Everton Club Focus – Anichebe salvages Wigan draw after Howard fumble

After the furious victory over Premier League leader Manchester City in midweek, it was perhaps inevitable on a number of levels that Everton would struggle to reach that height again against relegation-threatened Wigan Athletic. Not only was there a sense of cynical typicality about struggling against one of the poorer teams in the division after beating one of the best, but the effort it took to dethrone City always looked likely to leave David Moyes’ side bereft against the Latics, and so it proved.

Even if the order in which they arrived was unexpected – most would have predicted at best a draw against City and a win against Wigan – taking four points from the week’s league fixtures must be considered a decent return. Throw in last Friday’s FA Cup victory over Fulham, the favourable home draw against Blackpool or Sheffield Wednesday that followed, and a transfer window that closed with Everton undoubtedly possessing a stronger squad than before it opened, the last week to 10 days has been the best of Everton’s 2011-12 season so far. With that in mind – and the visit of Champions League-chasing Chelsea to Goodison Park this weekend – the draw with Wigan should not be allowed to halt the Toffees’ momentum. It should be viewed as a point gained, not two points lost.

The unfortunate spinning bounce that left Tim Howard flat-footed and red-faced rather summed up the match at the DW Stadium. It was one of those contests that was always going to need a mistake, a fluke or a moment of brilliance to open the scoring – and moments of brilliance were thin on the ground, positively inviting a mistake and a fluke. The match was something of a dirge, then, but Wigan never truly looked like finding the net until Howard was bemused by the combination of Phil Neville’s deflection and the laws of physics. The dire conditions no doubt also contributed, creating almost a perfect storm to embarrass Howard and put Everton on the back foot.

But Victor Anichebe’s latest cameo from the substitutes’ bench – his third goal since January after entering the fray as a second-half replacement – accounted for Howard’s misfortune. The task now for Anichebe is to translate his good showings as a substitute into similar performances when given a starting berth. The last time Anichebe started for Everton – the 1-1 draw with Blackburn Rovers – it was a week after the Nigerian had scored at Aston Villa, but his efforts showed no sign of goal-induced buoyancy. Indeed, in one newspaper, Anichebe was given marks of four out of 10, the lowest of any Everton player on a particularly bad day. It is however easy to forget that Anichebe is only 23 – he made his debut seven years ago – and, thanks in part to injury, has fewer than 50 starts to his name. The arrival of Nikica Jelavic present Anichebe with another barrier, but the kind of impact made against Wigan will keep the Academy product firmly in Moyes’ plans.

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