?not sure we really need a sustained spell in midfield for Johnny Heitinga. 6
Rodwell: As always seems to be the case, was missing for a lot of the game but to be fair to the lad he did take some responsibility in clearing and heading things out as Newcastle Utd pressed for an equalizer late on. 6
Arteta: My Man of the Match. Absolute quality. I think a few people have been calling for him to be winged for some time. I didn?t think it was such a great idea but am glad to be wrong. He was outstanding out there yesterday, really taking on the responsibility and carrying the team forward. He should stay there for the remainder of the season again now he has his confidence back. Hopefully he can keep it up. 9
Osman: Had a good game. Got on the scoresheet, got stuck in and had a good influence on the game. Certainly made up for a poor display against Reading in midweek. 7
Saha: Held the ball up superbly at times, and his ball control is terrific. He put in quite a shift. I thought he was being subbed at one point but Beckford came off instead. Really oughta have scored with one of his chances. Hopefully he?s saving one or two for Wednesday. 7
Beckford: Unlucky not to score particularly on one occasion but otherwise I don?t think he used the ball well. Still learning though. 6
Heitinga (for Neville): Tackling great. Distribution and dribbling not so great?dreadful in fact. Will have to improve fast if Neville?s injured as I imagine he?ll be called upon to play midfield. 5
Anichebe (for Beckford): A few silly moments aside I thought he did very well. Perhaps he had a point to prove having just sued the club but he was certainly more lively and more involved than he has been. Unlucky not to set up a goal. Also managed to get himself booked following a confrontation with Nolan?old wounds don?t heal easy eh! 7
Coleman (for Osman): Worked as you expect but probably should have grabbed himself a goal but Harper saved. Did OK though. 6
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1 Posted 07/03/2011 at 13:21:13
2 Posted 07/03/2011 at 14:19:29
3 Posted 07/03/2011 at 15:23:45
4 Posted 07/03/2011 at 16:36:08
I'm not a fan of Heitinga, especially in midfield but I see no other option. Knowing Moyes, he will put Arteta back in central midfield, after playing his best game of the season, and put Vic on the left!
5 Posted 07/03/2011 at 17:15:33
I take your point though and it has to be questioned the logic of David Moyes buying a player for circa £9 million and continually playing him out of position. If we receive a half-decent inquiry from any of the Moscow clubs, I can see it in everyone's interest that Bily returns home at the end of this campaign.
6 Posted 07/03/2011 at 22:38:36
Too often, Bily seems out of touch with the flow of the game. He is caught unawares and behind the play when the opposition make breakaways down his wing.
When it comes to the tackle or winning the 50/50s, he does not have a competitive bone in his body. Central midfield is far too busy and vital for him.
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