Back at the house of learning and culture for the second time in short order and, after ordering the ale, we retired to the room of nonsense. The Lukaku v Jose spat was well discussed and, after much deliberation, a verdict of 'not a clue what either is up to' was reached. The teams came through and they took centre stage: No Mirallas or Barkley but Oviedo included. Many theories ensued... Barkley and McCarthy one yellow away from facing OFM on Wednesday; Deulofeu and Osman more deserving of starting places, and so the list went on until it was time to head Goodison way, so we all sort of hoped OPM had got it right.

The walk up was not as intense as last week but the tented village that is the ‘Fan Zone’ plus Fat Van and all other outlets were busy. The Winslow still boarded up and no fanzine cries were a reflection of changing times. It’s all high tech and iPhones now.

Z-Cars rang out, the team gained a fine ovation and kicked off toward the Park End and from the off we were dominating and it only took a couple of minutes for Stoke to give away a foul near the edge of the area. Deulofeu took and, but for a fine sprawling save by Begovic, we would have led... instead, it was a corner which was cleared. Just a couple of minutes later, McCarthy surged and exchanged passes with Lukaku, fired in and just the wrong side of the post. It was a taste of things to come in this first half with many close things but goals not materialising.

The way the team were now playing was reminiscent of team play from our most productive periods from the '60s and parts of the '70s and '80s. It was smooth pass-and-move mixed with direct efforts forward as well as strong yet quick-to-cover-and-smother defending. Near the half-hour mark, Osman let fly a screamer that seemed to move in the air and Begovic produced a superb save which left the onlooker in no doubt the reason for so much interest in him from the wealthy classes.

By now, Barry and McCarthy were well in control of midfield with Pienaar producing a stellar performance of both wide play and augmenting centre-mid with some delightful joined-up stuff. If that wasn’t enough, Deulofeu was scaring them to death with pace, flair and sheer unpredictability as well as some hard-driven crosses – or were they shots? Osman was ever-available and ever-ready to link with the beast that is Lukaku, leaving Stoke to chase shadows at times... but, if Stoke did break forward, then a superb back four plus keeper were well in control. Mark Hughes stood in the technical area a forlorn figure. "Some of these ‘Little Teams’ can play a bit, eh, Hughesy?" I mused.

We had played really well first half but that final thrust of ball to net was yet again missing and, with just a couple of mins to the break, Stoke had a good chance when Crouch headed down for his strike partner to have a clear shot on goal but luckily he shot straight at Howard. Just as I was thinking "If only we could have got a goal in that half, then more would surely follow," but the longer it stayed at 0-0, then the more tense the whole thing becomes, no matter how much we have been on top. My prayers were answered right on the 45-min mark and it was that man Deulofeu who virtually started and finished the decisive move. He played a one-two off the impressive Pienaar whilst bursting into the box, then exchanged passes with Barry and, from almost a yard or so out, smashed the ball home. The relief from those gathered could be felt amongst the celebrations.

Half-time and the chat was of how well we had played and how we really needed that goal.

Second half started and the first thing to notice was the pass-and-move that was easy on the eye and kept the ball until we saw a chance of an opening. It didn’t take long for this to work as, before 5 mins had elapsed, that man Deulofeu galloped down the left and found that man Barry yet again offering for a pass which he duly got and moved the ball on to the raiding Coleman who swung a foot and connected, the rest was a bit hazy as either he toe-poked or sliced but the upshot was it bamboozled the keeper and, hey oh, we were 2-up! The crowd reaction was of joy but, although 2-up, it was more of, "Great, but we should be sorting teams like this!"

In truth, it was 'game over' but our lads didn’t let up. (Could competition for places be having an effect?) Deulofeu continued to scare the hell out of them. Barry, McCarthy, Osman and Pienaar were a class apart. Lukaku was always a willing runner and a formidable presence plus the back five being solid and ready to break forward at the drop of a hat knowing the midfield would slot in. In short – a treat to watch.

