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COLUMNIST PAUL TRAILL

Match Report - The heat is on

By Paul Traill :  06/04/2009 :  Comments (0) :
Match Report: Everton vs Wigan Athletic The heat is on As long as it works, getting the train to the game is normally quite a relaxing enjoyable experience as you anticipate match day, though today this wasn’t the case and I had to get off at James Street and walk to Moorfields before getting a train to Kirkdale. Unfortunately for me I have a truly awful sense of direction and my route from James Street to Moorfields was rather chaotic for what should have been a five minute stroll in the sunshine. Couple that with none of the cashpoints accepting my card, and I wasn’t really in tip-top form by the time I got to The Spellow.

My mood was lightened however when I saw Gary was sitting with Andy Dev, a friend of Gary’s whom we got to know from going the game. He now resides in Boston, USA and is over here visiting family over the Easter period so it was nice to catch up with him and hear about his usual crazy antics Stateside. Ste arrived with the team news and we were all pretty made up to have Hibbert and Cahill back in the starting XI after short spells out with respective injury. Jacobsen and Saha were the two to make way following the Portsmouth debacle.

We took to our seats nicely in time for Z-cars and, as is the norm now, the teams swapped ends which made for not the nicest reception for ex-Liverpool crock Chris Kirkland. The referee Phil Dowd got proceedings under way.

Everton certainly started the more purposeful side with Osman and Fellaini probably central to most of the good stuff early on, though it was Wigan whom carved out the best early chance when someone, possibly the ridiculously hair-styled Austrian Paul Scharner, headed just over the bar from a reasonable opportunity. This seemed to alert Everton who pressed home their dominance from then on-in. Prior to Jo’s superb low drive we’d probed around the Wigan box quite nicely only for the final ball to generally let us down, though the Brazilian’s excellent finish seemed to lift Everton even more, albeit without doubling our advantage before the break. As it was Emmerson Boyce came pretty close to equalising for Wigan just before the interval with a header from a corner that was gathered comfortably enough in the end by Howard. Half time: 1-0

There was a comedy moment at the interval when during a half time “how many balls can you put in the net” competition the sprinklers came on, soaking the participants.

Steve Bruce changed it at the break replacing the already booked Michael Brown with the Columbian Hugo Rodallega in an attempt to stir up a response into his illuminous shirted team. Any half time team talk he did try to instil into his team was practically diminished inside just a few minutes when Fellaini wrapped his foot round the ball and into the net from a cross in from the right hand side, possibly from Osman. It was a superb finish from the Belgian which set Everton off for the rest of the game. As most of the team celebrated I spotted Neville, Lescott and Jagielka all discussing something in depth with what seemed to be a great level of seriousness. I guess they weren’t happy with something defensively but it’s good to see they’ve got a good measure of professionalism to sort out the problem when they did, when the easiest thing may have been to go and mob their team mates.

If those three felt left out by any chance in not celebrating our second goal, they certainly didn’t have long to wait until our third one, when Fellaini again got inside the box and unleashed a shot which could only be parried by Kirkland into the path of the thankful Jo who just couldn’t miss from a couple of yards. That’s five goals in seven games from our Brazilian. If you compare that with his compatriot Robinho’s goal return of zero for 2009, you have to wonder if them up at Eastlands are realising just what they’re missing.

It was overly-comfortably for Everton at this point and we didn’t actually have to wait long for our fourth goal when this time Osman, with his first goal in three months, tapped home gratefully after another Kirkland spillage, again from a Fellaini shot I think. Like Jo, he won’t get many easier. Chants of “England…no. 1” reverberated around the ground in the direction of Wigan’s hapless / hopeless goalkeeper.

With the game well and truly sown up and Everton’s foot completely taken off the gas we made a couple of substitutions to rest a few of our star players and give some of the kids an opportunity to shine. Over a period of time Cahill, Fellaini and Pienaar all left the field to be replaced by Rodwell, Gosling and Saha. Wigan pressed a fair bit in the last 20 minutes or so but with Jagielka and Lescott in particular as resolute as they were at the back, there was just no way through for Steve Bruce’s men. A really comfortable win for Everton.

After the match we went back the pub for the second half of the Man Utd vs Aston Villa game. We were shell shocked when Villa went in front and then mighty relieved when Ronaldo equalised for the Mancs. This led to uproar in the pub when a nutcase Liverpool fan took it upon himself to start kicking off on some of the Everton fans cheering Manchester United’s goal. God knows what may have happened when Man Utd sealed the victory deep into the stoppage time as we were down the other end of the pub by then. Either way we were all pretty delighted when they did win as not only does that leave us just a point behind Aston Villa prior to Easter Sunday’s clash at Villa Park, but certainly puts a dent in Liverpool’s title charge just when I was fearing the worst. I made my getaway after that, this time not taking the long way round to James Street from Moorfields.

A good day and a good win which has now seen us really turn up the heat on our midland rivals for fifth place.

Player Ratings:

Howard: Won’t have too many more comfortable games than that. 7

Baines: Did very well against his former club. 7

Lescott: Solid. 8

Jagielka: Solid. 7

Hibbert: Great to have him back. Certainly one of those you miss when he’s not there. 7

Neville: An excellent, tigerish defensive midfield display from our skipper. 8

Fellaini: Did well and got on the scoresheet again. His presence seems so unnerving for opponents. 8

Cahill: Was snapping away at the Wigan players all game and I’m sure he’d have gotten booked eventually if he hadn’t been taken off. I think we’ll need more composure from him in the coming games though great to have him back regardless. 6

Osman: Was dictating things pretty well early on before fading though also got on the scoresheet. 7

Pienaar: Did alright though can do better. May have been tired from his international excursions. 6

Jo: My man of the match. He’s so unpredictable I don’t even think he knows what he’s doing himself half the time. Still, he’s banging them in and defenders just don’t seem able to cope. 8

Subs: Rodwell (for Cahill): Did pretty well. 7

Gosling (for Pienaar): Got up and down the wing quite well but as we know - still needs plenty of development. 6

Saha: Just as long as your fit and raring to go in two weeks time…6

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