From My Seat: Stoke City (H)

By Ken Buckley 27/08/2016  15 Comments  [Jump to last]
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Everton 1 - 0 Stoke City

The second home league game of the season and almost 40,000 fans descend on L4 and our ‘Temple of Learning’ was overly busy with Red fans watching their idols on telly. Stoke fans a touch worse for wear after city-centre imbibing and regaling us with tales of how great were the ‘Potters’. Being above all this showboating and loud cries from Reds who seemed to believe if they shouted loud enough at the screen they would be heard by their players!

We discussed the new signings to date and speculated on who if any would be with us by the deadline. Most agreed Ron knew the score and would deliver if at all possible but whatever happens he will need the two seasons he mentioned this week to get us right to be challengers for high league placings. At last the teams came through and judging by the comments most were pleased with the selection. Holgate starting and Davies on the bench was well received as we all like to see which of the youth is in the manager's mind and being deemed good enough to join the fray.

Time for the walk up and it was a walk where hope and optimism filled the air, fast food filled the bellies and after the new card system worked seamlessly we were ready for Z-Cars and to give a mighty roar to welcome the gladiators.

Stoke kicked off and the first ten minutes or so the ball was high in the sky rather than on the immaculate green sward before us. It did calm a little after the initial thrust but we were left in no doubt Stoke were fired up and on a mission. With Mori on the bench Williams made his league debut alongside Jags and Holgate was given the right back slot, with McCarthy and Coleman injured. Baines was on the left. Further forward Bolasie made his league debut with Gueye, Barry and Mirallas in the mid ield with Barkley behind Lukaku.

At last we got the ball down with Barkley prominent making box-to-box runs but it was Mirallas who caused the first danger to Stoke when he cut in and fired one low that Given stretched to hold. With just ten mins gone Barkley in centre of the pitch pulled back his man and got a very early booking. Why he did that only he will know. Stoke hadn’t come to defend as we saw from shots from Arnautovic and full back Bardsley going well over. Gueye was becoming more eye-catching and endearing himself to those assembled with his non-stop motion and timely blocks and tackles not to mention a fine turn of pace to deliver good passes which brought deserved applause. An instant crowd favourite.

Lukaku burst into life and left Shawcross for dead, his shot beat Given but, would you believe, a Stoke player was on the line to clear. A goal would be a great fillip for Lukaku and that was close. Stoke responded and the left back Imbula got himself in the box and looked to be pulling the trigger when that man Barry, forever spotting danger, swept the ball away from him with a timely tackle. We then had another goal line clearance when Mirallas put in a cross that Williams headed beyond the keeper but there was the double jointed Crouch to acrobatically boot the ball away.

It seemed all Everton now but it was the fine margins in passing, tempo and quickness of thought that was allowing Stoke to just nick things away from us at the vital moment. Barkley as our number ten was most frustrating for the faithful as passes were either just over hit or under hit or from strong running toward the opposition area control of the ball was lost at vital times allowing Stoke to easily mop up. When he did get it right and delightfully fed Mirallas the Belgian shot straight at the keeper,.Two yards to the keeper's right and 1-0... aah, such margins.

Half-time was approaching and a goal was needed from our pressure but the well-marshalled Stoke rearguard time after time thwarted us. One particular chance I remember came when Holgate marauded at pace down the right wing from a decent pass from Barry and whipped in a low cross goal ball that begged for someone to have made up the ground and tap home but, alas, Barkley was closest but not close enough. So the half ended with Everton on top with us fans ruing what might have been in fact what should have been but wasn’t.

H/T 0-0

The half-time chat was how were on top but needed to finish better and very complimentary remarks regarding our new Gueye in midfield, plus how well Holgate was showing.

The second half started and right away Barkley and Lukaku had shots after good individual play came to nought when fans and team mates alike rebuked them for not passing to players better placed than themselves. It really is that sort of game. All fur coat but no knickers. They need to be that bit classier.

