We assembled in our Room of Nonsense and the pre-match chat centred on many things — none of which anticipated a loss.

Would Baines play?
Would he take Oviedo’s place?
Would it be fair for Oviedo to lose his place?
And could they both play but at the expense of whom?

Also discussed was the apparent statement from Lukaku that he is off back to Chelsea no matter what. The problem with that is what would his display be like if with, say, five games to go, Chelsea and Everton were neck and neck for a final Champions League spot — given, as he says, playing in the Champions League is his dream? The mind boggles...

We got down to discussing correct scores. 2-0... 3-1... 4-1... even 7-0 all in favour of Everton and left the hallowed hall for the walk up. Obvious sell out as the roads were thick with fans and the colour of lights at the pedestrian crossings seemed incidental. The queues at the fat van and the Blue Dragon were healthy as a sea of smiling confident faces made their way to their allotted turnstiles.

Just one change from the Swansea line up as Osman and Barclay swapped bench duties. Many thought it a good idea to rest the young man in readiness for a sterner test v Southampton. Baines? Not even in the squad. The stuff rumours are made of...

Now all this guff is fine and entertaining pre-match but it should never be forgotten that an actual match has to take place; with football being a complete imprecise form of entertainment — once that ball starts rolling anything can happen and almost always does. No wonder the saying "No two games are ever the same."

Mr Probert got us underway and from the off I got that feeling we were not fully focused. We knocked it about okay but with little urgency that suggested the players were content that a goal would come rather than make one happen. In fact, Sunderland were the first to threaten when Jags was a bit sloppy with a backpass that had Howard racing out and just beating Fletcher to the ball. An early let-off...

Everton continued to dominate possession but good approach play always seemed to peter out as soon as the box was reached. Sunderland had ten men behind the ball but that should have been no surprise given their league position. We were certainly playing patient football and were happy to go back to try to get them to come out a little and on 25mins this approach backfired in spectacular fashion when, after a bout of keep-ball, the ball was at Howard's feet but what happened next took everyone by surprise.

Osman was the deepest Blue but with a Sunderland man ready to close down, Howard gave it to him anyway and whether he heard footsteps behind him I don’t know but his attempted return ball was horribly mis-hit and the Sunderland man Ki was in like a robber’s dog and rounded the keeper only to be brought down. Whistle — Penalty — Red Card and we are one down from a well struck spot-kick that gave reserve keeper Robles no chance. Osman was sacrificed to allow the keeper on to make his league debut. Halftime: 0-1. The chat in bogs and bars was still upbeat though as most thought we could and should win, even with ten men, as Sunderland had looked fragile, even with that fortunate goal. Many opined that Deulofeu would have been ideal to toss on second half but you can’t wish for what you can’t have. Barkley was the name on most lips and, as the teams entered for the second half, he was on in place of Mirallas.

The crowd were behind the lads now and "Everton, Everton" rang out from all sides. The players responded and it was hard to tell who had the ten men at times. We pressed and pressed. The keeper parried a Jags header then got hands to Lukaku’s follow-up. The big striker then hit one from outside the box that the keeper sprawled and smothered. Then Barkley joined in and sent a long range shot very high into the Street End.

It was all Everton now and Barkley was testing his power shooting from distance with varying results, the best of which had the keeper parrying and one just wide. Oviedo and Coleman were raiding with menace yet the final ball always seemed to just be out of reach of the players in the box. Oviedo cut inside and let a rocket go that seemed to be arrowing into the top corner only for the keeper to somehow get across and palm away...

For the first time in the match, the thought crossed my mind that this was not to be our day. This thought was reinforced when, after a rare Sunderland break catching almost all lads up-field, Fletcher got through on the keeper but dragged a shot wide. A let-off but we just had to go for it; we gained a free-kick in Barkley territory. He hit it superbly toward top corner but there was the flying Italian to palm away. Tremendous save.

Pienaar, who had been superb second half and our main if not only creative outlet, was replaced by Jelavic with a quarter of an hour to go. We attacked and shot incessantly but just could not make anything count; headers and hacks from set pieces were cleared one way or another and, from one great cross, Lukaku missed his header altogether in front of a gaping goal. What we would have given for Jelavic to break his goal famine today but, wouldn’t you just know it, he got in a header that at last beat the keeper but was headed off the line by a player on loan from Liverpool! It don’t come harder to take than that.

