With the season as good as over, I was hopeful, confident even, of Everton putting on a good show for their fans at home to struggling Watford. So confident of a big score, I even put a bet on us winning 5-1 at 40-1. I'm not much of a betting man, but back in 2004 I had it in my head that we'd beat Manchester City away 1-0 with a Tim Cahill goal, but didn't put a bet on. The prediction came in of course. With that in mind, whenever I have an inkling of a certain scoreline or goalscorer, I put the bet on. It's only ever come through once, but I still keep putting the bet on a couple of times a season. I needn't have bothered this time of course.
With Gaz picking me up just a little after 5pm, we were all set to be around Goodison Park in good time, and would have been if not for a break down in the Birkenhead tunnel. This held us back considerably and it was about 6:15pm when we finally arrived. We met the others in the pub for a few drinks and raided a bit of the buffet. When we arrived at the pub, it was nice and sunny. When we left, it was pouring with rain and those of us who were hood-less got rather soaked.
I was a bit disappointed with the team news. With the U-23s just winning their league and nothing riding on the game at all, it seemed a good opportunity to reward some of the players with a starting birth. What did Ronald Koeman learn for example by playing Leighton Baines instead of Antonee Robinson, or by bringing on Gareth Barry instead of Joe Williams in the midfield? Ronald knows a lot more than me of course and maybe already has more of an idea on who he feels will make it moving forward and who will not, but I would have liked to have seen a few of them feature in addition to Tom Davies and Mason Holgate, even though a few of them are away for the U-20 World Cup.
We arrived, soaked, at Goodison Park in time for kick-off. With the fixture changed to a Friday night only a smattering of Watford supporters made the journey north with the stadium otherwise full. The atmosphere was a little flat which was reflective of the way the game was played. It felt a bit like exactly what it was - an end-of-season wind-down and I quickly realised I was well off the mark with my 5-1 prediction.
Ross Barkley and Phil Jagielka both forced good saves from Heurelho Gomez early on and, had one of those chances gone in, who knows what might have happened. Watford's striker Stefano Okaka, who was menacing against us at Vicarage Road, was presented with a good opportunity afterwards but slotted wide when he should have done better. From one of numerous first-half corners Watford may have scored when Adrian Mariappa headed over the crossbar, and at the other end Tom Davies's distance drive was well beaten away by Gomez.
If you're reading this having not seen any of the game, this may seem pretty entertaining but it really wasn't and I made the unusual step of going down a little early for a half-time beer. Down there, I saw on the monitor perhaps the most entertaining part of the first half, when a bit of a melee broke out resulting in Daryl Janmaat and Jose Holebas being cautioned.
Back up for the second half and, though it still had a strange sort of feel to the game, the introduction and pace of Enner Valencia improved the game quality somewhat. Tom Davies did well filling in at right back also. The winning goal came when Ross Barkley collected an excellent first-time pass from Phil Jagielka. Ross charged at goal and shot from distance past the awfully positioned Heurelho Gomez. Ross celebrated and was mobbed by his teammates. Everton 1-0 ahead, and that was enough to win the game.
Morgan Schneiderlin twice came close, once with a spectacular attempt from distance, the other with a near-post header before close, but at the other end Stefano Okaka again came close but was this time thwarted by a sharp save from Joel Robles as Everton closed the game out. We departed quickly at full time, leaving before the lap of appreciation and beating the traffic home.
Overall, you have to say it's been a satisfying season. Our home form has been tremendous with clear need for improvement required on our travels. It should be an interesting summer, but European qualification is important to us Evertonians and I'm already excited for a European trip or two in our next campaign, even if it does mean starting the season in July.
'Til next time, Blues. Have a great summer.
Robles: Commanded his penalty area well and made a good save at the end. Will be interesting to see who starts next season between the sticks. 7
Baines: A good, solid and professional effort from Leighton Baines as always. 7
Jagielka: Good and solid. Nice assist also. 7
Williams: For two thirds of the season I haven't thought much of Ashley Williams but I feel he has settled and improved and is now looking decent. If he can carry on where he left off, he could be a key fixture in the team next term. 7
Holgate: Not quite at his best and was substituted at half time. 5
Gueye: Put in his usual shift. 7
Schneiderlin: Very good from Morgan. He needs to stay fit, he's missed some key games for us with injury already, but should he be able to do so he can be a key player for us for a long time. 7
Davies: Just for energy and willingness to exert some interest in the game I would make him man of the match. He coped well at right back also. Man of the Match. 7
Barkley: Played well and got what many say could be a 'farewell' goal. For my money, which as already proven in this report isn't worth much, I think he will still be with us at the start of the new season. 7
Mirallas: Had a busy game. I'm pleased he signed his new contract. He has his short-comings but I'd rather have him than not and if we go well in the Europa League next season he will be needed. 7
Lukaku: Worked quite hard without really getting any chances against a robust defence. 7
Valencia (for Holgate): Made an impact. I like Enner. He might possibly be worth keeping on to bolster the squad a bit for the Europa League, but we can also probably do a little better. I'm interested to see who we bring in. 7
Barry (for Barkley): Helped see out the game. 6
Kone (for Mirallas): Kept himself busy albeit with no end product. His farewell game at Goodison Park and though we wish him well, it hasn't been a successful spell on Merseyside for Arouna. 6
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