Everton Independent Research Data


Everton 2, West Ham 0 (Echo)
Dec 4 2006 By Dominic King
IF Alan Pardew ever thinks of pursuing an alternative career, maybe he should turn his hand to stand-up comedy. Sometimes football managers say the most puzzling things but it seems to be happening more and more at Goodison Park. After Sam Allardyce's baffling comments in the wake of Bolton's defeat last month, Pardew dipped similarly into the realms of fantasy "Even in the second half we bossed the game," the unctuous West Ham United boss claimed. "The second goal they scored was a sad reflection on the game and David Moyes had to apologise at the end for winning the game." Apologise? Twaddle. Pardew,you may remember, endeared himself to Everton's playing staff 12 months ago when he brazenly declared that West Ham had given the Blues "a football lesson" at Goodison. Those ill-advised remarks have not been forgotten. So imagine the satisfaction they took from round 16 of the Premiership battle. Pardew may feel some travesty of justice had occurred following Everton's 2-0 victory but nothing could be further from the truth. West Ham did play some attractive football and caused acouple of problems early on, butto say they "bossed the game" flouts logic. Patched up and resilient to the very end, every player clad in Blue ran themselves into the ground to secure three crucial points. Even though they lost Phil Neville, Mikel Arteta and Victor Anichebe on the eve of the game, Moyes' makeshift starting line-up would not allow themselves to be tripped up by the mounting obstacles. Yet there will only be so many times that they can defy the odds. Moyes may not be a fan of the January sales, but it is now imperative that he does some sort of business next month. His squad is crammed with honest, diligent players but, at present, it is being stretched to breaking point. Some clubs could cope with sucha blow of losing three players in the final training session of the week, yet when you take into account the other injuries Everton have, the situation becomes more alarming. Reinforcements are needed.Whether a couple of faces are brought in on loan or on permanent deals during the transfer window remains to be seen, but Moyes must surely be looking to bolster the ranks. Until then, his troops will soldier on as valiantly as always.
With a howling wind not conducive to playing attractive football, the opening exchanges were messy and Everton had the look of a side fitted together at the last minute. The impressive Carlos Tevez, in particular, tried to exploit the situation at every opportunity.
One twisting, turning run from the Argentine had Everton's defence at sixes and sevens and it was thanks to an exceptional save from Tim Howard that they did not find themselves behind with game barely 20 minutes old.
Lee Bowyer was carelessly allowed to stride unmarked into the area and he looked poised to make Everton payin the most fatal manner. But, even though his shot was firm, Howard sprung to his right to avert the danger. Terrific.
It has been said beforeand will doubtlesslybe said again, but Howard has been a superb acquisition, albeit on a temporary basis. He is an excellent goalkeeper and provides Everton's defence with reassurance.
That save - Pardew said it "hit" Howard rather than him doing anything - seemed to jolt the home side back into life and they enjoyed the better of things from then until the half-time whistle, as Andy van der Meyde started to cause havoc down the flank.
How encouraging it was to see him play with real verve. Needing only half a yard to whip in crosses of quality, he was a menace and the greatest compliment the Dutchman could be paid is that he ensured Arteta wasn't missed on the right hand side. There is no disputing van der Meyde has been a bitter disappointment since arriving from Internazionale in August 2005, with injury and personal problems restricting him to a paltry 13 appearances prior to yesterday's outing.
Will he have a role to play in Everton's long-term future? Possibly not. Rumours linking him with moves away persist, but if he could get his act together he would be a real asset, no question. As van der Meyde grew in confidence, so did his team-mates and they took a fully deserved lead six minutes into the second half with a strike of outstanding quality. Leon Osman could not have celebrated his 100th Everton appearance in a better way. He would be the first, however, to say a huge 'thank you' to James Beattie, who showed great tenacity to pull Joseph Yobo's through-ball back into the danger area. This was a much improved performance from the striker.
Still, there was much to be done when Osman took possession on the edge of the 18-yard box, but he made light of the situation, cushioning the ball perfectly t give himself the opportunity to lob Robert Green. He didn't need a second invitation.
How frustrating, then, he hobbled out the action with a hamstring problem. Having endured a slight lull in form, Osman was much brighter here than had been in recent weeks. With some luck, the injury will not prove to serious. Speaking of serious injuries, nobody uld have begrudged James Vaughan moment in the spotlight when he wrapped things up in injury time with a terrific finish. He is a player of huge potential and this will not be the last thatis heard of him. But it's a good job he can play football. Judging by his celebrations, if he ever had pursue an alternative career, dancing would not be on the agenda.
