From My Seat: Middlesbrough (H)

Overall a good day out and we've now made the best start we have had in the Premier League years. I hope all this means something and we win something.

Ken Buckley 18/09/2016 28comments  |  Jump to last
Everton 3 - 1 Middlesbrough

Another full house at both ground and Room of Nonsense. Many were expecting a good debate on that eventful deadline day but with the good win up at Sunderland the main topic was should Barkley be in the starting eleven. A good majority thought we should start with the team that wiped Sunderland in the second half yet by the time we reassembled after the game it was unanimous that the manager had got it spot on with Ross heeding his words and playing something like we know he can. Get him going in today’s vein consistently and he will be a real asset.

We did manage a quick word on the deadline day fiasco but in jocular mode as the two victories since that day have all but rendered it moot. Some described it as Keystone Cops, others as complete farce with trains and boats and planes lined up ready for non-existent passengers. I liked the one where it was suggested that the negotiating team had been on the lash most of the day and had far too much ‘White’. Well, it is the Room of Nonsense so we will leave it at that and head off into the L4 evening and join the walk up along with a throng of smiling happy Blues full of confidence, such has been our first set of results. No thought of defeat amongst this lot.

On reaching Goodison road all the familiar out lets were thriving. The fat van (no bacon), hat scarf, badge stand, Blue Dragon and café were attracting queues. The turnstile worked like a dream via its new technology so it was on to my seat.

Z-Cars was received with a great roar from its first bars and every player got a good roar as there name was called, none more than Ross and Gareth who was starting his 600th game in the Premier League. Only Giggs and Lampard are ahead of him and the next ones on the list behind him have not reached 500 yet.

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The game started on the whistle of our ref Mr Lee Mason. I love this ref as he always gives me the impression he comes for an easy time; just tries to get the game over without too much bother, claim his money and hop it. He didn’t disappoint me today and I admit to a chuckle when he let the Boro first goal stand even though our ‘keeper was fouled and all the Everton players politely complained — except the Stek who booted the ball high toward the dug out in disgust. Yellow card.

However the awarding of the goal roused the faithful to ‘Bear Pit’ mode and this livened our players somewhat who attacked and from a cross Williams pinned their keeper, Barry blasted home into the roof of the net and Mr Mason saw nothing so 1 –1 it was and all square and all mates again. I have to say that up to these two instances the game had been somewhat flat, with Boro having the better of what attacks there were in those first twenty odd minutes. ‘Bear Pit’ mode was continued as far as the faithful were concerned and this level of support clearly lifted the players and the intensity, aggression and pace the manager often talks about was becoming more evident.

Gana was thrilling the crowd with his all-round play and within my earshot is already a firm favourite with the Blue army. Ross was winning over many a doubter as the team effort built. So did the roar of the crowd and you could just sense a goal.

Bolasie was raiding swiftly and causing problems with his direct runs and early crosses aided, abetted by a rejuvenated Coleman who looks to be gaining confidence in the man in front of him and this was highlighted in the 42nd minute when Coleman got down the right, swapped passes with the winger and cut inside and into the box with pace and timing that left him free in the box. He didn’t hurry anything as he got to the middle of the box and cut back a deft left foot shot with supreme accuracy along the turf and into the bottom corner.

Pandemonium broke out both on the pitch and terraces. The Park End turned to the away support and bellowed out ‘We only sing when we are winning’. I enjoyed that goal and the party atmosphere stayed with us until injury time in the first half when Bolasie again got down the right and put in a wicked cross that you just had to be there to see Lukaku alone in front of goal go at the ball with his leg, then hip, then head. By this time their keeper was mesmerised and bewildered as he was transfixed, didn’t move and the ball trundled on into the net. The players celebrated but not with the usual conviction.

Our match-day announcer is always quick off the mark to rev up the scorers name – today nothing. On all our lips were the words ‘Did he touch that’; the playback on the big screen proved nothing except we all have different levels of eyesight. Some claimed they saw the faintest of touches; most of us were in the “not a clue” class but about a minute after the goal our match day announcer piped up with ‘Everton’s scorer was Bolasie, so he was in our gang of seeing no touch. Most papers I have seen say it was Lukaku’s goal and if it helps the lad’s confidence I will go along with it.

H/T whistle, 3-1 up and with no thought of letting these leads slip in the mind it was time to plan for EFL cup match. I wonder if Goodison will have some of the new lights working.

Second half and with the two goal cushion we changed the shape a little with Gana and Barry operating a little deeper and Ross taking more responsibility in the box-to-box role and his quick feet and sudden change of direction was causing trouble for the Boro defence which, by the way, was the meanest last term in the Championship.

In that second half I noticed the big strong Negredo was becoming more and more isolated and of little trouble to either Jags or Ash who are forging a decent partnership. I do just wonder, however, if it may be their lack of height that might just give them problems against the 6’3 or 6’4 brigade. We will see.

The second half continued with us that bit deeper but keeping the ball well and hitting row Z when required and no player took any offence when urged to use that tactic by the Park End coaches. I did notice though that throughout the second half we abandoned our deeper approach and had ten-minute-or-so spells of fast incisive attacking. We didn’t manage to score in these forays but we did come close a couple of times. I wonder if it’s something they are working on? It looked to me as though it could be a rewarding ploy.

