Everton 3 - 1 Middlesbrough
Another full house at both ground and Room of Nonsense. Many were expecting a good debate on that eventful deadline day but with the good win up at Sunderland the main topic was should Barkley be in the starting eleven. A good majority thought we should start with the team that wiped Sunderland in the second half yet by the time we reassembled after the game it was unanimous that the manager had got it spot on with Ross heeding his words and playing something like we know he can. Get him going in today’s vein consistently and he will be a real asset.
We did manage a quick word on the deadline day fiasco but in jocular mode as the two victories since that day have all but rendered it moot. Some described it as Keystone Cops, others as complete farce with trains and boats and planes lined up ready for non-existent passengers. I liked the one where it was suggested that the negotiating team had been on the lash most of the day and had far too much ‘White’. Well, it is the Room of Nonsense so we will leave it at that and head off into the L4 evening and join the walk up along with a throng of smiling happy Blues full of confidence, such has been our first set of results. No thought of defeat amongst this lot.
On reaching Goodison road all the familiar out lets were thriving. The fat van (no bacon), hat scarf, badge stand, Blue Dragon and café were attracting queues. The turnstile worked like a dream via its new technology so it was on to my seat.
Z-Cars was received with a great roar from its first bars and every player got a good roar as there name was called, none more than Ross and Gareth who was starting his 600th game in the Premier League. Only Giggs and Lampard are ahead of him and the next ones on the list behind him have not reached 500 yet.
The game started on the whistle of our ref Mr Lee Mason. I love this ref as he always gives me the impression he comes for an easy time; just tries to get the game over without too much bother, claim his money and hop it. He didn’t disappoint me today and I admit to a chuckle when he let the Boro first goal stand even though our ‘keeper was fouled and all the Everton players politely complained — except the Stek who booted the ball high toward the dug out in disgust. Yellow card.
However the awarding of the goal roused the faithful to ‘Bear Pit’ mode and this livened our players somewhat who attacked and from a cross Williams pinned their keeper, Barry blasted home into the roof of the net and Mr Mason saw nothing so 1 –1 it was and all square and all mates again. I have to say that up to these two instances the game had been somewhat flat, with Boro having the better of what attacks there were in those first twenty odd minutes. ‘Bear Pit’ mode was continued as far as the faithful were concerned and this level of support clearly lifted the players and the intensity, aggression and pace the manager often talks about was becoming more evident.
Gana was thrilling the crowd with his all-round play and within my earshot is already a firm favourite with the Blue army. Ross was winning over many a doubter as the team effort built. So did the roar of the crowd and you could just sense a goal.
Bolasie was raiding swiftly and causing problems with his direct runs and early crosses aided, abetted by a rejuvenated Coleman who looks to be gaining confidence in the man in front of him and this was highlighted in the 42nd minute when Coleman got down the right, swapped passes with the winger and cut inside and into the box with pace and timing that left him free in the box. He didn’t hurry anything as he got to the middle of the box and cut back a deft left foot shot with supreme accuracy along the turf and into the bottom corner.
Pandemonium broke out both on the pitch and terraces. The Park End turned to the away support and bellowed out ‘We only sing when we are winning’. I enjoyed that goal and the party atmosphere stayed with us until injury time in the first half when Bolasie again got down the right and put in a wicked cross that you just had to be there to see Lukaku alone in front of goal go at the ball with his leg, then hip, then head. By this time their keeper was mesmerised and bewildered as he was transfixed, didn’t move and the ball trundled on into the net. The players celebrated but not with the usual conviction.
Our match-day announcer is always quick off the mark to rev up the scorers name – today nothing. On all our lips were the words ‘Did he touch that’; the playback on the big screen proved nothing except we all have different levels of eyesight. Some claimed they saw the faintest of touches; most of us were in the “not a clue” class but about a minute after the goal our match day announcer piped up with ‘Everton’s scorer was Bolasie, so he was in our gang of seeing no touch. Most papers I have seen say it was Lukaku’s goal and if it helps the lad’s confidence I will go along with it.
H/T whistle, 3-1 up and with no thought of letting these leads slip in the mind it was time to plan for EFL cup match. I wonder if Goodison will have some of the new lights working.
Second half and with the two goal cushion we changed the shape a little with Gana and Barry operating a little deeper and Ross taking more responsibility in the box-to-box role and his quick feet and sudden change of direction was causing trouble for the Boro defence which, by the way, was the meanest last term in the Championship.
In that second half I noticed the big strong Negredo was becoming more and more isolated and of little trouble to either Jags or Ash who are forging a decent partnership. I do just wonder, however, if it may be their lack of height that might just give them problems against the 6’3 or 6’4 brigade. We will see.
The second half continued with us that bit deeper but keeping the ball well and hitting row Z when required and no player took any offence when urged to use that tactic by the Park End coaches. I did notice though that throughout the second half we abandoned our deeper approach and had ten-minute-or-so spells of fast incisive attacking. We didn’t manage to score in these forays but we did come close a couple of times. I wonder if it’s something they are working on? It looked to me as though it could be a rewarding ploy.
The half moved on and on the hour mark they blinked first and made a sub. Evertonian Nugent replaced Nsue and just 5 or so minutes later Big Rom was seen to have a bit of a limp and in a break in play the physio told him to come off which he did then seemed to have a bit of an argument with the physio but then limped down the tunnel. He was replaced by our debutant Valencia who looked as though he knows the job and ran about well, made three very good set up headers and played as first a number nine. Then when Deulofeu replaced Mirallas he went to number 10 with Geri leading the line and bringing a lot of pace to the attack.
With about 20 minutes to go we were comfortable and well the better side but you could see Bolasie hit the wall. He charged up and down both flanks all game to that point but now he was finding it progressively harder to get back after a foray forward.
In injury time Big Ron sent on Cleverley for Gareth Barry to receive a rowdy and appreciative send off as he waved to all sides of the ground. 600 not out and he and Gana had been the kingpins in today’s victory. Age is just a number so long may he keep his present form up because we will find it very hard to replace the man.
Final whistle and some very happy Evertonians make their way off. Well, maybe not those in the Top Balcony as we had an announcement that the escalators had packed up. So the stairs it would be. I hope you all got out ok.
MotM: Idrissa Gana Gueye and Gareth Barry
Overall a good day out that threw up an odd statistic. Boro had no direct shots on goal in the game but still scored a goal. Strange, eh? Also this is the best start we have had in the Premier League years. I hope all this means something and we win something.
I will continue to do what I always do and that is my first check on the league table is as we go into Christmas as we normally finish two places either side of our position on that day. If Big Ron keeps them consistent I may get excited for once.
Norwich Tuesday night. The team selection will be interesting. See you there.
UP THE BLUES
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