EVERTON: Howard, Yobo, Stubbs, Lescott, Nuno Valente, Van der Meyde (Vaughan 72), Osman (Weir 82), Carsley, McFadden, Johnson, Beattie (Hughes 90). Subs: Wright, Vidarsson.
BOOKINGS: Osman, McFadden (both fouls).
WEST HAM: Green, Spector (Mascherano 84), Ferdinand, Collins, Konchesky, Bowyer (Sheringham 69), Mullins, Reo-Coker, Etherington, Zamora (Harewood 69), Tevez. Subs: Kiraly, McCartney.
BOOKINGS: Bowyer, Collins (both fouls).
ATT: 32,968
REF: M Atkinson (W Yorkshire).

Everton Res 2, Bolton Res 2
Dec 6 2006 Daily Post
EVERTON Reserves fielded a young side as they drew 2-2 against Bolton at the Halton Stadium. Mark Hughes followed up his appearance for the first team on Sunday by taking the captain's armband. As for the visitors, they had former Everton winger Idan Tal on show alongside Ricardo Vaz Te. Everton took the lead through Bjarni Vidarsson after eight minutes as the Icelander headed home from Lee Molyneux's cross. They were two up at half-time thanks to a strike from Hughes on 18 minutes after a corner from the left. The visitors came back well though with two goals in the second half. First Mark Charlesworth's header deflected past the unfortunate John Ruddy just after the hour mark. The Everton goalkeeper was then adjudged to have brought down Johann Smith in the box and Bolton were awarded a penalty. Israeli Tal converted the spot-kick to earn a point for Wanderers.
EVERTON RES: Ruddy, Densmore, Molyneux, Irving, Hughes, Phelan, Connor, Vidarsson, Agard, Kissock, Kearney. Subs: Morrison, Jones, Elder, Harpur, Spencer.
BOLTON RES: Walker, Charlesworth, Gardner, Gbemie, Ellis, Andranik, Thompson, Sissons, Smith, Tal, VazTe. Subs: Jamieson, Kazimierczak, Woolfe, Wolze, Brooks.

Portsmouth 2, Everton 0 (Echo)
Dec 11 2006 By David Prentice
TAKE the positives. It didn't rain.
Yes, at this dreadful apology for a modern football stadium, a dry day is considered a success for the unfortunates who populate the away end. But that is all Everton's away support could console themselves with at Fratton Park on Saturday. "Rubbish." was the description David Moyes applied to his side's first half display. He was under-emphasising. Everton were sloppy, shapeless, unimaginative and lacking in energy, passion or precision. Sure, there were mitigating circumstances. Arguably Everton's first choice midfield line-up of Osman, Cahill, Neville and Arteta are on the injured list (although Neville should be praised for making the long trip south anyway just to offer moral support). And in a squad short on numbers and physical presence anyway, the cracks are starting to show. Three times Moyes shuffled his personnel on the pitch trying to find a solid combination - each time it looked the footballing equivalent of shoving square pegs into round holes. Plan A was a resounding failure. Nuno Valente was completely lost as a left-midfielder, while the back-four was made up entirely of centre-backs, Weir and Stubbs forming the oldest central defensive partnership since Gough and Watson were still pushing their limbs over the white line. Plan B arrived just 20 minutes in. Lescott was ushered alongside Weir, with Alan Stubbs advancing into midfield and Valente dropping back to his more customary role. Success rate was 50-50. Stubbs clearly added steel and resilience to a lightweight midfield, although the unfortunate Valente had alreadyfound himself in a groove he couldn't get out of.