Five minutes in and we were awarded a penalty when from a corner there was wrestling in the box and under the new directive this season when Williams went down our Ref. Mr Oliver pointed to the spot. The crowd burst into life and all four sides in unison chanted Baines-Baines-Baines. There was no room for argument and Baines duly planted the ball on the spot. On the whistle he stepped up and hit it to Given’s left then it became a little hazy from my seat as Given sprawled to his right and the ball seemed to go over the line in instalments but nonetheless a goal and we are one up. Then the scoreboard showed 1-0 og. Og? How? I wondered and it wasn’t until after the game back in the room of nonsense one of our members showed me a replay from the internet and all was revealed. Baines hit the post ball flew out hit Given on the head and into the net, so, own goal.

The next twenty minutes were frenetic as both sides had chances and our new 'keeper Stekelenburg did well at catching or punching clear, the faithful were liking what they were seeing from him. Next a right scramble took place and we received a giant slice of luck as Arnautovic was put in on our keeper who was out quickly but the Stoke man went wide and passed him and then had a shot deflected onto our bar leaving the penalty area awash with straining players until Baines got a timely boot to the ball and cleared our lines. That made me think that today was our day.

We were now starting to get more control of the game and on 65 minutes Mark Hughes had seen enough of his team's toothless efforts when around our box so he swapped Crouch with Evertonian Jon Walters. Not a lot changed. Stoke huffed and puffed but I thought our rearguard were doing well considering they have had little game time together but Barry and Gueye were putting out fires almost before they started to help out.

70 minutes came up and Mirallas was looking tired after putting in a good hard working shift so Ron changed him for Kone. "Kone!!" said a few but we all trust Ron now so we rode with it.

Was it just me but 1-0 up and the opposition playing hard under the previous manager always looked like we might fold but today and at WBA even after such a short time together we looked more resilient, more together and more organised. I base that on the fact my stress levels have markedly improved from last term. I hope it lasts and gets even better.

With Stoke needing some form of fillip their manager acted on 78 minutes with a double substitution after seeing Barkley bring a superb save from Given in a one on one. Instead of being the fillip needed he watched Barry feed a super ball to Bolasie who curled one around Given but without enough curl it went wide. Bolasie had flitted in and out today and I got the impression he will need a couple more weeks yet to find his feet. This won’t be helped by the wretched international break!

84 minutes and Mori replaced Barkley who had run box to box well and did some neat things yet for me he did not hit the heights a lot of us expect from him. I hope Ron can work some magic on him as he seems to have everything except that final completion of what he started.

End to end stuff all game but I thought we had the most and best chances without the reward of more goals to kill the game so our manager with two minutes plus four added to go removes Bolasie and sends on Tom Davies in an unashamed attempt to lock down those last minutes with a sort of 1-9 1 formation and break quickly. Stoke had a frantic go at us but I thought we coped well and in fact it was us that finished on the front foot with Holgate having yet another marauding run down the right halted by a foul just outside the area which Baines took, over the wall but Given got a fist to it and cleared.

Gueye picked up the ball and on the whistle it was us pressing them back into their own area. ‘If yer know ‘yer ‘Istery’ was belted out and on joining the throng on Goodison Road smiles as wide as the Mersey tunnel were everywhere. From snatches of conversations the fans seemed to be talking in the main about Gueye, Holgate and Barry. I was more satisfied with the collective as there is no doubt we are heading the right way but patience will be needed by all whilst the manager and his staff work through the assembly of a team capable of being in the mix season upon season.

MotM: Idrissa ‘Gana’ Gueye

Well that’s it until the International break is over and we have a Monday night trip to Sunderland. Now that’s one I would like to win by a few goals.

You may have heard of the Blues fan who took ill at the game today and was taken to hospital where sadly he died at just 51 years. A tragedy. If anyone reading this knows the man’s family please pass on my sincerest condolences.

UP THE BLUES


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