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Aviva Premiership: London Welsh 26 Harlequins 31

London Welsh 26 Harlequins 31: O'Shea slams error-strewn referee despite returning to Aviva Premiership summit

By
Gary Baker

PUBLISHED:

18:43 GMT, 6 January 2013

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UPDATED:

21:56 GMT, 6 January 2013

Harlequins director of rugby Conor O’Shea launched a furious attack on the referee after his side returned to the top of the Aviva Premiership with this bonus-point win.

O’Shea accused official Llyr ApGeraint Roberts of a catalogue of errors, saying: ‘I’m unbelievably frustrated. You’d have to go a long way to see worse.

‘Everything was wrong – it was incredible. The offside line was irrelevant, trailing runners coming back was irrelevant, backing into the maul, not releasing in the tackle – all irrelevant.'

First blood: In-form Danny Care scored Quins' first try

First blood: In-form Danny Care scored Quins' first try

He added: ‘We were 21-6 up at
half-time but bafflingly, the penalty count was against us. How can that
be We have a feedback process for the referees but it’s not actioned
upon and it’s very difficult at times.’

It is the second time in a week,
following equally frustrated comments by Leicester’s Richard Cockerill
when giving his verdict on Andrew Small’s decisions in the Tigers’ 17-12
win over Gloucester, that a major club figure has questioned
officialdom.

O’Shea added: ‘This is just a bit of
moral support as well for Cockers last week. I am just mightily
frustrated. I have vented in the dressing room to the players.'

Reliable: Nick Evans' consistency with the boot was again vital to Quins

Reliable: Nick Evans' consistency with the boot wasReliable: Nick Evans' consistency with the boot was again vital to Quins again vital to Quins

He continued: ‘Something has to be done. Not all of
these guys (refs) are full time. Let’s be fair – our jobs are on the
line every week and it is a strange position to say, “Well, they are not
full time but that’s fine”.’

Quins were great in the first half as
London Welsh seemed on course for a crushing defeat, and O’Shea was
happy with his players’ performance.

‘We played some magnificent running
in the first 45 minutes and that’s what we should be talking about – our
full back, Ollie Lindsay-Hague, dazzled people with his footwork,’
O’Shea said.

Leading by example: Robshaw added another try

Leading by example: Robshaw added another try

ENGLAND WATCH

Captain Chris Robshaw was firing on all cylinders.

He battered his way over for a try and was lucky not to find himself in the sin bin when he came in from the side at a ruck.

But he had a good game and came through unscathed.

Danny Care started brilliantly and darted through the smallest of gaps to score.

But he faded and was replaced by Karl Dickson.

England scrum-half Danny Care and
national skipper Chris Robshaw, plus centre George Lowe, got Quins
first-half tries, and the bonus point came after Nick Evans added a
fourth touchdown.

Wing Nick Scott and the boot of
stand-off Gordon Ross brought Welsh back from the dead and an Ed Jackson
intercept-try threatened a real shock.

But Quins hit back in the closing moments and nearly got another at the end, only a defiant defence halting them.

Welsh head coach Lyn Jones praised his team’s efforts, saying: ‘At half-time, we were staring down the barrel,’ he said,

‘We started the second half well, we
were still in there and we needed to get the first score, which we did.
We had a chance to win but their class and ability shone through in the
end.

‘They are a very good side and it’s a
pity more sides don’t play like them. We are showing determination and
spirit and are good enough to stay in this league.’

Fighting back: The Exiles battle to reduce the deficit

Fighting back: The Exiles battle to reduce the deficit

Calf-injury victim Gavin Henson was
absent from the Welsh line-up, but Jones is optimistic that he will be
able to call upon his services soon.

‘I saw him last Saturday and he was due to train on Wednesday, but his leg wasn’t good enough,’ Jones said.

‘Hopefully, he will play as soon as possible, but it’s a calf injury and I don’t want my players to rush back.’

Nigel Adkins finally faces boyhood team Liverpool

Treat for Saints manager Adkins as he finally gets to face his boyhood team

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UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 30 November 2012

Southampton manager Nigel Adkins has wanted to face Liverpool for years – and is finally getting the opportunity.

The 47-year-old was a schoolboy at Liverpool when he was a young goalkeeper before eventually signing his first professional contract at Tranmere.

When he was manager at Scunthorpe every time the club were in the third-round FA Cup draw he hoped his hometown club would be pulled out of the bag.

Fun times: Nigel Adkins will enjoy going to Anfield... provided Luis Suarez doesn't run riot

Fun times: Nigel Adkins will enjoy going to Anfield… provided Luis Suarez doesn't run riot

That never happened – but back-to-back promotions has meant he no longer needs to rely on a lucky cup draw to face his former club and will head to Anfield for the first time on Saturday.