He allowed Gary O'Neil all the time and space he needed to arc in a cross from the right - and Kanu delivered an exquisite finish. That was the second goal of the afternoon, so half-time saw another reshuffle. Plan C. This time Anichebe replaced Beattie, while a couple of decades was knocked off the average age ofcentral defence with Yobo and Lescott put back in partnership, Simon Davies dropped to right-backand James McFadden came on in left midfield. It wasn't devastating, butit easily resulted in Everton's most effective moments of the after noon. Which weren't all that many. In truth the tone was set after 13 minutes, when Matt Taylor produced afinish it was a privilege to have witnessed. His first-time volley from the edge of the centre-circle was a product of imagination, ambition and first class technique. And while it would be churlish to try and pick holes in a wonderful goal to see howit might have been avoided, James Beattie's dreadfully sloppy pass straight to Sol Campbell gave up possession far too cheaply. Whether that was still simmering inside David Moyes' head at half-time is uncertain, but Beattie did not reappear for the second half and, as his managerlater snapped: "No. He's not injured." Beattie and strike partner Andy Johnson are both giving Moyes cause for concern at present. Beattie simply doesn't threaten goals. His onlyeffortofthe half was aweak, jack-knife header directed straight at David James, while he didn't react quickly enough to a header Lescott had guided into the six-yard box and again James plunged to parry. And despite his protestations to the contrary, Andy Johnson's recent goal drought now looks to be playing on his mind. He isn't gambling on getting into goalscoring positions as often as he used to - and with a makeshift midfield behind them, Everton are showing all the potency of a eunuch.Andy van der Meyde showed flashes of the form which earned him an ovation against West Ham last weekend, and he was far from the worst offender on a dire day for the visitors.
But his hopes of finally completing a match for the first time in Everton colours fell victim to inept officiating.
Mark Clattenburg's performance was woefully inadequate, and it's a measure of Everton's ineptitude that his home-based leanings didn't influence the outcome of the match at all.
James Beattie was booked in the 41st minute, seconds after Campbell had been clattered and an advantage played. Lee Carsley - little, slight, balding fella . . . looks like a miniature Harry Hill - was the offender. James Beattie - big, hefty, hirsute chap . . . not unlike a miniature Desperate Dan - was booked. That was baffling, but not as irritating as the yellow card brandished with unnecessary relish at van der Meyde after 62 minutes for allegedly diving. Regardless of the fact the Dutchman did appear to have had his heels clipped, just 10 minutes earlier Benjani had produced a splendid comedy dive at the opposite end. Mr Clattenburg clearly witnessed it - because he pulled his face in disgust, waved his hands to indicate no penalty and urged the Zimbabwean to get back up. Consistency? Of course not. More like a reluctance to show a yellow card right in front of the noisy home end. With van der Meyde clearly tiring, a fatigued looking challenge on Pamarot saw him earn another lecture from Mr Clattenburg and Moyes decided to withdraw him from the fray. His replacement, James Vaughan, almost scored with his first touch. A far-post header flashed a foot wide, while such was strike-partner Victor Anichebe's enthusiasm to get involved he stretched desperately to reach a Simon Davies cross and took it away from the unmarked Johnson. Anichebe also flashed a cross-cum-shot over the crossbar, while Stubbs fired a fierce rising free-kick a foot over, but David James spent most of the afternoon with his new carefully coiffured side-part unruffled. He did have to dive low to his left to parry a Lee Carsley shot, but Everton never really looked like getting back into the match. An unsatisfactory afternoon for the visitors ended in an entirely appropriate manner. James Vaughan leaped in for a header with a leading elbow. Sol Campbell tumbled and reacted by kicking his feet up at the youngster.
Mr Clattenburg didn't know what to do - so he blew the final whistle.
It allowed Evertonians to make the long trip home - dry, but desperately disappointed.
PORTSMOUTH: James; Johnson, Primus, Campbell, Pamarot; O'Neil, Fernandes, Davis (Hughes 90), Taylor; Benjani (Douala 61), Kanu (Kranjcar 82).
BOOKINGS: Johnson 44, Fernandes 59.
EVERTON: Howard; Yobo, Stubbs, Weir (McFadden 46), Lescott; van der Meyde (Vaughan 80), Carsley, Davies, Valente; Beattie (Anichebe 46), Johnson.
BOOKINGS: Beattie 41, van der Meyde 63, Johnson 69, Stubbs 90.
REFEREE: Mark Clattenburg

Everton 2, Chelsea 3 (Echo)
Dec 18 2006 Dominic King At Goodison Park
IT'S NOT every day you get to link Oscar Wilde and Jose Mourinho, but here goes.
While the classless Portuguese would happily boast he has nothing to declare but his genius, another of the literary giant's great phrases is more appropriate where Mourinho and his Chelsea team are concerned: most people are quite dreadful.
