After the 4-0 tonking of AEK in midweek, the prevailing feeling seemed to be that that was all well and good, but the real test of season corner-turning would come today, when Blackburn were likely to present a far sterner challenge to the semi-resurgent blues.
I have to say on the way up to Goodison, I was not that hopeful - we have always struggled at home to Blackburn, and any team managed by Big Sam is going to be ugly, in your face and always likely to threaten at set pieces. Not really what you need when confidence is fragile and half your defence is still getting to know the other half. On the other hand Waring Senior was full of confidence, looking for another 4-0 result. Daft sod.
Anyway, the daft sod nearly got it spot on, and but for some excellent goalkeeping by the much maligned Paul Robinson, it could have been more. In the end, 3-0 was a pretty fair reflection of possession and penetration over the course of the 90 minutes.
Plus points - in no particular order:
- Johnny Heitinga slotted into the right back position early and well, doing the simple things well and keeping the daft things to a minimum. A dodgy two-footed tackle hinted at the yard-dog within, and on another day he might have walked, but overall a good performance. With Lucas Neill and tony Hibbert fit, and Phil Neville also available on return from injury, we seem to have a plethora of right backs at the moment!
- The Distin-Yobo partnership is getting better with each game, seemingly helped by Joey getting the captain's armband. Joleon who?
- Jack Rodwell is a proper footballer. No really. This kid - at 18 - is bossing the midfield, finding space and time at will, always unhurried. A run in the team, and maintenance of this high standard of play, and he could just be going to South Africa in the summer. And then to ManYoo next season...but hopefully not.
- Stephen Pienaar just gets better and better. Taking on the mantle of midfield creator in the absence of Mikel Arteta, this lad is growing in confidence, willing to try more each game, and generally succeeding.
- When clear of injury, Louis Saha is still one of the best strikers around. An eye for goal, capable of playing the lone striker role, winning and holding up the ball, putting a decent shift in - six goals in four games so far...if his hamstrings (and head) can stay together, he'll get twenty-odd goals this season.
- All this is without Jagielka, Arteta and Yakubu fully in the picture. When they are all fit...
A shame that our Sunday game meant missing the Manchester derby, which sounded like a corker. Seven goals, two in injury time (or Fergie time, as I believe it is called at Old Trafford) and a smile wiped off Mark Hughes' face as well. That central defence is a bit leaky, isn't it, Sparky?
So, some Joni today. Another artist I have always admired rather than really loved, my Mitchell collection is limited to 'Blue' and this set, 'Travelogue', that I picked up cheap in Fopp some time ago. It's kind of a re-imagined greatest hits, and is very pleasant in a jazzy sort of way. Joni purists tend to dismiss it as a 'lesser' collection of the songs, not up to the standard of the originals, but it sounds fine to these ears. I really should invest a bit more time with Joni, to understand the fuss and the reputation.
Here's Joni performing 'Hejira' live in Japan. This is, in fact, very, very good indeed.