Everton see off Fulham to lift David Moyes on anniversary

Flying in the face of the truism that diamonds are a girl's best friend, Lorraine Case's family bought her an advertising hoarding at Goodison Park and sponsorship of this match to celebrate her 40th birthday.

Everton see off Fulham to lift David Moyes on anniversary On reflection, Lorraine should have demanded the stones. Diamonds are forever, memories of this match, except in the Case household, are likely to fade rather more quickly.

It was also David Moyes's birthday; his ninth anniversary as manager of Everton. His first game had been against Fulham, won by the same scoreline amid a cascade of optimism. Earlier this week, Moyes had celebrated the landmark with an interview full of shadows and with rather more regret than there should have been for a manager with his achievements. It suggested that the summer will be critical if he is to take his tenure into double figures.

Once more, Everton are finishing a season strongly and once more Moyes may ask himself what they might have achieved with a decent beginning and rather fewer injuries. On Saturdaynight they endured another with Louis Saha, whose fierce free-kick driven through an unstable wall proved decisive, carried off on a stretcher three minutes from the finish with an ankle injury.

The result was as predictable as a pair of birthday socks. This was Everton's 18th straight home victory over Fulham. Not since 1959, the year Tommy Trinder, with his catchphrase of: 'You lucky, lucky people' took over as chairman at Craven Cottage, have Fulham left Goodison Park with a point. Since they have never won at Anfield, this was a familiar road to Merseyside, paved with shards of glass.

Perhaps it was the blossom in Stanley Park, the soft spring sunshine or the fact that, compared to the dramas enveloping the clubs below them, nothing very much was at stake, but this was an end-of-term game sometimes played at an end-of-term pace.

After half an hour during which almost nothing happened, the lethargy began to infect the Fulham defence, which left Seamus Coleman entirely unmarked as Leon Osman sent over a deep cross that, too late, Carlos Salcido realised was heading squarely for the Irishman's forehead. It was directed powerfully and beautifully past Mark Schwarzer, who before kick-off had been shown on the big screens pulling a series of Everton goals from the back of his net.

Salcido did not have a bad match. He had already cleared off the line from Saha when, late in the second half, he dived full length to deflect a Phil Jagielka header that looked utterly goal-bound.

"We were too passive and we paid the price," Mark Hughes said of his Fulham team. "We gave ourselves too much to do and the second-half performance cannot mask the fact that this is the poorest we have played for a number of weeks." Perhaps it was because they knew where they were going.

Craven Cottage may be gaining a statue of Michael Jackson – a man whose relationship with Fulham is as difficult to fathom as Elvis Presley's with Rochdale – but Hughes would like a fit Bobby Zamora rather more.

Watched by Fabio Capello, the striker is still several weeks from full match fitness, but when he was introduced his first touch was to knock down a cross for Clint Dempsey to run on to. The American's finish in front of the massed ranks of the Gwladys End was entirely emphatic.

September was not much of a month for either club. Fulham lost Zamora to a broken leg while Everton were humbled in the Carling Cup by League One side Brentford and picked up only two points from the available nine. Both Hughes and Moyes will look at the season and wonder what might have been.


STEVE JONES, BlueKipper.com We deserved that overall. The first half was poor, though we dominated it – it looked as if the 22 players had been drinking all afternoon rather than the fans. But we stepped it up in the second half. Saha's goal was a great strike – he gets a lot of criticism for his injuries but when he does play he's top class. It was a great header from Coleman too and he was my man of the match. Even after Fulham scored, they didn't really threaten, though Zamora made a difference. Things have been a bit downbeat in the past couple of weeks but we're up to eighth with an outside chance of Europe. .

The fan's player ratings Howard 7; Hibbert 7, Jagielka 7, Distin 7, Baines 7; Coleman 9, Rodwell 6 (Bilyaletdinov 77 n/a), Neville 7; Osman 7; Cahill 7 (Heitinga 69 7); Saha 7 (Beckford 87 n/a)

DAVID LLOYD, TOOFIF.co.uk It was too little too late in the end. We contained them reasonably well in the first half but we didn't show enough urgency. The second goal was a killer. We had a free-kick that Everton countered quickly and all of a sudden we were 2-0 down and chasing the game. From then on we actually came into the game. Zamora came on and set up Dempsey – he doesn't look 100% but he makes such a difference to us. He even had a glorious chance to level for us late in the second half. We are only three points from the relegation zone. I'm optimist by nature but I'm not taking anything for granted.

The fan's player ratings Schwarzer 6; Baird 6, Hughes 6, Hangeland 5, Salcido 7; Etuhu 6 (Zamora 61 6); Duff 6 (Kakuta 75 5) Dembélé 5, Murphy 7, Dempsey 6; Johnson 6 (Gudjohnsen 84 5),

To take part in the Fans' Verdict, email sport@observer.co.uk

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Tim Rich at Goodison Park, for The Observer on Saturday 19th March 2011 19.35 Europe/London

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