Premier League

Lambert calls for united front

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Sun, 30 Dec 2012 14:55:00

Frank Lampard scored twice as Chelsea came back from a goal down to beat Everton 2-1 at Goodison Park.

Steven Pienaar had given the home side a second-minute lead but Lampard found the equaliser just before the interval and was on the spot to net the winner with 20 minutes to go.

Everton had started the game feverishly as they pressed Chelsea high up the field and had their reward after just 63 seconds.

Pienaar played in Phil Jagielka down the right flank and when Victor Anichebe headed the subsequent cross against the bar, there was the South African again to fire the rebound past Petr Cech.

The Toffees nearly doubled their lead shortly afterwards when Nikica Jelavic curled a free-kick against the post as David Moyes' side continued to swarm all over the visitors.

Cech also saved brilliantly from Jelavic later in the half but by that point Chelsea were edging their way back into the contest and found an equaliser just before the break.

Fernando Torres found Ramires on the right and his left-footed cross reached Lampard just outside the six-yard box with the 34-year-old measuring his header into the bottom corner of the net.

If Chelsea were fortunate to go in level at the interval then they were even luckier when Jelavic saw a brilliant header come back off the crossbar in the second half.

But Rafa Benitez's side showed plenty of resolve and took the lead after 72 minutes - thanks to that man Lampard.

Juan Mata started the move and looked to have finished it when he drilled a shot on goal but Howard saved well only for Lampard to shovel home the winning goal from close range.

Everton threw everything at Chelsea in the latter stages in a desperate attempt to maintain their unbeaten home record but the visitors defended brilliantly to see out the win and go third.

The point extended Caley Thistle's unbeaten run to nine games and left them six points off Scottish Premier League leaders Celtic.

Only the champions and Motherwell have beaten Inverness, who have cup ties against Hearts and Kilmarnock to look forward to in the opening weeks of next year.

Inverness last failed to find the net in a draw against Dunfermline in May, which secured their SPL status.

The Highlanders will have no such relegation worries this season and Butcher was happy with the way his side battled for a point despite seeing their goalscoring record come to a halt after a game where both sides cancelled each other out despite plenty of effort going forward.

Butcher, whose side face Ross County away on Wednesday, said: "It keeps us in second place and after 26 matches we have only lost three games. That's incredible in itself.

"If you had said that in July I would have said 'no chance'. This is all beyond our wildest dreams.

"Someone said the treble is still on. I said 'fine, whatever you are drinking, I'll have a bucketload of that'.

"I just think it's a good point for us. We also got a clean sheet and it's a hard-fought point.

"We haven't played with the fluency we can do because we weren't allowed to - St Johnstone got in our faces and made it difficult for us.

"They are a strong side, a big side and they play some decent football.

"They got through us on quite a few occasions in the second half but the back four held firm.

"Matthew Cooper is only 18 and I thought he had an excellent game. We put on two 18-year-olds, Conor Pepper and Phil Roberts, and Nick Ross, who hasn't played for four months.

"It's been a tremendous squad effort to get to where we are and we are there and fighting tooth and nail to stay there and enjoy it as well."

Inverness did not look like losing their goals record in the opening stages when Billy McKay and Andrew Shinnie both had one-on-ones, although neither were straightforward.

McKay curled just wide from a tight angle and Shinnie was quickly closed down by Alan Mannus after taking the ball past two players.

Gregory Tade had a similar chance saved for the hosts, who also saw David McCracken's header cleared off the line.

St Johnstone manager Steve Lomas was happy to end Caley Thistle's goalscoring record but demanded his side start Wednesday's visit of Dundee in more competent fashion.

Lomas said: "We didn't start great and Inverness nearly took advantage, it was a great save from Mannus.

"We spoke about that before the game, that we needed to start quicker than we did against Hearts and Dundee United and unfortunately we didn't do.

"The next game is huge for us, we want to sign off with a home win before the break.

"We have to recover right and look at the players, we were looking tired in the last 10-15 minutes."

The striker has been linked with a number of clubs in recent weeks including Sheffield United and appeared to wave goodbye to the home supporters at full-time in the 2-2 draw with Kilmarnock.

Motherwell battled back from two goals down to earn a deserved share of the spoils.

Borja Perez opened the scoring after 12 minutes when he spun before slamming the ball beyond Darren Randolph.

Paul Heffernan doubled Kilmarnock's lead against the run of play on 63 minutes, however Motherwell came storming back and goals from Murphy and Henrik Ojamaa put the hosts back on level-terms.

At full-time manager Stuart McCall embraced Murphy and encouraged the fans to give him what looked to be a farewell applause.

"In the last few seasons it's been a pleasure to play with Jamie," said Lasley

"If he goes it will be with the blessing of the squad, the club and the fans - he's a given the fans some memorable moments and I'm sure he will go on to bigger and better things.

