February - 2005

February - 2005

You would have expected that, after the mad rush of fixtures in January, February would quieten down a little.

But that was anything but the case. The fixtures continued to come thick and fast, stretching David Moyes' squad to its limit.

But they continued to chalk up the points and maintain their grip on fourth place, behind Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.

Marcus Bent consoles James Beattie after his sending off Marcus Bent consoles James Beattie following the striker

But whilst the league run was steaming along, an FA Cup fifth round draw against Manchester United provided a tricky obstacle.

The game may have been played at Goodison, but the club's record against Sir Alex Ferguson's men suggested it would still be a very tough tie. And so it proved.

The Blues lost the tie by two goals to nil, with strikes in each half from Quinton Fortune and Cristiano Ronaldo teeing up an outcome that was rarely in doubt. But the darkest aspect of the day was the sight of United goalkeeper Roy Carroll being felled by a missile from the Gwladys Street end of the ground.

The fantastic response to that incident from the vast majority of fans, coupled with the club's immediate response, ensured it was dealt with and the club was praised by the FA for the way it dealt with the incident.

But it was praise for the quality of the football that made February such a rich highlight.

Leon Osman heads Everton into an early lead Leon Osman heads the opening goal of Everton

The trip to Aston Villa for the final match of the month provided the awayday highlight of the season for most fans.

Everton won the game 3-1, with goals from Tim Cahill and a brace from Leon Osman. But the quality of the passing on show that day underlined the fact Everton were far from an ugly footballing side and that they fully deserved their heady league placing.

It ended what, all-in-all, was a good month for the Blues following another victory in the league over Norwich and a draw against Southampton. The defeat at home to Chelsea, however, did leave a bad taste thanks to James Beattie's sending off early in the contest for a headbutt on William Gallas.

That led to a three match ban for the new arrival just as he was looking to get into his stride as an Everton player.

Another new arrival, though, enjoyed a better February. Following Thomas Gravesen's departure to Real Madrid in January David Moyes acquired the services of Mikel Arteta on loan until the end of the season from Spanish side Real Sociedad.

The 22-year-old proved an instant hit, courtesy of his neat footwork and composure on the ball.

Those qualities came to the fore in the game at Villa and he proved an imporant asset for the Blues as they overcame the loss of the Dane and pressed on towards a top four finish.

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