Where's The Pub?

A good day all round, an important win and clean sheet with several big games coming up over the next three weeks.

Paul Traill 13/09/2014 11comments  |  Jump to last

The last time I went to the Hawthorns it was a cold November evening back in 2005 and we got battered 4-0. "It can't be worse than last time," I chirped to Katja before stepping outside and driving down the M6. I got a good run on that horrendous road for a change and made good time in getting to West Bromwich, a really straightforward drive and I was there before 12pm, grabbing a quick Subway before heading on to the match.

"Do you want a drink with that?" asked the server. "No, I'm OK thanks" I replied. "Are you sure? It's 5 with a drink". "How much is it without a drink?" I asked. "4.99". Oh go on then...

So with time to kill I thought I'd find a pub to watch the Arsenal vs Manchester City match... quite the straightforward task I assumed as, ordinarily, where there's a football stadium there's a few pubs dotted around. I headed down the street with the away supporters' entrance and headed on into the Smethwick area. I carried on walking and saw a lot of supporters headed in the opposite direction from the nearby train station but, undeterred – and stupidly – I decided to carry on down the road... getting further and further away from the stadium.

Around the corner I went, past an industrial estate and took a left until I finally found my saviour from a distance, the aptly titled "The Navigation Point" pub. My delight turned to anguish as I got closer and closer to it as it became clearer and clearer that this was a pub no more... all decrepit and boarded up. Crestfallen, on I walked for what felt like forever. I went past a school, all sorts of shops and eventually ended up walking that far that I looped all the way back to the main road where the stadium was and eventually found The Royal Oak. What a relief. It was now 1pm – I'd walked for a full hour!

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Inside the pub was great. Big screens, they sold food, loads of space, none of this "HOME FANS ONLY" nonsense... a really nice away pub once I finally found it and I was able to watch Arsenal and Manchester City play out a cracker.

On to the stadium and there seemed to be so many Evertonians about as we trooped down the road. I overheard someone say that John Stones was playing with Distin not involved at all and out injured. Was Victor Anichebe injured also? I noticed no room for him in West Brom's squad also.

Evertonians were in good voice as we attacked towards the goal opposite. We were jumping for joy in no time as Lukaku took aim from the edge of the penalty area and curled in a beauty with his right foot past Ben Foster. The Belgian didn't make a fuss and didn't celebrate in front of his ex-club but we sure did! Everton off the mark early on... just the start we needed.

We had to dig in a bit for large periods of the rest of the half as West Brom tried to get back into the game. They were in and around our penalty area a lot but credit to the Everton defence who were resolute in the first half leaving Tim Howard without a great deal to do. Defenders were throwing themselves in front of shots and had a lot to do with us being 1-0 ahead at the break. There was one curious moment when the referee Anthony Taylor gave a free kick to West Brom, put the ball down and paced forward to instruct Everton where to position their wall but for some reason seemed to stop at eight yards rather than the full 10, much to the West Brom supporters dismay and also that of Craig Gardner who got booked for his troubles...and smashed his free kick into the shorter-distanced wall.

Chris Brunt also hit the side-netting whilst at the other end Mirallas and Lukaku both tried their luck from distance, only to miss the target. Half time we led 1-0. Not pretty so far but encouraging defending and a great goal from our record signing.

Into the second half and it was much more like the Roberto Martinez Everton. We got about West Brom a lot more and we were very dangerous on the counter-attack. Steven Naismith should have made it 2-0 long before Mirallas did when he scooped a great chance over the crossbar from close range once Lukaku's effort was saved by Foster.

We doubled our money however 2/3rds into the match when Mirallas, who had a good afternoon, cut inside and shot at goal. It looked harmless enough and should have been saved easily by Foster but he let it squirm under him and the ball rolled into the net. Mirallas celebrated as if he'd burst the net and we all cheered jubilantly. You felt the game was won; West Brom seemed to believe they had lost also basically gave up from then on in. Their heads dropped and Everton could well have ran riot.

Substitute Leon Osman was twice thwarted by Foster – one a quite splendid save when the ball deflected goalwards, the other also a good save when Osman volleyed at goal following a beautiful passing move. Some goal that would have been. McGeady also fired one wide from distance. It was a very comfortable last 10-15 minutes or so... even Liverpool loanee Andre Wisdom had time to make a fool of himself a couple of times with Evertonians in great voice.

A quite spectacular John Stones tackle aside our goal never really seemed in danger until the very, very end at least when, carried away to the sound of "oles" as we played keep-ball, our defence managed to get themselves into quite the muddle and Tim Howard, who'd barely made a save all game, had to be at his best to twice thwart West Brom and keep that important clean sheet in tact.

