Finally I have seen us score away from home this season. Unfortunately my location in the Gwladys Street end prevented any form of celebration for either of our goals, however despite this Goodison remains my favourite away trip, beating Newcastle because I prefer the ground. Its sad that Everton feel that they have to leave Goodison; a beautiful and ground-breaking stadium designed by the revered architect Archibald Leitch (of old Trinity Road fame). A ground which spiritually carries real history and achievement from the past whilst physically bearing all the passion and belief you would hope to associate with such a grand old club, embedded in the terraces of Everton.
This borderline sycophancy may root from the similarities I think there are between Everton and Villa as clubs, nonetheless I have been far more impressed by the traditional grounds I have seen around the country (Fratton Park comes to mind) than more modern and soulless imitators (Eastlands or St James for example). The similarities between our clubs are not limited to history or stadia at present either. This was a competitive and even contest where the mutual respect both teams held for each other was evident, no more so than in the shirt-swapping at the end.
In the first half we won the midfield battle, with Barry finding, and intelligently using, space. However for all our tactical superiority we created few real openings and for this Everton's resolute defence must be given credit. Ashley Young provided the biggest scare, crashing a trademark whipped free-kick against the crossbar. The second half saw a complete reversal, with Everton over-crowding our midfield three and dominating territorially. Again, though, we largely limited the number of clear chances they created; the four goals really came out of very little.
It was surprising that in a game where no attacking player really stood out, and both defences were stubborn, that four goals were scored. Our strikers took their two chances whilst Everton benefitted from some luck with their first deflected goal and a back post finish from Yobo. However with both goals they exposed us down the flanks and exploited the spaces created well.
Maybe my unbiased report of this game has been coloured by the company I held in this match, and the natural suppression of any Villa sympathies I wanted to express has carried on into this blog. I do think, though, that here both sides played well, both managers managed well and both sets of supporters were heavily involved as well. The symmetry seems to never end.
On a less laudatory note on the train back to Leeds I was on a train of mixed football supporters and normal people who had to put up with the childish antics of a few of our fans, swigging Strongbow and shouting Villa chants at people who mostly didn't care. Unfortunately one Everton fans eventually took offence to being continually bantered and socked one in the face. Thankfully the conductor handled it well and it didn't get out of hand. I hope incidents like this don't tarnish our reputation as fans but after seeing their antics at some other grounds it might be too late.
This was one of the most enjoyable games of the season as a footballing spectacle. I can't believe there is only one game left of it (for me) and two for the team. This last game is Wigan at home on Saturday, and for the first time in a few years we are going into the run in with something tangible to play for: Uefa Cup football, and if Rangers can get into the semi-finals, and possibly more, who knows what we can achieve?