Blues extend winless run but eke out positives from 10-man stand

A decent enough point in the context of Everton's poor run of form but the search for pre-Wembley momentum goes on.

Lyndon Lloyd 14/04/2016 25comments  |  Jump to last

Everton's search for genuine pre-Wembley momentum goes on following a second successive away draw against a potential FA Cup Final opponent struggling for form.

Four days after the largely uninspiring but slightly improved display at Watford, the Blues made the trip to Selhurst Park to face a Crystal Palace side buoyed by their first victory of 2016 at the weekend.

The result was another patchy performance from Roberto Martinez's men, but the fact that they dug in to preserve a point after being reduced to 10 men following James McCarthy's dismissal five minutes into the second half will give the manager something, however small, to hang his hat on in terms of optimism ahead of two tough fixtures before the semi final in 10 days' time.

It was a long way from being the "incredible, incredible" feat that the manager described it as after the match but it at least proved that there is still some spirit and determination in this Everton team, even if the attacking fluidity and potency that has helped them rack up a +9 goal difference so far has largely deserted them.

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In addition to the change in central defence enforced by Phil Jagielka's hamstring injury, Martinez took the opportunity to change things in attack by deploying Arouna Kone in what looked to be that awkward left-sided role in which he has been so ineffective. The Ivorian was preferred to Kevin Mirallas, that in spite of the Belgian's energetic late cameo at Vicarage Road but apart from one rasping shot that just cleared the Palace crossbar, the Blues' misfit No.9 offered little.

Equally ineffective was Romelu Lukaku, Everton's out-of-form and disinterested-looking Talisman who did little to advance his argument that he is deserving of playing in the Champions League come August. He has fed on scraps ever since his two-goal burst put the Toffees into the last four of the cup against Chelsea but he was offered more opportunity to be involved this evening but, like too many in a white jersey on the night, was wasteful with the ball and sloppy with it at his feet.

Nevertheless, having served up an early chance for Ross Barkley that was snuffed out by a wall of red and blue, he was in the right place at the right time when the Blues' No.20 returned the favour and played him in in the first half but he was foiled by Wayne Hennessey who was off his line smartly to close him down.

It was Seamus Coleman who had perhaps the best chance for Everton in the first half, though, when he was picked out by Leighton Baines with a cross to the back post but his side-foot volley was turned behind by the 'keeper.

At the other end, Palace had started well and seemed bent on testing John Stones and Ramiro Funes Mori with direct balls into the box but after Robles had denied Yannick Bolasie with a one-handed save, they couldn't maintain their early dominance and had to be satisfied with a fairly even, goalless first half.

Dwight Gayle went very close to breaking the deadlock in spectacular fashion, however, when he bicycle-kicked Joel Ward's header just wide and Funes Mori came disconcertingly close to putting into his own goal when he slid in to intercept Jason Puncheon's low cross.

If Everton could have mustered the kind of intensity and cohesion with which they despatched of Southampton and Stoke so easily, the game was there for the taking in the second half and they showed glimmers of promise in the first few minutes after the restart.

Coleman burst into the box and appeared to be tripped by Bolasie but scrambled to his feet before being his cross was blocked. His second attempt seemed to strike a defender's arm causing the away fans to bay for a penalty a second time but referee Mike Jones was unmoved.

From the same attack, however, the ball was moved to Barkley and he slammed a trademark shot off the crossbar from 20-plus yards.

The game changed shortly afterwards, though, when McCarthy, having been booked in the first half for catching Yohan Cabaye late, collided with Bolasie as the French winger tried to fly down the left wing and the referee made the predictable choice to flash him a second yellow card and send him for an early bath. Muhamed Besic was quickly brought on in place of Kone in the ensuing reorganisation.

As they were against West Ham when Mirallas found himself ordered off prematurely, Everton were briefly a lot better with 10 men than they had been with 11 and they pressed forward with purpose and almost went ahead from a corner but Stones could only plant a free header straight at Hennessey.

At other end, meanwhile, when Mile Jedinak put Puncheon in on goal but in a virtual carbon copy of Lukaku's chance in the first half, Robles charged off his line quickly to save well. The Spaniard followed that up with three more routine stops to foil Zaha, Puncheon and Cabaye before substitute Adebayor headed wide when he might have done better.

