So not to disturb any building momentum, we'll try to brush over the result at Anfield, as quickly as possible, where the squad rotation didn't work as well as David Moyes would have hoped. I still think that the team that started that game had, on paper, enough experience between them to muster a draw against our local rival, but it wasn't to be so we moved on.
Instead we'll discuss the impressive displays against Tottenham, Arsenal, Swansea and West Bromwich Albion which lead to 3 wins and a close loss. Since the introduction of the January acquisitions our football has evolved and improved quite noticeably. In Croatian striker Nikica Jelavic, we have a player who the midfield can trust to make runs and find space for shot, Steven Pienaar will look to make that space with winding runs and his understanding and overlapping with Leighton Baines, Darron Gibson allows Marouane Fellaini to play his game further up the field, so play came be broken up in the opponents half as well as offering another dimension in attack. In many ways Gibson has also helped Johnny Heitinga cement a place in the centre of defence, as there is no room for him in a holding role, although the Dutchman should take the majority of plaudits here as he has become the player we thought we'd signed in 2009.
Tim Cahill is another of the old guard who should be commended on his recent change in form, I was nearly going to describe it as improvement in work rate, but that just simply would be untrue. I don't think the Australian's commitment to the Royal blue jersey could ever be questioned, but the goal drought lasting over a year certainly appears to have been the proverbial Albatross around his neck. Cahill's position as a utility player, of sorts, depends on his goal scoring, if the ability to hit the back of the onion bag dries up, the rest of your game will start to get dissected. The Socceroo's strength is the opposition’s failure to understand his role, he's not a pure midfielder like a Scott Parker nor is he an out and out striker like an Alan Shearer, he's Tim Cahill, and that's what I think he forgot. So caught up in the attention on his goals, or lack of, that his natural dogged style suffered, thankfully we appear to have the old goal threatening Tim back and his relationship with Jelavic is growing by the game.
So Everton are one of the form teams as we enter the final stage of competition, it could not have come at a better time either. Mixed in amongst those afore mentioned fixtures were 2 quite (very) nervy encounters with the Black Cats of the North East, Sunderland. As we both battled for a place in the last 4 of the World’s oldest tournament at Wembley.
Going into the initial tie, directly following the thing I brushed over at the beginning, we had a home draw in front of the first sell out crowd at Goodison Park this season. Like us, Sunderland have had a change in fortunes since the end of year so potentially this would still live to be a difficult match, however they were missing two key players through suspension. Somehow the former Rokerites managed to grind out a draw to take the game back to the Stadium of Light, mainly due to the excellent Simon Mignolet in goal who had the annoying knack of saving everything thrown at him.
The replay was always going to be tough, home advantage had been lost, they had personnel returning to add combatant and competitive strength to their attack. We were armed with a victory away to Swansea and a 9000 strong army of travelling support who had been shipped in gratis by the Club on 40 coaches.
Sunderland were lost for answers as Everton pressed and pressed their goal mouth, eventually gaining just rewards via the boot of Jelavic and the leg of the unfortunate David Vaughan, who scored a hilarious own goal that I'm sure he will not want to see ever again, but may go down in FA Cup folklore. Cue jubilant scenes from the away support and the realisation that a scramble for tickets to witness a Merseyside Derby at England's national stadium was awaiting.
With the Semi Final less than a fortnight it's getting increasingly hard not to become incredibly excited at the prospect, especially as Liverpool's goalkeeping stalwart Pepe Reina has given us a helping hand, no pun intended, by making himself ineligible through a 3 match ban for a dismissal against Newcastle. For now though, 100% concentration must return to the league campaign with 6, very obtainable, points to be gained over the Easter weekend, but come 5pm on Monday the countdown begins.
Have a good Easter.
Thanks for reading.
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