Leaving the ground and such was the busy traffic on the main road I was glad I parked where I did just near the ring road. I was away quick, had another good run on the M6 and made it home before 7pm...even catching the end of Liverpool losing at home to Aston Villa. A good day all round, an important win and clean sheet with several big games coming up over the next three weeks...and at least I now know where the pub is for next time!

It might be a while mind. I don't offer West Brom much hope of being here next season based on that display.

Player Ratings:
Howard: Not very busy for the most part but distributed pretty well. He claimed some good crosses in the second half and then made that excellent double-save at the end. Good performance. 7
Baines: Did very well. Lost out a few times but worked very hard and put in his typical professional performance. What you see is what you get with Leighton Baines. 7
Jagielka: Solid. Will probably have been stung with the criticism he got after the Chelsea game and responded well. I liked when we scored our second all the players went to Mirallas to celebrate but not Jagielka. He pulled Stones aside and spoke to him about his responsibilities, making sure we stayed focus for the rest of the game. A good pro. 7
He was excellent in my opinion. Very calm on the ball and not much got behind him. Will be interesting to see how he gets on these next few weeks. Hard to believe we had three of England's back line out there today. 8
Coleman: The odd defensive frailty but generally good. Still not quite at his swashbuckling self but will get that back with games. 6
Barry: Had an excellent game. In the way of a lot of things and passed the ball well. As with Baines - what you see is what you get with Gareth Barry. 8
McCarthy: Covered a lot of ground in there also. A difficult man to play against in my opinion. 7
Mirallas: My man of the match. I've never really been the biggest fan of Mirallas but he seems to be adding consistency to his game. We seem to be getting more of a full game out of Kevin now rather than flashes. Good to see. Hope it continues as he can be a real frightening player to come up against. 8
McGeady: Did alright. Kept on going. Still needs more games to get where he needs to but it's clear he has fantastic ability. 6
Naismith: No goal today. What is going on Steven?!?! He did well. Should have scored with that opportunity but at least it didn't come back to bite us...as I feared it might at the time. As with Baines and Barry - you know what you're going to get from Naismith. 6
Lukaku: Scored one good goal and though he is capable of more his presence sounds real alarm bells for defenders and he did what he had to, plus had the bonus of a 25 minute rest. 7

Osman (for Lukaku): Came on and was lively and positive. Can expect more involvement in the coming weeks as the games come thick and fast. Unlucky not to score. 6
Besic (for McGeady): Not on long so difficult to judge. I thought the yellow card was harsh, though.

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Reader Comments (11)

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Paul Ferry
1 Posted 14/09/2014 at 01:15:22
Paul, I don't often agree with your MotM picks and some of your rating but I wholeheartedly agree with you that Mirallas was was our MotM today.

There are some quite frankly bizarre comments by Jim Bennings on the match thread panning Kev and our 'wide' players again and again. Very odd ranting and raving indicative of some sort of preconceived prejudice.

Kev dazzled in the 2nd half in particular and if we get that from him week-in & week-out – IF! – then there will be good times ahead.

Matt Traynor
2 Posted 14/09/2014 at 04:38:03
Nice report Paul, I've been in that situation trying to find a decent away pub, one of the benefits of getting in with a regular crowd!

The player scores thing is often subjective – I would've put Barry as MotM with an honourable mention for Mirallas. McCarthy though had a poor game, it was he that was responsible for gifting possession to WBA leading up to that late double save from Howard.

I think being at the match, you will see things from a different perspective, but perhaps a lot closer than the dipshit commentators some of us have to put up with, saying the home fans had finally found their voice (as Allez Allez Oh rang out), praising the WBA attacking play (it was an Everton attack that nearly resulted in a goal). I think any one of us expat Blues would've gladly swapped with you – hour long walk for a pint and all.

It was great to finally keep a clean sheet. Hopefully McCarthy can play his way back to form, but if not we should have a couple of ready made replacements to take him out for a bit. I do wish we were a little more clinical with our chance conversion. Dunno if it's true but apparently those 10 goals we shipped in the first 3 games came from 14 chances. Sometimes I feel we need that many to score 1. Maybe it's just perception.

Steve Brown
3 Posted 14/09/2014 at 04:52:38
Matt (#2), I couldn't agree more... Trevor Francis! How desperate is that tosser to see us lose? Together will Jim what's-his-face in the commentary box, they praised the WBA team (one shot on target in the 91st minute), the Albion fans (decent bunch who like to sing the away team's songs for them) and did not pass a favourable comment on our performance all afternoon.

