COLUMNIST PAUL TRAILL
As far as trips to the match go, this one kinda had everything. I wanted to get there early enough to catch the Celtic vs Rangers game and so set off on the train from West Kirby at 11.30am to give myself plenty of time. It was just as well. Merseyrail were as useless as ever informing me only when I tried to change at Moorfields that I had to get the next train back to Lime Street and then get a bus replacement direct to Kirkdale. Couldn’t they have told me this on the train?
I then went to get the next train back to Lime Street and was furious when the monitor read “Lime Street…12 minutes”. I therefore ran up the stairs and made a quick dart to Lime Street by foot. To be fair to Merseyrail from there they were pretty quick and efficient in getting everyone on the bus and to Kirkdale, its just the preceding incompetent lack of communication that riles me.
Regardless, I was soon on my way towards County Road to meet Gary in the pub. The jammy sod had heeded my text message warnings of bus replacements and gotten a lift from his mum.
On the way to the ground a Mongolian lad asked me the way to Goodison Park so I walked with him. He actually had a media pass by hook or by crook the lucky begger. Earlier on the train a good mate of mine also got onboard and was going the game with a free ticket in the box. He’s a Tranmere Rovers fan! What’s with all these people getting free tickets and not supporting our team eh?!
After a quick chippy I finally caught up with Gary in the pub. The Celtic vs Rangers game was a waste of time in the most part, finishing goalless I think. Ste turned up a little later and we had a good laugh with everyone predicting a draw for this one. A look at the matchday programme informed me that the referee was Phil Dowd… definitely one of the better ones for me.
We got to the ground and I was surprised to see the man in the black was actually Martin Atkinson, the ref who’d had a bit of a stinker in the home league game against Villa and who’d harshly booked Fellaini just before the first two of the three recent Merseyside derby’s, ensuring the big Belgian missed both those games.
We’d already seen the team news in the pub and we hoped Anichabe could make his desired impact after his recent spell on the sidelines. Osman must’ve been injured so Gosling kept his place in the side. Cahill ploughed on up front with Rodwell getting a deserved chance in midfield. Aston Villa were notably missing the injured Heskey and the suspended Gareth Barry. For once we won the toss and so attacked the Park End in the first half.
Everton started with purpose, forcing a corner in the first 20 seconds of the game. The early goal actually came from a different corner when I think a Cahill header was kept out on the line by Petrov. Replays showed he kept it out with his hand but it mattered not, take a bow young Jack Rodwell whom was first to react, smashing the ball into the roof of the net from a tight angle to open his account for the blues. Everton had a well-earned early lead.
It’s fair to say that Villa didn’t really force their way back into the game, but we’re shown the entrance to it by Everton. I think it was Agbonlahor who got into the box. Hibbert lunged in with a sliding tackle, missed the ball, got the man and down he went. A very clear penalty though a harsh booking for Hibbert I thought who now misses the trip to St. James Park.
Milner stepped up, Howard guessed the right way and really should’ve saved it I thought, but the ball bounced back off the underside of his body and in. 1-1 but I was impressed with the body language of the Everton team who seemed to have a “get up and get on with it” approach. Game on!
Hibbert was being given as tough a game as he’s probably had all season, possibly his whole career by Ashley Young. I had no idea quite how fast Young was and what ability he had to put in a great ball, though Everton on the whole defended it pretty well.
We got our noses in front again from a penalty of our own. Victor Anichabe got hold of the ball out on the right wing and went on a mazy run into the box which made one of the Villa players panic enough to bring him down for a penalty. Arteta stepped up and slotted the ball coolly into the corner, sending Brad Friedel the wrong way.
Villa missed a golden opportunity to level it up again before the break when Agbonlahor headed wide from just a couple of yards from another deadly ball by Ashley Young. Everton got themselves through the rest of the half and went in ahead at the break.