Adkins said: 'We will relish going to a big stadium like Liverpool. I have good memories of Liverpool. I remember training with Ray Clemence and saving a penalty from Graeme Souness in a practice game and playing alongside Alan Hansen and Kenny Dalglish in small-sides games.

'I enjoyed being at Anfield as a player and I’m looking forward to going there as a manager'

The Saints boss learned a lot from his time at Liverpool and their ethics still influence his managerial decisions today.

He added: 'You grow up with the history of Liverpool Football Club. When you are there it models your thoughts – the culture surrounding it. There were close-knit training session in the evenings with the likes of Roy Evans, Ronnie Moran and Joe Fagan around. Bob Paisley would give us a team talk before a FA Youth Cup game.

'They have always had this continuity and the next manager would always come through the system and they kept that continuity which was good. It showed that they had close-knit group of staff who all contribute in a big way.'

He is not the only one at Southampton to dream of going to Anfield. Midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin has been a Liverpool fan since his time as an academy player in France. He said when he was growing up in France people either chose the Merseyside club or Manchester United but his mind was made up watching them come back against AC Milan in the 2005 Champions League final.

Collection duty: Morgan Schneiderlin (right) might pick up a few Liverpool shirts

Collection duty: Morgan Schneiderlin (right) might pick up a few Liverpool shirts

He said: 'I was in an academy in Strasbourg and we were watching the game in the same room, there were just an amazing atmosphere, 40 young players were watching that game. It was an amazing moment and I picked them.'

The 23-year-old has already has his friends in France on the phone trying to persuade him to get various players shirts after the match. He has always been a huge fan of Steven Gerrard and will get his shirt first – but only if Southampton win today.

Schneiderlin added: 'Some friends already called me and said “Morgan bring me the shirt, bring me the shirt”. I'm not focussed on that but I will see at the end of the game if we win I will ask for some shirts. If we lose I will be in the shower as quick as possible and gone.'

If Saints win today you might see a young midfielder running around collecting as many Liverpool shirts as possible after the final whistle.

Harlequins 21 Bath 12

Harlequins 21 Bath 12: Botica inspires Quins to second LV Cup victory

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UPDATED:

22:14 GMT, 16 November 2012

Main man: Ben Botica

Main man: Ben Botica

Fly-half Ben Botica only played the first half but his 15 points set Aviva Premiership leaders Harlequins on the way to their second victory in the LV Cup.

The 23-year-old son of former Wigan and Castleford rugby league star Frano Botica kicked five penalties from five attempts for Quins, 31-30 winners at Northampton last weekend.

Botica's teenage replacement Louis Grimoldby added two second-half penalties to kill off a fightback by Bath, who had been comprehensively outplayed in the first period.

Former All Blacks fly-half Stephen Donald kicked three penalties for the visitors, with his replacement Tom Heathcote kicking one.

But their cause was not helped by the sin-binning of prop Anthony Perinese in the first half and replacement hooker Brett Sharman in the second.

Harlequins, with first-choice centres Jordan Turner-Hall and George Lowe returning from knee and ankle injuries respectively, totally dominated the first half but lacked the cutting edge to score a try.

Botica, standing in for the rested Nick Evans, booted Quins into the lead with a first-minute penalty, landing another three minutes later.

He kicked his third in the 14th minute following a scrum infringement but Donald reduced the deficit soon after.

The Harlequins scrum was proving a real handful and, after back-pedalling Bath offended again in the 19th minute, Botica stroked over his fourth penalty to make it 12-3.

Bath were punished for yet another scrum infringement and Perinese was sin-binned by referee James Jones after 26 minutes.

However, three minutes later Donald kicked his second penalty when Harlequins were caught offside on their own 22-metre line.

Quins responded with Botica's fifth penalty from wide out on the left.

Struggle: Tom Guest powers through for Harlequins

Struggle: Tom Guest powers through for Harlequins

After being forced to defend for virtually the entire half, Bath finally made their first incursion into the Quins 22 in the final minute.

Harlequins desperately defended a wave of attacks and even though Bath prop Charlie Beech forced his way over, he was held up by weight of numbers.

Botica, who had taken a heavy knock late in the first half, was replaced by teenager Louis Grimoldby, who made his senior debut.

Donald pulled back another penalty for Bath six minutes into the second half, but the visitors then suffered a blow with the loss of centre Ben Williams, who was carried off on a stretcher with a leg injury.

Bath replaced Williams with Semesa Rokoduguni and sent on first-choice scrum-half Michael Claassens – making his 150th appearance for the club – for Chris Cook in a bid to turn their fortunes around.