Stoke were struggling now against this great display and Deulofeu should have doubled his tally when Howard gathered a long hopeful ball from Stoke and bowling overarm set Deulofeu on his way; he raced clear and came one-on-one with the keeper but he continued a trend for us at present and hit too close to the keeper who parried away with his feet. Keeper did well but more could have been expected. Stones replaced McCarthy to ensure he is okay for Wednesday.

In all of this, I must mention Oviedo who was having a steady game and – in this game anyway – Baines wasn’t being missed by that much. This was reinforced just before the hour mark when we forced a corner taken by Deulofeu who had taken over corner duties from both flanks today varied this one by finding Oviedo on the corner of the box, he burst past Adam as though he was made of stone and fired in a right-foot shot low and true that even the excellent Begovic had no chance and didn’t see the ball until he got it out of the net – no need for goal-line technology for that one. Fans in a right good mood now, hell, I heard wild predictions of beating Man Utd and Arsenal in the coming week! But, then again – why not?

The winter ball of luminous yellow was being caressed across the green sward with a swagger that included step-overs, back-flicks, side-flicks, 'megs – and not done in a disrespectful way but just part of the joined-up joy we were witnessing.

Oviedo was involved in many a good move and, on 80 mins, he did a Baines by sailing down the left, cutting in and with his head up found the lurking Lukaku some 5 yds out and he duly obliged and saluted the Street End who belted out his song. That was to be his last action as he made way for Jelavic who joined Mirallas who had replaced Pienaar. We were seeing the game out now but yet still looking for that break and, in the final minute, Jelavic was put in on goal by Mirallas. The Croat did everything right except shoot straight at the keeper thus keeping up his dreadful goal return. The chance was there but maybe just at the moment the confidence wasn’t. I really felt for him. He can’t buy a goal at present. (Do the whole team need more one-on-one practice?)

The final whistle and we all left the ground with a satisfied happy glow yet none of us daring to get carried away but no doubt today will have raised expectations.

MotM – Almost impossible but I will give mine to Oviedo who came in without a full Premier League game under his belt and scored one and created one. There could be life after Baines if he is prised away. I wouldn’t disagree with any other nomination either.

I really enjoyed that game. It could be said we didn’t have much to beat but we can only play what is before us and today we just swatted them away. Us fans always say we should beat teams like these – well, today, we did in a manner I would love to see become the norm.

I thought the manager did well today both in team selection and substitutions and the team were excellent in carrying out his game plan. A 4-0 win that saw a goal apiece by loan players and a goal apiece by our full backs, nothing like variety, eh!

As we pulled away from our Room of Nonsense in the House of Culture and Learning onto the mean streets of L4, I mused on a grand day out whilst wondering what the line-up will be Wednesday... and can we win? See you there to find out.
UP THE BLUES

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Mike Gaynes
374 Posted 01/12/2013 at 06:03:57
Poetry as always, Ken. The Room of Nonsense in the House of Culture and Learning must be your literary inspiration.

I am absolutely ecstatic for Oviedo... I waited a year and a half to see him get his chance, certain he would step up with quality, and he surpassed my highest expectations. And in words of the great Warren Zevon, his hair was PERFECT. (At least until his mates mussed it up after the goal.)

My MOTM as well.

Trevor Lynes
379 Posted 01/12/2013 at 07:02:58
Great descriptive article as usual! I totally agree with your comments but Stoke are not that bad and we played really well.

I must say I was apprehensive about our initial team selection as I thought it a bit lightweight to be tackling a physical Stoke side that had height advantage, but happily I was wrong and Martinez continues to have the midas touch. His team selection was there to be shot down if it failed but he has proved that we have the players who can handle rotation better than before when we had free-bees and academy lads filling our bench. With the glut of games to come we can look ahead with a degree of confidence. December will be a test of where we are and what we can feasibly achieve.

I really hope that Roberto is allowed decent money in January so that he can bolster the squad with a couple of top quality signings to sustain the ambitious push for Europe. The board must invest as this squad is on the verge of success with just a few tweaks and additions.