I think it was the same combo at the Leicester match and they received the same volley of abuse then whenever they opened their stupid gobs.

David Ellis
4 Posted 14/09/2014 at 06:28:38
Trevor Francis always seems to talk up the Birmingham clubs.
Mike Price
5 Posted 14/09/2014 at 06:36:46
You're right Matt, what we have to suffer as overseas blues can be unbearable. So much so that after living in one of the best rated places on earth in Vancouver, I need to move back and be amongst my own.

I never have been quite sure about McCarthy, just as I wasn't about Fellaini, and if he's messing about over a new contract, I think we could get a more effective and better value player elsewhere.

Great goal by Lukaku but he won't be great unless he develops a nasty, physical and aggressive persona. Duncan has got to have a serious word with him or he's not doing what we expect and he won't reach his much vaunted potential. He's still carrying 10 lbs too much to carry that pace as well as strength threat that he is capable of... and I know he's fit compared to 99.9% of us but he needs to shed to gain that margin over these defences. Sort it out, Rom, and cut down on the calories.

Dave Williams
6 Posted 14/09/2014 at 14:54:14
Stones was MotM for me but Kev is certainly looking good now.

Paul F - the live forum does seem to bring out the worst in people and there are a number who take the opportunity to direct all sorts of abuse at players who fail to be perfect all of the time – very much like the guys we have all experienced at a game who scream abuse non-stop at our own players safe in the knowledge that they can’t have a go back.

Strangely, away from the live forum, these same people generally make sensible and well reasoned observations so I guess it just shows how irrational we can all be in the heat of battle.

We played much better yesterday and much better than the live forum postings suggested. Perhaps Osman deserves more credit for asserting some decent control in the last 25 minutes?

Dave Harper
7 Posted 14/09/2014 at 17:14:09
MotM for me was Gareth Barry. Came out of the ground thinking thank God he's got his form back. Must admit I find McGeady incredibly frustrating: flashes of genius but a total lack of commitment to get back and defend.
Andy Crooks
8 Posted 15/09/2014 at 00:50:42
Paul, for someone who can't get to games, your reports remind me of the old days when I could. A real pleasure to read; the balance between you, Michael, Lyndon and Ken gives a proper all round view of a game. Good stuff from all the contributors.
Tim Greeley
9 Posted 15/09/2014 at 03:39:31
Excellent stuff, Paul Traill. Hope that pint was delicious! Grab some wings with that too. Do West Brom do chicken wings!? Does England do chicken wings!?

I know about the liver pies and the chips and the spotted feckin dick, but what about some buffalo wings!?!?

BTW, Ossie was very solid when he came on and I like Besic's new role as "central defending striker".

Brian Garside
10 Posted 15/09/2014 at 17:06:28
David. McGeady is told to stay high up the pitch by RM. It is not the first time he has been accused of being lazy. Indeed he has even said in an interview that it is difficult to stay up wíth the fans screaming at him to defend. Give him a break.
Alan Williams
11 Posted 16/09/2014 at 12:58:51
I had the misfortune of watching this game in Liverpool City Centre as we were supposed to go to Chester Races but sadly, due to an excessive Friday night, I chose to stay in bed and for once enjoy the Hotel.

Anyway, I spent the late morning walking around the City Centre and there were so many Redshite fans about I found it very intimidating and dare I say quite pathetic really. I popped down to Everton 2 and purchased a tee-shirt for my son just so I could walk around the city with an Everton bag; I know, very sad.

My point comes in two parts: Why do all these people support the shite? — they haven’t won the league for 24 years and some of them dress to the extreme with so many tops, jackets & scarf, it’s just bloody embarrassing.

I then had a walk around the Dock to watch the Pirate thing and they had a bus playing that Redshite song on repeat and taking them on a tour with Redshite pictures all over it!!

Then I met my mates around 2:45 at the Bierkeller to watch the game as I was told the night before it was on... Guess what – they don’t show dodgy channels anymore. My mate then said. "You do when the Redshite are on!!" We then went the First National, Croc, Pen & Wig and all no Everton game and ended up in the old Retro bar that at last had Everton.

My point is why have we been banished from our own City Centre when we are playing away? In the Bierkeller at L1, fans already taking seats for the main show at 5:30 and this was before 3pm!! I know footy has change and I haven’t lived here for 22 years but I still get home and have my EFC Season Ticket but for once I felt an angry stranger in my home town trying to watch Everton on a Saturday afternoon. I don’t know how you can put up with it every week – or, as my brother said, just jump in a cab to County Road, much easier.

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