Final whistle and our home run unbeaten comes to an end to a most unlikely opponent—football eh. The fans though uttered not a boo but instead stayed behind and chanted our name to show the players that, yes, we were disappointed but we appreciated their second-half of great joined-up stuff and unrelenting endeavour. Now they must regroup, learn some lessons, and go on another great run.

MotM – Coleman or Distin

Back to the House of Culture and Learning... and we didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, and be damned our disappointments were not over. My mate H does one of those bets where you pick home away or draw for about eight teams, if that comes up it tells you how much you win on the bottom of the slip, in his case £375. He got 7 out of 8. Go on... guess which team let him down. Yep that’s right. Then, to rub salt into the wound, Liverpool scored ------ We went.
UP THE BLUES

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Dave White
141 Posted 26/12/2013 at 23:29:10
Great report as always Ken, my thanks to you for a game I couldn't watch due to (football unfriendly) family commitments.

My two penneth's worth on what I've just seen on MOTD is that we don't have to panic at that result. One swallow does not make a summer and one disastrous moment does not make a bad team.

We will have days like that from time to time, what is the most important thing is how we react. On the plus side we have very little time to dwell on it and I am taking heart by the way we comprehensively outplayed Sunderland with 10 men.

What I'm not looking forward to is the inevitable Osman bashing that will surely follow. Berate him by all means for a poor performance, but not for a single mistake. In mitigation I'm not sure about playing in your team mate when he's in the middle of the pitch, facing goal with an opposition player up his arse.

Good luck to Robles, time to shine son as you haven't filled me with confidence so far!

Brent Stephens
143 Posted 26/12/2013 at 23:38:43
Good report, Ken. Thanks.

There has been some prediction that playing it out from and around the back will eventually lead to a disastrous consequence as somebody slips up. Today we saw such a slip up with a short goal kick not being received / controlled as it normally would have been.

Mike Gaynes
145 Posted 26/12/2013 at 23:55:34
Roberto’s comment on Daily Post: “We have very strong concepts for when a pass is on and what the decision will be when you receive the ball. Both players probably got their decisions wrong. But they are two players who have been reliable throughout the season, winning us so many points, and we are going to learn from this.”

Sure, this was a predictable disaster. But you’d need a computer analysis to determine whether we’ve give up more goals because of the long clearance hit-and-pray goalkicks under the previous system or because of this.

Patrick Murphy
146 Posted 26/12/2013 at 23:59:57
The real problem with their penalty was why was it Osman who was looking for the ball in the first place - it should have been Barry or McCarthy in that position not twinkle toes and Howard should never have passed it to him in the first place - if in doubt kick it out.

David Pearl
148 Posted 27/12/2013 at 00:08:08
That's just what I've said Patrick! Wasn't Ossie supposed to be the man behind Lukaku...wtf was he doing there anyway?
David Heaton
162 Posted 27/12/2013 at 01:52:42
Osman usually has the ball taken off him in midfield, he loses the ball more than any other Everton player, just so happens we usually have someone behind him to clear up the mess.

Hibbert and Osman have been our worst players for the last couple of seasons. I thought Roberto would have gentle got rid of them by now. I just hope he has learnt his lesson and if he ever plays that light-weight again, it's well up the pitch when we're 5-0 up and he come on for the last 5 minutes.

Do I sound bitterly disappointed?

John Gilfoyle
170 Posted 27/12/2013 at 05:04:21
I don't think Howard is at fault at all, he's been doing this all season mostly to Gareth Barry, however the difference being Barry is capable of controlling it and if he has a defender up his ass he knocks it back and Howard plays it long. Osman's fault and i'm sure he would of held his hand up in the changies. Positive for me was the way we took the game to them with ten men, we could have won that game with a bit of luck and we'd be creaming that we're gona win the league. Negative for me is Lukaku, I really don't believe he is/or will be a top class striker, he has pace and strength but doesn't utilise these tools and looks technically poor with his dribbling/touch/finishing. Looking at him play I think he believes he's something other than than he actually is, i've seen in interviews he thinks in 2-3 years he'll be world class. I think in his head he thinks he's a Van Persie/ Suarez type, no son throw your body around and tear up those defenders :).
John Gilfoyle
172 Posted 27/12/2013 at 05:21:27
And also great report Ken, always a pleasure reading your match day experience.
Derek Thomas
173 Posted 27/12/2013 at 05:31:33
John # 170; most if not all of your points are valid, which is why he's out on loan. He's still in the 'potential' stage. Can he get better as he gets older. If, at 24-25, he ain't ripping defences apart and getting 20+ per season Vs good quality opposition. All he is is a rich man's Anichebe.
Eric Myles
174 Posted 27/12/2013 at 05:40:14
"All he is is a rich man's Anichebe."

