Osman starts to shine in space vacated by Rooney

Everton 1 - Southampton 0
Click to follow
The Independent Online

A surprise benefit of Wayne Rooney's sale to Manchester United has been the emergence of Leon Osman at Goodison Park. The homegrown midfielder spent the second half of last season on loan at Derby County and was previously farmed out to Carlisle before a cruciate ligament injury kept him out of the game for the best part of 2003.

A surprise benefit of Wayne Rooney's sale to Manchester United has been the emergence of Leon Osman at Goodison Park. The homegrown midfielder spent the second half of last season on loan at Derby County and was previously farmed out to Carlisle before a cruciate ligament injury kept him out of the game for the best part of 2003.

But the Everton manager, David Moyes, watched him cement third place in the Premiership table with a well taken 88th-minute goal and said: "He is the only player at our club who could have scored that goal."

It would be taking things too far to say Osman will fill Rooney's boots, just as it would to expect Everton to remain so high up the League come May. But this fourth 1-0 victory, their sixth win of the season, again illustrated the resilience, determination and confidence of Moyes's men as they continue to recover from the struggle last season against relegation.

"We lost a lot of games 1-0 last season, but we all believe in ourselves now and are more of a unit than last year," Osman said. "It will get harder, but it has been hard already.

"I was pleased the manager brought me in at the beginning of the season. I've started well and the manager has kept faith in me. I hope I can keep it going.

"I think we deserve to be where we are and I don't see any reason why we can't stay there," he added.

One significant reason against Osman's argument is that they struggled to put away one of the Premiership's worst teams on a day when Southampton had five key players out injured and two 18-year-olds making their full debuts in attack.

The visitors, now second from bottom and new manager Steve Wigley without a win in the Premiership, face a long, hard season, but Moyes will partly solve his goalscoring by trying to sign James Beattie from Saturday's opponents during the January transfer window.

Osman is Everton's leading scorer with only three goals. So, signing the England striker will be as important as hanging on to the midfielder Thomas Gravesen, who is out of contract at the end of the season. Moyes is no longer under any pressure to sell and has sufficient funds available to keep the Dane at the club.

Osman, who took advantage of confusion surrounding Gravesen's throw-in to control and score, is another he must continue to nurture. "That was a hard-fought game," Osman said. "Southampton set their stall out to frustrate us, but we made a lot of chances and deserved to win in the end."

Goal: Osman (88) 1-0.

Everton (4-5-1): Martyn; Hibbert, Stubbs, Weir, Pistone; Kilbane (McFadden, 77), Gravesen, Cahill (Ferguson, 77), Carsley, Osman; Bent (Watson, 89). Substitutes not used: Wright (gk), Yobo.

Southampton (4-4-2): Niemi; Kenton, Nilsson, Jakobsson, Van Damme; A Svensson, Delap, Prutton, McCann; Best (Telfer, 64), Blackstock. Substitutes not used: Blayney (gk), Higginbotham, Fernandes, Griffit.

Referee: B Knight (Kent).

Booked: None.

Man of the match: Gravesen.

Attendance: 35,256.

Comments