For all the wonderful players they have and the unlimited resources which are at their disposal, the Premiership's reigning champions have few, if any, redeeming features and will continue to be maligned as long as they re-main so startlingly arrogant and obnoxious. There was a time when Mourinho's touchline antics were seen as a breath of fresh air, his celebratory dash down the touchline at Old Trafford in a Champions League tie in February 2004 cause for great amusement. Now? Quite simply, it's tiresome. Few took notice of him prancing down towards the Park End after Didier Drogba's winning goal. But it is the other side of his character which causes most alarm. The ex-ample? Just look at the way he reacted when Andrew Johnson was sent sprawling by Khalid Boulahrouz over Henrique Hilario in the first half of yesterday's tussle with Everton. Storming down the touch-line, waving imaginary cards at referee Mark Halsey and implying Johnson had dived, Mourinho's behaviour was shameful and immature. This disciple of Machiavelli leaves a bitter taste every time he surfaces.
Over the top? No chance. After his side had snatched victory from the jaws of defeat at Goodison Park, Mourinho took every chance possible to launch what amounted to a character assassination of Johnson. Consider his view of the incident from which Everton could have had a penalty but also remember that Johnson never appealed, simply jumping to his feet and getting on with it, as he always does. "I wasn't unhappy with the referee or the linesman," said Mourinho, once dubbed an "enemy of football" by UEFA's Volker Roth. "I was unhappy with Andy Johnson. The referee didn't dive, the linesman didn't dive. The player dived. I think he was embarrassed. "After that, he played like the great player he is. He probably felt embarrassed and behaved in the right way. I thought he was dangerous but he was dangerous in the right way. In my country, we call him an intelligent player. "In other countries, you use other words and are very critical. I'm away from my country for the third year and am influenced by a new culture I admire and am proud to be a part of. "For me, when a player chases a penalty, they are not intelligent but it is dangerous." When pressed on the incident - he was told that television replays showed clearly that Boulahrouz had put an arm into Johnson's back before he hurtled over Chelsea keeper Hilario - Mourinho explained himself thus. "It's always difficult to be the referee in this stadium because 30,000 people want to be the referee. Don't worry about it. You are from Liverpool, no? You are Andy Johnson's friend. I understand. You are his friend." Safe to say the vast majority would rather have Johnson as a friend rather than Mourinho. The nauseatingly self-styled 'Special One' can win all the trophies that he wants but he will never win the one thing that matters more than anything else - respect. Unfortunately, his side show coupled with two strikes of absolute brilliance - Frank Lampard's equaliser and Drogba's winner will both be in the reckoning for Goal of the Season, nevermind Goal of the Month - overshadowed what should have been one of Everton's most encouraging afternoons of the season. Refusing to be intimidated by reputations and paying little attention to the yawning points gap that separated the teams at kick-off, Everton thoroughly deserved their half-time lead and should have had a share of the spoils at the end. With three keymen returning from injuries in the form of Leon Osman, Mikel Arteta and Phil Neville, plus Victor Anichebe givenhis first Premier-ship start in place of James Beattie, it was clear from kick-off that the Blues would test Chelsea whenever possible. Moyes' starting line-up, though, posed another question: what now for James Beattie? Having failed to score in open play since March 11, it would appear the manager has lost patience with the striker he lavished a then club record £6m on almost two years ago. There is no question he has not done all that was expected of him - 15 goals in 68 appearances is not the return you would associate with a prolific marksman - and being axed here will only fuel speculation of him being jettisoned in January. What is clear to see is he faces a fight to dislodge Anichebe. Bristling with muscular aggression and thriving on his tussle with Ricardo Carvalho and Boulahrouz, he was a breath of fresh air and dovetailed sweetly with Johnson. He was also heavily involved in both Everton goals. There were no complaints that Boulahrouz fouled him to give the home side a penalty, which Arteta dispatched, while he made a enough of a nuisance of himself in the six-yard box to distract Michael Ballack and Michael Essien when Joseph Yobo powered home an Arteta corner. A shame, then, that fortune failed to favour the brave. A draw would have been a fair result but not for the first time this season, Everton contributed to their own downfall. Harsh? No. Questions could have been raised over the wall for the free-kick from which Ballack scored via a deflection off Tim Howard but it was the other two goals that caused so much frustration. Yes, Drogba and Lampard's efforts were wonderfully struck but why on earth were they both given time and space to shoot? Naive. No wonder Moyes was ashen face afterwards. There is no disgrace in losing to the champions but there is nothing more galling to think that things could and should have been so different. It is hoped lessons are learned from those seven, final, costly minutes.
Man of the Match
VICTOR ANICHEBE: Few would begrudge the youngster the honours for a display bursting with endeavour. Others to catch the eye were Alan Stubbs, Joleon Lescott and Simon Davies, who enjoyed his best afternoon in a Blue shirt.

