Everton 2 - 0 West Ham Utd
It seems like an age since we gathered for a home match and after our run on the road it was a game that held some trepidation for even the keenest of Blues as our opponents today had gained some form after an indifferent start to the season. The room of nonsense soon filled and talk of lapsing back to the form of last season was countered by the optimism of reaching better things the sooner our players bought fully into the ways of big Ron and finally leave behind all that had been drilled into them previously. The Rooney situation was discussed but while most were in favour of a return for the Crocky kid most thought that nothing would happen until he had a chance to break some record or other concerning one R Charlton of Man U. Wait and see seems to be the order on that one.
We had a bit of a grumble all around the room as when 12.30pm was reached heads went down to stare at the palms of hands to take in the team news. The news s grim—no signal. Then the shout of ‘Eureka’ as the odd person had a network that was functioning and by word of mouth we learned Jags was benched, Robles in goal. Conversations were mainly between knots of fans who had at least one member with the signal.
The walk up to the ground was filled by so many fans that a full house was expected. Into Goodison Road and firstly it was filled with patrons at the fat van and the scarf and badge stall that had queues stretching some distance as was the Blue Dragon. This was compounded by the number of people taking pictures of our newly upgraded ground exterior as well as the artwork on some properties. Try to get down to see it before the move to the docks!
Into the ground in good time for Z-Cars and a reminder from our announcer of the Howard Kendal show of appreciation. The players came out and after the preliminaries we had a well-respected minutes silence in remembrance of those who gave their lives. You could have heard a pin drop such was the respect given by all in the ground.
On the Ref's whistle, we kicked off and so began one of those halves where the words ‘cat and mouse’ could describe most of the play. Our visitors started the brighter and for half an hour we were very much on the back foot. I didn’t think it was that our opposition was that good but more of a hangover by us from the five previous games. On four minutes the figure of Howard Kendall was seen on the big screens and loud applause filled the ground. The game was going on and I thought what a good and poignant time this would be to score but instead WHU attacked and but for Coleman getting some sort of block in and ball going out we could have been one down.
Our new man Gana was not his ball winning self as twice in quick succession he gave it away and started WHU moves on our goal. We were slow in build-up but when we did put something together it always ended with someone falling over or misplacing what looks like, from the stands, and easy pass. Big Ron was prowling the technical area head down and by the look of it not enjoying the play on show. Half hour in and we started to get to grips more with the game. Barkley was starting to dominate a bit more and Lukaku was making some good attacking runs but in both players cases it was always the final ball that was lacking. However it was good to see Ross at last show some of his finesse and the physical strength he was born with as he became more influential.
Bolasie was in and out, showing some threat and then either falling over or misplacing a pass or cross. Although the foregoing is on the negative side the last quarter of the half was slowly building and by the whistle went we were the team carrying the most threat. Our one gilt edged chance of the half came when Oviedo put in a great cross for Barkley to get under control, shimmy a little and get in a goal bound shot that somehow the keeper got a strong hand to and kept it out. The replay on the big screen seemed to suggest a slight deflection that could have made the difference between 1-0 and 0-0.
Our biggest scare of the half was when the Ref Mr Taylor decided not to yellow card Gueye after he blatantly blocked a run of a WHU man. He was already carrying a yellow for persistent fouling. As it stands that yellow was his 5th so misses Chelsea next week. The coach needs words in his shell like methinks.
At least as the half ended with Everton looking much more like the team who would go on and win. Well at least we hoped they would.
During half-time we took part in a film ITV are making about Rhys Jones and his family were on the pitch edge as the crowd roared and clapped until the men with the cameras had done their take. It was announced this will be ready for showing this coming March so keep your eyes peeled for that one.
Second half and no changes and we clear a quick attack by a fired up WHU and proceed to either play slow from the back or the quick over the top channel ball that Lukaku was willing to chase and often be first to it and cause real trouble to the Hammers rearguard. Just five minutes in and we get a reward for good joined up play. Barkley gets on the ball and looks up and sends a raking pass out to Coleman who made ground fast – shot and the keeper did well to parry it away a couple of yards but Bolasie was in like a robbers dog and somehow got a flicked cross to Lukaku standing in front of an unguarded net and he headed home much to the delight of those assembled. The hammers fans who had taunted us on our lack of atmosphere were repaid with some raucous chants.
One up and confidence up as Barkley tried shots, mostly a bit high bur he was a danger. Bolasie was –well—Bolasie. From superb goal assist his next two efforts ended in farce as firstly he broke well and left a defender for dead only to try to run through the next defender only to lose the ball and as if he didn’t know he had lost it he continued to run a few yards before sheepishly retreating. Then he got the ball on the by-line, beat his man then tried some sort of crossed leg manoeuver fell over taking himself and the ball out for a throw in. Who said Everton aren’t entertaining?
The half went on with Everton mainly in charge but WHU were looking to get back in the game and we needed concentration which Barry did not show and his poor back pass to a defender went wrong as Williams failed to halt Antonio who was through one on one with Robles. The big Spaniard was out in a flash and blocked away the shot that was on target. Phew, that was close and the crowd roared as if to wake up our players a little. Oviedo responded when he made a superb timely tackle to rob their sub Ayew. Mirallas had a break that came to grief when he over hit his cross. Robles again to the rescue when Noble fired a beaut in toward top corner which our big keeper launched himself to his left and palmed the ball away. A good save that.
WHU were now going for it as the 70th minute passed and our manager decided to shore us up a little and replaced Mirallas with Cleverly who settled quickly and supplemented Barry and Gueye in centre midfield with Ross going wider left. On 76mins the move paid off as Barkley sent an inch perfect pass to get Rom going down the right channel and showing good pace and strength got into the box and on looking up saw Barkley making ground to the far post and delivered a cross good enough for Ross to watch onto his foot and net with some aplomb. Applause and celebration for the goal plus applause for the move and the excellent work done by Lukaku in providing and the technical ability of the shot. If these two players can find consistency I believe their potency can galvanise the whole team. I wish them well.
On 83 mins Jags replaced Bolasie and 4mins later Lennon replaced Barkley who got and excellent send off from the big crowd as the manager shut up shop. In between the two subs we put the move of the match together when Coleman, Cleverly and Lukaku played a series of crisp accurate passes that ended with Lukaku in their box but his shot was too near the keeper who held on. Gueye was floored in the box for what looked like a stonewall penalty but our man in black decided against.
As the clock ticked down I could not help thinking back to last season here v WHU when from 2-0 up we contrived to lose 3-2 at the death. I needn’t have bothered as we saw out time well.
MotM --- Lukaku and or Barkley
A good day out and I was delighted to see Barkley at last start to look like the player many forecast he would become and I can but hope he comes good for the rest of the season. Coming off the ground it was Lukaku and Barkley who were on most people’s lips. I must give a mention for Oviedo as he seems to be improving with the game time he is getting. I hope Ron sticks with him awhile he can get better still I reckon.
Chelsea next and they have found some form so a stern test for us at the Bridge And no Gueye to mark Hazzard out of the game. Someone will have to as he is on fire this season. All things are possible.
UP THE BLUES
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