Everton FC's season of squandering continues against Birmingham
IF EVER a game summed up Everton's season it was this. The curiously disjointed draw with Birmingham at St Andrew's was the 2009/10 campaign so far in microcosm. One part promising and dominant, the future looked bright, the other part bemusingly lacklustre and costly. Ultimately Everton's travelling support left the Midlands pondering what might have been. If this season is to be remembered for anything other than the disastrous glut of injuries which threatened to paralyse the club, David Moyes' men probably have to win seven from their remaining nine fixtures. This encounter with Alex McLeish's fellow Euro contenders was practically a six pointer. Victory would have propelled Everton into eighth place, and landed a hefty psychological blow on the other top six wannabes. Defeat was unthinkable, and had the Toffees left empty handed, Europe really would have been off the agenda. But the frustration emanating from the away dressing room after the game was understandable, even though they shared the spoils. To surrender a two goal head-start against a side as upwardly mobile as Birmingham is maddening. For the majority of the first half Everton did everything their manager asked of them. Solid in defence, where Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin seemed impenetrable, they won the midfield and created chance after chance. First Mikel Arteta miscued a chip to the far post on 15 minutes with Yakubu looming. Then Leighton Baines went marauding down the left and dazzled Stephen Carr with tricky footwork before slipping the ball to Pienaar, whose curled effort looked to be going in but for a fine save from Joe Hart. Moments later Arteta crossed for Cahill, who burst into the box and flashed a header close. Birmingham seemed shell-shocked. Then in a frenzied four minute spell the game should have been over. First Phil Neville fed Victor Anichebe. With his back to goal, the big forward turned Liam Ridgewell with ease and blasted a thunder bolt of a strike past Hart from the edge of the area. Anichebe's own struggle with injury has not been given the same recognition as players like Arteta and Jagielka. It is easy to forget that the Crosby youngster has had to work hard to get his own career back on track. His brief career with Everton to might seem chequered, but the class he showed with the execution of his strike hinted that Anichebe can contribute positively playing on the right. The goal had been coming as Everton's momentum built, and soon afterwards Pienaar crossed to the far post, and Yakubu crept up behind the slumbering Roger Johnson to nod home from close range. The Nigerian's super eagles celebration was a welcome and deserved sight after his afternoon to forget in front of goal against Hull. It was a reward for continuing to get into the right areas despite being short on confidence. Birmingham were all at sea, and bore little resemblance to the tough to beat outfit who harried, pressed and bustled Everton out of the FA Cup at Goodison in January. But just when they needed it, they got lucky, and it was definitive. Keith Fahey was given too much time and space to swing a deep cross into the box, and it seemed to take the faintest of unintentional touches off Cameron Jerome to confuse Tim Howard and nestle in the corner of the net. The goal gave Birmingham their purpose back. Their tempo increased, and they almost hit the blues on the break again as Carr fed 'Chucho' Benitez who put his shot too close to Howard. Next Jagielka cleared almost off his own line as Birmingham responded to the home crowd.
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