Saturday 16 December 2017

Gibson marks comeback with penalty joy as Everton advance

Hull celebrate David Meyler’s winning penalty against Leicester
Hull celebrate David Meyler’s winning penalty against Leicester
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Darron Gibson made his first start since March and converted a penalty in the shoot-out as Everton eliminated Norwich from the Capital One Cup.

It's a welcome boost for Gibson who will today be named in Martin O'Neill's provisional squad for the Euro 2016 playoff with Bosnia.

He paired up with James McCarthy in midfield against a visiting side who used Wes Hoolahan for the duration.

The night ended badly for the playmaker as he was one of two Norwich players to err from the spot with Nathan Redmond's miss securing Everton's passage.

The Toffees had fallen behind to a Sebastian Bassong strike, but Leon Osman levelled to ensure that the Goodison Park clash went the full distance.

However, there was disappointment for Aiden McGeady with Roberto Martinez deciding against springing the Glaswegian from the bench.

McGeady's last club outing came against Barnsley in August where he was taken off at the interval and it's likely that he report for the Bosnia encounter without having played any football since his late cameo against Poland.

The winger's inactivity at Everton cost him a start in the October international double header and his plight is a concern for O'Neill who is a fan of McGeady.

The Irish boss also has goalkeeping concerns with the fit again Shay Given missing out on a League Cup run-out against Chelsea with Mark Hughes choosing to retain Jack Butland. Given had started in the previous rounds.

Darren Randolph, who impressed when thrust into action against the Germans, is confined to the bench at West Ham and alternative option David Forde is also out of favour at Millwall.

O'Neill tends to name five keepers in his provisional selection and Rob Elliot (Newcastle) and Keiren Westwood (Sheffield Wednesday) have been playing regularly for their employers.

Westwood pulled out of the last squad before O'Neill cut his numbers, and the 63-year-old will face a dilemma when it comes around to trimming his enlarged party this time around with match sharpness issues hanging over the three netminders which appear to be at the top of his list.

O'Neill does have reasonable midfield options, though, and David Meyler's fine week continued as he came off the bench to dispatch the winning penalty after Hull delighted their fans at the KC Stadium by knocking out Leicester after their battle was the third of four games to finish with a penalty shoot-out.

Harry Arter could push himself back into contention if he makes his Bournemouth comeback in their cup encounter with Liverpool tonight.

The midfielder is back in Eddie Howe's squad after missing out on the early excitement of their Premier League adventure because of hip and groin injuries which he aggravated while making his Ireland debut in June.

Meanwhile, at home, League of Ireland champions Dundalk have continued the process of tying down their back-to-back league winning squad by agreeing a new two year deal with midfielder Chris Shields.

He will start his fifth season in Louth next term after surviving the cull at the end of a grim 2012. The subsequent appointment of Stephen Kenny turned the player's career around and he is targeting European progression.

"One thing we want to do is kick on in Europe," he said. "After losing in the Champions League (to BATE) we feel we have some unfinished business in that competition. We can't wait for another crack at it."

Irish Independent

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