Glensider At Everton
Attendance: 37 936
Well, the Martin O'Neill inspired 'never say die' attitude that has been evident many times since his arrival at Birmingham B6, was once again in evidence at Goodison Park as we twice came back from behind to secure a point, and ensure that the battle for fifth place, and with it an automatic place in next seasons UEFA Cup, should now go down to final whistle of this encouraging, and overall entertaining season for the Good Guys from Villa Park.
Yes, we still trail Everton by three points with only two games remaining, but we are still in there fighting, something that we didn't think, or didn't seem would be possible, when we stumbled through a disappointing March. Was the point picked up on Merseyside a priceless gain, or valuable and much needed points thrown away. You tell me? Only time will tell, but all will be revealed in a mere fortnights time.
There was a tremendous pre-game atmosphere inside the grand old stadium, both sets of supporters in excellent voice, no one in any doubt as to the importance of the outcome of the match that was about to unfold before us, and to the watching tv audience out there.
We were understandably unchanged from the team that left Birmingham City battered and bruised last weekend, while David Moyes had Leon Osman back in the starting line-up, allowing skipper Neville to revert to right full back, with Mikel Arteta taking up a place on the bench.
Everton started brightly and we were on the back foot, but slowly and surely we began to control the midfield, and take the game to the hosts. Its fair to say that we had the better of the first forty-five minutes, certainly coming the closest to scoring when Ashley Young crashed a free kick against the Everton crossbar, with Tim Howard well beaten.
The tackles were flying in thick and fast on the slick surface, neither side prepared to give an inch, and referee Phil Dowd was a busy man as he struggled somewhat to keep control.
Into the second forty-five, and clearly the David Moyes half-time wake up call had gotten through to his players, and after a relatively comfortable first half our defenders found themselves under a bit of pressure.
A goal looked on the cards, and sure enough it arrived just before the hour, Martin Laursen deflecting a Phil Neville effort past Scotty Carson to send the home support wild with delight.
Shortly afterwards Moyes threw on Arteta, while MON took the brave gamble to take off Knight and Bouma, sending on Paddy Berger and Marlon, as we went all out for the goal that would keep our hopes of European club football well and truly alive.
On 80 minutes that goal came, Gabby, who had enjoyed a fairly quiet outing up until that point, sidefooted a Gareth Barry corner past Howard, and at 1-1 we were back in business.
Everton's immediate response was to introduce the additional height, strength, and pace of the promising Victor Anichebe, replacing ex-bluenose Andy Johnson, and within a couple of minutes they had silenced the travelling Villans by taking a 2-1 lead, Yobo getting on the end of a Lee Carsley cross to beat Scotty Carson from close range.
Woe indeed was us, as the Evertonian fans belted out the strains of 'You're not singing anymore', and fair do's to them, we weren't.
However, we weren't down for long, and were all back in full voice as the guy 'whose bigger than me and you', escaped the attention of Joleon Lescott to tie things up at 2-2.
Of course, in the perfect world Arsenal will see off Everton next weekend at The Emirates, and we'll do our part by sending Wigan packing, two results that will not only seeing us move level on points with Moyes lot, but also improve our goal difference too, as we go into the final weekend of the season.
As we all know though, there isn't a perfect world out there, so there's still no doubt a few twists and turns to take place before the curtain comes down on the campaign.
I think that if we do miss out on fifth spot, we will only do so on current form because we run out of games. Everton certainly aren't a better team than us, far from it, but then again it has to be remembered that you get your just desserts come seasons end, based on your achievements over a thirty-eight game season, and lets be fair, over the course of the season Everton have been up there, performing regularly to a high standard, entertaining, and notching up the points. Only in recent weeks have their standards slipped.
We though now seem to have the initiative, the bit between our teeth, and while our destiny is still out of our hands, you have to believe that we way we are playing right now, fifth place is well within reach.
Come On You Lions - You Can Do It!
Now bring on Bruce's lot!!
Highlights on Virgin - Click Here