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Venue: Britannia Stadium, Stoke
Premier League
 Saturday 6 February 2016; 3:00pm
0 3
Half Time: 0-3
Lukaku (pen) 11'
Coleman 27'
Lennon 42'
Attendance: 27,733
Fixture 25
Referee: Andre Marriner

Match Report

Roberto Martinez's tenure at Goodison has not been without its ups and downs but it's hard to imagine a more dejected feeling than the one that engulfed players, fans and manager alike at the end of our previous visit to Stoke City. The manager cut a harrowed figure as he trouped away from the dugout at the Britannia Stadium following a 2-0 defeat that was as wretched as any he has overseen at Everton before or since.

It is to his credit that – the debacle in Kiev aside – Martinez was able to dig deep with his charges following that game and initiate something of a revival that saw the Blues win five of next 10 games and improve their Premier League standing to an 11th-place finish.

Fast forward 11 months and the Catalan is once again effecting something of a turnaround in his team's fortunes and it's somewhat fitting that it was the return to Stoke that saw his team put on what was, perhaps, their most complete and comprehensive display of the season so far. Atonement for the two prior meetings with Mark Hughes's side and another step back towards the right area of the Premier League table.

That the final score wasn't a more emphatic illustration of just how superior Everton were in this match in almost every department was largely down to goalkeeper Jack Butland who recovered from the concession of an 11th-minute penalty to make three crucial saves in the second half as the Toffees threatened to run up a rugby score in wet and blustery conditions in the Potteries. In truth, six-, seven, or eight-nil would not have flattered the visitors.

If the actual result was reminiscent of the one at Southampton back in August, the two performances were similarly comprehensive but this was a game that was – Everton's penchant for self-sabotage notwithstanding – effectively over by the halfway stage. Aaron Lennon was still a hopeful soul in Spurs-imposed exile when the Blues ran riot at the St Mary's – and there have been times since when fans have questioned why Martinez ended up buying him if he wasn't going to use him – but the winger has been handed a chance to win back his place in the side lately and is grabbing it with both hands.

If not the star of the shows at Carlisle and against Newcastle, then at least deserving of equal billing, Lennon was arguably the standout performer in today's rout and he was run close by Bryan Oviedo, a player who, less than six months from the end of a contract, is in the process of trying to prove both his long-term fitness and his own worth to an Everton side that has certainly been upgraded since he joined the club four years ago. 'the Costa Rican put in what was perhaps his most accomplished display in a Blue jersey as Everton stubbornly refused to allow Stoke any opportunity to repeat the table-turning feat they managed on Merseyside in the reverse fixture six weeks ago.

And under-pinning it all was the humming dynamo at the centre of most of it, Ross Barkley. Scrutinised and pressurised last season, the 22-year-old has just got on with his steady development this term and is emerging as the genuine leader of this Everton side, if not in voice then certainly in deed and influence with the ball at his feet.

It was his brilliant heel flick to meet the run of Oviedo that paved the way for the opening goal via the penalty spot after Butland had committed himself to a challenge with Tom Cleverley that ended with the midfielder tumbling to the turf and referee Andre Marriner pointing to the spot. Romelu Lukaku stroked the resulting penalty straight down the middle to set the Blues on their way after 11 minutes and this time it was a lead they were determined to not only defend but also increase.

If Martinez's midfield were a little guilty of over-elaboration or questionable use of the ball at times over the ensuing quarter of an hour, a pleasingly consistent defensive shape and dogged defending by Phil Jagielka and Ramiro Funes Mori ensured that nothing came of it from a Stoke point of view.

And the second goal when it arrived after 27 minutes allowed them to strengthen their grip on the match. Gareth Barry won a corner off Ibrahim Affelay and the pin-point delivery was met by the willing run and leap of Seamus Coleman who guided an impressive header into the far corner. It was his first goal of the season and he marked it with a celebration dedicated to his newborn daughter.