With Aaron Lennon having been forced off with an apparent hamstring strain midway through the half, Everton mostly lost their attacking impetus but had one promising three-man counter-attack that unfortunately ended with substitute Bryan Oviedo's low cross being cut out before it could reach Lukaku.

Palace, meanwhile, staged their own late assault with Conor Wickham missing two decent chances before Funes Mori belter from distance took a heavy deflection and almost outfoxed Hennessey before he scrambled to claim the loose ball.

So, in the context of a frustrating run of results, questionable morale in the camp and McCarthy's dismissal, it was a decent enough point that lifts the Blues into 12th place in the table even if it extended their winless run in the league to five games. Troubling question marks remain over the team's general play, however – even at full strength for 50 minutes this was several levels below the kind of showing that is expected from such a talented group and likely not the kind of display that will be enough to get past Manchester United in the semi-final.

Martinez's team selection suggests that he is still searching for the right blend and formation to re-energise his troops but fresh injury concerns to Lennon and Leighton Baines (Martinez claims he picked up a groin complaint) won't help matters, particularly with tough games against Southampton and Liverpool to come before Wembley.

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Reader Comments (25)

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Jamie Sweet
1 Posted 14/04/2016 at 00:55:10
Hit the magic 40 point mark with fully 6 games to spare.

Only one point off the mighty Bournemouth.

Incredible, incredible achievement.

Rick Tarleton
2 Posted 14/04/2016 at 06:36:28
Oh, Mr Sweet, such sarcasm in one so young. It was always the mantra of our former idiot, that 40 points malarkey. With this idiot it has at times, given our home form, seemed a point too far. Still ready for our winning run culminating in a Wembley Cup Final and then holding up a trophy?

Dream, Dream, Dream.

Christopher Timmins
3 Posted 14/04/2016 at 07:11:10
Lyndon, it appears that the manager has not lost the dressing room based upon the performance, the last straw which would lead to his departure.

The two most under pressure managers in the Premier League now face each other in a Cup Semi-Final, for the winner survival, for the loser the end of the road!

Lyndon Lloyd
4 Posted 14/04/2016 at 07:28:38
Christopher, I'm not sure to what extent he "lost the dressing room" before but while there was some spirit to that performance, particularly on the defensive side, let's not kids ourselves that it was the performance of a fully cohesive group firing on all cylinders with full faith in their manager.

Passing distribution was often awful, Lukaku and Barkley were going through the motions for some of it (for which I blame Martinez because they've both lost their way recently) and we actually created very little.

Martinez said afterwards that you want to shine in the final games of the season and that the team were "hitting their stride" but that sounds like face-saving (and job-saving) rhetoric – we were nowhere near our "stride" as it appeared to be in the wins over Stoke, Saints, Chelsea, etc.

Jim Bennings
5 Posted 14/04/2016 at 07:45:52
Even our former idiot was still light years ahead of our present idiot..

Moyes was at least a glass ceiling manager..

Martinez is looking more and more a basement manager with each passing game.

Maynard Hanna
6 Posted 14/04/2016 at 09:36:37
I was unable to either see or hear last night's game. So I rely on a report such as this and the writers comments.

Much has been said about our manager in recent days and even names that might replace him as well as reference being made to lost opportunities of already having someone else on board.

One such name that was put across my path was Mr S. Bilic. I was never keen. I believe that after last night I have been vindicated in my belief. WHU were at home in a cup replay in the LAST ever cup tie at The Boleyn Ground. Wembley and us awaited the victor. WHU were supposed to be 'on-song' while Man Utd had problems (un-popular manager/team's style of play etc) BUT who turned up?

Man Utd certainly did and well drilled they were to. WHU on the other hand did not turn up. On a night of all historic nights when a 14-year-old kid should have been able to motivate the team, Mr Slaven Bilic fell short, hugely short. As a consequence one or two of his 'big' players might also start to change their line of thought?

Who knows but I think this was a defining game for both managers as will our cup semi-final with Man Utd.