"Jamie loves the club and it's here where he was given his big chance - I don't think he would have a bad word to say about Motherwell."

Both sets of supporters rose to their feet on the 10th minute as a tribute to former Motherwell captain Phil O'Donnell who tragically died after collapsing during a fixture with Dundee United exactly five years to the day.

Lasley was touched by the tribute to his former captain and felt the 'Well comeback was fitting of the occasion.

"It was an emotional moment, I have spoken before about how much of a pleasure it was to be able to play alongside and be a friend of Phil," added the 33-year-old.

"We knew there was going to be a tribute and it was a nice touch from the fans - hopefully our comeback was a fitting tribute as well."

Kenny Shiels hopes his Kilmarnock side can push on in 2013.

The Ayrshire club grabbed Scottish Communities League Cup glory by defeating Celtic in the final earlier in the year and ended 2012 by stretching their unbeaten run in the league to four matches.

"We're doing okay. We've got a point at Fir Park, which I think is a good achievement, having visited there under strength," said Shiels.

"We've had a good December and a good 2012.

"It's been a great year for Kilmarnock, let's kick on and see if we can improve on that."

Ba has a ?7.5million release clause in his contract which becomes active in January when the transfer window re-opens.

The striker has shown some excellent form this season and already has 13 goals to his name this term.

This has seen a host of clubs linked with a possible move, including Arsenal, Tottenham, QPR and French giants Paris Saint-Germain.

Now Chelsea are reported to have moved into pole position after Sky Sports sources confirmed talks were due to take place between Ba's representatives and the European champions.

Chelsea boss Rafael Benitez insisted he knew nothing of reports suggesting Newcastle striker Demba Ba was set for talks with Blues officials.

Asked after Chelsea's 2-1 win over Everton if he knew anything about the reports, Benitez said: "No, because we don't talk about this business, we had a very important game today."

The Pittodrie team got back to winning ways in style thanks to striker Niall McGinn's second-half hat-trick which proved far too much for Barry Smith's lowly Dark Blues team.

McGinn struck three times after the break to ensure the Reds rounded off 2012 on a positive note and Brown, who has lost defender Andrew Considine to a broken leg in the first half, wants to see them take that kind of form into the New Year.

He said: "We're all really pleased with the win, not just the end result but the overall performance as well.

"Our results had not been the best of late so we knew there was some work to do to get back doing what we know we can do.

"Hopefully this is the start of something where we can go on a wee run over the next few games.

"The lads are buzzing and we had some very good individual displays as well as working very hard together as a team.

"Dundee is never an easy place to come to and they are fighting at the bottom so we can take a lot of heart from what we've achieved here."

Meanwhile, McGinn insists he has not set himself any scoring targets after taking his tally for the season so far to 14 with goals in the 46th, 68th and 88th minutes.

The Northern Ireland international said: "I'm delighted obviously with the goals.

"I've got a few this season but it's not about me.

"I couldn't do it without the help of my team-mates who set them up for me.

"In saying that, there are no real targets.

"I just want to carry on playing as well as I can and I'm sure there will be more chances along the way. It will then be up to me to try and take them for the good of the team."

Dundee manager Barry Smith has told his players not to dwell on their latest defeat which leaves them nine points adrift at the foot of the SPL as they bid to survive in the top-flight.

Smith, whose side travel to face St Johnstone on Wednesday, said: "We just have to get it out our system as quickly as possible.

"That's why it's good to have another game to look forward to so soon.

"We'll pick ourselves up and get on with it.

"We won't feel sorry for ourselves because there's a lot of points to be played for between now and the end of the season.

"The lads are hurting but they give everything which is what we want at this club."

The 17-year-old came off the bench to claim the only goal of the game in the 92nd minute to seal the three points in the Scottish Third Division clash.

The win was Rangers' tenth in a row and allowed them to stretch their lead at the summit to 15 points, as they seek to wrap up the title as soon as possible.

Aird said: "It was my first goal for the senior team and nothing can compare to that goal.

"To be honest, I thought I took my touch too far. All I saw was the post and I just curled it and it happened to go in.

"It was a dream come true. It was unbelievable, one of the best feelings of my life.

"I'd say it was better than my debut to be honest."

The teenager has been battling to force his way back into the side after recovering from a fractured thumb and hopes he has done enough to impress the manager.

He added: "The gaffer told me to go on and just do the best I could and I think I did that.

"I've been trying to get back into the team for the last couple of weeks and hopefully I can get my spot back in the team.

"I thought I came on and did quite well."

The last time Rangers played at the national stadium, they defeated Celtic to clinch the Scottish Communities League Cup in March 2011.

