We all assembled at Villa Park via pubs and clubs determined to cheer the lads home. Pre-match, our discussion was of team selection and could we keep a good run going? On the line-up’s arrival via Twitter, most congratulated themselves on guessing right. I wasn’t one of them as I thought he might rest Barkley and play Osman at number 10. Still, a strong-looking side and the bench gave room for optimism. With the faithful packed like sardines in the away end – and one of the better away ends, I might add – the game started.
Right away, Villa left us in no doubt about their intention to get about us and had us on the back foot, thus causing Tim Howard to earn his corn (has he joined the Hamish people?) After a series of good saves he excelled himself after Coleman tripped his man in the area, leaving the ref with little option but to point to the spot. (I have never heard the word ‘Shit’ uttered simultaneously by so many people.) Up stepped Benteke, a formality it seemed... but no. Tim firstly guessed right then got a good strong hand to the ball and deflected over and away. I got that feeling after those opening 10 mins that this just might be our day and I wasn’t to be disappointed.
After this interlude, we started to come more into it and the game became more open as both teams pushed to gain an advantage. End-to-end stuff with Barry and McCarthy getting the upper hand in midfield – slowly at first... but you could see both growing to the task.
Both teams had good chances in the first half and both goalies showed their mettle and why they are vying for the starting berth in the USA national team. Howard from Benteke and Guzan from Lukaku when both forwards looked favourite. Baines got knocked over and gained a free kick which he curled in but it was a bread-and-butter catch for Guzan.
We were playing with a purpose and indeed using the joined-up mode but alas not quick and decisive enough with Barkley being the biggest culprit as he needed too long on the ball and Villa were in no mood for that. Benteke got clear and looked miles offside but was allowed to go on into the box. "He must score" was on the lips of the faithful until our hero Tim made a fine blocking save. Be damned – he went and it did again some moments later, this time from the winger who had got through looking well off.
Barkley at last came to life and surged past his man and fired one that beat the keeper but not the bar. It must have got a deflection because we got a corner which came to nought. More end-to-end stuff as we approached the interval and it was an entertaining half on a knife-edge. Villa forced corners, we played players in and, but for Mirallas being too selfish, we may have snatched a lead. We also tried the long ball (sorry, ‘Long Pass' as Roberto will have it known) for Lukaku to use his strength and from one of these a Villa centre back pulled something in stretching to keep out the ‘Bull’ and had to be replaced.
Half-time and the chat was of how well we had picked ourselves up after an ‘iffy’ start and how well our keeper had done and to be fair so had his fellow Yank at the other end.
Second half and from the off you got the feeling the game could go either way as both teams seemed to attack in turns, with no-one immune from the odd mistake... well, except maybe Gareth Barry, who held things together very well indeed. Thought and word ahead for us and slowly but surely as McCarthy became more steady; we were winning the midfield battle and slow but sure progress all round saw us wrestle back the initiative but we were still tardy in that final third.
On the hour mark, the manager made the change that I thought he should make and replaced the misfiring Barkley with the experienced Osman. I got some stick from some of my mates as Osman is not universally liked in some quarters yet many fans still believe he has lots to offer and, if he can keep doing it as Barkley gains experience and finds his feet at his own pace, then why not? Today, we were to witness a vintage Ossie show as the game changed in our favour from that moment.
Just less than 10 mins after his introduction, the Bainaar plus Osman triangle struck. With the ball fed to Osman, he already had a picture in his head and without looking up he stroked the ball into the path of the moving Lukaku who slotted home with some aplomb. A peach of a pass and a peach of a finish. What a sight to see as the Blue hoards celebrated like only the Blue hoards can. Words are not enough to describe that outpouring. Think the street end when we beat Liverpool in injury time.
Villa tried to respond but we are a different kettle of fish under our present manager and instead of "What we have, we will hold", we now look to soak up and counter at every opportunity, thus preventing the opposition from having exclusive attacking rights as under a previous manager's regime. The faithful liked this approach and burst into song singing all that is in their repertoire plus: "Are you watching, Davey Moyes?" He seems to have upset a lot of his former disciples...
We continued in controlled joined-up mode and chances were never far away and it was of little surprise as we reached 80 mins, after just swapping the tiring Pienaar for the improving Naismith, that the excellent Barry was involved in a move after a cleared corner that saw him find Osman in space and the super sub fired home past a diving but forlorn Guzman. Oh dear – celebrations akin to the first goal – but times two.
Boy, were the faithful in good mood and voice now! Raucous ‘Oles’ rang around Villa Park as the ground emptied at a great rate of knots, leaving both Everton team and Everton fans as the dominant force.
Deulofeu came on for a cameo role as he replaced Mirallas. The Villa announcers attempt at pronouncing his name deserves a YouTube outing. Amid a rousing chorus of "We're gonna win the league" the final whistle blew. Carnival time for all assembled including the players.
MotM – Howard for giving us the platform; Barry for his solidarity and leadership; and Osman for changing the game. A three-way share from me.
Overall a very enjoyable day out. A game where we could have been three-nil down and game over by half-time but for some inspired keeping, a bit of luck, and a couple of glaring misses. Instead, we rode our fortune and in the end ran out worthy winners courtesy of a togetherness of spirit and not a small measure of decent football.
Barkley seems to be having a dip but that is normal for such a fledgling player in the role he is asked to play and, no doubt, with the help of the manager, the potential that is evident will come shining through. Although the bench looked strong, the absence of Kone was noted. Is he injured again?
