Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Finally! Three points!

Today's soundtrack:  Wailing Souls - Most Wanted: Classic Cuts 1978-1984

Back to football today, in celebration of an increasingly rare event - an Everton home win!  Yes, it was only Burnley, and a Burnley reduced to ten men with half an hour to go at that, but I'll take that at the moment!

At the start of the day, I wondered whether the game would go ahead, if the fog blanketing Cheshire was at all widespread.  I'd have been sat in the Main Stand unable to see the near goal, never mind the Park End.  Happily the fog seemed to lift somewhere under the Mersey, and the ground was clear - if a touch crisp.  Happily the long johns had been called into service and my nether regions were reasonably snug for the duration.

The Bank Holiday brought about a capacity crowd, which was nice to see, although inevitably when the ground is full, the proportion of fuckwits in the crowd increases significantly - those who go to one or two games a year, get their football knowledge from Sky and have an opinion - usually wrong - on everything.  I don't know why they go, if they hate the players, the manager and the style of play so much.  I on the other hand would never shout expletives at the players on the pitch (hem hem).

Admittedly, it wasn't a day for the purist.  Burnley are a well organised spoiling team, and without particularly threatening themselves, were adept at restricting us to a) pretty passing moves that stopped short on the edge of the penalty area or b) long ball humps that came straight back to us.  Stalemate, and a first half that finished goalless, with very few chances.

And a very real chance that the second half would pan out exactly the same way.

Luckily, it didn't.  The game turned on a couple of incidents, just enough for Everton to make the breakthrough they just about deserved.  Firstly, Burnley had a man sent off for a second bookable offence - a silly tug on Steven Pienaar's shirt right in front of the referee.  Initially, Everton failed to capitalise on the extra man, persevering with the Yak up front by himself, supported by Tim Cahill and then Marouane Fellaini.  However as the game move into its final phase, Moyes brought James Vaughan on for Bily, and within a minute or two the lad had scored, a tap-in after the Yak had failed to convert.  Despite Yakubu looking suspiciously offside when the ball went in, the goal stood and - finally! - we had our noses in front.

The points were wrapped up in the final minute, when Pienaar squeezed a neat shot in at the near post following good support work from the Yak.  Three points, a nice climb up the table and a few more players coming back from injury.  Despite some tough games coming up, the future's feeling a bit brighter than it was before the game.

Plus points - the return of Neville and Vaughan, some neat approach play and the continuing improvement of Fellaini in a deeper-lying midfield role.  However we need to find a bit of ruthlessness up front to start converting draws into wins.  In a very tight league, every point will be valuable this year.

Incongruously, I'm typing this in sub-zero temperatures with some hot reggae playing in the background.  The Wailing Souls have been around for decades, but their best period is covered by this album, a dubbed-up collection of 12" mixes from the late seventies and early eighties.

Here's 'War' for your delectation.  Ire Ridim!

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