New boy Barry inspires Everton to victory

Posted by Luke O'Farrell

Clive Brunskill/Getty ImagesNew arrival Gareth Barry spearheaded Everton to another clean sheet win at Goodison Park.

When Roberto Martinez arrived at Everton, he spoke of Champions League football -- not overnight, but in the future. For this to materialise a number of pieces must fall into place. One of those pieces is turning Goodison Park into a fortress, which is fortunate because the team are bounding towards that objective, carrying on the sterling form of last season.

The numbers do more than speak for themselves; they sing: one defeat in 25, eleven unbeaten, wins in seven of the last eight. Saving the best until last, no visiting side has breached the Goodison ramparts in a league fixture since March.

- Match report: Everton 1-0 Chelsea
- Jolly: Superb Barry leads Everton over Chelsea
- Worrall: Spurned chances leave Chelsea blue

Following a consolation strike for Reading on 2nd March, Everton have posted seven clean sheets and gone 674 minutes without conceding at home. Continuing the form shown in the previous campaign, Martinez is defying those who questioned his ability to marry attractive football with defensive resilience.

Fortunately, for Everton supporters, the myth-busting is gathering pace. Although a collective effort, it is the defence earning the plaudits thanks to a third clean sheet in four matches. Usually rampaging into opposing penalty areas, Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines reaffirmed their capabilities in their own half. Alongside the rock-solid duo of Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin, there are few better rearguards in the league.

Those chasing the moment epitomising this defiant performance need look no further than a last-gasp block from debutant Gareth Barry. After Tim Howard committed the mother of all blunders, Samuel Eto'o had the simple task of tapping Chelsea into the lead, but he did not count on the intervention of Barry.

Racing back, as Howard counted his lucky stars, the sprawling midfielder somehow diverted the ball behind. This was the highlight of a composed debut, the midfielder adding much-needed steel and experience to the midfield.

Players capable of doing the basics well, and often, are an undervalued commodity in football. Sitting in front of the back four, Barry provided the platform for this hard fought victory. Strong in the tackle, assured in possession, the midfielder left the flashy stuff to others.

Constantly talking to his new teammates, visibly instructing Ross Barkley and Kevin Mirallas on more than one occasion, Barry added leadership to a team short on vocal players since the retirement of Phil Neville.

As one deadline day acquisition impressed from the start, another displayed glimpses of his potential from the substitutes' bench. Bolstering the midfield, James McCarthy became more influential as the match wore on.

Given the indifferent form of Leon Osman, who improved but remains off the pace, and the absence of Darron Gibson, the newly arrived duo of McCarthy and Barry are primed to fill the central positions. Ahead of them, Barkley is a constant livewire.

Not everything pans out for the youngster; there is still the propensity to dwell on the ball, yet the flashes of brilliance counter those with ease. Driving forward, leading the counter-attacks when Chelsea pressed forward, Barkley is the shining light in these opening fixtures.

Elsewhere, the Everton equivalent of Marmite, Steven Naismith, notched the winning goal. The Scottish international is unlikely to win any popularity contests on Merseyside, but few can doubt his determination to succeed. The good is beginning to outweigh the bad after an indifferent first season.

Although employed in several positions, Mirallas started to resemble the player that fans swoon over on a weekly basis. The Belgian offered renewed threat when moved centrally in place of the industrious Nikica Jelavic.

Registering that elusive first win, maintaining the excellence at the back, this result could be the catalyst for this new regime. The millstone of not winning a league match has evaporated and the players are adjusting well to the new approach.

This was evident today, especially during the second half, when the new signings starred and the tempo quickened. Whisper it quietly; there are signs of Everton mastering the art of possession with a purpose. And let's not forget that Romelu Lukaku joins the party next weekend.


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