Everton 3 Reading 1

fellaini_reading

That’s right, 3-1 to the tricky Blues. Smell my cheese you mother.

On a proper spring-in-your-step as you slalom through the Cammell Lairds on Goodison Road kind of afternoon, Everton did their thing against probably the worst team they have faced at home all season. Reading are absolutely shite and their manager looks like that stupid arl fella who used to be on Coronation Street back when the worst thing Kevin Webster had ever done was let a mate’s car pass a borderline MOT.

Both sides fielded their reserve goalkeepers and Everton were further weakened only moments into the game when a challenge by horrible little shitbag Adam Le Fondre left Phil Jagielka with a cut on his ankle that will see him miss next Saturday’s FA Cup quarter-final against Wigan Athletic. Brian McDermott says that Le Fondre isn’t the sort of player who would deliberately ‘do’ someone, which may well be the case. However, he definitely is the sort of player who when he was a big fucking deal at Rotherham answered his phone and denied actually being himself to someone who had spoken to him a mere couple of hours earlier and arranged to do an interview.

The obnoxious little cunt.

Anyway, Jagielka is out, leaving us with the tantalising prospect of John Heitinga marking the ‘bustling’ Aroune Kone next week. Please note that it’s John from now on, as he lost the right to be on ‘Johnny’ terms when he lay on the floor play-acting in this match and chose to see the charade through to its bitter end rather than get up and try to defend when the referee waved play on. Reading almost ‘fashioned’ an opening, with the game at 2-0, and Sylvain Distin looked embarrassed for his teammate as he half-heartedly berated the official.

Most of the first-half was crap. The majority of the Everton side played as if they had chronic sunburn. Only Kevin Mirallas and Seamus Coleman – players who have had enforced rest due to injury – looked at all fresh. The majority of the rest looked as if they were willing to move a bit if the ball was near them, but by jingo they weren’t just legging around making mad runs for any bleeder.

Their initial lethargy was almost punished too when Le Fondre – if footballing luminaries like Jamie Redknapp and, erm, Clive Platt and Ben Burgess can be civil and professional then you certainly should be, fucking no-mark – almost splintered the frame of the Gwladys Street goal with a shot from 18 yards out.

As the half ‘developed’ though, Everton began to work out their kinks and stretch the visitors. Who were shit, remember. Mirallas is beginning to look ominous every time he gets the ball while Coleman was at his energetic best. The Irish fullback definitely has ‘something’ and when he’s playing well there are few players in the Premier League who make going past opponents look so straightforward.

On 42 minutes he burst down the right and flung a cross over to the far post where Marouane Fellaini crashed home a brilliant header. There was still time as well for him to force a save from Stuart Taylor with an audacious shot from out near the touchline that almost nobody who likes a pint saw until Match of the Day.

Speaking of half-time beverages, in this day and age how is it that the catering at the match is still such a shoddy, unsatisfactory experience? You feel for the poor kids getting paid buttons to do the serving when, during the 15 minutes per fortnight when they are quite busy, they are hamstrung by ‘the gas going’. Again. The captive audience at the game would willingly overpay for something approaching adequate service and yet very few clubs seem to have the imagination to ‘exploit’ that fact fully. It’s pitiful, but it’s clear they reason that they get handed a ton of money from that stupid television contract so why would they make an effort to try and do a decent job of something that nets them peanuts in comparison?

Sort it out Moyes.

Reading almost caught Everton cold straight after the break – apparently, see above – but their spirit was finally crushed on 58 minutes when the ‘winger swap’ secret manoeuvre finally paid dividends. Granted, Steven Pienaar was only running at Ian Harte – if he turned up on Masters football you would say ‘Fucking hell, remember him for Leeds’ – but still the South African did brilliantly, cutting inside and smashing a swerving shot past Taylor.

Seven minutes later it was the turn of Mirallas, coming in from the left, who seized onto Pienaar’s through-ball, drew Tayor and cheekily slid his shot inside the near post. The Belgian’s been off-colour since returning from injury but here he looked like the sort of horribly skilful bastard who specialises in away goals against English sides in the Europa League.