Agree John on his latest showings.

Last nght watching the match I was thinking he's our new Fellaini, starts the season well and has everyone believing he's the real deal only to fade away and never return

Clive Lewis
176 Posted 27/12/2013 at 06:16:14
Maybe we could try Jelavic to start against Southampton, it might be that he hits form again. Its difficult to bring in any strikers in January and If we lose Jelavic we will have Velios only and Lakaku. I seriously think one of those Jelavic bicycle kicks was an inch of heading for the top corner and he did hit the bar from his header. I think lukaku needs a break, tiredness.

I don't blame Howard for the back pass, however I feel he should have let them score.

John Gilfoyle
180 Posted 27/12/2013 at 07:04:49
Sorry Chris but you can't blame Lukaku's form on tiredness, I really don't buy into these professional footballers being tired. I'm a county footballer/taxi driver who's diet consists of Mcdonalds and kebabs who doesn't train often and has about a 30% fitness level, after a full ninety minutes im stiff as a board the day after and much improved the next day, a day later i'm ready to go again. How these athletes can be too tired to play amazes me. I'm sure Barkley wasn't feeling heavy legs yesterday especially aged 20, who come up with this burn out concept. I think if there gonna get injured and pull hammys it will happen anyway look at deulofeu hardly played and pulled a hammy just unlucky. Anyone name a player who burnt out through playing too much?? Did Rodwell play 100s of games or is he just the type of person who injures easily??
John Gilfoyle
181 Posted 27/12/2013 at 07:22:30
Sorry Clive (not chris), although I agree in giving Jelavic a chance. Might not be the best all round striker but I noticed the amount of near post crosses that Lukaku didnt get on the end of, think Jelavic would be the striker to gamble and maybe one touch finish in ( o how I miss Jelas one touch finish, remember having a debate with my Rs mate who we'd rather have Suarez or Jelavic, we both agreed Jelavic because he had a more goalscoring prowess although Suarez was more rounded haha :(.
Jimmy Hill
194 Posted 27/12/2013 at 08:57:34
I can't believe the shit spouted on this site regarding Osman. Howard was at fault, he can see the whole pitch in front of him and should not have played the ball to Osman with a man up his arse, end of story.

I would have guessed Osman got a panic call from someone which probably caught him in to minds. For god's sake, it was a Howard blunder.

Osman and Hibbert have been great servants of Everton. I remember when Evertonians appreciated the workmanlike players as well as their stars.

Michael Wylie
198 Posted 27/12/2013 at 08:43:22
Loose in ridiculous fashion, but still proud.

COYB, still in there.

Jim Bennings
203 Posted 27/12/2013 at 10:06:26
Just a few thoughts on yesterdays shock loss. To be begin with I thought we played well in the second half with a lot of gusto but we missed having Deulofue on the bench, had nobody to get behind them.
We need to start games with a hig tempo though, I thought we took Sunderland too lightly to begin with and that error that led to the goal had been in keeping with our first 20 minutes sadly, you could see something like that was coming. As for rushing Baines back?? Do we need to? Nobody has played better than Bryan Oviedo over the last month, he was very good again yesterday and to be honest he tries things that you would not see Leighton Baines do, such as cut in on his right foot and take shots. Dont get me wrong I love Bainesey but I feel he is sometimes too predictable in all you get is the same crosses from the byline, most of which this year have hit the first man. I feel there is more to Baines game that he has never quite touched on for some reason, would love to see him do what Oviedo does, try cutting in on his weaker foot at times, remember a goal he scored at City about 3 years ago with his right.
I must admit that I am becoming worried by our striker situation now.
Lukaku has not been playing well for a while now and I am curious as to why I am not seeing him use that raw pace and body strength I saw during his first 5 or 6 games with us. Both he and Mirallas need to start getting involved, they have too much talent than just to be wasting away on the edge of games rather than dictating them.
January must be productive. Last year we started the January transfer window in a very strong position well placed to get 4th but because we sat on our hands and never pushed the boat out to sign Negredo it meant we missed out on Europe altogether so lets not do the same again. We MUST sign a striker (maybe two if Jelavic leaves) we don't get enough consistency from our wide midfielders so I would be trying to do something regarding that, we don't know how long Del is out and frankly we cant afford to wait.
Big big game on Sunday with nothing less than 3 points required, don't want two winnable home games slipping by us over the vital Christmas period.
Jim Bennings
205 Posted 27/12/2013 at 10:23:43
Also as to who should be blamed for the goal it was a bit of both.
Poor poor control and slip by Leon Osman but why did Howard pass the ball to him when he saw a Sunderland player breathing down his neck?? Remember Howard could see the bigger picture whereas Osman had his back to play, he needed to be aware of what was around but maybe also needed a shout or not be passed the ball in the first place. Another thing why does Howard always go for things with his feet?? Should he not have tried to stand up as long as he could against Ki and force him wide? Seemed to me he made up the strikers mind by falling on his arse and sticking a leg out, as soon as you do that its inviting the forward to go down and gain a penalty.
Danny Kewley
217 Posted 27/12/2013 at 10:51:32
Nice write up Ken;......... Still feeling numb myself as the massive depression subsides. Was it Howard? Or was it Osman? Dumb or Dumber..........What the fuck.........tis over now baby blue.
On a positive note though, what a reaction the lads showed, especially in the second half. We have got to play like that from the start on Sunday and learn from the reality check.
COYTofffffffffffeeeeeeeeeeeees!!
Trevor Lynes
221 Posted 27/12/2013 at 11:45:17
EVERY player makes mistakes and I am so angry at Osman getting all the stick. This lad won us a game not so long ago when he subbed Barkley. Barkley was one card away from a ban and if he had got booked when played from the start these same fickle fans would be cursing Roberto for starting him!