Claasens immediately linked with Donald to set up an attack and Bath posed a far more serious threat as Quins lost their earlier momentum.

Heathcote, who had replaced Donald seven minutes earlier, cut the deficit to three points with a 65th-minute penalty but Grimoldby restored the six-point margin three minutes later and added another penalty eight minutes from time.

Harlequins 28 Gloucester 25 – match report

Harlequins 28 Gloucester 25: Weakened Quins edge out Tigers to top table

PUBLISHED:

19:29 GMT, 3 November 2012

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UPDATED:

19:29 GMT, 3 November 2012

Harlequins showed their strength in depth as they returned to the top of the Aviva Premiership a few hours after being overtaken by Leicester Tigers.

Full-back Mike Brown, released from the England training squad for the weekend, scored their first try with stand-in players Matt Hopper and Sam Smith also touching down.

Fly-half Nick Evans, back after an ankle injury, provided an instant return on the new three-year contract he signed earlier in the week by kicking 13 points for Quins, who were without England players Chris Robshaw, Danny Care, Ugo Monye and Joe Marler.

Main man: Matt Hopper of Harlequins scores a try

Main man: Matt Hopper of Harlequins scores a try

Evans' opposite number Freddie Burns kept fourth-placed Gloucester in contention with six penalties from six attempts before converting a late try by centre Billy Twelvetrees which salvaged a losing bonus point.

But defeat meant they lost their record as the only Premiership side unbeaten away from home this season.

Evans marked his return by kicking his side ahead with a sixth-minute penalty but Burns cancelled it out four minutes later after the Quins scrum was penalised.

Gloucester had made a lively start but the home side scored the first try.
Evans found touch with a penalty from just inside the Gloucester half and hooker Joe Gray's long throw released Maurie Fa'asavalau off the tail of the lineout.

The flanker was hauled down short of the line but Quins quickly moved the ball out wide, where Evans and right-wing Tom Williams combined to find Brown who squeezed over in the left corner and Evans converted from the touchline.

Burns reduced the arrears to four points with his second penalty four minutes later and then cut the deficit to a single point when the home scrum transgressed again.

Former England captain Mike Tindall showed a neat sidestep behind his own line and clever pass to get Gloucester out of trouble when they come under pressure behind their scrum.

Tindall was also prominent in the next attack which resulted in Burns kicking the visitors 12-10 ahead with his fourth penalty after 34 minutes.

But Harlequins showed just why they are the reigning Premiership champions by responding with two opportunist tries as half-time approached.

Dickson, deputising with Care away on England duty, caught Gloucester off guard with a quickly-taken tap penalty and Williams was there again to supply the final pass and send Hopper, who has replaced the injured George Lowe in recent weeks, over near the right-hand corner flag but this time Evans drifted his conversion kick wide.

Worse was to come for Gloucester as James Simpson-Daniel's pass was intercepted on the halfway line by Smith – Monye's replacement – who showed a clean pair of heels as he raced half the length of the pitch to touch down and leave Evans a straightforward conversion.

Burns landed his fifth penalty in the 45th minute but, a minute later, Gloucester were reduced to 14 men when right-wing Shane Monahan was yellow-carded for a dangerous tackle on the airborne Brown as the full-back fielded a high kick.

Evans missed a 57th-minute penalty for Harlequins but made amends, from 40 metres, three minutes later before Burns landed his sixth in the 62nd minute.

Evans landed his third penalty seven minutes from time.

England No 8 Ben Morgan, who had just returned from seven minutes off the field having treatment to a gashed head, became the second visitor to be sin-binned for illegally disrupting a Quins attack as they pressed for a fourth try.

Harlequins chose scrums over penalty shots three times but offended themselves and 14-man Gloucester launched a counter-attack which produced a last-ditch try for Twelvetrees, converted by Burns, to grab their consolation point.

Keeping Nick Evans at Harlequins "boosts the English game", says Conor O"Shea

Keeping Evans at Harlequins 'boosts the English game', says purring O'Shea

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UPDATED:

22:57 GMT, 1 November 2012

Delighted Harlequins director of rugby Conor O’Shea acclaimed Nick Evans’s decision to sign a new three-year contract as a coup not just for his club, but for the English game.

The 32-year-old former All Black fly-half, who joined from Otago in 2008, had been considering a raft of offers from France and Japan but, having been an integral part of Quins’ Aviva Premiership triumph last season and as a Kiwi who has happily settled into London life, he chose to extend his stay.

Staying on English shores: Nick Evans has penned a three-year deal with Quins

Staying on English shores: Nick Evans has penned a three-year deal with Quins

The news is a major boost to the club as they attempt to defend their title and mount a strong assault on the Heineken Cup, but O’Shea suggested there was even wider significance.