This time around, a crowd of 30,117 watched an alternative Glasgow derby in Scottish football's bottom tier.

Aird said: "It was a big day for the club, bringing that many fans to Hampden.

"We usually only come here when it's cup finals so it was quite weird coming here for a league game.

"It was good and I'm sure the fans really enjoyed it. Getting the three points for the team pleases me even more."

He added: "All the family were back home in Toronto watching the game.

"My dad has actually been sick for the last couple of games but I told him I was on the bench so I'm sure he got out of his bed.

"He'll be glad that he did."

Match official Iain Brines was forced to postpone the Edinburgh club's clash with The Staggies an hour before kick-off after heavy rain had made parts of the pitch unplayable.

McGlynn said: "I think the game could have gone ahead. After we arrived we knew there was a possibility of it being called off, but I was disappointed and to some expect angry at the fact there didn't seem to be a problem here.

"Why did no-one notify us that there could be a problem? My kitman told me about it, no-one officially notified Hearts Football Club to tell us there was a problem."

He added: "Generally at this time of year you are looking at frost and snow. However, everyone knows there has been that much rain this year.

"This pitch also has history. Morton came up here three times last year. They came up on the Saturday and it was called off, they came up in midweek and it was called off. The season before that Dunfermline came up here, Saturday called off, midweek, called off."

Asked if the club would, be seeking compensation, he said: "It's up to the directors to worry about compensation, it's cost the club money, but I'm a football man and I'm disappointed we didn't get to play a game here today.

"I've got sympathy with the referee, he should have had notification there was a problem with the pitch."

With both teams out of the Scottish Cup the match looks likely to be rescheduled for a free Saturday in February or March.

Looking ahead to next year McGlynn said: "It's to get through the financial difficulties, hopefully there are better days ahead.

"We've got a semi-final of a cup to look forward to at the end of January so we've got an opportunity to get back to Hampden for another cup final, which is a big positive for us. We will also be looking to finish the season as high up the league table as we can."

Reflecting on a "year of two halves" for the club, he added: "The end of last season it was the best it could be, winning the Scottish Cup final against Hibs 5-1 - we have great memories of that day.

"But then we came very close to going into administration, difficult times. But everyone has really rallied round, battled and raised money, put charity events on and over ?1m of shares sold. We'll get through this and hopefully be stronger in the long run."

The Silkmen won 4-1 to set up a third-round clash with Cardiff but the victory was overshadowed by the alleged incident and a post-match fracas in the players' tunnel that was defused by police.

Town have reported the alleged incident to the police and the Football Association, and in a statement on on Macclesfield's official website, chief executive John Harris said: "We are very disappointed that this has overshadowed an excellent performance on the pitch, but we remain staunchly opposed to all forms of racism, which we believe has no place in football, or indeed anywhere."

"The club are aware that the matter has been reported to both the Police and the FA and will offer both it's fullest support in dealing with the matter."

A spokesman for Macclesfield said that the Blue Square Bet Premier outfit hope to release a further statement on the incident on Monday.

The FA is already investigating an allegation that Town captain Nat Brown was racially abused by spectators in the original tie on December 19.

Manager Steve King said Brown had been called "a monkey" by some Barrow fans as he made his way out for the second half and referee David Webb included his version of events in his match report.

Villa's 3-0 home loss means they have conceded 15 goals without reply in their last three games.

Only Stoke striker Cameron Jerome's late equaliser against Southampton prevented Villa from dropping into the bottom three for the start of the new year.

Fans voiced their disapproval with choruses of boos at the end of a calendar year which has seen Villa win only three home league matches.

Lambert, who took over in the summer, said: "The fans since I have been at this club have been brilliant, totally fantastic with myself and the team.

"I can understand them (booing). I would never criticise the crowd here that's for sure, they have been fantastic.

"All we can do is do our very best for this football club. The fans will go away hurt like everybody else, so will we.

"I know that for a fact. But we have to stick together. That's important."

Lambert revealed he intends to hold talks with club owner Randy Lerner ahead of the forthcoming transfer window.

With several players sidelined through injury, it has become increasingly apparent that Villa need to strengthen to bolster their up-and-coming young side.

The euphoria of securing a Capital One Cup semi-final spot and triumphing 3-1 over Liverpool at Anfield just a fortnight ago now seems a million miles away.

When asked about the transfer window, Lambert said: "I will speak with the chairman and see what happens.

"They (the discussions) will remain private, what I say."

But Lambert's faith in Villa to recover from their current poor run of results remains strong.

He said: "The last three results have hurt us, no doubt about it because everyone was positive after the Liverpool game.

"But once three results go against you, there's a negativity.

"I understand that. I can see that. But I have the belief that Aston Villa will be fine.

"You have to keep their spirits up. You have to keep them believing and keep going. That's what you have to do."

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