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Venue: The Hawthorns, Birmingham
Premier League
 Sunday 1 January 2012; 12:30pm
West Brom
0 1
Half Time: 0-0
Anichebe (87')
Attendance: 23,038
Fixture 18
Referee: Stuart Attwell

Match Summary

It's like a new signing... with Victor Anichebe returning to the squad after a long injury, and scoring a brilliant goal by Everton standards to win this New Year slog for the Blues. Jack Rodwell started the game but was the first to be subbed before the hour, Stracqualursi and Anichebe coming on for Saha and Neville after 65. It was Anichebe who spun brilliantly under huge pressure to score from close range with 4 minutes left.

No Royston Drenthe, along with the expected absence of Marouane Fellaini but it was something of a surprise to see Jack Rodwell start the game, as it was to see Anichebe on the bench; no surprise, however, that Ross Barkley would spend another entire game watching from the bench.

As expected, it was a very poor game to watch with both sides seemingly playing for that 0-0 draw and the point they started with. But in the second half, a New Year bug got up David Moyes's arse and somehow persuaded him to throw on a pair of forwards in place of two of the worst of his old and increasingly useless favourites, Neville and Saha.

It was a cracking finish by Victor Anichebe, for his first goal of the season, but Everton had some terrible defending by Paul Scharner to thank for this latest last-gasp strike. Scharner headed Tony Hibbert's cross back across goal and Anichebe was in the right place to turn swiftly and bang the ball home under strong pressure from a posse of defenders, much to teh immense joy of himself and the hordes of travelling Blues.

Two key substitutions by David Moyes appear to have created the impetus that finally won it for Everton, with Anichebe on the left and Stracqualursi on the right providing something different that finally paid off and brought home three brilliant points for Everton in this mid-table clash that puts the Blues back in the top half of the table.

Michael Kenrick

Match Report

If evidence were needed of the folly of scheduling a match at 12:30pm on New Year's Day then this match provided plenty of it. As turgid a Premier League affair as they come was, thankfully, decided in Everton's favour four minutes from time by an opportunistic strike by Victor Anichebe, the Blues' forgotten man.

Having missed the first half of the season entirely through injury, Anichebe was handed his first action of the campaign when he replaced Phil Neville with a little over an hour gone and, together with fellow substitute Denis Stracqualursi and a touch of inspiration from Leon Osman, he provided the energy and a smart finish to lift the team to a fourth away victory.

Without Marouane Fellaini, Seamus Coleman and Royston Drenthe, David Moyes fielded Neville, John Heitinga and the returning Jack Rodwell across a disconcertingly one-paced and unimaginative central midfield while Louis Saha and Tim Cahill continued their wholly unproductive partnership up front. With that line-up in place, the performance that followed shouldn't have come as a surprise and for almost all of this dour encounter, a 0-0 draw looked nailed on.

The first half was a practically forgettable affair. Everton had plenty of possession but no creative force to create anything meaningful with it. One long passing move that threatened to bore West Brom into submission rather than carve open a goalscoring opportunity underscored the point about the Blues' lack of punch; presumably through frustration, it ended with Heitinga kicking an aimless ball through to Ben Foster.

West Brom, who have been struggling for goals at home, had just one chance when Shane Long headed Chris Brunt's deep cross narrowly past the angle of crossbar and post, otherwise the best openings before half time fell to Everton. First, Foster made a mess of a corner and had to save one-handed from Rodwell as the midfielder latched onto the loose ball. Then, after Saha had screwed a great chance horribly wide on his weaker right foot, Rodwell put the best chance of the half wide with a free header from a corner from the right.

It was clear by the half-time break that this game was there for the taking for the side that could raise their game in the second half and initally, that looked to more likely be West Brom. Peter Odemwingie caught the otherwise solid Phil Jagielka sleeping less than two minutes after the restart when he latched into a ball over the top but faced with just Howard to beat, he rushed the chance and side-footed over the bar.

The home side had noticeably upped the tempo in the first quarter of an hour of the second period and Brunt sailed a drive over from 25 yards before Moyes was moved to introduce Magaye Gueye and withdraw Rodwell after 56 minutes, presumably due to concerns over rushing him back from his recent hamstring injury.

Five minutes later, the manager made two more positive changes by hooking Neville and Saha, both of whom had been pretty dreadful, and giving Anichebe and Stracqualursi their chance and the Blues started to again look like the team most likely to break the tedium with a goal.

Gueye had a decent volley saved low by Foster but the game was petering out towards a goalless conclusion when Osman clipped a perfect return ball to Tony Hibbert that released the full back into space down the right flank. Hibbert swept a cross to the back post, Paul Scharner could only head it back into his own six-yard box where Anichebe showed the greatest desire of anyone else in a clutch of players to latch into it as it dropped and sweep it over Foster to send the Blues fans behind the goal into delirium.

