Once again we are back with our month by month look at Everton's season, and today we take a look at March. Although a short month in terms of games, March was particularly important month for the squad as they cemented their status in the top half of the table, and began to separate themselves from the huddled masses below them. March was not all rosy however as a loss to Reading in the F.A. Cup came as a shock to most fans, but securing 7 points from a possible nine in the league helped soften the blow.
After a glorious victory against Chelsea to advance to the 5th round of the F.A. Cup, Everton played host to Championship side Reading, and the result was disastrous. The visitors were up to the challenge while Everton seemed to be almost asleep at the wheel, and in the end, Everton were bounced out of the F.A. Cup with a 1-0 defeat. As usual the Toffees held most of the possession and also created numerous chances, but they could not find the back of the net after a determined Reading defense gave everything they had to keep a clean sheet. The visitors did well to capitalize on the one mistake made by the Everton defense when they failed to clear a set piece properly.
Following the loss to Reading, the Toffees were back in action against Newcastle in a game featuring two mid-table teams, and the Toffees showed their resiliency by coming from behind to win 2-1 away from home. Leon Best scored for Newcastle, but thankfully Leon Osman continued his stellar form by notching the equalizer before Jags registered his first goal on a well taken shot. Mikel Arteta turned in one of the better performances of the season, but Phil Neville was injured early in the second half and had to be replaced by Heitinga. Thankfully Everton was able to repel Newcastle's efforts until the full time whistle.
After travelling to St. James Park, Everton hosted Birmingham City in a makeup of the Boxing Day fixture that was cancelled due to cold weather. Birmingham had just come off their excellent Carling Cup victory versus Arsenal, and it is a topic for another time that a club such as Birmingham was able to win some silverware before Everton has in the past decade. This was the perfect trap game, and in some sense Everton fell for it as the final score was a 1-1 draw that saw Heitinga finally score in an Everton shirt in a goal that has been a long time coming, after all we don't need another Hibbert in the record books. The worst part of this game was not the scoreline but the loss of Arteta after seven minutes. Although Arteta did not have a great season overall, he had been improving his play over the previous month or so, and his injury effectively curtailed that progress.
The final game of the month for Everton came in the form of a visit from the always dangerous Fulham side. Fulham once again were punching above their weight and gave Everton a stern test, but the home side was ultimately able to prevail in a 2-1 victory that saw American Clint Dempsey notch the Cottagers only goal against his international team mate Time Howard. For Everton, Seamus Coleman opened up the scoring before Louis Saha notched another goal to widen the lead. After Dempsey halved the deficit, the Toffees looked nervous especially with the introduction of Bobby Zamora, but thankfully the defense held firm to secure all three points.
After a relatively easy March, the schedule heated up in the month of April which will be the focus of our next monthly preview, as always leave your comments below and until next time COYB!