‘There is not a player, supporter or coach in the game in England, let alone Harlequins, who will not be delighted that Nick Evans has agreed to stay,’ he said.

‘The Premiership wants the best players playing in it and Nick is one of the very best. He contributes so much to this club.

‘While I know one of the main reasons he is staying revolves around his family, ultimately it is about his ambition to achieve things with this club. His decision to stay is a great early Christmas present for all Harlequins fans.’

Evans, who has amassed 1,184 points in 106 Quins games, said: ‘My decision was made easy by the ambition of this great club, the success we have had and the hunger for more. I will do my best to help the club stay one of the major forces in English and European rugby.’

Aussie wing Cameron Shepherd will make his Sale debut tonight, with Mark Cueto switching to the right, as the Premiership’s bottom club end a turbulent week with a showdown against 11th-placed London Irish at Salford City Stadium. Richie Gray returns to the home pack, while Marland Yarde starts for the Exiles after injury. They also include Scott Lawson and Darren Allinson.

Nick Evans signs new contract at Harlequins

Former All Black Evans commits to Harlequins for another three years

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UPDATED:

13:46 GMT, 1 November 2012

New deal: Evans

New deal: Evans

Nick Evans has ended speculation about his playing future by a signing a new three-year contract with Aviva Premiership champions Harlequins.

The New Zealand international fly half had been a subject of intense speculation linking him with a move overseas.

But Quins on Thursday announced the 32-year-old has agreed terms that will keep him at the Twickenham Stoop until 2016.

Evans, regarded as one of the most successful foreign signings made by any Premiership club, joined Quins from Otago four years ago.

He has now scored almost 1,200 points for Quins and was named the Rugby Players' Association player of the season last term.

'There is not a player, supporter or coach in the game in England, let alone Harlequins, who will not be delighted that Nick Evans has agreed to stay with us for another three years,' Quins rugby director Conor O'Shea said.

'The Aviva Premiership wants the best players playing in it, and Nick is one of the very best.

'He contributes so much to this club both on and off the field, and he is the perfect role model for all young players.

Key man: Evans helped Quins to win the Premiership last season

Key man: Evans helped Quins to win the Premiership last season

'While I know one of the main reasons he is staying with us revolves around his family, ultimately it is about his ambition to achieve things with this club.

'We have started something here and Nick wants to see it through. His decision to stay is a great early Christmas present for all Harlequins supporters.'

Evans added: 'Myself and my family are happy to have the opportunity to stay at Harlequins. I'm looking forward to continuing to play with a great bunch of lads and to working with a special coaching staff.

'There is no limit to what this team can achieve, and I am excited to have an influence both on and off the field.

Former All Black: Evans appeared 16 times for New Zealand between 2004 and 2007

Former All Black: Evans appeared 16 times for New Zealand between 2004 and 2007

'My decision was made easy by the ambition of this great club, the success we have had and the hunger to want more.

'The support I have had from the supporters has been amazing, and I will do my best to help the club stay one of the major forces in English and European rugby.'

Quins are currently top of the Premiership, while they launched their Heineken Cup campaign last month with successive victories over Biarritz and Connacht.

Evans went off injured during the Biarritz game almost three weeks ago, but it is thought a return to playing action is imminent.

London Irish 28 Harlequins 31: match report

London Irish 28 Harlequins 31: Casson scrambles last-gasp victory for visitors

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UPDATED:

18:10 GMT, 28 October 2012

A fortuitous last-minute try from Tom Casson gave defending Aviva Premiership champions Harlequins a remarkable victory over London Irish at the Madejski Stadium.

Casson thought he had blown the opportunity in the last play of the game but the television match official ruled that what appeared to be a knock-on had in fact come off Casson's knee, making his subsequent grounding a legal one.

The defeat was harsh on the Exiles who matched Quins throughout and looked destined to claim a vital win behind Ian Humphreys' outstanding kicking display.

Last gasp: Tom Casson scores Harlequins winning try

Last gasp: Tom Casson scores Harlequins winning try

Tries from Danny Care and Tom Williams put Quins clear at 26-19 with just over 20 minutes remaining but back came the Exiles behind Humphreys' boot before Casson's late effort.

Coming into the game Harlequins had lost their last two Premiership encounters while Irish were on a run of three wins on the spin in all competitions, including a 39-17 mauling of high flyers Northampton.

But it was Conor O'Shea's troops who started the brighter and two Ben Botica penalties inside the first 10 minutes had them 6-0 to the good.

Despite Botica putting Quins on the front foot, as he continued to deputise superbly for the injured Nick Evans, it was Irish who scored the game's first try after 14 minutes.