Reading 0, Everton 2 (Echo)
Dec 26 2006 By Dominic King
IF Christmas is a time for over indulgence, expect Andrew Johnson's goal tally to swell considerably while others eat, drink and be merry. After a famine comes a feast and now that Everton's record signing has rediscovered his appetite for the finer things in football, he could be ready to go on the kind of scoring run that left supporters drooling in the summer. Since scoring against Manchester City on September 30, Johnson has had to deal with other managers questioning his integrity, sections of the media scrutinising his every performance, not to mention a couple of niggling injuries.
Lesser characters would have buckled under the pressure, disappearing into the shadows and unable to cope with the brickbats thrown their way. Fortunately for Everton, Johnson is made of stern stuff, a feisty competitor who can bounce back from adversity. He also oozes star quality, so it should have come as no surprise that he announced his return to form in glorious style against Reading, giving a performance of the highest quality and finding nirvana with his seventh strike of the campaign. "I thought in the first half especially he was outstanding," said Moyes, following a 2-0 win that catapulted Everton to within touching distance of the European places. "He really was a threat and they found it very difficult to cope with him. "Did it get him down? I think all strikers, when they are not scoring goals, get that way. That's what they are there for. When you are like Andy, who had started so well, it will affect you. But he has kept at it. "I had seen small signs in training he was coming back. It was the sharpest I had seen him for some time, probably since the start of the season. I was getting vibes he was starting to get back. It was case of `when,' not `if'. "Hopefully, it will be the start of a good Christmas for him. I think it will give the team confidence because they look to him for goals as well and he is a big influence for us." Had Johnson been getting chances and missing them, that would have been the manager's real cause for concern, but since snatching at an effort against Aston Villa on November 11, it could hardly be said he has wasted a hatful.
Quite the opposite. In the meantime, Johnson has been scurrying around frantically after loose balls in the hope of snaffling an opportunity. There was little chance, then, of him wasting the gift with which he was presented by Mikel Arteta at the Madejski Stadium. Working himself room to cross by elegantly dropping a shoulder, the Spaniard's slide rule pass was given the finish it demanded, the England international rifling past Marcus Hahnemann, via a deflection off Ibrahima Sonko.
This, however, was much more than Johnson shaking a monkey off his back. Slick, quick, stylish, Everton had no intentions of leaving Berkshire with anything other than three points, and that was never in doubt as so many players excelled.
Leon Osman caused mayhem as he buzzed around Reading's defenders, pestering them like a wasp torments picnickers in summer. He wasted one glorious chance to extend Everton's lead but nearly atoned for that with a spectacular effort that crashed off the bar. McFadden adopted a shoot-on-sight policy, forcing a couple of good saves out of Hahnemann in the first half before deservedly getting his reward shortly after the re-start, embarrassing Reading captain Graeme Murty before drilling in from close range. So it was perhaps disappointing that Everton didn't cut loose as their play suggested might happen, but as Moyes pointed out, Reading are "not in the Premier League for nothing" and they boast solid home form. A response was only to be expected. Encouraging, then, that Joseph Yobo and Joleon Lescott stood firm in the centre, Tim Howard was an assured presence between the posts, while Gary Naysmith and Phil Neville refused to yield on the flanks. With Alan Stubbs jarring his knee in the pre-match warm-up, Naysmith was handed a first start since September 24 and other than one scare when Reading striker Seol had strong appeals for a penalty in the first half after tumbling over him, Naysmith never put a foot wrong. Nor, for that matter, did any of his team-mates. Now for Middlesbrough. "They will come to us in a good spirits," said Moyes. "I saw them against Fulham and thought they were unlucky.
"They played very well and were unfortunate to lose the game. We will try to avenge our defeat against them earlier in the season if we can." Show anything like the form they have done in the past two games and it is hard to envisage anything other than Johnson and Co indulging themselves a bit longer.