Strangely enough prior to last nights game I would have preferred to face United and fully expected to be doing so but after their performance last evening, who knows what Man Utd will turn up come Saturday week.

Can we beat them? YES we can – and we could even beat them by a clear two-goal margin – BUT that's if we turn up and want it... and that, for the moment, is our big quandary????

David Milner
7 Posted 14/04/2016 at 09:53:03
The only plus from yesterday is that we kept a clean sheet. Stones & Funes Mori, although stretched at times, looked a better bet than either one of them with Jagielka. At least they were man marking. Credit must go to all the back 5 for keeping us in the game.

McCarthy was struggling from the start & it was obvious from the first yellow card that another was likely. He should have been taken off at half-time. When Besic came on for Kone it was hard to notice that we were down to 10 men, as apart from one shot early on Kone did nothing.

We were totally shown up by Palace with their quick passing & speed. We were a team with no ideas except with slow possession. Barcelona were shown up last night using the same tactics. How many times did Barkley give away the ball trying to be too clever. Looking one way & passing the other is a menu for disaster, as it was shown. Yet Barkley did not have a bad game but he did look tired.

This was an opportunity for some of our Under-21s to be blooded on the bench. Surely Kieron Dowell to be brought on down the left would have been a good idea. You either have to play Kone or Lukaku not both. We have to except that the Manager is trying to justify his purchases & nothing else. He has no Plan B, let alone a Plan A.

We have relied on Lukaku's goals too much, we must have another option. I would rather see the kids play & lose than this slow predictable rubbish.

Barry Pearce
8 Posted 14/04/2016 at 10:21:28
I agree that Kieron dowell, should be brought into the squad for the remaining games.He couldn't do any worse than what's on show out there at present. The whole squad seem flat, just going through the motions.

I still cannot believe he's playing Kone on the left. Surely even Pienaar would have been a better fit than him last night.

Shane Corcoran
9 Posted 14/04/2016 at 10:49:29
I didn't watch it, I can't bear it any more (I'll be tuned in on Saturday of course).

Any sign of Hibbert or Darron "I want to go to the Euros more than McGeady" Gibson?

Ian Burns
10 Posted 14/04/2016 at 11:14:16
Niasse must wonder why he bothers to get changed into the kit – the supporters are wondering why we bothered to buy him.

Back five played well given we only had ten men and Besic looks to be over his Arsenal nightmare without being the Besic we know he can be.

As far as chemistry and cohesion is concerned further up the pitch – it simply wasn't there. These players are doing enough to get by, they are most definitely not doing anything like enough to keep this manager in his post.

David Hallwood
11 Posted 14/04/2016 at 11:23:14
Good report Lyndon and good shout Barry(#8), Ronnie Goodlass (who BTW knows a thing or two about left side attacking positions) said the same thing; OK its not the future, but without a doubt the Bainaar combination was/is admired throughout football.

But what is it with coaches? Firstly our Booby only plays 4-2-3-1, which us fine(ish) personally I prefer a coach who's a bit more flexible, more reactive to the game. But he picks a centre-forward to play left mid when he's got 4 players in the squad who are comfortable in that position, knowing that Kone has constantly failed in that position.

Yet another season where I can't wait for it to end, semi-final or not.

Bob Parrington
12 Posted 14/04/2016 at 11:25:00
This is somewhat of a repeat of what I wrote earlier today but I feel it should be added here.

Manager/Coach should be able to sense vibes between referees and players as well as between his own players and those of the opposition. My own belief that this is close to rule number one.

I watched the Crystal Palace game together with my 40-year-old son. When McCarthy received his first yellow card in this game, I said to son, John, that Martinez must sub McCarthy because Jones would find a reason to give him a second yellow. reason – I sensed that Jones had targeted McCarthy from the kick-off (for some reason?? Maybe some previous encounter)

Roberto did his usual bad body language thing of standing on the sideline with his arms crossed (in defensive style). He should have subbed McCarthy.
To me, this is simple and Bill& Co should realise that Roberto does not have it in him to make this club succeed on the pitch the way it should do. I have now become a "Roberto OUT" activist.

if we win the cup it will still not be reason for him to stay. Everton fans deserve more than the drivel that has been served up this season!

