Perhaps David Moyes should take a leaf out of Dave Bassett’s book; Bassett became so infuriated by the slow starts to the season that his Sheffield United team repeatedly made in the early 1990’s that he once held the club’s Christmas party in August in an attempt to lure his players into thinking the season was already half over. Another puzzling echo of previous seasons is how this team, minus its best players, performs so much better than when everyone is fit and available. We see it now, we saw it in the spring of 2009 on the run to Wembley; it perhaps shows that David Moyes the motivator is a better manager than David Moyes the selector/tactician.
In desperate need of points Mick McCarthy abandoned his usual lone-striker formation and went with Ebanks-Blake and Fletcher up front in a 4-4-2 line up while Moyes made just one change to the team which held Villa at Goodison – Gueye for the injured Coleman. Once again the substitutes bench was populated by youngsters; two eighteen year-olds, three nineteen year-olds plus the fit-again ‘old man’ Vic Anichebe. One of the benefits of a small squad is that youth gets its chance – how different from say Chelsea, where huge investment in a state-of-the art academy has led only to the ‘stockpiling’ of promising youngsters.
Wolves started strongly, winning a string of corners, but playing a very high line and it was this tactic that was their eventual undoing as Everton, in a superb twenty four minutes of counter-attack football, won the match. On twenty one minutes Johnny Heitinga claimed the ball in midfield and played a perfectly weighted pass forward to the right wing which allowed Osman to beat the offside trap and scamper forward. His cross was immediate, powerful and accurate and was met perfectly by Jermaine Beckford who got between Stearman and Berra and skimmed the ball past Hennessey into the far corner. On thirty nine minutes Osman played Baines down the left, where the full-back was fouled and it was from his free kick that Beckford, picking up the pieces following a near own goal from Elokobi, set up Phil Neville who from about twenty yards drove the ball across Hennessey for number two. The goal which sealed the result was the best of the lot. It came on the stroke of half-time and was designed and constructed in Moscow; Diniyar Bilyaletdinov picked up a loose pass on the half-way line and strode forward, Beckford peeled right taking his marker with him and the Russian, from about twenty six yards, thrashed a swerving left-footed pile driver into the top left of the Wolves net.
Everton could have had more. Late on Bilyaletdinov swung his normally reliable left-foot and completely missed with the goal at his mercy, while in the midst of that first-half goal fest Gueye squandered a chance when clean through, with only the keeper to beat. Three points, a clean sheet, three goals away from home, and now four wins in six matches has taken the Toffees in the twinkling of an eye from mid-table anonymity to the threshold of European qualification. In any sport confidence is a precious ingredient. Everton now have it in abundance.
WOLVES (4-4-2): Hennessey; Foley, Stearman, Berra, Elokobi; Guedioura (Milijas 76), Henry ©, O’Hara, Jarvis; Ebanks-Blake (Kightly 46), Fletcher (Hammill 82)
Unused subs: Hahnemann, Craddock, Ward, Mancienne
EVERTON (4-2-3-1): Howard; Hibbert, Jagielka, Distin, Baines; Heitinga, Neville ©; Gueye (Anichebe 64), Bilyaletdinov (Forshaw 82), Osman; Beckford (Vellios 73)
Unused subs: Mucha, Mustafi, Nsiala, McAleny
Referee: Phil Dowd