Jamie Gibson expertly charged down Botica's attempted clearance and the ball ballooned up in the air to Guy Armitage over the try line and he simply had to fall over to score the game's first try and his first career Premiership try.

Party time: Harlequins celebrate their win over London Irish

Party time: Harlequins celebrate their win over London Irish

Humphreys slotted the conversion and Irish were in front at 7-6. That lead lasted all of two minutes however until the in-form Danny Care raced clear from halfway after Anthony Watson's hurried offload ricocheted into his hands, and after Botica converted it was 13-7 to the visitors.

The points kept coming in an exciting first half as Humphreys replied with two penalties of his own to level the contest up at 13-13.

Both fly-halves did not really look like missing and another penalty from each kicker meant the sides went in at the break all tied up at 16-16.

It was Irish who took the momentum into the interval though, after Harlequins full-back Brown was sent to the sin bin on the cusp of half-time for a deliberate knock-on.

Sore one: Chris Robshaw

Sore one: Chris Robshaw

After the break the visitors were a man down and without their skipper Chris Robshaw, who suffered a nasty cut above the eye, but they went back in front when Botica slotted a regulation penalty when the Exiles infringed at scrum time.

No sooner had Brown returned from his spell on the sidelines than Irish began to turn up the heat, turning over Ugo Monye from the kick-off and earning a penalty that Humphreys slotted to level it up again at 19-19.

Quins' effervescent backline had been kept largely quiet but after 52 minutes they sprung into action as Care, Botica and Matt Hopper combined to devastating effect to put Williams over in the right corner for the try of the match, Botica's conversion creeping over from the touchline.

The Exiles continued to respond in quick fashion and two Humphreys penalties made it 26-25 going into the last quarter of an hour.

And after Nick Easter was penalised in the 73rd minute Humphreys made no mistake to put the Exiles back in front against the defending champions.

Monye went perilously close in the right corner late on as Quins pushed for the final score, but it was left to Casson.

He may have appeared to knock on when he fell clumsily on a loose ball over the try-line but the TMO thought otherwise and Quins were saved.

Everton v Liverpool preview – can David Moyes" side stay ahead?

The Mersey mission: Everton are on a high, but can they stay ahead of Liverpool

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UPDATED:

08:37 GMT, 27 October 2012

The late Liverpool manager Bill
Shankly achieved many great things at Anfield, and was also responsible
for one of the most cutting put-downs of Everton.

‘In my time at Liverpool, we had the
two best teams on Merseyside,’ Shankly once said. ‘They were Liverpool
and Liverpool reserves.’

Head to head: Nikica Jelavic and Luis Suarez will square up at Goodison Park

Head to head: Nikica Jelavic and Luis Suarez will square up at Goodison Park

On a mission: Everton Manager David Moyes

On a mission: Everton Manager David Moyes

Derby debut: Liverpool manager Brendan

Derby debut: Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers

A great line indeed, but one that
Kopites would be reluctant to trot out to their rivals as they head
across Stanley Park on Sunday.

Right now, it is Everton that stand
tall on Merseyside. Having finished ahead of Liverpool last season for
only the second time since their last championship success in 1987,
Everton will lead their neighbours by nine points if they win.

Even the bookmakers have David Moyes’ team as narrow favourites but the question is this: Can this blue supremacy really last

It's match night at Anfield on
Thursday. At the main stand coffee bars, the young servers wear staff
T-shirts with slogans on the back.

‘Liverpool without European football is like a banquet without wine,’ reads one from Roy Evans.

‘It’s not about the long ball or the short ball, it’s about the right ball,’ is another from Bob Paisley.

Such words fit nicely into the
romance of a visit to Anfield. It’s a stadium built to invoke memories.
It still looks the same, the announcer’s voice is instantly recognisable
and he still plays the best half-time music.

Out on the field, though, the modern
Liverpool’s version of Europe is a visit from Anzhi Makhachkala in the
Europa League. There’s not much romance about that.

Young guns: Samed Yesil (left) and Jack Robinson in Liverpool training before Sunday's Merseyside derby

Young guns: Samed Yesil (left) and Jack Robinson in Liverpool training before Sunday's Merseyside derby

Fall guy: Joe Cole (middle) takes a tumble as Sebastian Coates (left) and Jon Flanagan look on

Fall guy: Joe Cole (middle) takes a tumble as Sebastian Coates (left) and Jon Flanagan look on

Under new manager Brendan Rodgers,
there are steady signs of improvement. Liverpool are beginning to keep
the ball better and are defending better. They spend the majority of the
night in the Anzhi half, win on the back of a super Stewart Downing
goal and head to Goodison after three successive clean sheets.

Rodgers knows, though, that his immediate horizons, in terms of tangible progress, are limited.

