COLUMNIST PAUL TRAILL
A crowd of just 17,173 turned up for Everton?s rather comfortable stroll at home to now League One team Sheffield United in the Carling Cup. ?Are you sure the games on tonight?? my girlfriend enquired as she dropped me off just by the Park End. She had a point. I can scarcely remember an evening game so quiet?hardly anyone?anywhere.
I went on to the chippy to get some dinner pre-match and with dinner coming to Â£4, and only having a Â£20 note plus Â£3 in change was only charged Â£3 as they couldn?t change the Â£20 ?though I promised to return with the extra Â£1 later on.
Onto The Brick and Ste, Gary, Sue and me all kinda congregated at the same time?Simon joining us a little later on. A few old mates from university were also in town?one a Blades fan, one a Geordie Liverpool fan and one an Irish born Evertonian. Was good to catch up with them and reminisce about old times?me and Connor (the Irish Evertonian) enjoying a few memories as we actually met the magical 2004/05 season when Everton finished 4th?oh for another season like that one.
For a change Ste had failed to supply the team news pre-match though we were in our seats comfortably in time for kick off with the team tinkered following the home defeat to QPR. Jagielka lead the team out in perhaps a statement of intent from David Moyes. Hibbert made his first start of the season at right back with Heitinga and Jagielka partnering at centre back. Fellaini, Arteta, Rodwell, Barkley and Osman (in no particular order) made up the midfield with Anichebe making his first appearance up front on his own. Distin, Neville, Saha, Vellios, Baxter, Wallace and Howard made up the substitutes bench?bafflingly?still no Yakubu. Sheffield United featured ex-Everton stopper Steve Simonsen in goal and Richard Creswell in attack?I can?t believe he?s still playing. Unlike Saturday, we attacked the Park End in the first half.
Both sides appeared edgy to begin with but Everton soon got into their stride?Anichebe spinning and shooting, Fellaini dragging and Barkley firing?all wide. It was one when traffic with a reasonable atmosphere for a small crowd thanks mainly to a noisy bunch near the back of the Gwladys Street end.
Similarly to Saturday?s game the goal didn?t seem to be coming and then the opposition score with practically their first opportunity. Jagielka at fault again, getting caught a little flat-footed as the ball went over his head into space for Stephen Quinn who centered for Creswell to tuck home. Head shakes all round.
Everton were back on level terms within three minutes when Rodwell was played into the box and got his shot away. Simonsen saved but could only deflect it onto the unfortunate Cresswell to whom it helplessly bounced off and into the net. 1-1?maybe that luck everton needed to get this season going...
Well that remains to be seen of course but it certainly got Everton going on the night. Only six minutes later Osman won possession, took on a few players and ran the ball a long, long way before slipping in Barkley, who had the presence of mind to play in Anichebe to tuck home easily for his first goal since Saturday 13 March 2010.
Everton appeared to be cruising and just five minutes later got their third when Arteta clipped home beautifully to put Everton into a strong position going into half time.
The second half was indeed a cruise for the Blues but did give us an opportunity to knock the ball about with confidence against an overran Sheffield United team. Hopefully we can bring this into our next game. Osman came the closest to adding a fourth when his effort from distance crashed back off the post. Anichebe oughta have scored in injury time when he was put through on goal but was far too ponderous and a defender was able to get back with a last ditch tackle.
Overall a reasonable pleasant night and an important response from Saturdays disaster. One particularly pleasing aspect is something Ste picked up on regarding the number of homegrown players in the squad. Hibbert, Osman, Barkley, Anichebe and Rodwell all in the starting XI with Baxter coming on and Wallace also on the bench?to a lesser extent you could also say Baines and Jagielka have benefitted from input from Everton?s youth academy in previous years. It?s just as well given our well-documented financial woes at the current time.
Post-match?straight back on the train and I was lucky enough to get picked up by the missus and was home for 11pm. Needless to say I forgot to drop the quid back into the chippy?now that?s sure to bite me on the ass somehow or other.
Hopefully lets now get another win on Saturday and leave us in a stronger position the other side of the international break.
Mucha: Was pretty helpless with the goal though bar the odd flap was rather comfortable with what he had to do. Competent back up. No. 1? I?m not so sure. 6
Baines: Comfortable. Probably played within himself a little though did OK. 6
Jagielka: At fault for the goal again though otherwise comfortable. Hopefully that?s the silly errors well and truly out of the system for the season. 6
Heitinga: Miles better at centre back than centre midfield. 6
Hibbert: My man of the match. Very solid and consistent in the tackle and was excellent creeping forward also. Seemed to play with a lot of confidence tonight. 8
Fellaini: Looked exhausted by the end but worked hard and will be better for getting 90 minutes under his belt. Not quite match fit yet. 6
Osman: Excellent. Could easily have gotten man of the match and will be for several others. Made one goal brilliantly and unlucky with the one which hit the post. Shows how far he?s come when he gets taken off to get a rest before Saturday when Arteta and Fellaini are still on the field. 8
Barkley: I don?t think I?ve seen anyone so comfortable on the ball at that age since Wayne Rooney. Perhaps played within himself a little and not everything he did worked but he has some talent and has a great future ahead of him. 6
Arteta: Clearly rusty but got an important 90 minutes under his belt and scored a superb goal. A good shift. 6
Rodwell: His hand in our first goal will have done him the world of good. Still quite far away from where he can be but will only get there with games. 6
Anichebe: Will be pleased to finally get on the scoresheet again. Worked quite well and showed some nice touches here and there. Will have given Moyes a nice problem for Saturday. 7
Saha (for Rodwell): Showed some nice touches and linked up quite well. May be more of a threat from the bench this season perhaps. 6
Neville (for Osman): Came on to solidify and did just that. 6
Baxter (for Barkley): Never got going unfortunately in what was a good opportunity to impress. Didn?t look too fit to me. Will get future opportunities though I?m sure. 4
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1 Posted 25/08/2011 at 06:59:44
2 Posted 25/08/2011 at 09:46:54
3 Posted 25/08/2011 at 10:16:30
4 Posted 25/08/2011 at 10:50:16
5 Posted 25/08/2011 at 18:33:14
6 Posted 25/08/2011 at 18:40:34
Got to agree about Barclay, he's got a great first touch, to go with plenty of pace & drive. Good to see him just get up & get on with things after he's tackled/fouled. I thought Rodwell played OK, I'd like to see him being a bit more positive with his passing, he plays like he's been watching old Ray Wilkins videos. I'd have given Anichebe a decent mark until the 91st minute, even though the cynic in me says he was playing against opposition of his own level.
However, that miss towards the end of the game was awful, he ran after the ball like a baby elephant with his legs tied together, Hibbert would have made a better fist of finishing the chance off.
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