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Venue: Madejski Stadium, Reading
 Saturday 23 Dec 2006; 3:00pm
Half Time: 0-1
Johnson (14'), McFadden (47')
Attendance: 24,053
Fixture 19
Referee: Steve Tanner

Match Summary

More injury/illness madness to start this one, with Victor Anichebe dropping out just an hour before the start due to illness, and then Alan Stubbs injuring his thigh in the warm-up!  Johnson and McFadden leading the Everton line, with Gary Naysmith getting his sixth start of the season after his own medial knee ligament injury nightmares, coming in to the defence.

Johnson did brilliantly to wiggle his way in to the box and take an early shot at the Reading goal but it was saved well.  It was a chance.  After a couple of Reading corners, McFadden got in ahead of the defence but Sonko bullied him off the ball no penalty.  Arteta got the ball in after a superb move down the right, buying himself a little bit of space so he could square it to Andy Johnson, who finished superbly, with the benefit of a slight defection off Sonko.  Sonko' s revenge was to totally flatten Johnson 2 mins later out on the left from a very bad foul, but no card for the Reading defender.  He was clearly dazed by the assault 

McFadden then got a good sight of goal and really tested Hahnemann, who could only palm the ball away at full stretch.  Osman then did brilliantly to turn the defender and really should have scored but his shot was impaired by a defender who clipped him as he made to strike.  Should have been a foul!

A superb move started with McFadden running at the defenders and then feeding Johnson in a brilliant move to get the ball forward and, from outside the box, Osman's great shot hit the underside of the bar but did not cross the line... what a goal that would have been!  Soel looked to have been fouled by Naysmith, and it could have been a penalty, but it was right on the edge of the box, and could have threatened Everton's lead. 

As compensation, the ref gave Reading a nice free-kick , 10 yards outside the area, but it was effectively defended by the Blues.  Reading were get frustrated but it was an excellent half of play from Everton, who really took the game to their hosts, and were full value for the lead, and should really have at least a two-goal cushion.

The second half was just a few minutes old when Johnson scampered down the right, delayed and delayed again before putting in a superb ball for James McFadden who struck it in superb style to put Everton two up and set the tone for the second half as a continuation of the good work put in during the very gratifying first.  When did Everton last have the security of a two-goal lead to defend?

Some great play by McFadden and Arteta should have seen yet another goal, but McFadden had strayed offside and it didn't happen. Reading needed to respond and Steve Coppell put on Leroy Lita for Soel to provide something for the Everton defence to contend with.  And Reading did start to show a bit more intent, giving Everton something to think about following the substitution, but Everton were getting in some decent build-up play with McFadden playing an important role. 

Lita got in a good header and it really should have been a goal from Harper who fired instead over the crossbar.  Former Everton player John Oster came on for the last 20 minutes or so.  Howard was immediately called upon to make a good low save from Doyle, and Everton showed signs of becoming a little sloppy, content in their commanding position and set to secure only their second away win of the season.

Harper had another chance but his volley was wide, as Beattie came on for McFadden.  Reading huffed and puffed but could do nothing to reduce Everton's Christmas cheer on the back of a great win and a very good team performance with some great football played by the Blues.  This is more like it, Moyes!

Michael Kenrick

Match Preview

Saturday's game at the Madejski Stadium marks the half-way stage in a season that started brilliantly for Everton, with three wins out of four that took us up into the stratosphere of the Premier League table.   David Moyes even had the team playing open, 'expansive' football ball-on-the-ground stuff like the wonderful move that led to Andy Johnson's goal that sealed a great result in fantastic style at White Heart Lane. 

But, over the subsequent months of disappointment and a seemingly relentless slide down the table, Everton have struggled mainly with a succession of injuries, combined with some typical bad luck regarding yet another gamble on a foreign player who promises much but consistently fails to deliver Andy van der Meyde.  What will the excuse be for a no-show in Berkshire? 

Victor Anichebe: Did enough to earn a second start

A good performance against Chelsea last week, despite the seemingly inevitable loss, provides something of a springboard for Moyes to arrest the downward slide and start to turn things back around so that we head upward in the second half of the season and do something to secure that much heralded Uefa Cup spot that has eluded us throughout the entire history of the Premiership. 

Mikel Arteta is doubtful, having sustained a foot injury in his return to match fitness against Chelsea, and he has not trained all week.  Phil Neville, Leon Osman and Nuno Valente are all expected to play after coming through last week's game without any reaction to their own recoveries from the trauma of injury.  And then there is Victor Anichebe, who surely did enough to earn a second successive Premiership start with his performance last weekend.  But youngsters must be 'protected'... and we know how conservative Moyes is in risking the Academy stars not that he actually believes in the system (or so he claims).  It would be great to see the big lad really give a decent chance.  He cannot be any worse than Beattie, even if he tried, so what is there to lose?

 Something different needs to happen up front so that Andy Johnson can get a sight of the ball incoming to his feet... but with Everton so reliant on a relatively limited set of plays that depend almost exclusively on the creative flair and skill of Mikel Arteta, you have to wonder just where that will come from especially as Arteta has been generally less than inspiring away from home this season. 

Let's hope the close game they gave Chelsea will have been enough to instill some self-belief into the the flagging Band of Brothers.  They need to take the game to Reading, just like they did Chelsea, and then anything is possible.  But Reading have built a good reputation for themselves this season, and we have already had the Everton captain singing their praises to the heavens... which is hardly the way to psyche up the troops for the battle ahead, is it?

