COLUMNIST PAUL TRAILL
Everton 2 - 1 Fulham
With holiday days to use up at work I made the most of a lazy day at home watching cricket and tennis in the main?all safe in the knowledge that I was headed for some Friday night FA Cup football at Goodison Park.
Given countless dismal performances this season I didn?t exactly travel with much confidence. I was in the pub a little earlier than usual and it was rather quite though it gradually got busier as the rest of the guys turned up and by about 7.15pm the pub was very, very busy. Unfortunately we ended up right by a radiator which was on full blast as I practically melted.
The surprise team news saw Straqualursi begin in attack at the expense of the dropped / rested Louis Saha, though Gueye did also get a rare start on the flank with Anichebe dropping out. The bench looked quite strong also with Hahnemann, Hibbert, Saha, Anichebe, Vellios, Drenthe and Baxter all involved. For Fulham Andy Johnson was welcomed back upon his return though the same welcome wasn?t quite extended to ex-Reds Danny Murphy and John Arne Riise. Elsewhere Clint Dempsey and Bryan Ruiz featured for Fulham in quite an attacking team. Bobby Zamora on the bench. As always, the announcement that Howard Webb was officiating brought with it some boos?not least from Jonny Heitinga no doubt. Everton attacked towards the Park End in the first half.
Fulham?s following wasn?t great though unusually the ones that did travel were all congregated in the Upper Bullens section for the visiting supporters rather than the Lower section. Whilst empty seats were aplenty throughout the atmosphere was very good inside the ground. I don?t know whether that was a compound of the Friday weekend buzz or just the general buzz of an evening game but the atmosphere certainly was something last night. The best for some time I think. I noticed a post on Toffeeweb a week or so ago regarding a ?Singing Section for Fulham match?. Basically a few guys were organizing seats together in the middle to back section of the Lower Gwladys to sing a bit more and try and get the atmosphere going. Well it certainly worked. I was fairly near this area and the work these guys put in certainly rubbed off on a few others?and then a few others?and generally got quite a few people going. I think this in turn got the players going and the place was generally buzzing. Consequently, Everton played well. Very well in fact and took the game to Fulham from the start.
Regardless we were soon behind in this game due to what looked a harsh penalty decision given against Jonny Heitinga in similar circumstances to the penalty Liverpool won in the Carling Cup on Wednesday. I think it was an initial mistake from Duffy which eventually resulted in Riise getting down our left flank and the ball being squared to Duff. Heitinga threw himself in the way of the ball with the ball apparently striking his hand. I haven?t seen it since so I?ve no real idea but it looked harsh and Howard, Neville and Heitinga weren?t best pleased with the Dutchman getting booked for his troubles. Just what does Howard Webb have against Heitinga? Anyway, Murphy stepped up to a hostile reception and as I feared, calmly slotted home from the penalty spot. He?s always been a useful player in those situations.
So, Everton a goal behind but this didn?t deter either Everton or the supporters and they continued to attack positively. A flurry of corners somehow didn?t result in a goal with Duffy perhaps having the best chance of all but heading wide. Thankfully we didn?t have to wait to long for the goal however ? Donavon putting a good cross into the box and Straqualursi meeting it to plant his header into the net. The way Dennis made off towards the corner flag I assumed it was Cahill who?d headed home though was of course incorrect. It didn?t matter. Everton were level!
For the remainder of the half we continued to play with a zest and energy I haven?t seen for quite a while and for once I was really enjoying this game. We went into half time all square and enjoyed a beer at the break with the concourse rather busy. Into the second half and it was pretty much more of the same for Everton. It?s amazing what confidence a goal can do. Dennis transformed from a clueless try-hard to actually a pretty good player. Putting himself about and using the ball quite intelligently. It was pleasing to see and perhaps gives Moyes a selection headache prior to Tuesday nights game against Manchester City.
The winning goal was a good one, a real old fashioned one for me. Donavon taking on his winger and getting an excellent ball into the box. The deep midfielder, Fellaini, arriving late into the box to bullet home a header into the far corner. The young keeper, Stockdale, absolutely no chance. A really good goal. A proper goal. An Everton goal and we lead 2-1.