Everton were pressing with noticeable vigour at times and it paid rich dividends for Lennon who was alive to a poor inside pass by a Stoke defender, one which he nipped in to intercept before racing away and sliding the ball past Butland with aplomb to make it 3-0 a few minutes before the break.

The anticipated response from Stoke, who had only tested Joel Robles once and meekly so just before the interval, after half time was short-lived and impressively contained by Everton who remained steadfast in their refusal to allow the Potters to play through them or get behind them. That restricted Hughes's side to a succession of crosses that, more often than not, found one or other of the impregnable duo of Funes Mori and Jagielka.

With Barkley ready to spring attacks on the counter, Everton remained a constant threat as Stoke committed numbers forward looking for a way back into the game, and three minutes after the break Barkley bounced off his man with a strong shoulder and spun away upfield before lashing a shot into the side-netting.

And just before the hour mark, it was his accurate cross that found Lukaku for what looked to be a certain fourth until Butland got enough of his gloves on it his header to turn the ball onto the crossbar. Two minutes after that, Marc Muniesa had blocked a goalbound shot from the striker after more impressive work by Lennon along the byline and when he tried to stab the loose ball home, the 'keeper was there again to foil him.

Lukaku then turned provider for James McCarthy with a tidy lay-off that the Irishman drilled narrowly past the far post as Everton pressed for another goal that would remove all possible doubt about the destination of the points.

That spell had seen Lukaku briefly come alive in a game where his role had largely been supportive rather than central. He admitted after the match that he was only operating at 80% following the back injury he sustained against Newcastle in midweek but, as is always the case with players of his calibre, even at below strength he was always capable of making a telling contribution.

It wasn't a surprise, though, that it was he who was afforded the opportunity of a rest with the score at 3-0 and Arouna Kone came on to replace him with 15 minutes to go. The Ivorian had only been on the pitch for a couple of minutes before he had a great chance to make it four when he was released into a one-on-one confrontation with Butland but the 'keeper pulled off another laudable save with an out-stretched leg.

In between, the determination by the back line to preserve the clean sheet remained evident as Funes Mori put in an excellent lunging block to divert Imbula's shot over the bar and Robles was able to make a last-minute adjustment to parry away Glen Johnson's swerving drive from distance.

The Spanish 'keeper was relatively untroubled but the calmness he brings to the defence is unmistakable and his distribution is a lot more consistent than Tim Howard, particularly with his weaker foot. Thanks to his efforts and those of the defence around him he racked up another clean sheet to add to those he earned this time a year ago, the last time he deputised for the injured American.

The travelling fans' calls for the late introduction of Kevin Mirallas were answered by Martinez with five minutes to go and the Belgian very nearly rounded things off nicely in stoppage time but the combination of a heavy cutback by Kone and Mirallas's inability to adjust his feet quickly enough saw him knock the ball harmlessly into the goalkeeper's arms from about three yards out.

Martinez's ability to craft a talented team hasn't really been questioned; with the exception of a couple of positions that still remain uncomfortably shallow, he has acquired players well and wisely in his two and a half years at the club. It's his acumen when it comes to putting out a balanced team that can be as miserly at the back as it can be electric going forward that has come under serious examination as lead after lead was squandered recently and Everton tumbled out of one cup and out of the reckoning for a Champions League place.

A combination of pressure from poor results, the timing of injury to Howard and John Stones, and the need to field a more balanced outfit where there is sufficient tracking back on the flanks and tighter, more concentrated defending, has led to three highly impressive results and as many clean sheets since the heartbreak of'that ill-fated Capital One Cup semi-final second leg.

More so than the more measured displays against Tottenham and twice against City (in the semi-final first-leg and the League) -- after which defensive lapses against Chelsea, Swansea and City (in the second leg) sowed real doubts about Martinez's ability to ever coach Everton to become a winning team – the last three games point, perhaps, to a corner having been turned.

Evertonians know all too well, however, about such corners turning into roundabouts where the Blues end up back where they started, so it's going to take a longer stretch of positive results before many can really begin to believe again that the promise of a bright future under Roberto can become a reality. One step at a time, but performances like today certainly point the way to what can be achieved and how this team can marry defensive solidity and attacking enterprise.