Michael Kenrick

Matchday Stats

May appear here later

Steve Flanagan

Oh what fun it is to see Everton win away

Everton started the Christmas programme with a handsome 2-0 win at Reading, the Blues' first away win since August, to put memories of last weekend's cruel defeat by Chelsea behind them and start moving back up the Premiership table.

Equally pleasing was the end of Andy Johnson's 11-game goal drought which came with a 14th-minute strike that set David Moyes's side on their way to victory at the Madejski Stadium.

Moyes was boosted by the fact that Mikel Arteta, a doubt in the run-up to this one with a foot injury, was passed fit but lost last weekend's starting striker, Victor Anichebe, to illness and then Alan Stubbs to a hamstring strains sustained during the pre-match warm-up.

So, James McFadden lined up alongside Johnson and Gary Naysmith made his first at left back start since his long lay off with a knee ligament injury. The midfield, often fluid in terms of selection these days, was completed by Leon Osman, Simon Davies and Lee Carsley.

Reading made an impressive start to life in the top flight and almost immediately looked highly capable of not only cementing their place in the Premiership but perhaps making a challenge for a top-10 finish. They hav, however, been slipping a little of late and their performance against Everton was pretty poor on the whole for the first three quarters of the game.

That allowed the Blues to seize the initiative and start in the ascendency. Quicker in thought and in the tackle, Moyes's side were always looking to break away from defence and feed the front two through Osman or Arteta.

After Johnson had carved out the first opportunity when he surged into the box and made room for a right-footed shot that was easily dealt with by the 'keeper, McFadden had a genuine penalrty appeal turned down when he was roughly barged over as he burst into the box.

After 14 minutes, though, the Blues did take the lead. Arteta's trickery allowed him to burst clear down the line and when his cross was met by Johnson, the striker had time to control and poke it into the top corner via a deflection off his marker's out-stretched leg.

With their hosts seemingly unable to muster anything by way of a sustained threat, Everton might have doubled their lead a little later in the half through Osman, first when he was handed a gilt-edged chance in front of goal but sliced a left-footed effort well wide, and then when he unleashed a terrific shot from 25-30 yards that cannoned off the bar, onto the line and out again. The players claimed the goal but the linesman, correctly, kept his flag down.

Reading had a penalty claim of their own waved away by rookie official Steve Tanner, in charge of his first Premiership match, when Naysmith appeared to trip Seol right on the edge of the penalty area. The infringement appeared to take place outside the box while the Korean fell inside but the home faithful were incensed nonetheless.

Full value for their lead that the break, the Blues more or less put the game out of reach after 47 minutes. Johnson, relentlessly booed throughout by the home fans, no doubt because of his scoring record against the Royals and the diving controversy that has plagued his season, turned provider when he caught Nicky Hunt dallying midway inside his own half, nodded the ball, and cut it back before he reached the byline and squared it to McFadden in the six-yard box.

The Scot, who was somewhat mercurial over the course of the game, did well to hold off his marker before swivelling and burying the ball past the 'keeper.

The Madejski crowd silenced, Reading took a while to respond in a meaningful fashion and Everton eased off the accelerator a little, relying increasingly on feeding Johnson on the counter and cleaning things up at the back through the impeccable Yobo and Lescott. Even Naysmith was having a pretty good game, exemplified by one superb saving tackle in the second half.

With Doyle and Seol well shackled, it wasn't until Leroy Lita was introduced with 20 minutes to go that Coppell's side started to put the visiting defence under pressure, and it was he who twice tested Tim Howard in the closing stages, but the American was equal to the task and preserved a rare away win for Everton.

While it's true that Reading were a shadow of the team that started the season so positively and came so close to defeating Manchester United here a few weeks back, credit must go to Everton for taking the game to their hosts so quickly and so effecively. Johnson clearly enjoyed playing against the club he has now scored eight goals against in as many games, and the end of his goal drought — if that's what this proves to be — will be most welcome.

Far from a vintage display, it was commanding nevertheless and a banana skin successfully side-stepped by Moyes's men, allowing the vocal travelling support to drift into a cold evening to the refrain of "Jingle Bells" (the football version, of course), no doubt sizing up the ambiance created by the retail park in which the Madejski Stadium lies in relation to Everton's own plans for an out-of-town ground development.

Lyndon Lloyd

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READING (4-4-2)
  Hunt (69' Oster)
  Little (53' Lita)
  Doyle (85' Long)
  Subs not used
EVERTON (4-4-2)
  McFadden (76' Beattie)
  Subs not used
  Van der Meyde
  Stubbs (injured)
  Anichebe (illness)
  Valente (injured)
  Cahill (injured)
  Hibbert (injured)
  Pistone (injured)
  Turner (injured)


Premiership Scores
Saturday 23 December 2006
Fulham 0-0 West Ham
Arsenal 6-2 Blackburn
Aston Villa 0-3 Man Utd
Liverpool 1-0 Watford
Newcastle 3-1 Tottenham
Man City 2-0 Bolton
Middlesbro 2-0 Charlton
Portsmouth 3-1 Sheff Utd
Reading 0-2 Everton
Wigan 2-3 Chelsea

Premiership Table
Pos Team Pts
1 Man Utd 47
2 Chelsea 45
3 Liverpool 34
4 Arsenal 33
5 Bolton 33
6 Portsmouth 32
7 Tottenham 28
8 Everton 27
9 Reading 26
10 Aston Villa 25
11 Newcastle 25
12 Fulham 24
13 Wigan 22
14 Middlesbro 20
15 Man City 20
16 Sheff Utd 20
17 Blackburn 19
18 West Ham 18
19 Charlton 12
20 Watford 11
After 26 Dec 2006