EVERTON 2 (Jagielka 44, Baines pen 83) – WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS 1 (Hunt pen 37)
In the end it was all down to the slight, unassuming, modest figure of Leighton Baines, the man who possesses the most potent left foot seen in these parts since Kevin Sheedy was in his pomp. Just a few minutes after Everton, in the shape of the freshly minted Marouane Fellaini, conceded an unnecessary, but definite penalty, it was Baines with a whipped left footed free-kick who picked out England team-mate Phil Jagielka allowing him to power an unstoppable header past Hennessey for the vital pre-halftime equalizer. One feels that if Wolves had escaped to their changing room for tea and biscuits with the lead intact the outcome for Everton might have been very disappointing indeed.
It wasn’t until the 83rd minute that Goodison could finally, between collectively gritted teeth, emit a sigh of relief. Some referees would not have given it, but perhaps because he had missed an earlier and more clear cut penalty when Cahill was pulled back by Henry, referee Jonathan Moss pointed instantly to the spot after Saha was pushed by Ward following a Baines corner. And of course it was the full back who, with apparent calm though under intense pressure, neatly passed the ball left footed to the keeper’s right to earn the points. It says everything about Everton’s current plight that unable to keep clean sheets at the back, up top Saha and Cahill are finding goals with the same frequency as The Killing’s lovely Sarah Lund changes pullovers. The club’s leading scorers to date, each with two, are Vellios, Jagielka, the departed but not forgotten Arteta, and Leighton Baines the designated penalty taker, the only forward on that list a youngster, who is talented, but still an apprentice.
Tim Cahill – though still without a goal to his name this term, or indeed this year – was immense. His battered and bruised thirty-something frame was again put on the line in the collective cause. One move in the first half saw him spin the ball out to Coleman on the right wing, before the Aussie having made his way fully forty yards into the area won the ball from Coleman’s cross to set up Fellaini for a volley which Hennessey tipped over the bar. He finished the game stitched and bleeding. The Guardian Chalkboard stats show that the three Premier League players who commit the most fouls per game – 2.6 – are Fellaini, Cahill and Alex Song of Arsenal while the four teams who concede the most free kicks per game are Wigan, Blackburn, Bolton and Everton – a kind of north west mafia. It is not pretty, but this Everton side, short on strike power, remain committed, hardworking and hungry. The dose of confidence this win will bring, allied to a less blue chip fixture list than of late – upcoming are the likes of Bolton (times two), Stoke, Norwich, Swansea, Sunderland, WBA, and Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal – should see Everton consolidate a further improvement in league position. As for the lack of goal-power, this will only be solved by action in the next transfer window – something which Bill Kenwright promised over the weekend.
EVERTON (4-4-2): Howard; Hibbert, Heitinga, Jagielka, Baines; Fellaini, Osman, Drenthe (Bilyaletdinov 85), Coleman; Cahill (Vellios 72), Saha (Stracqualursi 90)
Subs not used: Mucha, Gueye, Barkley, Mustafi.
WOLVES (4-1-4-1): Hennessey; Spearman (Elokobi 58) Johnson, Berra, Ward; Henry; Edwards (Fletcher 85) Milijas (Jarvis 79), O’Hara, Hunt; Doyle
Subs not used: De Vries, Craddock, Ebanks-Blake, Guedioura.
CARDS: Booked – Baines; Hunt.
REFEREE: John Moss.