Third game in seven days, two away and one at home takes its toll on players and fans alike but the Room of Nonsense was heaving and full of good cheer. The main topic seemed to be player transfers and if you were to believe some of our dedicated ‘rumour’ watchers then it seems we are signing about eighteen and jettisoning fifteen. I keep well away from rumours as they are merely hope builders or doom mongers. The January window is always an awkward one as almost every team has something to play for and will not want to lose their best players and with the money sloshing around in the game now only silly money seems to get you anything and that might be second or third best.
Still it will be entertaining watching the countdown to Jan 31 as all those with supposed inside knowledge regale us with fanciful tales. This topic keeps us occupied until the teams come through and most are delighted to see Dom (19) and Tom (18) get a start otherwise it was as you would suspect after the Hull game. I was interested to see how the players selected would respond to each other because as at Hull we spent a fair part of the game playing like we had just met each other.
Time for the walk up and on a clear crisp winter’s day the sky seemed that much bluer and provided the perfect spotlight on the Old Lady as she hove into view. Goodison Road was awash with fans and with the queue for the Café stretched out right across the road the words ‘excuse me’ were the most used. Well you didn’t want to be seen as a queue jumper.
In for Z-Cars and prior to kick-off we paid tribute to remember those Blues who had passed on in 2015 and there were a lot of them and I wondered how many more there were that the Club had not been informed of.
Kick off and off we went on another journey of discovery. Saints seemed to start the quicker and were pressing forward and probing probably trying to replicate the start they had at their place. Well, we defended and although not pretty to watch, it was effective. If you could play out well OK but it was also evident that ‘Hoof’ is not a dirty word.
After about five minutes we started to press ourselves and the and the pace and strength of Dominic Calvert-Lewin was starting to excite but just a further five minutes and that spark was extinguished had he had to succumb to an ankle injury and leave the fray to be replaced with Mirallas. I hope he soon mends as in that fleeting time scale I said to my mate ‘Maybe — just maybe — he can complement Rom. There was just something that said I would like to see more of the lad.
Slowly we started to pick up the pace and Ross was definitely putting more into it and soon had a shot that the keeper saved. They went up the other end and won a corner that saw every Everton player back and although cleared came straight back at us but this time Williams found Mirallas wide. Then we had a corner and the same thing happened and that is how that first half went, a game sort of played between their back line and our back line in equal measure. Both teams had a man off injured early doors as Cedric had collided with an advertising hoarding in a tackle with Baines. Neither team could raise their own fans. No singing of ‘When the Saints’ and Everton’s contribution was the odd EV-ER-TON chant but for long spells you could hear other people’s conversations!
I contented myself by watching Tom Davies who I think could have a good career in the Premier League if he negotiates the teenage years unscathed. He was doing fine by keeping it simple but with a slick forward pass that put both Coleman and Rom in, plus he showed that edge that said you kick me I kick harder. He ruffled one or two feathers as the half came to a close. A poor half but not a boo to be heard. Although not the best of halves by us the players were looking like they were taking more on board from the manager and the faithful may be realising that patience may be not just a virtue but an essential.
The second half soon settled into the same pattern but we were looking the fitter and Ross was running the show from midfield. He wanted the ball and was always looking for the chance to play people in. He does need encouragement though and this was demonstrated when he saw no ball on forward so came out to the half way line and then probed the opposite wing and got Baines in. Most clapped him but some called him for going backwards the fact that he had kept possession for us and set up a forward move seemed lost on those that moaned.
Something needed to change and around the hour mark Valencia was sent on in place of Lennon who hadn’t shirked the work but his creativity was missing. Valencia started fast and showed strength and had been on the field for just ten minutes when Ross took centre stage again. It all started with a superb, expertly timed sliding tackle by Baines — you don’t see many of those these days. He slid the ball to Barkley who looked up and played the fast arriving Coleman down the right. His cross was superb and the high climbing Lukaku got a good head on it and the keeper saved with his feet, from my seat there seemed a scramble but the upshot was Valencia was Johnny-on-the-spot to shoot home. Now we came alive; a goal can do wonders for all those that it benefits. We looked sharper, Saints more fatigued and we had a stride in our step. Tom was taking more responsibility and I had the hope that maybe he can cover for Gana for a month. Rom was now bullying people and showing his pace to the extent he got himself in and stung the keeper.
About ten minutes after the goal Ross was at it again and fed in Baines who paled it into the feet of Valencia just inside the area, as the ball reached him for some unknown reason Yoshida floored him. Definite penalty, Rom got the ball and then Baines asked for it off him. He seemed reluctant. Oh, hell, here we go again, I thought, but with the weight of the players’ and crowd’s persuasion he let Baines have it. A wise move as even if the giant keeper had gone the right way he would not have stopped that. Game over – yes but could we get the icing on the cake?
Well on 89 mins – I will enjoy typing this – the ball came loose near their penalty area and Baines slid in again when he was second best but won it and slid it to Tom who controlled in an instant and slid a perfectly timed and accurate ball into the path of Rom. He sped forward and, right footed, shot; the keeper didn’t see that missile which almost took the net into Gwladys Street. Big roar was heard as Rom celebrated and my mind went back to our penalty when Baines netted and all the lads piled on except Rom who walked hunched back to the centre circle like a little lad who has just had his dinky nicked.
To me it summed up Rom. He just loves scoring goals and likes all the chances to break records but if the least thing goes against him he sulks and goes missing yet when in the right frame of mind is unplayable. Perhaps Mr Moshiri can arrange for a ‘Right frame of mind specialist’ to attend on matchday.
Three minutes added which we played out with ball retention and the Saints let us.
MotM – Barkley
Coming off the ground there was an atmosphere of wellbeing with many opining that you can’t knock a three nil win and I wonder who we will get in? Back to the Room of Nonsense and thoughts turned to our cup game next week but no three members could come up with the same team. I think Holgate looks a cert and Maybe Tom of the young brigade only one way to find out so we all have tickets and then once the ball rolls who knows. It was a good day out and as we went to the ground in bright sunlight and clear Blue skies as we walked back the wonderful sight of GOODISON bathed in blue and white light. Some sight, some ground, some team!
My New Year footy resolution is to have patience and give this manager and players old and new the time to allow for a reasonable assessment. My New Year wish is for the new ground issue to have a completion date.
All the very best to you all for 2017.
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