It is nice when you can enjoy a game and result like today's and the week will just fly by as we get ready to welcome those Spurs. I expect this to be a real test for us and hope that all our players are fit and ready to roll.
Sunday lunch in a boozer in L4 – Not quite the Ritz... hell, I wouldn’t swap it for anything. See you there!
UP THE BLUES
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074 Posted 26/10/2013 at 23:08:29
God I envy you your Sunday roast, Americans have no idea how to do proper gravy and roasties and stuffing that aint effin sweet.
By the way Ken, did that hoped for half-time tribute for that poor lad who lost his life last week, so ashamed I can't remember his name, take place?.
075 Posted 26/10/2013 at 23:35:42
078 Posted 26/10/2013 at 23:30:11
Howard seems to be far more stable this season. Is this due to Woods leaving?
Coleman must get his finger out otherwise I would choose Hibbert next week.
See you in the Upper Bullens on Sunday.
080 Posted 26/10/2013 at 23:45:44
097 Posted 27/10/2013 at 01:52:09
At one point there was a shot of the crowd in the corner of the stadium going ballistic after Lukaku's goal. As I had watched on delay I "rewound it" and called a few of my kids into the room.
"Watch the crowd. You see that? THAT is what it means to be a fan."
For lack of a better descriptor - that was pretty cool.
098 Posted 27/10/2013 at 01:13:37
100 Posted 27/10/2013 at 01:43:33
My MOTM is Howard... if not for him, we'd have been out of it in 25 minutes... but I'm absolutely amazed by Martinez' ability to pick the right subs at the right moments. How many times this year have we seen immediate dividends from Roberto's player moves? Today it was Osman who made him look like a genius again.
126 Posted 27/10/2013 at 07:37:24
On a day when we could have been three down in 20 minutes, it was good to see two guys who get plenty stick on here - Howard and Ossie - orchestrate a victory. And full credit to the manager for well-timed substitutions and tactical awareness.
How well you do, Steve, to bring so much life to your match reports.
129 Posted 27/10/2013 at 08:06:18
133 Posted 27/10/2013 at 08:20:23
137 Posted 27/10/2013 at 08:38:39
Michael Kenrick "And the Choral manoeuvres in the Park came across fully amped for the watching diaspora." - Wow!
Are we being lucky with the immediate impact our substitutions are having this season? Or is it astute management?
148 Posted 27/10/2013 at 09:49:56
I also thought that Benteke could be a useful and more affordable replacement for us, when Lukaku dissappears over the horizon.
160 Posted 27/10/2013 at 11:13:06
Tin hat time-I'd start with Ossie over Barkley against Spurs; too much is expected from a 19 year old and now we have enough on the bench to rotate. There's no doubt that it's Ossie's best position and he's got the brain and the experience to dictate the game, in modern parlance, a good number 10.
Against Spurs we've got to be at it from the whistle.
162 Posted 27/10/2013 at 11:26:53
182 Posted 27/10/2013 at 13:16:39
210 Posted 27/10/2013 at 14:38:09
But I too expect Ossie to get the call over Barkley for Spurs. Barkley really did have a bad day against Villa, with the NBC announcers and the posters on this board repeatedly calling him out for bad decisions. He's 19 and still learning.
222 Posted 27/10/2013 at 15:20:56
242 Posted 27/10/2013 at 15:49:11
243 Posted 27/10/2013 at 15:49:11
245 Posted 27/10/2013 at 16:11:12
18 points so far... keep it up, lads!
263 Posted 27/10/2013 at 16:44:44
Barry and McCarthy are shaping up to be a reincarnation of Reid and Bracewell - a fine mix of simplicity, good passing, and getting stuck into the opposition.
So much for 'tippy-tappy shite', the Dogs of War have returned with skills to boot.
Sorry, is it OK to compare with the great Everton sides, or do we still have to talk about Smith and Walker to make the manager look good?
308 Posted 27/10/2013 at 17:45:01
Female Ferry is in New York this weekend and alone getting hammered on red I spent 30 bucks downloading The best of northern soul vols 1, 2, and 3 watching a replay on NBC of the Villa 2nd half twice.
The only good thing from Wigan.
Crap those city defenders can defend eh minute 89
345 Posted 27/10/2013 at 19:25:41
I used to be a regular at Goodison in '70s, '80s and '90s as my parents were Everton fans and my Aunty Kath (Mythen), who lived in Bootle, was a season ticket holder in the Lower Bullens Road. So many great memories of match day but sadly my parents and Aunty have now passed away. I haven't been back to Goodison since because I just know it would be too emotionally painful.
Thing is Ken, you write in such an evocative way that I feel that I'm there at the game again with all the atmosphere and banter. For that, I am very grateful to you.
412 Posted 27/10/2013 at 23:21:16
422 Posted 28/10/2013 at 02:00:53
As for the mythical #10.... a big part of me wants Mirallas to get a chance there. I think it's his best spot – he's gotten pigeon holed as a wing here but he was/is a striker/secondary striker with Olympiakos and Belgium.
574 Posted 28/10/2013 at 17:30:09
We must have the best away support in the Prem especially if you adjust for Glory hunters.
On the downside I still think we are "getting away" with some less than "average" performances but it may be making up for all the times we haven't had the rub of the green.
Long may it continue.
Only 2 points off the RS and 4 points ahead of Man Utd.
Are you watching, David Moyes?
581 Posted 28/10/2013 at 18:05:08
Paul have a gander at YouTube for Northern Soul, or indeed, any music.
AND , we're only 22 points off safety.......
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