Glad tidings for Moyes as Champions League push picks up pace
Wigan Athletic 1
DAVID MOYES will bid farewell to 2012 with a heavy heart. Victory over Wigan returned Everton to the top four, consolidating what has been a year of metamorphosis at Goodison Park.
On St Stephen's Day 12 months ago, Everton were languishing mid- table and counting days and pennies until the opening of the transfer window. Far from a fortress, this stadium was in danger of being a magnet for the angst-ridden, venom increasingly aimed at the directors' box.
Fast-forward 12 months and Everton's point haul of 68 so far in the calendar year is as good as they have accumulated since their last title win in 1987. They have only lost twice at home in 28 games. If they go into the new year with another home win at the weekend, Moyes' side will go third.
It would take a calamitous decline to deny them a return to Europe and Moyes has cause to hope for much more as, even without his suspended player of the season Marouane Fellaini, his side has collected six points from their festive fixtures. Yet this was a struggle.
It ought to have been more comfortable than it became in a fraught last eight minutes after Arouna Kone bundled in after some static Everton defending.
Leon Osman's deflected shot on 52 minutes and Phil Jagielka's header had banished memories of a scrappy, unimaginative first half, notable only for fussy referee Lee Mason showing off the new whistle he evidently got for Christmas.
Wigan played as attractively as they usually do, but they tend to be inoffensive opponents, especially in the first half of a season. They're not one of the worst three teams in the division so should be okay, but Roberto Martinez feels his team deserves more than they're getting.
Yet again he bemoaned a crucial decision. The most contentious was on 58 minutes – when it was still 1-0 – as Shaun Maloney fell over Osman's leg in the box. Both managers agreed a penalty could have been given.
"Osman was the one who made us play for 20 minutes at the start of the second half," said Moyes.
The midfielder's shot rebounded off Gary Caldwell's arm and sent Ali Al Habsi the wrong way. Jagielka powered in what proved the winner from Phil Neville's cross. Chelsea and former Liverpool nemesis Rafa Benitez arrive on Sunday. Moyes may be sorry to see the end of his 10th year at the helm, but it will be some party if it ends with another three points.
(© Daily Telegraph, London)