Unfortunately we will lose at least two of our loan players who have made such a huge contribution to our season so far and with our current injury list we are still short of numbers to get us through the bad weather period. Hopefully we will continue our success through December and come out with just the one defeat that we have suffered so far.

Dennis Stevens
384 Posted 01/12/2013 at 08:07:00
Great report, as ever, Ken. I await your match reports almost as eagerly as our results nowadays!
Ian Bennett
390 Posted 01/12/2013 at 08:40:05
Things we learnt yesterday:-

Oviedo played very well. Tougher tests to come.
Pienaar and Osman still have something to offer.
3-5-2 may have its place during a game.
Our finishing needs to be sharpened.
Del Boy will be devastating if he can finish/pick out a pass.
Think we are all surprised by the success of the Barry signing.
Stoke are a pub team. Ridiculous rugby tackle by Whelan, a couple of penalties were in the offing, quite a few fouls missed by the ref.
Shawcross still gets away with every corner. Intelligent to play it short if the refs refuse to deal with it, but a pet hate of mine they get away with it every match.

Jim Bennings
409 Posted 01/12/2013 at 10:47:07
What a very refreshing performance against a team that just never changes its antics in Stoke.

In Martinez we now have a manager who is clued up with everything, it was a wise move in the end to rest Barkley and Mirallas and it paid dividends.

What a performance from Deulofeu, the boy just runs past players as though they are not there, it's like watching Messi and Maradona! Eventually his consistent end product will improve the greater experience he gets but I tell you one thing, I am damn excited about this Everton team for the remainder of the season.

I thought Oviedo too was a breath of fresh air, doing things that we have not seen Baines do an awful lot of over the last few months, which is getting forward with a sharpness and agressiveness. I also like the fact that he is willing to use his weaker foot, as we seen with the goal and the assist for Lukaku.

Our midfield was also impressive refusing to be outmuscled, something which the wonderful James McCarthy has added to our team along with the forever steadying influence of Gareth Barry. It is down to Barry that we have not missed Darron Gibson one little bit... in fact, I would suggest that, even if Gibbo was fit next week, it would be damn hard for him to dislodge Barry.

Rob Sawyer
418 Posted 01/12/2013 at 11:29:33
A positively poetic piece Ken - enjoyable and accurate as we are accustomed to. I made a relatively rare Goodison visit with my two girls so I was delighted that we turned on the style to ensure that they remain on course with their Everton indoctrination.

My observations - McCarthy and Barry were both impressive in an unobtrusive sort of way - they really win the ball back and keep us ticking over. Pienaar saw lots of the ball and was more impressive than I have seen for some time. A relatively quiet game for Lukaku but it is hard to argue with another goal. Deulofeu is a real talent- he just needs to learn to when to pass/cross and also support his full-back a bit more.

Finally a geeky stat: - I noticed that each of the four goals was notched with the weaker foot of the scorer.

Mike Gaynes
471 Posted 01/12/2013 at 15:27:38
Good catch, Rob (418)... I sometimes forget that Lukaku is a lefty.

I've also noticed that we almost never score with our heads anymore... except for Lukaku off the corner last week, I can't remember the last one. Big change from previous years.

John Hughes
604 Posted 01/12/2013 at 18:26:57
Great report Ken. First game I've seen this season (Bristol based) and it was a real joy to see Everton play with such an offensive style. The one thing that struck me was how accomplished Jagielka looked - I thought he was one player who might struggle under the new regime but he looked the biz! Upwards and onwards and great that the iold Hull Tigers came up trumps!
Mike Gwyer
626 Posted 01/12/2013 at 19:49:04

Ken.

Solid. Now OT on Wednesday - so much to look forward too; firstly, giving the Manx a proper game, Moyes face when we score accompanied with the blues standing & singing in the away end when the stewards have other ideas. Can't fucking wait.

Ciaran Duff
679 Posted 02/12/2013 at 04:07:41
Manure at OT will be a different prospect, obviously, but I if I were them I would be very nervous about this fixture. The pressure is really on them and OFM which hopefully will work to our advantage.

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