On 83 minutes the Blues continued their record of not keeping a clean sheet since Paper Lace topped the charts as Hal Robson-Huth-Kanu headed home unmarked. Even Everton couldn’t blow it at that stage against such limited opposition though – indeed they might have extended their lead when the remarkably energised substitute Victor Anichebe went on a powerful run and beat Taylor, only for Harte to clear the ball off the line.

And that were that, cocker. Roll on Wigan, who in a tradition that goes back to Paul Jewell’s time in charge will play a blinder against us after rolling over against the other shower, you can guarantee it.

If you’ve got any sort of soul though you must be buzzing already in anticipation. This week’s going to drag like a bastard.

Soccer.

Bolton Wanderers 1 Everton 2

heitinga bolton

The deafening noise at the end of this fourth round FA Cup tie was the sound of scores of internet match reporters furiously pressing ‘delete’.

When John Heitinga replaced Nikica Jelavic on 81 minutes the reaction at the match was certainly the old one of ‘typical negative Moyes’, however the move ended up looking positively inspired when the Dutchman set himself and picked his spot for an absolute cracker of a winner in injury time.

Late winners are always ace, especially away, and especially in the cup, and they allow you to overlook poor performances to a large extent, and this was one that certainly wants forgetting. In many ways it was typical of Everton, with everyone excited and thousands packing the away end and large pockets of the home stands too, it was almost inevitable that they would play like a load of shite. It should never surprise us.

The withdrawal of Kevin Mirallas after only 17 minutes was the first sign that all wasn’t going to go smoothly, especially as he was replaced by Magaye Gueye. It’s fair to say the jury has pretty much adjudicated on this cat now.

On 18 minutes though, Leighton Baines low cross initially evaded Steven Pienaar but the South African ended up perfectly placed to unwittingly deflect Victor Anichebe’s shot past Andy Lonergan in the home goal.

After that though, Everton faded badly and Bolton, for whom Jay Spearing ran the show, looked the far livelier side. It came as little surprise that the lead lasted less than 10 minutes – Chung-Yong Lee burst down the right and Marvin Sordell swept a low shot inside the near post.

A lot’s been made about Nikica Jelavic’s barren spell in front of goal but he’s certainly not been helped by the fact that the team aren’t creating many decent chances. Everything comes down the left from Leighton Baines – opponents seem to know that if they can defend crosses from that source then the job’s more than half done.

The central midfield is also a concern in the continued absence of Darron Gibson. Marouane Fellaini was given a start in his supposedly favoured position, in front of the back four, and reminded everyone why he got shoved up front in the first place. According to some newspapers Moyes is in talks with FC Twente about Leroy Fer, although talk of a £7 million fee seems fanciful unless someone gets shipped out.

Thankfully we were spared a replay with Heitinga’s intervention – and in fairness the Blues were on top in the closing stages. Gueye even smashed a screamer against the crossbar in the very dying seconds although almost no one saw this, preoccupied as they were with watching the spirited exchanges of views taking place between opposing supporters in the home end.

Oldham away in the next round. Anything could happen there.

West Ham 1 Everton 2

crazy in the coconut

The wacky refereeing was always going to be the story at the end of a game featuring a ludicrous red card for each side and the extremely harsh decision to disallow an Everton goal.

Just as noteworthy though from an Everton perspective was how a line-up that nobody got close to predicting played some decent stuff and took all three points from what looked like a tough away game.

In the absence of Marouane Fellaini, Kevin Mirallas, Tony Hibbert and Seamus Coleman, David Moyes played Phil Jagielka at right-back and threw the returning Phil Neville and Victor Anichebe straight back into action. Almost everyone did the wince that you normally reserve for horrible Youtube videos when they saw the teamsheet, but the Blues coped with the changes far better than anyone could have really hoped.