At half time we were treated to some Everton FA Cup winning legends on the pitch, with Joe Royle, Peter Reid, Barry Horne, Joe Parkinson, David Unsworth, Dave Watson, Howard Kendall, Gordon West, Ray Wilson and Derek Temple all taking to the field to a standing ovation from the Everton crowd. It made me remember 1995 when we beat Manchester United and, being only 45 minutes from the quarter final, made me dare to believe we could get to Wembley again.
The second half was tense at times with Villa putting us under a fair bit of pressure, mostly lead by Ashley Young. I think it was John Carew who came the closest to scoring, nodding a header goalbound, with Tim Howard being alert to tip it round the post with an excellent save. Otherwise Young went close a few times, others had good chances but hit the ball wide for a throw in…as the game pressed on you sensed, well hoped, it wasn’t gonna be Villa’s day.
These hopes were confirmed when Anichebe got free down the left and floated the ball across the box. I think Gosling missed it, but so too did the entire Villa defence and the ball bounced to Cahill. Brad Friedel came flying out and Cahill knew that if he just got something on it and sent it in the right direction it would be a goal. He did just that, scuffing the ball on the bounce past Friedel and into the net. He went off to the corner flag in celebration, pointing at his black armband in support of those whom perished in the Australian bushfires.
As the clock ticked on Moyes brought on Yobo and then later on Castillo to solidify things, though Segundo came on so late in the game the poor lad didn’t actually get a touch. Full time was met with jubilation on and off the field. Maybe, just maybe this is Everton’s year.
After the game, weary of the potential nightmare with the bus replacement service we opted to go for a quick pint back at The Spellow. Whilst at the busy bar I noticed I no longer had my wallet in my back pocket and after a quick scan on the floor it was soon apparent I’d been pick-pocketed. I asked at the bar if a wallet had been handed in but it hadn’t. I was just on the phone to LloydsTSB cancelling my cards when Ste came running over to me saying they’d found a wallet at the bar. They asked my name and matched it against my driving license and gave it me back, saying “you’re a lucky bastard”. I was very grateful but not quite so lucky as £20 had been robbed from it. Still…could’ve been worse.
A bit sickened by being robbed we jumped on a bus on County Road to town, going for one in the Rat & Parrott to catch the rest of the Derby vs Man Utd game, but more importantly the Quarter Final draw. We had to be happy with that one. A home draw to Middlesbrough or West Ham United is a pretty kind one. We got the train home after that, with a lot of other Evertonians also on board which lead to a bit of a sing song.
All in all it was an eventful day out – it’s been an eventful cup run. Whatever next for Everton in this extraordinary competition?
Howard: That save he made in the second half aside, I don’t think he was quite at his best. Opting to punch when catching seemed feasible a few times and his kicking weren’t quite at his best. Reading an article today, Moyes singled him out for praise saying he was actually injured so maybe that had something to do with it. 6
Baines: Was well-occupied in the defence so didn’t get the opportunities to get forward that he usually craves but did a solid job at the back. 6
Lescott: Very shaky at times in the second half but did enough to keep them out. 6
Jagileka: Kept Agbonlahor well shackled throughout. 7
Hibbert: Given a tough game by Young but stood up to the task nobly. Missed next game at Newcastle with suspension after getting booked for the penalty. 6
Neville: Had a decent solid game in the middle. 6
Rodwell: Has stood up to the task superbly, showing a great deal of maturity in the last few games. Thoroughly deserved his goal. Well done. 8
Arteta: Pretty much ran the show in midfield and got on the scoresheet as well of course. 8
Gosling: Not quite ready yet but never stopped going. 6
Anichabe: My man of the match. Had a lot to prove and certainly proved it. He tracked back more than usual, took players on more and caused them problems without. Well done. The challenge is now to sustain it. 8
Cahill: A brilliant toiling performance once again by Cahill and he was rewarded with his goal. Nice one. Also misses the trip to St. James’s. 7
Subs: Yobo (for Anichabe): Not on long can’t judge.
Castillo (for Arteta): Certainly can’t judge. Didn’t actually touch the ball.
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