‘Everton finished ahead of us last
season,’ he told Sportsmail. ‘I have seen reports and read snippets
where they think they can finish in the top four this season.

‘They are obviously very confident. My situation is different. I’m trying to get this team as competitive as I can.

‘The status of this club over many
years meant that it was always at the top. So no opponent was different
to any other. But that level has dropped. The hard work is getting the
club to the top end of the division.

‘Coming in to this job, this club had
finished sixth, seventh and eighth. That’s the reality of where it’s
at, so my focus is only on improvement.’

Rodgers is a wonderfully realistic
man. After a difficult summer transfer window, he knows the current
squad is not good enough for the top four. So if Everton do indeed
remain there, the chances are Liverpool will be in their wake again.

That would certainly be hard to take
but, crucially, Liverpool’s supporters appear to have bought into
Rodgers’ vision of baby step progress. On Thursday his name is sung
before kick-off and again during the second half. His trust in young
players such as Jonjo Shelvey and Andre Wisdom is clearly endorsed by
what looks close to a full house.

On the ball: Joe Allen (right) tries to shake off the attentions of Samed Yesil

On the ball: Joe Allen (right) tries to shake off the attentions of Samed Yesil

Behind you! Allen tries to pinch the ball from Flanagan during training at Melwood on Friday

Behind you! Allen tries to pinch the ball from Flanagan during training at Melwood on Friday

‘Jonjo’s like Bambi on ice when he gets going,’ chuckles one fan. ‘But at least he gives everything.’

Of concern to Liverpool is the
current reliance on two more senior players, Steven Gerrard and Luis
Suarez. The relationship between the two is beginning to look as
fundamental as that between Gerrard and Fernando Torres when Liverpool
last came close to winning the title back in 2009.

For all his faults, Suarez remains a
terrific player and Rodgers has done well to rehabilitate him after the
tribulations of last season. If Liverpool are to prosper, the Uruguayan
and his captain simply must stay fit.

‘We are having more controlled
possession and that’s the important bit,’ said Rodgers. ‘Anzhi was a
difficult game and we did well.’

Sunday, he can be sure, will be more difficult.

Goodison Park is a great place to
watch a derby. It’s a great place to watch any football match. It’s also
a stadium that is acting like a noose round the neck of long-term
Everton progress. In the dug-out, manager Moyes’ guts will churn as he
seeks victory over the enemy. He feels it that badly.

Over time, though, no matter what
Moyes does, a more predictable order may return to Merseyside unless
they find a buyer for the club or leave dear old Goodison behind.

Match-day revenue per season is
17.4m at Goodison. At Anfield it’s 55m and that’s before work begins
to increase Liverpool’s stadium capacity to 60,000.

The gulf is clear. Commercially — at
home and abroad — Liverpool remain a very big club. Everton — a club
that boast only a dozen executive boxes — are somewhat smaller. Last
season Liverpool were shown live on Sky and ESPN 22 times. Everton
featured on nine occasions.

Against this background, Everton’s current supremacy is all the more remarkable.

Keepers' capers: Brad Jones (left) and Pepe Reina in action with the new fluorescent Premier League winter footballs

Keepers' capers: Brad Jones (left) and Pepe Reina in action with the new fluorescent Premier League winter footballs

Iron fists: Pepe Reina punches the ball away

Iron fists: Pepe Reina punches the ball away

Under Bill Kenwright’s ownership, the
club has pushed itself bravely in terms of finance. Everton pay good
wages — Marouane Fellaini earns 75,000 a week — and forthcoming
financial results will show total outlay in that area to be 60m, the
ninth-highest in the Premier League. Everton survive and prosper by
driving hard bargains when they buy players and selling one big name
every summer to keep the bank from the door.

Currently, it’s a model that is keeping them ahead of the Reds but still an inferiority complex remains among some supporters.

There is a perception that the authorities favour Liverpool.

The city council, for example,
recently granted planning permission and imposed compulsory purchase
orders so the redevelopment of Anfield could begin. Everton, meanwhile,
saw their attempt to build a new stadium in Kirkby thrown out by the
government in 2009.

Currently there are intentions to
look at a site on nearby Stanley Park. There was a meeting with the
council about it on Friday.

A buyer for the club would help.
Kenwright would sell for about 120m, but who would want to buy a club
with a stadium barely fit for modern purpose

In the Everton dressing room they are optimistic ahead of the derby.

A friend of one senior player says: ‘We think Liverpool are weak through the middle of defence.’

But Everton have fluffed their lines
against the enemy before, most notably when giving up a 1-0 lead in last
season’s FA Cup semi-final.

Over his decade at Goodison, Moyes has won just three of 20 league games against Liverpool but nobody can fault his ambition.