So often maligned as a striker who can't score he had just one goal in his previous 43 outings Anichebe showed that his long spell on the sidelines has, temporarily at least, put some fire into his belly and he won three precious points to give Everton a flying start to 2012.

Based on past experience, it's unlikely that Anichebe will be the answer to Everton's lack of goals but his performance, and that of Stracqualursi who put himself about a bit and almost carved open a chance for Osman with some beat footwork by the byline, was a breath of fresh air compared to Saha's disappointingly disinterested demeanour. The Frenchman's body language betrayed a frustrated player while his partner Cahill did nothing to prove that Moyes was wrong to drop him for the Norwich game a couple of weeks ago with another poor display.

Suffering through this game, thoughts inevitably turned to Landon Donovan and the difference that he can surely make to what is a depressingly pedestrian team, albeit for just two months. Anything else that Moyes can make happen this month with no money to spend will be a bonus as well competition for places might be one way to inject some urgency into some of the team's under-performers.

For all the frustration over the performances, four points from two away games and a place in the top half is a pretty good place to be heading into the New Year. Of course, it's a far cry from where the Blues appeared to be heading the last time Donovan was lighting up Goodison Park but given the realities under what is a demonstrably failing Kenwright regime, we should probably be grateful for small mercies.

Player Ratings: Howard 6, Hibbert 7, Jagielka 7, Distin 8, Baines 6, Neville 5 (Anichebe 7), Heitinga 5, Rodwell 5 (Gueye 6), Osman 6, Cahill 5, Saha 4 (Stracqualursi 6)

Lyndon Lloyd

Match Preview

Everton will be looking to stengthen their place in the top half of the Premier League with a flying start to 2012 as they travel to the Hawthorns. The Blues are unbeaten in three games now and can leapfrog their opponents this weekend with a victory on a ground where they've won twice in the Premier League era.

If the Baggies' last game is anything to go by, it will be a tall order for an Everton side struggling badly for goals. Roy Hodgson's men frustrated free-scoring League leaders, Manchester City, on Boxing Day by holding them to a 0-0 draw.

Just as was the case at the Stadium of Light where the Blues snatched a point against Sunderland, injuries to the likes of Marouane Fellaini, Jack Rodwell, and Seamus Coleman will impact heavily David Moyes's selection options in midfield but, this being another away game, the expectation is always that the manager will err on the side of conservatism.

Rodwell has returned to training but it would be a surprise if he were risked so soon after recovering from a hamstring strain so Phil Neville and John Heitinga are likely to continue their central partnership with Leon Osman and Royston Drenthe on the two flanks.

Indeed, despite its rather one-dimensional core, Moyes could opt for an unchanged line-up and that would mean persisting with the goal-shy partnership of Tim Cahill and Louis Saha up front forcing Apostolos Vellios and Denis Stracqualursi to watch from the bench hoping for a chance as a substitute.

Everton last won their first League game of the New Year four years ago and Moyes will be hoping for a positive start to provide a platform for the arrival of Landon Donovan who will first be eligible for the home game against Bolton on Wednesday.

Lyndon Lloyd

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WBA (4-4-2)
  Brunt (90+3' Dorrans
  Subs not used
  Jara Reyes

EVERTON (4-5-1)
  Baines :85'
  Neville (65' Anichebe)
  Rodwell (57' Gueye)
  Saha (65' Stracqualursi :90+3')
  Subs not used
  Anichebe (injured)
  Coleman (injured)
  Fellaini (injured)
  Baxter (loan)
  Bidwell (loan)
  Duffy (loan)
  Garbutt (loan)
  Silva (loan)
  Yobo (loan)

Premier League Scores
Liverpool 3-1 Newcastle
Arsenal 1-0 QPR
Bolton 1-1 Wolves
Chelsea 1-3 Aston Villa
Man United 2-3 Blackburn
Norwich 1-1 Fulham
Stoke 2-2 Wigan
Swansea 1-1 Tottenham
West Brom 0-1 Everton
Sunderland 1-0 Man City

Team Pts
1 Manchester City 45
2 Manchester United 45
3 Tottenham Hotspur 39
4 Arsenal 36
5 Chelsea 34
6 Liverpool 34
7 Newcastle United 30
8 Stoke City 26
9 Aston Villa 23
10 Norwich City 22
11 West Bromwich Albion 22
12 Everton 21
13 Fulham 20
14 Swansea City 20
15 Sunderland 18
16 Wolverhampton Wanderers 17
17 Queens Park Rangers 17
18 Wigan Athletic 15
19 Blackburn Rovers 14
20 Bolton Wanderers 13

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