Lyndon Lloyd

Matchday Updates

Everton built on the midweek win over Newcastle with a splendid 3-0 win over Stoke City, Joel Robles keeping another clean sheet in goal.

No visa clearance for new signing Oumar Niasse but Romelu Lukaku was able to play despite coming off at half-time against Newcastle on Wednesday. Mirallas and Deulofeu were on the bench with Tim Howard and John Stones both still out injured.

Stoke kicked off and showed a little more urgency than Everton but Oviedo did get forward and won a corner that Cleverley swung in for Funes Mori, but his header was deflected behind, it should have been for a second corner – not given,

A quick break created by a brilliant backheel from Barkley set a telling move going down the middle with Oviedo playing in Cleverley and he won a soft penalty when he drew the trip off Butland, Lukaku converting from the spot, straight down the middle.

Stoke continued to press the visitors back but Everton's defence stood strong. However, without John Stones, they were having difficulty playing the ball out of defence at times. Shaqiri was always a menace down Everton's left but Oviedo looked to be enjoying the challenge.

Lukaku was not getting much service from long and mostly wayward balls, but Everton did win another corner that was superbly delivered by Cleverley and superbly headed in by Coleman, runnibg at the ball with purpose and getting ahead of two defenders to direct an excellent finish beyond Butland.

McCarthy went down injured but recovered, then Barry was caught on the elbow by Diouf and went down in some pain. Then, with Barkley off the field having a nose bleed staunched, Lennon was shaply on to a lose cross ball and off to the races, beating Butland Derek Temple fashion, a lovely finish to make it 3-0.

Robles was positioned well to stop a sharp move into the Everton area, as 5 minutes of added time were played out before the break.

A strong challenge by Barkley won the ball deep in the Everton half and the young star went on a great run that ended in a shot into the side netting after a very well-worked one-two exchange with Lukaku that split the Stoke defence asunder..

Some tremendous improvisation from Barkley preceded a fantastic cross laid on a plate for Lukaku to power goalward but a reaction touch from Butland was enough to push the ball up and onto the bar.

Lennon did drilliantly to drive in past two defenders and cut back for Lukaku but the big man leant back rather than attacking the ball and could not convert another golden opportunity.

Everton were required to be diligent in defence, Oviedo and Funes Mori with crucial blocks either side of a fine stop by Robles.

More excellent, if a little hesitant work from Barkley ende with Lukaku setting up McCarthy for a fine drive that really should have been on target. Barkley again danced around three Stoke defenders looking for the strike but taking too long to pull the trigger.

Koné came on and immediately got to run in at Butland with the ball, but the keeper won this one when Koné should really have scored. Then, from the resulting, corner Funes Mori all alone at the far post, headed wide when it seemed easier to bury it into the Stoke net.

Stoke City: Butland; Johnson, Wollscheid, Muniesa, Pieters; Imbula, Whelan; Shaqiri (62' Odemwingie), Afellay (62' Ireland), Arnautovic (75' Joselu); Diouf [Y:59']
Subs not Used: Bardsley, Crouch, Krkic, Haugaard.

Everton:Robles; Oviedo, Funes Mori, Jagielka, Coleman; Barry, McCarthy (90' Osman); Cleverley, Barkley (87' Mirallas), Lennon; Lukaku (75' Kone).
Subs not Used: Stanek, Baines, Deulofeu, Pienaar.

Attendance: 27,733

Referee: Andre Marriner

Michael Kenrick

From My Seat: Stoke City (A)

Stoke away is never a fixture to look forward to for an Evertonian; I believe our last success there was 2008. Still, we go in hope if not in expectation... yet if you take our last two games throwing up 3-0 wins with what looked like a departure from the tippy-tappy play across the back five – until panic sets in or we give up a goal for a more pragmatic "take no chances" and "work your socks off" approach, then today may not be so daunting.

