Middlesbrough 0 - 0 Everton
I'm quite an impatient person and I was more than ready to go by the time Ritchie rolled up about 15 minutes late. "I need a coffee...and we need to get petrol". In an effort to speed things along I said "just nip into the Shell garage...they've got a Costa machine in there" as we got closer to the Shell garage Ritchie decided "I prefer McDonald's coffee so we'll go there". So on we detoured to McDonald's, only McDonald's is by Sainsbury's and at that time Joe Public are doing their weekly shop...many follow that up with a McDonald's Drive Thru. We queued for quite some time for a single coffee....and then went to the garage with the Costa machine. As you can tell, I stayed calm, happy and patient throughout.
The bigger picture of course was that it didn't really matter and as we got closer to Middlesbrough in plenty of time for the match I became grateful Ritchie decided to drive. One of the fella's who sits behind us in the Gwladys Street End is from Middlesbrough and he tipped me off to park at the cinema. This we did, putting money into the Pay & Display machine. It was only once I'd paid that a lady told me that you didn't have to pay at the weekend. "I tried getting to you before you put the money in but I was too late" she said.
The pub, Dr Browns, was only across the road from the cinema so we had a quick drink in there before moving on to a nice little pub called the Medicine Bar and caught the last 30 minutes of Arsenal vs Hull City. We then made the relatively short stroll to the Riverside Stadium in wet and windy conditions - not ideal for playing at all. Perhaps this had some bearing of the atrocity of the game we were about to witness.
Ronald Koeman went with four at the back and couldn't resist the urge to put Idrissa Gueye back into the team. Ademola Lookman was given another opportunity to shine. Tom Davies and Ross Barkley were also involved. Everton academy product Adam Foreshaw featured for the hosts.
Despite a good effort to generate atmosphere by the Middlesbrough supporters behind the goal, the game never got going. The headlines may well go to Joel Robles excellent late save from Rudy Gestede's header, however the real story, despite the dross we (and Middlesbrough) served up, was our wastage of presentable opportunities which on another day would have ensured another satisfying win.
You back Romelu Lukaku to put away the sort of chance he missed every time, but somehow he never quite seemed set for it and Victor Valdes surprisingly kept it out. The other good chances all fell to Ademola Lookman, who will be disappointed not to have converted from at least one of his four opportunities. Two fell in quick succession, one he hit the side netting with, and the last one in the second half he took perhaps a bit too long and allowed Victor Valdes to make the save.
Footballers often learn the hard way. I remember when David Moyes first gave Seamus Coleman a run of games at right back, Seamus made quite a few defensive mistakes but remained in the team, as this is the only way to learn from mistakes. You can't learn if you're not in the team. The same will probably happen with Ademola, and you have to afford young players that luxury of learning from mistakes in the team. The next time Ademola has them chances he might take them differently and with a better outcome. It's frustrating in the interim but worthwhile in the long run.
We failed to make any significant in-roads as we had a stab at winning the game late on. Nothing was happening and Ritchie and I made a break for it with a minute or two of injury time still remaining. It proved to be a good decision as we were back in the car, out of the car park and back on the road before most of the match traffic. It was good to get away from that darn awful game. Ritchie and I then re-lived our youth in Headingley for the evening - we were both students around them parts back in the day and it was good to reminisce about the old days.
Overall, a terrible game but not the worst result. It's a shame to lose ground on the top six, but the reality is seventh is the best we can achieve this term in my opinion. Next season we'll do better. I'm confident of that.
Robles: Made a crucial late save and showed good command of his penalty area. 7
Baines: Did OK. 6
Williams and Funes Mori: Both were poor. Ashley WIlliams doesn't talk enough for my liking and Ramiro Funes Mori always has a mistake in him I feel. Alvaro Negrado dominated Funes Mori throughout. Both need to improve in my opinion. 5
Coleman: Did OK. 6
Gueye: He's always good in the tackle but he really needs to up his game from a creative aspect. Perhaps Gareth Barry would have represented a better starting choice in this one as we could have lived a bit without Gueye's tenacity if replaced by the increased dynamism from Gareth Barry. What of James McCarthy's non-inclusion by the way? Is he injured again? 5
Schneiderlin: Impressive. He seems to have hit the ground running. 7
Davies: He's doing ever so well particularly at his age. He's not intimidated by anything. His legs had gone by the end of the game but he stood up to the task well throughout. 7
Barkley: He had a good game and was always the one most likely to carve out an opportunity. His ability to find space impresses me. If you watch him closely you will see his movement is very good. He's in good form, let's hope he can keep this up. My man of the match. 7
Lookman: Missed some good opportunities, but you've got to learn the hard way. 5
Lukaku: Had a pretty poor game. He was rather service-starved, but didn't really put himself about enough, and missed his golden opportunity. 5
Valencia (for Gueye): Didn't really get going. 5
Lennon (for Lookman): Didn't really get involved enough. 5
Barry (for Barkley): Made a reasonable stab at getting into the game in limited time. Should have started. 6
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