Paul Conway
13 Posted 14/04/2016 at 13:20:08
This could have been the FA Cup Final and Mc Carthy would still act the Bollocks! The other alternative is Besic, but he too has a tendancy to throw caution to the wind.

As we were on the defensive, I don't know why Martinez did not replace the useless Lukaku (if only to to preserve his price tag!) with Niasse. Surely he has 30 or 40 minutes in him! After all, he was on the bench!

Sean Patton
14 Posted 14/04/2016 at 13:39:12

Jones was the same guy responsible for the travesty at Stamford Bridge with the over time offside equaliser so he has past form when officiating Everton games.

As for McCarthy, he was on a yellow and made a foul but how many times have you watched a game and the ref gives a final warning to the guy who has been booked? Last night, he couldn't get that red card out quick enough.

Robbie Muldoon
15 Posted 14/04/2016 at 13:47:47
Martin Mason
16 Posted 14/04/2016 at 19:44:11
Under certain circumstances ,an away draw in London with part of the game played with 10 men could be seen as credible (no, not incredible). It's just that when put into context, last night's performance was soul-destroying.
Tony Twist
17 Posted 14/04/2016 at 19:52:28
Frank de Boer does sound a good fit but I have no faith that the people running the club are competent in picking a worthy successor to Martinez.
Trevor Lynes
18 Posted 14/04/2016 at 20:35:30
It seems we are back to the same situation we were under DM. The defence is carrying us!!

We have too many non-scorers in the starting side and too many with stamina problems.

Bob Parrington
19 Posted 14/04/2016 at 23:05:19
Thanks Sean (#14). I had missed the link with the Citeh game. The second yellow was for a clear foul but .........was it "really" a second yellow card offence?

The main point I am trying to make is that it was inept of Martinez to keep McCarthy on the pitch. Is the major problem with the team due to poor man management?

Rob Dolby
20 Posted 14/04/2016 at 23:52:54
We seem to play equally well sideways and backwards with 10 men as we do with 11.
Maybe we can put goals at the side of the pitch.

Something has to change soon. We cant have a billionaire owner who wants to act as a patsie for BK. Can we!?
Paul Kossoff
21 Posted 15/04/2016 at 01:18:59
Ian 165, 'The plan at Burnley was to spend nothing in the Premier League. Yes they went down but not the way Villa are rock bottom. It was there plan to spend in the Championship. Oh they are 2nd. Plan is working I think.'

Oh I see, Burnley's plan, 'as you see it' is to spend lots of money to get where? the Premier League!! then not spend, thus getting relegated to?? the Championship!!!

As far as you saying we are not a big club, didn't Benitez say that once,I hope you were not agreeing with him then?

Simeone Athletic Madrid manager, hard as nails, excellent defensive coach, everyone works hard for him. We have the cash now, let's not get some clueless yard dog in like Sean 'we will spend when relegated' Dyche.

Paul Kossoff
22 Posted 15/04/2016 at 01:28:00
Re 21, Sorry, that was a comment for the ten man blues post.
Mick Davies
23 Posted 15/04/2016 at 03:11:06
Surprisingly, my man of the match was Robles. So for all those calling for out of form Howard to be dropped for about 12 months – you know more about football than the 'arms-crossed-Rodin's-thinker-impersonator'
Andrew Laird
24 Posted 15/04/2016 at 07:47:55
Nice report, Lyndon, thank you. I look forward to reading both your report and Ken Buckley's, I hope Ken is well as I have missed his contrasting type of writing and observation.
Paul Birmingham
25 Posted 16/04/2016 at 07:49:33
This is a massive week in the Clubs season. No excuses are required, preambles from Jags et al be it bad luck, no luck and poor referees don't cut. If we are good enough we will do it.

I hope the players are putting double shots of whiskey on their porridge this week, as if they can't be bothered to try this week, then they should all be put up for sale.

Sick of the whole toxic sponge that has sapped this season into the worst in my lifetime. Time to show up, no more excuses, focus and at get some shots off, put some hard work and effort in. Have fucking go at Soton, RS, and Manure.

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