After being searched, we were allowed entry and the weather looked like it might play a part as wind seemed to swirl around with rain akin to a monsoon season. You could see pools forming here and there. Stoke kicked off and we had the wind and played away from the faithful; at times it was hard to see and not just because everyone stands. We were in our all-Blue outfits and were looking to make a fast start; we got our first corner in the first 5 mins but nothing came of it then Stoke went down the other end and forced their first corner and theirs was worse than ours.

We settled quickly and were playing at a good tempo with every player looking to be involved, either going forward or covering back. We were harrying and tackling anything that moved which seemed to be unsettling Stoke and this paid off around the 10-minute mark when we put together a super move. Barkley had a ball come to him and in one movement backheeled it into the path of Oviedo who had Cleverly racing past him and Oviedo released a peach of a superbly weighted ball for Cleverly to race forward and look to go around the keeper but the said keeper brought him down leaving the ref to make a very easy penalty decision.

Lukaku took the spot-kick and hammered it down the middle; faithful go wild; players didn't overly celebrate so off we went again. A blue smoke bomb was cleared from the pitch. After the searches, you would wonder where it could have been hidden, the mind boggles...

We continued in our defence and attack mode as a team with all the players playing a part in covering each other and giving the player on the ball two or three options. Given the conditions, it was good to watch. On or near the half-hour we got a reward when Cleverly again ran on goal but was beaten by a Stoke sliding defender but won a corner which he took himself. He arced it in and from my seat I saw a figure in Blue come across the area and head home. It turned out to be Coleman and both players and fans celebrated accordingly.

Ah, the dreaded two-goal lead came to mind... but the way we were playing filled me with hope and I have to say we were making Stoke look quite ordinary which was a few notches up from the game at our place. Half-time was beckoning as the clock ticked just past 40 mins and I don't think I was the only one almost praying we don't let them get one back when we got down the left with the outstanding Oviedo but Stoke smothered that move.

One of their players passed the ball back across his own back four only for the quicksilver Lennon to intercept the ball and off like a robber's dog toward goal and keeper. With keeper approaching he gave a master class in one-on-one finishing leaving the keeper to do no more than turn and fish the ball out of the net. Big celebrations and then the chanting and singing erupted.

We had a few injuries in that half with Barry and McCarthy needing treatment on the field but thankfully both recovered. I dread to think how we would fare if both of them were missing so 5 mins were added as Stoke broke down their left and did get a shot in but Joel gathered comfortably and we played out the rest of the time in relative comfort.

Half-time: 0-3. At the start of play, that would have seemed an unlikely scoreline but everyone was very happy with it.

Second half and no subs so the injured must be mended which was a relief. The first 10 minutes or so we seemed under the cosh but, with some good teamwork all over the pitch, we slowly regained our superiority. We saw an Oviedo inspired raid down the left taken over by Barkley who with power and finesse got himself in on goal but unfortunately his finish was not as good as his approach play and shot into side netting.

Some minutes later Barkley again showed his progress with a slight of foot that allowed him to cross right on to Lukaku's noddle but the big man powered it straight at the keeper who got his hands up quickly enough to divert the ball onto the bar and out and cleared.

Next, Lennon, who was having some game, went past two defenders as if they were not there and from wide pulled the ball back for Lukaku to hit except he didn't. Gilt edged chance that. Still, every time we came forward now we looked like scoring yet contrived not to. The game continued in this vein of they attacked us, we defended as a team with Funes Mori and Oviedo prominent in one attack by Stoke that saw Joel do well with a push out. We attacked and Barkley and Lukaku team up to cut through the Stoke defence like a knife through butter with the latter seeing McCarthy steaming toward the box fed him in and the Irishman hit a power drive that missed by inches – should have scored really.

As I watched the game tick by, I got to thinking about our new way of playing and Leicester City came to mind. They work like hell for each other, take few chances at the back, and attack swiftly with just the right number of bodies getting forward at pace and, if the move breaks down, they regroup at alarming speed. To me, that is the right sort of "joined-up footy".