Leon Osman and Steven Pienaar were both at their best and a home side that was also depleted by injuries struggled to match their intelligence on the ball.

It was Sylvain Distin who had the game’s first real chance though. He should have scored when meeting a Leighton Baines free-kick with a powerful downward header but the ball bounced harmlessly over the bar.

Moments later the Blues had the ball in the net, this time when Osman crashed home a header from Baines’s deep corner, but the first wacky decision of the day by referee Anthony Taylor saw him listen to his weird Escape From New York looking linesman and disallow the goal. Apparently it was for a foul by Anichebe on Jussi Jaaskelainen but fucking hell, it was nothing. Anichebe had his arm around the keeper’s side for a second as they waited for the kick to come in, but if you are going to start giving them then how about the shove between the shoulder blades that that keepers always give the striker on the line at every corner? Ridiculous.

Everton’s indignation was only deepened as the home side immediately went downfield and opened the scoring themselves. Carlton Cole cut inside Johnny Heitinga and from just outside the box drilled a shot into the bottom corner of Tim Howard’s goal. It was the sort of goal that Cole never really scores, and although he took it well he was given far too much room to manoeuvre.

Nikica Jelavic shot straight at Jaaskelainen from six yards as Everton probed for an equaliser; the Toffees were definitely the neater team but we’ve seen it plenty of times already this season when they struggle to convert possession into clear-cut opportunities. Thankfully though, on 63 minutes they drew level when Anichebe got his head on Pienaar’s cross and flicked the ball past the keeper and into the far corner of the net.

Fair play to Anichebe, we skitted him in the preview, wondering why Moyes always makes a point of listing him in the absentees, but he does seem to have developed a knack of nicking goals in tight games, especially away from home. And let’s face it, if he hadn’t netted here there would definitely have been an inquest from supporters into why he was chosen ahead of Steven Naismith, Apostolos Vellios or even Ross Barkley.

Three minutes after Everton levelled, referee Taylor made his second inexplicable blunder, issuing Cole with a straight red when his high foot caught Baines on the arm. The decision was so poor that even the Blues’ players looked mortified for Cole – they did everything but organise a whip-round and sign a big card for him as he traipsed off the pitch.

If all that wasn’t bad enough for Big Sam, he tore off his bib, wiped the barbecue sauce off his fingers and pointed a spare rib in disgust at his players when Everton scored the winner on 72 minutes.

Baines, Pienaar and Osman – an absolute stone-cold classic triumvirate of ‘Everton’ footballers – combined on the edge of the West Ham area before Osman, with his those feet, soft like John McEnroe’s hands, made a mug of the most overrated underrated player in the league, Mark Noble, and crossed low into the six-yard box for Pienaar to force the ball home.

Jelavic almost put the game to bed but a good challenge by James Tomkins was enough to force his shot into the side-netting. That kept ten-man West Ham alive and they almost saved a point when Kevin Nolan put a couple of shots narrowly wide when you might have expected him to do better.

In the final minute the referee capped off his bizarre performance by dismissing Darron Gibson, again for an innocuous and completely accidental high challenge. Moyes and Allardyce are going to get all tag team on the FA and should, surely, get both cards downgraded to yellows.

Four points from Stoke and West Ham away is pretty good going but the top four have taken on an all-too-familiar look now, with Arsenal back occupying their coveted mingebag sweet-spot behind Manchester United, City and Chelsea.

It would be ace if the Blues could build on this then and really make a statement in the two home games over Christmas and have us all going into the New Year buzzing but, well, you know what they’re fucking like.

Finally, a happy Christmas and New Year to you all and thankyou to everyone who has been reading the website since the summer and all those who have sent encouraging emails, left comments and passed the link onto their friends – it’s all very much appreciated.

Oh, and this is definitely the last thing, if you receive a Kindle for Christmas and are horrified by the price of the books, well, Vision Sports Publishing are offering The Everton Miscellany in magic electrical format for just over a quid.

Everton 2 Tottenham 1

When he doesn't have to think about it...

When he doesn't have to think about it...