READING: Hahnemann; Murty, Sonko, Ingimarsson, Shorey; Little, Harper, Sidwell, Hunt (Oster 70); Seol (Lita 54), Doyle (Long 85). Subs: Gunnarsson, Federici
EVERTON: Howard; Neville, Yobo, Lescott, Naysmith; Carsley, Davies, Osman, Arteta; McFadden (Beattie 76); Johnson. Subs: Wright, Weir, van der Meyde, Vaughan
REFEREE: Steve Tanner (Somerset)

Everton 0, Middlesbrough 0 (Echo)
Dec27 2006 By Dominic King
IT says much for a football match's excitement levels when the loudest cheer is reserved for a half-time competition rather than anything mustered up by the two contesting teams. Middlesbrough's dour approach to the beautiful game always meant Everton's Boxing Day home fixture was destined to be more Christmas turkey than Christmas cracker and, frustratingly, that was how it proved. No wonder, then, that Goodison Park exploded with joy during the interval when die-hard Blue Andy Mackey did what others have threatened to in the past by winning the crossbar challenge for his pal Simon Mahoney. Sadly, they will be the only Evertonians who will look back on the afternoon with any fondness, as Middlesbrough's roundheads snuffed out the cavalier element of David Moyes' side to take a point back to Teesside. How bitterly disappointing after the stylish performance at Reading.
With Phil Neville serving a one-match suspension, Moyes made just the one change to the side which had been victorious at the Madejski Stadium three days prior.
Victor Anichebe returned after illness, as Simon Davies moved to right-back.
Anichebe's inclusion was again significant and proved how far James Beattie has dropped down the pecking order. When the manager wanted a fresh approach in the second half, his former club record signing was only the third man to whom he turned.
Moyes was emphatic afterwards that Beattie will not be jettisoned in January and eager to stress he still feels the 28-year-old will show the form that propelled him into the England set-up in the run up to Euro 2004. A question, however, persists: How long will Beattie be able to tolerate playing a bit part? Fame and fortune may be the wonderful spin-offs of a footballer's career but the one thing these individuals want more than anything is regular action. "It has always been my policy that when I feel young players are good enough, I will try and promote them to train and to play alongside the first team squad as soon as possible," Moyes wrote in his programme notes. "Victor Anichebe showed against Chelsea that he is beginning to develop towards being a being a player who can hopefully go on to make a real contribution here at Everton. "James Vaughan is also making real strides after injury."
Gaining confidence with each minute he spends on the pitch, Anichebe was once again a handful. True, there are still some rough edges that need polishing but his effort can not be faulted and few could dispute he has talent. But despite their best efforts in the opening exchanges, the creative spark that was so evident against Reading was snuffed out. Whenever they tried something new, a wall of Red shirts formed and eventually Everton ran out of ideas. Yet things may have been different had referee Phil Dowd seen Andrew Taylor tugging at Andrew Johnson's shirt after just two minutes, as the striker tried to scamper onto a Mikel Arteta free-kick.
Some may be tired of hearing how Johnson has been hard done to this season but the issue is really becoming a joke.His team-mates feel Johnson will need to be shot in order to win another penalty, while Moyes claims it would take a leg break for officials to point to the spot.
Wrong. A combination of the two is probably what is required.
Dowd's blunder was all the more frustrating as an early goal would surely have seen Everton gallop away with this fixture. On a high from their ruthless dismissal of Reading, it was pleasing to see the Blues knock the ball around so encouragingly.
As it was, though, Middlesbrough escaped and proceeded to frustrate a lively Boxing Day crowd.
For all Everton's huff and puff, never once did they look like blowing their visitor's house down as they were restricted to shots from long range.
The man who did most to transform the outlook was stand-in skipper Lee Carsley, who saw one deflected shot loop onto the roof of the Gwladys Street net and another fizz just over Mark Schwarzer's bar. This was Carsley's best performance for some time.
Unfortunately, neither he nor the rest of the men clad in Blue were able to test Schwarzer after the restart and as the minutes ticked down, the more Gareth Southgate's men asphyxiated the life out of this humdrum encounter. The one occasion Everton did threatene to create something – Joleon Lescott galloped out of defence to send James McFadden hurtling forward – a promising move fell apart when inexperience got to Anichebe. Shame. Schwarzer's only other moment of real concern came when a bending cross from substitute Nuno Valente was headed out of harm's way by the outstanding Jonathon Woodgate, exacerbating the frustrations of home supporters. Still, all is not lost. Moyes will take satisfaction from another clean sheet, not to mention the displays of Lescott and Arteta and the situation will look healthier again if a similar points tally is taken from forthcoming games against Newcastle and Manchester City as from the last two. Moyes will be aware, nevertheless, the season is finely balanced at the moment and rattling up a sequence of good results in the coming weeks, should mean a European challenge is on the cards.
It will be intriguing, then, to see how they respond – and hopefully much more exciting.






December 2006