Fifteen minutes to go and the manager swops Lukaku for Kone, which seemed a sensible move even though his first touch was a one-on-one with the keeper and he matched our first choice striker by hitting the keeper's leg. Perhaps both of them could get Lennon to give them some tips. Time was ticking down as more chances came and went and we repelled their attacks with minimum fuss. The faithful were happy with this and broke into song urging our manager to 'Give us a dance'. He ignored that...

We had time for Jags to hit a slow back pass that he just about got away with and a Stoke sub Ireland hit high over the bar. Four minutes to go and Mirallas replaces Barkley. Then Osman for McCarthy with the Stoke fans disappearing like a 'Dynamo' Illusion. Osman's first touch is a good one and sets up a move, Mirallas cuts in from the right looking dangerous but falls over, Oviedo hits one high and wide while at the other end Joel gathers a headed attempt with some aplomb and to finish off Kone does well going past two men to the bye-line but his pull-back is just behind Mirallas. Shame that. Full time and all wet windswept and happy.

MotM: Choose whoever you want; no-one could argue with you but I was delighted with the performance of Oviedo. I just hope he can have a run injury free.

Overall a decent day out with a result that ensures both fans and players have a spring in their step for the WBA game. From the last three games we have scored nine goals, none against, without Howard or Stones. Can anything be read into that? I think not as I prefer to think it's the change in style that is suiting the players we have and it would be nice if we could stick with it for a while and see where it takes us as we know where our previous style was taking us.

I don't think our present manager is likely to be jettisoned any time soon after being allowed to spend £15.5M on Niasse. Be far better if he is really learning and keeps this run going. Another win next Sat and a run without too many injuries and who knows where we can be celebrating. See you Saturday for another traditional 3:00pm KO!!


Ken Buckley

Match Preview

Everton hope to build on the midweek win over Newcastle when they travel to Stoke City tomorrow.

Having endured a torrid run of form in front of their own fans, the Blues managed an unusually comfortable victory on Wednesday that can hopefully provide a springboard for the final quarter of the Premier Leage campaign.

The 3-0 score line was a fair reflection of Everton's attacking dominance and the chances they should have taken from open play; 1-0 would have been emblematic of what was a bit of a grind at times from Martinez's players as they spurned some good chances in their search for a first home win in the League since November.

Goodison Park probably could have done without the nerves that crept in as the second half wore on but a margin of victory that slender would have been greeted with plenty of relief and sufficient optimism for the next few games.

The most important thing was to win and, thanks to Aaron Lennon's persistence and both Ross Barkley's infectious direct running and his composure from the spot, the Toffees were able to drive home their superiority in the closing minutes.

It sets them up nicely for a mission of revenge and atonement against Stoke at the Britannia Stadium this weekend. If Everton's win at St James's Park hinted at Martinez's men getting back on track after a month of frustration following the events at Bournemouth in late November, the defeat to the Potters two days later at Goodison was a shot to the solar plexus.

Another blown lead and a controversial stoppage time penalty handed Stoke a 4-3 win and felt like being dumped back down to earth, with recriminations for the defence and manager from supporters.

In retrospect, the Blues made Stoke, and Xherdan Shaqiri in particular, look like world-beaters that day. Mark Hughes's side have won just once since and have looked decidedly ordinary; Shaqiri, over whom many a tantrum was thrown on social media when the Swiss "chose" the Britannia over Goodison -- in reality, Martinez and Everton were adamant they would only take him on loan where they could assess his suitability rather than splash 12m on him, a decision that looks prudent in hindsight -- hadn't scored before that game and hasn't scored since.

Encouragingly, while the Britannia is generally regarded as a tough place to go, Stoke have only won more home game than Everton this season and they've lost four of their 11 matches on their own turf. That offers hope for a Blues team that has only lost once on the road in the League this term and is looking to improve on a record of just three away wins.