Cahill will wonder quite how he didn?t make it 3-1 with what seemed like practically an open goal but the ball was somehow cleared. The introduction of Bobby Zamora provided Fulham with a bit more attacking impetus but Everton ultimately held out comfortably enough, the game culminating with Cahill and Neville wasting time in the corner flag until Webb had enough and blew up for full time. It?s great to be in the hat before everyone else plays and we can now just relax, see who goes through and see who we draw in the next round. After the game I was out of the ground and for the second game on the trot a lift home from Steve?he must be after something.
I?ll leave you with a few things I?ve pondered:
- Friday Night Football?surely more of a draw than Monday Night Football, and like myself yesterday, I imagine more people would be inclined to take days off, half days etc and get themselves to the game on Fridays than on Mondays. I think it would work much better.
- The crowd can make a huge difference. With the crowd very buoyant Everton played a lot better. It?s difficult when there?s not a lot to shout about but it does go to show what impact supporters can make on the game.
- Most importantly I suppose?that was much more like it?more of the same against Man City and we could well have another great night at Goodison Park on Tuesday.
Howard: Dealt with most things quite well and was helpless with the penalty really. Much improved from the Blackburn game. 7
Baines: Fine in defense though not as useful going forward as usual. 6
Duffy: Seems very assure defensively though appears out of ideas when with the ball and often concedes possession. Has a lot to work on but certainly heading in the right direction and playing alongside Heitinga can only help his progression for now. If Distin or Jagielka aren?t available for Tuesday we should leave him in there. The thought of Sergio Aguero running at Hibbert in defence worries me. 7
Heitinga: Handled Andy Johnson very well and wasn?t really at fault for the penalty as far as I could tell. Showing good form at the moment and seems to be really helping Duffy along. Taking good responsibility. Will need to continue that on Tuesday. 7
Neville: Coped fine. What you see is what you get from Neville. 7
Fellaini: Really got stuck into them in the midfield and nursed the ball well. Also chipped in with a cracking header. Good game. More required on Tuesday. 8
Gibson: A little disappointing but clearly needs to get more games under his belt. 5
Gueye: Started well, put in some quality corner kicks. I think his problem is that he doesn?t have the energy to keep up that level for a full 90 minutes and was rightly subbed on 67 minutes. 6
Donovan: Had a splendid game getting down the wing and put in two super deliveries which resulted in two good goals. Like many others, same again is required on Tuesday. 8
Cahill: Should have scored with one chance but was quite busy if not overly effective. Lets hope he?s saving his goal for Tuesday. 5
Straqualursi: My man of the match. Really started to get stuck in more in the second half and his decision making appeared far better than it has been. He was a real handful. I wonder if he can now kick on having gotten himself a goal? The thing is, I imagine he?ll now be dropped for Saha on Tuesday night. 8
Drenthe (for Gueye): Got involved and made an impact down the left hand side. God sub. 6
Anichebe (for Straqualursi): Didn?t really get involved. 5
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517 Posted 28/01/2012 at 15:28:48
Good call for a standing and singing section. Bottom line is these overpaid arseholes need to produce more often and it is them rather than us poor tossers than need to raise morale!!
518 Posted 28/01/2012 at 15:51:11
It's a better idea, Friday night football, school kids don't have to get up for school the next day either and the weekend's started for most people.
553 Posted 28/01/2012 at 19:28:57
Yet he: cannot pass the ball; cannot cross; punts the ball aimlessly; invariably fails to find a team mate; cannot shoot; and scores once every Preston Guild.
Am I alone in this strange malaise? Rational this ain't.
564 Posted 28/01/2012 at 20:39:59
Agree re Friday night and as you say just good to see us trying - we won as well - won't always be the case but what a joy not to be ripping into Moyes, Kenwright, each other.
The endeavour of Straq, the ingenuity of LD and general feelgood factor just want more matchdays like that.
576 Posted 28/01/2012 at 22:54:27
As a captain he is better than Hibbert, but I would rather have Tim Howard/ Heitinga as captain, and let Hibbert play instead of Neville.
Our defensive record with Hibbert is better than with Neville. Neville simply is too old and should be dropped against Man City.
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