Cahill signals a turning point on uphill road

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Thankfully, after being taken from the field on a stretcher and spending a night under observation in hospital, Arteta was not just better but free from serious neck damage - no thanks to the unpleasant Mihaita Plesan of Dinamo. Everton's Basque midfielder will not, though, be well enough to return to action this morning, when Everton attempt to launch a Premiership recovery mission in the City of Manchester Stadium.

At £15.99 a time, there were apparently no takers for the DVD of the club's 2004-05 season in the Everton Megastore on Thursday night. With its fate-tempting title, Champions' League... you're having a laugh, and its offer of a chance to win European tickets, it was already past its sell-by date.

Now that David Moyes' boys in blue have failed to make it past the Champions' League qualifiers and fallen at the first hurdle in the Uefa Cup, all of the promise that came with last term's hard-earned fourth place in the Premiership has given way to the sobering prospect of a season's slog to overcome the handicap of getting stuck in the starting blocks this time round. With five defeats and one win (away to Bolton) from their opening six matches, the Toffees are stuck at the foot of the table.

Still, at least there were signs of revival on Thursday - and rousing cheers instead of dispiriting jeers at the final whistle. They might not have come close to overhauling the 5-0 deficit from the first leg in Bucharest, but Moyes' side attacked from first to last and fashioned 16 decent chances.

They also won at home for the first time since May - courtesy of Cahill, who was back to something like his dashing self. His 28th-minute header might not prove to be as pivotal as the Kevin Brock back-pass and the Adrian Heath equaliser that transformed Everton's fortunes under Howard Kendall in 1984, but it could prompt a vital upswing under the rollercoaster stewardship of Moyes.

"I hope it's a turning point," Cahill said. "It will certainly give us confidence. We've just got to produce this kind of form on Sunday, because we need a win. We've tried different formations and different things on the training pitch and now it's starting to flow. We've just got to make sure it continues.

"We've got new players and we've taken time to gel, but things are starting to fall into place. We've worked hard on the training pitch and the gaffer's been under immense pressure. I've missed some chances and taken flak, and so have other players. We've all been at fault. But we're all in it together and we've all got to take the flak together.

"You feel pressure when you're winning and pressure when you're losing, so either way it's the same. What we can't forget is that we're good enough to get off the bottom of the Premier League."

With Cahill and Phil Neville commanding in central midfield on Thursday, and Arteta outstanding wide on the right, Everton certainly have a good enough platform. What they desperately need is a forward line firing on all cylinders, with a fit James Beattie finding the back of the opposition net. As Moyes acknowledged after Thursday's game, they can ill-afford to keep relying on goals from midfield. Cahill was their top scorer by some distance last season.

The first of his 11 Premiership goals was a headed winner away to Manchester City, after which he was red-carded (or second-yellowed) for pulling his shirt over his head in celebration. Having produced such a non-stop, high-tempo Duracell bunny of a performance against the Dinamos of Romania, it would only be natural to expect Cahill - and his colleagues - to be vulnerable to showing signs of fatigue in the City of Manchester Stadium this morning. The fixture was switched from Saturday lunchtime to a 11.15am Sunday pay-per-view slot after Everton's failure to qualify for the Champions' League, and their subsequent drop into the Uefa Cup.

"It's an unusual kick-off time, but we'll be ready for it," Cahill pledged. "We're professionals. We have to be on the button. And when it comes to effort, we have to keep giving everything. We have to play every game like it's our last. That's how much it means to us and to the fans."