We played very well with ten men and Poyet said afterwards that we were the best team he had played all season. We do not have a divine right to win every match and every one of the top sides have lost games that they would normally be expected to win. Osman and Howard had an aberration and I am sure that they both know it and feel bad enough about it without some fans joining in. Osman has been playing pretty well so far this season and certain players in the side who make mistakes do not get the stick he suffers.

We were very unlucky and played very well. We have actually been the most consistent team in the division and we are still on the top four places coat tails despite losing. If we had won we would be better off of course but football is a strange game and there will be many more slips this season but hopefully by opponents.

Let's just get back to consistency and continue to play with the passion shown with ten men and we will get back on track.

Mark Taylor
224 Posted 27/12/2013 at 11:43:12
Always enjoy reading this report, not least because it often throws up something that runs counter to the comments elsewhere.

This time it's Pienaar. who has been largely rubbished in the matchday and post match threads, yet here is described as near enough our only attacking threat. I think I'm closer to Ken's position.

I've been saying for a while now that I've been underwhelmed by Lukaku and that Mourinho might know more than he he being credited for. A rich man's Vic is very much what he looks like right now. For a big man, he wins precious few 50:50's and his control and first touch is pretty rustic.

Which leads me to a way of freshening up the team that doesn't rely on an extensive, quality supply of replacements (which we don't have). Shift Peanuts to the right where I think he can link up well with a barnstorming Seamus. Bring back Leighton at LB but push Oviedo(who has been a revelation) into left midfield, where he's played before with some success and will be even better now, such is his confidence. Then give Lukaku a break up front and give Mirallas a run out there. He is another who has not exactly covered himself in glory but I think we play him out of position and I'd hope his selfishness might be an asset there. Certainly, no matter how poorly he plays, he looks more likely than most to actually score.

Mike Gaynes
227 Posted 27/12/2013 at 11:59:44
John Guilfoyle and Eric Myles, I think if you're expecting a 20-year-old striker to be consistent, you're expecting way too much. Strikers blow hot and cold anyway, and if Lukaku was anything close to the finished article, Mourinho wouldn't have let us have him in the first place. So for him to go off the boil and lose a bit of confidence at some point was inevitable. He'll come good in the long run.
Tony Marsh
229 Posted 27/12/2013 at 12:31:00
With so much changing within in the squad in such a short period of time, I think its amazing what we have achieved so far under Roberto.

That said, we need to get away from using Osman as a starting option and thinking we need a massive lump of a striker to play at all times. Our style of play has changed so much that an out-and-out target man is no longer essential. We should alternate between a Lukaku type threat and maybe try Mirallas through the middle.

Lukaku's main attribute was his poaching ability which seems to have disappeared. As for Lukaku going back to Chelsea no matter what, I don't think it's his decision to make. On current form, he would be lucky to get a game for Charlton.

Nice one, Ken.

Phil Walling
241 Posted 27/12/2013 at 14:00:56
Yesterday was one of those days that reminded me why I always back us to finish 6th or 7th. Crap odds but logical because dreaming of greater glory is always going to lead to a bummer.