‘My job is to try (to finish above Liverpool) and I have to look to try to do that,’ he said yesterday.

‘It’s a big ask. Everton’s sole focus
shouldn’t be on finishing above Liverpool. We have to think about
finishing above Manchester United and City. That might sound crazy but
that’s what I’m thinking of.’

The Mersey mission: Everton are on a high, but can they stay ahead of Liverpool?

The Mersey mission: Everton are on a high, but can they stay ahead of Liverpool

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UPDATED:

22:59 GMT, 26 October 2012

The late Liverpool manager Bill
Shankly achieved many great things at Anfield, and was also responsible
for one of the most cutting put-downs of Everton.

‘In my time at Liverpool, we had the
two best teams on Merseyside,’ Shankly once said. ‘They were Liverpool
and Liverpool reserves.’

On a mission: Everton Manager David Moyes

On a mission: Everton Manager David Moyes

Derby debut: Liverpool manager Brendan

Derby debut: Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers

A great line indeed, but one that
Kopites would be reluctant to trot out to their rivals as they head
across Stanley Park on Sunday.

Right now, it is Everton that stand
tall on Merseyside. Having finished ahead of Liverpool last season for
only the second time since their last championship success in 1987,
Everton will lead their neighbours by nine points if they win.

Even the bookmakers have David Moyes’ team as narrow favourites but the question is this: Can this blue supremacy really last

It's match night at Anfield on
Thursday. At the main stand coffee bars, the young servers wear staff
T-shirts with slogans on the back.

‘Liverpool without European football is like a banquet without wine,’ reads one from Roy Evans.

‘It’s not about the long ball or the short ball, it’s about the right ball,’ is another from Bob Paisley.

Such words fit nicely into the
romance of a visit to Anfield. It’s a stadium built to invoke memories.
It still looks the same, the announcer’s voice is instantly recognisable
and he still plays the best half-time music.

Out on the field, though, the modern
Liverpool’s version of Europe is a visit from Anzhi Makhachkala in the
Europa League. There’s not much romance about that.

Young guns: Samed Yesil (left) and Jack Robinson in Liverpool training before Sunday's Merseyside derby

Young guns: Samed Yesil (left) and Jack Robinson in Liverpool training before Sunday's Merseyside derby

Fall guy: Joe Cole (middle) takes a tumble as Sebastian Coates (left) and Jon Flanagan look on

Fall guy: Joe Cole (middle) takes a tumble as Sebastian Coates (left) and Jon Flanagan look on

Under new manager Brendan Rodgers,
there are steady signs of improvement. Liverpool are beginning to keep
the ball better and are defending better. They spend the majority of the
night in the Anzhi half, win on the back of a super Stewart Downing
goal and head to Goodison after three successive clean sheets.

Rodgers knows, though, that his immediate horizons, in terms of tangible progress, are limited.

‘Everton finished ahead of us last
season,’ he told Sportsmail. ‘I have seen reports and read snippets
where they think they can finish in the top four this season.

‘They are obviously very confident. My situation is different. I’m trying to get this team as competitive as I can.

‘The status of this club over many
years meant that it was always at the top. So no opponent was different
to any other. But that level has dropped. The hard work is getting the
club to the top end of the division.

‘Coming in to this job, this club had
finished sixth, seventh and eighth. That’s the reality of where it’s
at, so my focus is only on improvement.’

Rodgers is a wonderfully realistic
man. After a difficult summer transfer window, he knows the current
squad is not good enough for the top four. So if Everton do indeed
remain there, the chances are Liverpool will be in their wake again.

That would certainly be hard to take
but, crucially, Liverpool’s supporters appear to have bought into
Rodgers’ vision of baby step progress. On Thursday his name is sung
before kick-off and again during the second half. His trust in young
players such as Jonjo Shelvey and Andre Wisdom is clearly endorsed by
what looks close to a full house.

On the ball: Joe Allen (right) tries to shake off the attentions of Samed Yesil

On the ball: Joe Allen (right) tries to shake off the attentions of Samed Yesil

Behind you! Allen tries to pinch the ball from Flanagan during training at Melwood on Friday

Behind you! Allen tries to pinch the ball from Flanagan during training at Melwood on Friday

‘Jonjo’s like Bambi on ice when he gets going,’ chuckles one fan. ‘But at least he gives everything.’

Of concern to Liverpool is the
current reliance on two more senior players, Steven Gerrard and Luis
Suarez. The relationship between the two is beginning to look as
fundamental as that between Gerrard and Fernando Torres when Liverpool
last came close to winning the title back in 2009.

