Sunday, October 05, 2008

A Tayl of two full-backs

Everton 2 - 2 Newcastle Utd

For 45 minutes it looked as though we were once again content to play the role in which we had been cast - namely the first Premier League visitors to Goodison Park this season to have the decency to allow the hosts anything other than a defeat. As it was, we could have even come away from Merseyside with maximum points, but the draw was nevertheless very welcome indeed, putting an end to a five game losing streak.

At the centre of everything were two full-backs, Steven Taylor and alleged one-time Toon target Leighton Baines, enjoying a rare start for the Toffees. Ex-Smoggie striker Aiyegbeni Yakubu had already been twice off-target, and Charles N'Zogbia had fired a shot narrowly wide by the time Baines took advantage of Geremi's doziness to sneak into the box and tumble under Nicky Butt's sliding challenge. Initially Baines looked offside, but had actually been played on by Claudio Cacapa in the middle, while replays of the incident revealed we could have no qualms about Howard Webb's award of a penalty. Mikael Arteta's spot-kick was hardly convincing, but Shay Given had dived the other way.

Our response was encouraging, and Baines it was who cleared off the line from Taylor after Michael Owen and the returning Danny Guthrie had both been foiled by Tim Howard. But our insistence on defending like complete cretins proved our undoing again in the 35th minute, Fabricio Coloccini allowing Marouane Fellaini to drift behind him and touch Baines's cross past Given from close range.

2-0 down, and we were staring down the barrel of another defeat which, with the second half yet to come, threatened to become more severe. But deep in first half stoppage time came the turning point. With Everton counter-attacking dangerously, Yakubu lost the ball to Geremi, who curled a perfect cross for Taylor to nod in off the crossbar at the far post.

JFK had already left his seat in the stands by this point, and before he'd retaken it at the start of the second period we were level. Neat interplay on the right flank culminated with Butt finding Taylor's run in behind the defence, and the makeshift full-back pulled the ball back intelligently for Damien Duff to slot home.

At the time parity was more than we deserved, but we went on to exert a measure of control and even looked relatively comfortable. Everton's best attempts to regain the lead came from the boots of Leon Osman and substitute Victor Anichebe, whose powerful shots were pawed away by Given and curled inches wide respectively. We came closest to a winner, though, when Shola Ameobi, thrown on for Geremi in an offensive tactical move, stumbled into the area to square for the lively N'Zogbia, only for the Frenchman to be denied what looked like a certain goal by the outstretched leg of that man Baines. Ameobi could also have scored himself, but stroked the ball wide of the post when well placed.

Afterwards JFK rightly paid tribute to the fighting spirit that hauled us back from the brink, and reiterated his blanket ban on speaking to the press. I wonder if he, like me, is cursing the timing of the international break in the belief that we've at last got something to build on, where before he was desperately looking forward to it as an opportunity to reassess and regroup?

Other reports: BBC


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