'Piss-About Roberto' may be more entertaining than his predecessor but just like him, he for sure ain't the Messiah. No, 6th is the best we can hope for.....and we better learn to know our place!

Phil Walling
243 Posted 27/12/2013 at 14:19:30
Mike, I hope you are right about Lukaku but didn't we say that about Jelavic and all the other whizz-kid strikers who've got off to a flyer here?

Where are they now?

Mike Gaynes
248 Posted 27/12/2013 at 14:36:26
Phil, I think you'll agree that Lukaku is several cuts above Jelavic in raw talent, and he's eight years younger, so I'm not hung up on that particular comparison. And I don't recall too many whiz-kid strikers getting off to "flyers" here that remotely resembled what Lukaku has done. Maybe Jeffers, but that's about it.

I think he'll be fine.

Bill Gall
249 Posted 27/12/2013 at 14:17:23
I don't think Lukaku is getting the service he was provided when he first came.The patient build-up does not suit him; he needs the quick through-ball where he can use his speed and strength.

Glad to see a lot of the supporters are accepting yesterday's game as a glitch in the season and let's get on with the next game. To those supporters complaining, ask yourself, How many of you not only did not expect Everton to be in the top 5 at this time but also cementing their Premier League status by nearly achieving the magic 40 pts by January.

The success that Martinez has achieved in a short time has not only come as a pleasant surprise but I think it has raised our expectations to high. As even the top 4 teams have poor games at times the only downfall from yesterday's game was the suspensions that will show if we have the strength to fill the gaps and get results.

The Christmas period was going to be difficult but, with only half the season gone and hopefully some fresh players coming in January, the rest of the season, if we remain as competitive, we really should qualify in a European position.

Terry Smith
281 Posted 27/12/2013 at 16:56:05
Mr Walling's derogatory reference to Roberto Martinez as "pissing about" is straight off a Knuckle Dragger's Twitter account. Everyone has a right to an opinion but that doesn't make that opinion right. Anyone who seriously doubts Roberto Martinez cannot seriously understand the game. (I know it's bad form, but I've written an article for this month's WSAG EE005 which states my case for Martinez.)

Osman is now a bit-part player; but he still has his part to play. With Barkley on 4 Yellows, and assuming 11 players on the pitch, I thought his line-up was OK. You can't manage times with hindsight. Howard, who's been at the peak of his form recently, made a cat's arse of a pass to a player. Good job it wasn't Naismith. To bully players is one thing; to bully them through pure prejudice is another. What do people really understand about the game?

I am a fully paid-up member if the Sin Miedo fan club as is Thierry Henri, Gary Neville, Glen Hoddle et al. I don't think Man Utd, Arsenal, Swansea, Stoke, Fulham etc. would say he's "pissing about".

Ian Dickson
332 Posted 27/12/2013 at 20:31:39
Bill. I don't think there are THAT many supporters who even consider "how fast can we get to 40 points" anymore; that way of thinking has surely gone with our previous manage.

I do reckon most supporters (both online and matchgoing) know this is a good side and has been for quite a few years....

Steve Green
398 Posted 28/12/2013 at 03:50:03
Heaton @ 162 — "Osman and Hibbert have been our worse players for the past few seasons" FFS, knobhead, how much time has Hibbert had on the pitch during that time. ... keep spouting the attention-seeking inaccurate shit...
Phil Walling
659 Posted 28/12/2013 at 21:40:57
Repeat after me 'Thou shalt not make ANY derogatory comment regarding St Roberto.'

But how can you possibly deny that his 'pissing about at the back' philosophy cost us the points on Boxing Day?

Patrick Murphy
663 Posted 28/12/2013 at 21:48:06
Yeah of course you're correct Phil, Roberto Martinez should abandon this silly notion of attempting to play football because we screwed up on one occasion and got punished for it, never mind all of the points we've dropped this season because of pissing about at the back -– 17 goals conceded the best record in the Premier League proves that this method of playing is useless and undermines everything the club stands for.
Barry Rathbone
669 Posted 28/12/2013 at 21:54:16
Phil Walling, "know our place ..." sorry lad you haven't got it at all one of the many things changed under Roberto is we don't "know our place".

With the exception of City we've matched or outplayed the lot it's the sole reason we nailed the OT shame.

Whether we come 1st, 6th or 8th you miss the point entirely. I really do wonder if you have any idea at all.

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