A trip across the country to the home of the Premier League Champions... Leicester City (doesn’t sound quite right that) is always a boring sort of journey but, once in Leicester, it's quite a colourful place really. With my turkey butties and a couple of mince pies in my silver foil and the trusty flask full of a warming liquid, I ponder how our last result will affect this game. The team comes through and right away you can see 5 at the back, or 3 with 2 wingbacks, or swap between them depending how the game is going.
It was nice to see Holgate starting and Davies on the bench. There has been a clamour in some quarters for more of our youngsters to be played but I believe, from what I have seen, that we have no ‘Rooney type’ who is a shoo-in at 16... but we do have some definite talent and that needs to be handled with care for them to reach their true potential. The two selected today will start getting a bit more game time. I wish them well.
The corner of the ground that was mini-Goodison today soon filled as kick-off approached and most seemed in good voice. The players were welcomed with great support, even after last week, so that was positive. We kicked off and, well, to be honest... nothing much from either side. I looked at my notes and the words 'half-time' seemed just a few lines from the title. To say it was a scrappy start was being kind... yet, on the positive side, in the first 10 minutes, Holgate was looking composed and prominent in combining with Coleman and feeding him a couple of balls that saw him into crossing positions but alas he over-hit both.
On 10 mins, Leicester did have a shot on target but Joel gathered it in easily, it was straight at him. A few minutes later, we force a corner and Barry takes but his in-swinger was too close to the keeper who gathered and set Leicester up on the counter, splitting our defence, but Gray, through on his own, got over-excited and fired well wide. The faithful cheered his effort.
It’s the half-hour mark now and I am still waiting for Gana to really start and influence things more. He was doing the running okay but little in the way of keeping things ticking over; however, Holgate was still showing well under the tutelage of Ashley Williams who was having a decent half. The game was end-to-end without any product which doesn’t really excite anyone. Then, right on the death, we put a good move together that got Baines in down the left and his well hit daisy cutter across goal missed the sliding Mirallas’s toe by a fraction and that was the first half gone.
I asked a mate if we had changed shirt sponsor as it wasn’t Chang today. He didn’t know so we pondered what the second half might bring. The half starts and we see Holgate again look comfortable and calmly gets the ball forward down the line well. Then we see Lukaku pass to no-one and Leicester attack but again founder near the box as Williams marshals his defence well and that was yer first five minutes... so ‘here we go again’, I thought... when Joel Launches one long up-field and Mirallas emerged from between two defenders, did them for pace, and slotted. The Merseyside corner erupted – it was as if everyone was waving clenched fists in unison in some choreographed rite.
The mood changed from an away end that had, from time to time, done the ‘Everton’ Chant and one or two other songs; well, now it was really buzzing and even the festive Jingle Bells one about Everton winning away was aired. I thought: "If we do win away today, it will be the first time since September." So, after a turgid five minutes, the sixth brought that goal and with it a confidence shown by the players that we haven’t seen for a while. Plus Koeman changed the system a little to a flexible 4-4-2 with Mirallas supporting Lukaku more.
The faithful got even more boisterous on 67 mins when Tom Davies replaced Barry. I think that change was well called as we needed young legs to get about them now because they were really going for it in a spell that lasted a good 15 mins but, with Williams a rock at the back and certainly playing as the captain of the rearguard, and Joel giving them all confidence by coming for the crosses and high balls and dealing flawlessly with them. I wonder if this could be the start of something better for him?
In an effort to get a win, we dropped deeper and at times it looked a bit like the derby as we cleared balls only for them to come straight back. I noted that young Davies did well with his boundless energy in this Leicester spell and the manager on 75 mins took off Mirallas and sent on Ross. It was an inspired move because Ross was eager to get on the ball and not give it away; instead, he took players on, looked for the right pass, and slowly the tide turned again now. Gana and Davies were looking to push on when they could and in one of these moves, Davies surged and put in a good shot that curved away wide. Then it was Gana’s turn when Lukaku got onto a great through-ball from Ross, moved rapidly forward and crossed to the unmarked Gana just some six-yards out but the Senegal international managed to get it over the bar, took some doing that, but he was flat out and sliding along the ground.
It was a bit of a ding-dong battle now and Leicester had all their star men on the pitch off the bench but we at last were looking like a team on the up. Okay, there may be some way to go but, in injury time, we put together a move and goal that supported my feeling. Joel was still cleanly gathering anything within his reach, Davies was like a rash and managing to get a shot on target; Ross was looking like the player we all hope for, and these players combined in one way or another to get Lukaku onto a Ross through-ball a0nd go with some strength to get past the man-mountain, Morgan, then trick the big centre-back, Wasilewski, and slot past the keeper who had gone to ground. It was the play of a striker that costs a lot of money. Still, 3 mins of added to play but really the game was over and I doubt whether many Blues saw those minutes as they danced and sang every song in their repertoire.
Final whistle and – although not the best game you will ever see – I didn’t meet a fan who doesn’t take a win first; if the icing can be added, then fine but for a fan's peace of mind, it's always the win. I always want to win with silky joined-up stuff but, if I had to choose between the two... well?
MotM – Ashley Williams
I did wonder today if perhaps we have seen the best position for Ross – that is until he can add the word 'consistency' to his game. Impact sub. He definitely added a lot today when he came on. Just perhaps a few of these performances can propel him to be the player the coaches always said he would become.
A win today and next up is lowly Hull City. An away banker in many eyes but in this league no games are ever the same, so I hope we have at least gained confidence from today and the manager and players can give us what we crave.
Hope you have all had a great Christmas; now New Years Eve could depend on the Hull away score. Dan-der an dan.
UP THE BLUES
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