With the crowd poised on the B of boo, and Spurs about to open a six point gap in fourth place, Everton turned their season on its head.

In the final minute, with Andre Villas-Boas’s compact and efficient team leading  through a deflected Clint Dempsey drive that dipped over Tim Howard in the 75th minute, it looked as if we would once again be reflecting on Everton’s well documented deficiencies.

Despite playing some decent stuff in spells, especially before the returning Kevin Mirallas was withdrawn at half time, there was always a feeling that Tottenham were doing well at keeping the Blues at arm’s length. They controlled long stretches of the game, pressured from the front and always looked ominous on the break. If we played like that at White Hart Lane we would have reasoned that we deserved the lead and called the performance ‘professional’.

Everton’s best spell apart from the crazy finale came before half time when the visitors were forced into some desperate defending and had to ride their luck. In particular, Dempsey and then William Gallas appeared to get away with a couple of handballs that looked like Wailing Wall penalties. They are the ones that aren’t awarded against clubs with a support that is often characterised as containing a higher than average contingent of Jewish members.

During that frantic spell, Leon Osman also saw a goalbound shot blocked by Steven Caulker following great play down the left by Leighton Baines and Steven Pienaar.

After that though, the sides were evenly matched for most of the second half, with Everton missing the pace of Mirallas who never reappeared after the break – he looked as if he aggravated his troublesome hamstring following a mazy run across the edge of the Tottenham box.

Jan Vertonghen’s piledriver from a free-kick forced Howard to tip the ball over the bar but, despite the quality of both sides, neither keeper was really too busy before Dempsey’s strike took a nick off the superb Sylvain Distin and put Tottenham in front.

As David Moyes admitted afterwards, the last 10 minutes or so of normal time then marked the Blues’ worst spell of the match. An equaliser never looked on the cards, and Spurs could have doubled their lead when substitute Gylfi Sigurdsson curled a beauty over Howard and onto the crossbar.

Then it happened. In the final minute, Steven Naismith, who had a decent game in place of Mirallas, fed a loose ball out wide to Seamus Coleman. The Irishman has had a tough time recently but this match saw him back to his best – he certainly did brilliantly in this instance, resisting the temptation to lash the ball into the heart of the packed defence and chipping the ball back towards the edge of the box instead. One of the reasons we struggle to open sides up is because we never seem to have anyone arriving late in the penalty area any more, but this time little Pienaar left his former teammates flat-footed as he steamed in and planted a header low past the incredibly French-looking Hugo Lloris.

Mayhem. And incredibly there was more to follow.

With Villas-Boas still standing stunned on the touchline – with his now familiar expression like a man who has realised that the person he has let on to was actually talking to someone behind him– Everton took all three points and squeaked above Spurs into fourth place.

Darron Gibson launched a cross towards the edge of the box where substitute Apostos Vellios threw himself at an overhead kick that was ambitious to say the least. The Greek striker made only the faintest contact with the ball, but it was enough to put it into the path of Nikica Jelavic who instinctively stabbed home a winner that had seemed all but impossible only a couple of minutes earlier.

How the fuck the Croatian knew to be on the move when and where he was, and then stick out his leg when he couldn’t have even seen the ball coming past the defenders, will forever remain a mystery.

He seemed quite happy with the goal though.

It was a remarkable comeback against a good Tottenham side. Moyes, looking resplendent in a suit and cardigan combo, said that we were due something like that and he’s not wrong.

It’s hard to foresee a season when qualifying for the Champions League will be more achievable for Everton than this one. We kept our best players this summer, and indeed strengthened the squad, and a number of the massively moneyed clubs who normally bar entry to the Euro money pit are struggling with problems of their own. If the people at the club who say they want to play at the highest level – and would love to do it with Everton – are really being sincere, then they have to build on this result and start being more ruthless against the majority of sides in the league who are nothing like as good as the last three we’ve faced.

After all, it needs to be remembered, we’re talking about finishing fourth here.

Fourth.