MO' BETTER BLUES
Mickey Blue Eyes
Well, that's a slight relief after Saturday's horror show. True, it was only League One Sheffield United, but it was still a lift. And in fact it wasn't without the usual hairy moment. It wouldn't be the modern Everton without it. Irritating as it is, we have to get used to it until we can afford to buy good reinforcements. Gawd knows when that will be. Until then it's plug and play.
Perspective is necessary of course: it was a worthy win against a very young and enthusiastic side from a club which has run the full gamut of the contemporary game - up, down, in, out, currently down. The "down" was emphasised by a surprisingly low away following measured in hundreds, quite different from the four thousand or so Huddersfield brought with them for the same match last season. But then, sadly, most of Yorkshire football is in a bad way. Nobody should get smug about this because it could easily have been us, indeed may yet still happen now the financial horns are even blunter. At the risk of repeating myself for the umpteenth time, that's the way it will continue until the whole ethos and structure of the professional game is overhauled....anything else is pissing in the wind.
Given our injuries and injury-prone players Moyesy's options were relatively narrow. Vic Anichebe was back in for this one and so were Marouane Fellaini and Mikel Arteta, Jan Mucha in goal. Nice to see young Ross Barkley persevered with too. It wasn't unreasonable to expect a repeat of last season's Huddersfield score line.
So when we went behind after almost half an hour everyone exchanged standard world-weary looks. Up to then we had been well on top and looking likely. But United had made three useful raids down their left and a young redhead at outside left had put over three very good crosses that had to be dealt with at maximum alert. And that's where the goal came from. A long ball to their mid left got through to just beyond the angle of the penalty area, a quick thinking ground cross into the centre of the box and an inrushing Tyke couldn't and didn't miss from around the penalty spot despite three defenders closing in on him. It looked a bit lax defensively but the goal was well taken and the signs had been there earlier.
But the lead didn't last long. A few minutes later Jack got clear on the left close to the goal line after a classic exchange of passes with Mikky. Nice to see the Best Little Spaniard We Know doing what he does best, kebabing the opposition. Closing, Jack hit a ground shot from an acute angle about two metres outside the goal area, their 'keeper got a hand on it deflecting it wide but it hit their man and went in. It was the lad who had just scored for them. Christ, but football can be cruel.
Royal Blues clearly annoyed, the tempo stepped up. Six minutes later we were in front after Leon won a tackle in midfield and went on a left-to-right angled run that got him to the right edge of the D, defenders got sucked in, he played it smartly in front of Ross Barkley unmarked inside the right penalty area, and a quick ground cross reached Vic dead centre edge of the goal area and he side footed it in. The tempo stepped up still more and you could see United's young team struggling manfully to hold the line. From that moment there was never any doubt though.
A few minutes before half time the inevitable third arrived. A melee in front of the dugout resulted in the ball breaking loose to Barkley and he was off and running, homing onto the centre penalty area when he got bowled over. The ball broke for Mikky to take a couple of strides and strike it beautifully with his right foot from the D. No chance for the 'keeper, the work of a master craftsman.
And really that was it. The pace slackened a little in the second half and though United tried hard they simply didn't have enough to cope with anything other than a holding action. Late on, Leon struck the right post with a dramatic shot. Oh how we could have done with this kind of certainty last Saturday, but that was the Premier League and this was the Carling Cup. Still, a win's a win.
Overall, it was a good performance and useful for getting Felli and Mikky back to match fitness. The question now is: can they keep it up at Blackburn on Saturday? That was where last season's awful start kicked off. It would be nice to erase the memory with an emphatic win. But that depends, as ever, on which Everton decides to turn up. Blackburn, of course, will be a completely different kettle of footy.