For all his faults, Suarez remains a
terrific player and Rodgers has done well to rehabilitate him after the
tribulations of last season. If Liverpool are to prosper, the Uruguayan
and his captain simply must stay fit.

‘We are having more controlled
possession and that’s the important bit,’ said Rodgers. ‘Anzhi was a
difficult game and we did well.’

Sunday, he can be sure, will be more difficult.

Goodison Park is a great place to
watch a derby. It’s a great place to watch any football match. It’s also
a stadium that is acting like a noose round the neck of long-term
Everton progress. In the dug-out, manager Moyes’ guts will churn as he
seeks victory over the enemy. He feels it that badly.

Over time, though, no matter what
Moyes does, a more predictable order may return to Merseyside unless
they find a buyer for the club or leave dear old Goodison behind.

Match-day revenue per season is
17.4m at Goodison. At Anfield it’s 55m and that’s before work begins
to increase Liverpool’s stadium capacity to 60,000.

The gulf is clear. Commercially — at
home and abroad — Liverpool remain a very big club. Everton — a club
that boast only a dozen executive boxes — are somewhat smaller. Last
season Liverpool were shown live on Sky and ESPN 22 times. Everton
featured on nine occasions.

Against this background, Everton’s current supremacy is all the more remarkable.

Keepers' capers: Brad Jones (left) and Pepe Reina in action with the new fluorescent Premier League winter footballs

Keepers' capers: Brad Jones (left) and Pepe Reina in action with the new fluorescent Premier League winter footballs

Iron fists: Pepe Reina punches the ball away

Iron fists: Pepe Reina punches the ball away

Under Bill Kenwright’s ownership, the
club has pushed itself bravely in terms of finance. Everton pay good
wages — Marouane Fellaini earns 75,000 a week — and forthcoming
financial results will show total outlay in that area to be 60m, the
ninth-highest in the Premier League. Everton survive and prosper by
driving hard bargains when they buy players and selling one big name
every summer to keep the bank from the door.

Currently, it’s a model that is keeping them ahead of the Reds but still an inferiority complex remains among some supporters.

There is a perception that the authorities favour Liverpool.

The city council, for example,
recently granted planning permission and imposed compulsory purchase
orders so the redevelopment of Anfield could begin. Everton, meanwhile,
saw their attempt to build a new stadium in Kirkby thrown out by the
government in 2009.

Currently there are intentions to
look at a site on nearby Stanley Park. There was a meeting with the
council about it on Friday.

A buyer for the club would help.
Kenwright would sell for about 120m, but who would want to buy a club
with a stadium barely fit for modern purpose

In the Everton dressing room they are optimistic ahead of the derby.

A friend of one senior player says: ‘We think Liverpool are weak through the middle of defence.’

But Everton have fluffed their lines
against the enemy before, most notably when giving up a 1-0 lead in last
season’s FA Cup semi-final.

Over his decade at Goodison, Moyes has won just three of 20 league games against Liverpool but nobody can fault his ambition.

‘My job is to try (to finish above Liverpool) and I have to look to try to do that,’ he said yesterday.

‘It’s a big ask. Everton’s sole focus
shouldn’t be on finishing above Liverpool. We have to think about
finishing above Manchester United and City. That might sound crazy but
that’s what I’m thinking of.’

Ipswich target Alan Curbishley to replace Paul Jewell

Ipswich target Curbishley after sacking Jewell for poor start to season

|

UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 24 October 2012

Ipswich have spoken to Alan Curbishley about taking the vacant manager’s job at Ipswich after Paul Jewell was sacked on Wednesday.

Curbishley wants a return to management and Ipswich chief Marcus Evans is ready to give the 54-year-old the chance to revive his career.

Jewell left Portman Road after a sorry start to the season that has seen the club pick up just seven points from their opening 12 games – leaving them rooted to the bottom of the Championship.

In the running: Alan Curbishley has been linked with the Ipswich job

In the running: Alan Curbishley has been linked with the Ipswich job

Curbishley recently turned down the chance to replace Owen Coyle at Bolton, not wanting to uproot from his Essex base.

But the former Charlton boss sees the Ipswich job as a perfect route back into football given he will not have to move.

It is understood Curbishley also wants to bring Mervyn Day, with whom he worked with at the West Ham and the Valley, with him to the Suffolk club.

Gone: Paul Jewell was sacked by Ipswich on Wednesday

Gone: Paul Jewell was sacked by Ipswich on Wednesday

Meanwhile, Mick McCarthy is emerging as a contender for the vacant Crystal Palace job.

The former Wolves manager is being considered by Palace chairman Steve Parish, who lost Dougie Freedman to Bolton on Tuesday.

Parish has confirmed he will speak to Steve Coppell about rejoining Palace in some capacity, be it as new manager or director of football.