Saha saves Moyes from familiar sinking feeling

Everton 5 Blackpool 3
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The Independent Football

It was Groundhog Day in North America last week and when Charlie Adam's diving header put Blackpool 3-2 up at a rain-soaked Goodison Park, it was easy to equate David Moyes with the Bill Murray character in the eponymous 1993 film – the man who must live the same day over and over again.

Moyes, by his own admission, had a familiar sinking feeling as Everton, who were good value for a 2-1 lead, conceded twice in three minutes through Jason Puncheon and Adam shortly after the hour. After all, the Merseysiders' consistent failing this season has been an inability to put teams to the sword at home – three points is their paltry return from games against West Bromwich, West Ham, Wigan and Wolves.

"When it went 3-2 I thought, 'here we go, the players have seen this numerous times, what are we going to do?'" said Moyes. The difference this time was that in Louis Saha they had a striker at the very top of his game. The 32-year-old went ten months without a league goal up to Christmas; he now has eight from six games after his four goals secured a much-needed victory for an Everton side who, prior to Saturday, were the division's third-lowest home scorers.

Pondering Saha's transformation, Moyes said: "He's one of these lads who needs to feel good in himself. Louis looks as if he is beginning to gain a bit of confidence and self-belief and if you play as well as that, it shows you are as good as there is about.

"Louis has to feel 100 per cent but maybe in modern football now you can't always be 100 per cent right because the games come thick and fast. I've seen bits of his play and thought, 'Come on, Louis, you're better than that'. But I saw bits today and thought, 'Boy, I can see why you've played alongside Zidane and all those players at Manchester United and they were accepting of you because of your ability'."

Goodison had not witnessed four goals from an Everton forward since Joe Royle's quartet against Southampton in 1971. The pity for Moyes, who admitted he has "struggled to find the right solution" to his team's failure to turn draws into wins, is Saha did not click into gear sooner. Still, the Frenchman's feat was timely after the transfer-window departure of strikers Yakubu and James Vaughan.

Saha would have had five but for referee Kevin Friend whistling a split-second before he converted a cross from the fouled Seamus Coleman. By then Ian Evatt had already equalised but when the No 8 restored the lead on the restart, Everton looked likely winners. Yet it proved just the first twist of a roller-coaster second half.

For Ian Holloway, satisfaction with his side's attacking play was offset by what unfolded in the final 14 minutes. "I went defensive to try and protect a lead but we couldn't do that. People will say we should change our philosophy but I bloody well tried," said Holloway, whose team slipped below Everton to 15th after this fifth straight loss.

Everton turned the tables through Saha's hat-trick header and Jermaine Beckford's fine volley. Saha then added the fifth to leave Moyes relieved his Groundhog Day was over.

Scorers: Everton Saha 20, 47, 76, 84, Beckford 80 Blackpool Baptiste 37, Puncheon 62, Adam 64.

Subs: Everton Cahill (Bilyaletdinov, 70), Beckford (Rodwell, 70), Jagielka (Saha, 86). Unused Mucha (gk), Hibbert, Osman, Anichebe.

Blackpool Edwards (Puncheon, 74), Southern (Campbell, 74), Harewood (Beattie, 80). Unused Kingson (gk), Phillips, Reid, Varney.

Booked: Blackpool Adam.

Man of the match Saha Match rating 9/10.

Possession Everton 48% Blackpool 52%.

Attempts on target Everton 16 Blackpool 7.

Referee K Friend (Leicestershire) Att 38,202.