Optimistic about Romelu Lukaku's chances of being fit, Martinez will have the same squad to choose from as he did on Wednesday against the Magpies plus the fit-again Kevin Mirallss and, possibly, new signing Oumar Niasse.

The Senegal striker is awaiting international clearance to make his debut following his 13m move from Lokomotiv Moscow and he would certainly be a handy and unknown quantity to
bring off the bench, particularly if Lukaku isn't up to 90 minutes.

Martinez said in his press conference this morning that, "this morning was important in terms of getting the final step of that paperwork and we're hopeful that he will be able to be available."
The decision over the availability of Lukaku will likely be made tomorrow, although the manager hinted in his "presser" that the striker could play through any lingering pain from the blow he took to his back in midweek.

He came off at half time in the 3-0 victory with the Magpies after taking a knee to the back from Fabricio Collocini but Martinez said he was moving more freely and "looked back to himself."

The Catalan continued: "After the game he found it very difficult to be able to walk without pain. It was a really difficult injury because all of a sudden he couldn't really feel the backs of his legs and we were a little bit worried.

"But there's no further damage and it was then about making sure he could get the feeling back and join in training today. We'll make an assessment depending on how good he is feeling today in training."

Martinez will still be without Muhamed Besic, John Stones and Tim Howard, however. All three are ruled out with, with the former two recovering from hamstring strains and Howard dealing with a knee problem apparently sustained in training in the early part of the week.

That means another opportunity for Joel Robles to impress between the posts. The Spaniard has been solid when handed opportunities to play in the cup competitions this season and, after Wednesday's win over Newcastle, he has four clean sheets in his last four Premier League appearances stretching back to this time last year.

Leighton Baines could return at left back after, presumably, being rested in midweek while Aaron Lennon's form makes him an almost automatic choice to start wide on the right, with Gerard Deulofeu a potential weapon from the bench in the second half.

This fixture last year marked arguably the nadir of the 2014-15 season but it has the potential to be the next stepping stone in an Everton revival this time around if the team can build on two routine victories and two clean sheets over the past 6 days.

With Ryan Shawcross missing for the Potters, there should, hopefully, be weaknesses to exploit in their back line while at the other end it's imperative that the threats posed by Marko Arnautovic and Bojan Krkic are nullified.

Kick off: 3pm
Referee: Andre Marriner
Predicted lineup: Robles, Coleman, Jagielka, Funes Mori, Baines, Barry, McCarthy, Cleverley, Lennon, Barkley, Lukaku

Lyndon Lloyd

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STOKE CITY (4-4-2)
  Affelay (Ireland 62')
  Shaqiri (Odemwingie 62')
  Arnautovic (Joseul 76')
  Diouf booked
  Subs not used

EVERTON (4-5-1)
  Funes Mori
  McCarthy (Osman 90')
  Barkley (Mirallas 87')
  Lukaku (Kone 75')
  Subs not used
  Besic (injured)
  Browning (injured)
  Howard (injured)
  Stones (injured)
  Garbutt (loan)
  Ledson (loan)
  McGeady (loan)

Premier League Scores
Aston Villa 2-0 Norwich
Liverpool 2-2 Sunderland
Man City 1-3 Leicester
Newcastle 1-0 West Brom
So'hampton 1--0 West Ham
Stoke City 0-3 Everton
Swansea 1-1 C Palace
Tottenham 1-0 Watford
Bournemouth 0-2 Arsenal
Chelsea 1-1 Man United

Team Pts
1 Leicester City 53
2 Tottenham Hotspur 48
3 Arsenal 48
4 Manchester City 47
5 Manchester United 41
6 West Ham United 39
7 Southampton 37
8 Everton 35
9 Liverpool 35
10 Watford 33
11 Stoke City 33
12 Crystal Palace 32
13 Chelsea 30
14 West Bromwich Albion 29
15 AFC Bournemouth 28
16 Swansea City 27
17 Newcastle United 24
18 Norwich City 23
19 Sunderland 20
20 Aston Villa 16


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