The half moved on and on the hour mark they blinked first and made a sub. Evertonian Nugent replaced Nsue and just 5 or so minutes later Big Rom was seen to have a bit of a limp and in a break in play the physio told him to come off which he did then seemed to have a bit of an argument with the physio but then limped down the tunnel. He was replaced by our debutant Valencia who looked as though he knows the job and ran about well, made three very good set up headers and played as first a number nine. Then when Deulofeu replaced Mirallas he went to number 10 with Geri leading the line and bringing a lot of pace to the attack.

With about 20 minutes to go we were comfortable and well the better side but you could see Bolasie hit the wall. He charged up and down both flanks all game to that point but now he was finding it progressively harder to get back after a foray forward.

In injury time Big Ron sent on Cleverley for Gareth Barry to receive a rowdy and appreciative send off as he waved to all sides of the ground. 600 not out and he and Gana had been the kingpins in today’s victory. Age is just a number so long may he keep his present form up because we will find it very hard to replace the man.

Final whistle and some very happy Evertonians make their way off. Well, maybe not those in the Top Balcony as we had an announcement that the escalators had packed up. So the stairs it would be. I hope you all got out ok.

MotM: Idrissa Gana Gueye and Gareth Barry

Overall a good day out that threw up an odd statistic. Boro had no direct shots on goal in the game but still scored a goal. Strange, eh? Also this is the best start we have had in the Premier League years. I hope all this means something and we win something.

I will continue to do what I always do and that is my first check on the league table is as we go into Christmas as we normally finish two places either side of our position on that day. If Big Ron keeps them consistent I may get excited for once.

Norwich Tuesday night. The team selection will be interesting. See you there.


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Reader Comments (28)

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David Ellis
1 Posted 19/09/2016 at 04:07:25
As usual an excellent match report Ken. A great response from a sickening opener for Boro. As soon as we equalised I felt the game was all over... a feeling I never got last season, even with a two goal cushion.

I am overjoyed at present but there are few areas for improvement:

(a) the roles played by Mirallas & Barkley are not quite top team standard. Barkley was much tidier today and both of them work a lot harder off the ball than last season, Mirallas dramatically so. However, they aren't clinical enough and in games of few chances that will cost us points. I feel slightly guilty making this point because they are both much improved, but I can see why Koeman was looking to strengthen in this area in the summer.

(b) Valencia – played pretty much as I expected, ran around a lot but carried no threat. I am happy we have him on loan for the season as we are going to need him, but of course we do need better cover for Lukaku.

(c) Jags had a few stray clearances today...but overall I was happy how our centre backs, not known for their distribution, looked comfortable even under an early high press from Middlesbrough.

So we are clear in second... we've not really had a proper test, the game against Tottenham was more of a pre-season game for both teams, but the manner of our wins bodes well - and we are being taken seriously by the media as Champions League contenders for once. Great to hear the Boro manager saying that Everton are not in the same league as Boro, their mini-league includes the likes of Palace and West Brom. Moyes also acknowledged this.

I was surprised (well not really) that so many pundits were backing Man Utd for the title this season. 5 games in and both Chelsea and Man Utd look like they did last season – some very good players but a rotten dressing room and a bang average team. 4 from Arsenal, Liverpool, Everton, Tottenham and Man City. Hoping Liverpool's weak defence costs them too many points (as it has already), and Tottenham's and Arsenal's Champions League commitments take their toll.

Peter Mills
2 Posted 19/09/2016 at 06:43:34
Good to read your report, Ken, I agree with pretty much all that you (and David Ellis #1) say.

I can't say I found the 2nd half thrilling, but it was admirable in terms of boxing off the game – containment and counter attack. After the last couple of years, I'm very content with that.

Tony Ateman
3 Posted 19/09/2016 at 07:59:45
The Top Balcony escalators break down every other game. Fortunately it's usually after we have managed to use them to get up. I think it's part of Koeman's training schedule for us.
Andy McNabb
4 Posted 19/09/2016 at 08:21:03
'Park End coaches' – like it!
Dave Abrahams
5 Posted 19/09/2016 at 09:09:21
I think, Ken, you have portrayed how happy most fans are going to the game this season. If Everton continue to perform like this it will be a rewarding season for all of us. That doesn't mean we will win anything, I hope we do, but it will be great to go to each game with confidence.

Regarding who scored the third goal for us, I haven't a clue, but when they showed the replays of it, it produced much laughter around me in the Upper Bullens Road stand, three attempts off Lukaku and no real evidence if he touched it, but a goal is a goal no matter who scored it.

Thomas Lennon
6 Posted 19/09/2016 at 09:12:01
Bit unfair to write off Valencia so quickly. He got 10 mins at the end after a largely 'controlling' second half. He was a welcome addition to the faded 'defending from the front', quick and strong, every inch a Koeman player.
Ken Buckley
7 Posted 19/09/2016 at 09:29:11
Thomas #6

I think you may have the wrong thread. No mention of writing off Valencia here in report or comments.

Dennis Stevens
8 Posted 19/09/2016 at 10:10:32
Another great report, Ken. I always feel you really get the sense of atmosphere & action perfectly captured in your reports – or maybe your write-up is better than the actual experience! Hopefully this season will be one of positivity, whereas for the last couple of seasons the only positivity seemed to be in the increasingly disconnected ramblings of OFM.
Dave Williams
9 Posted 19/09/2016 at 11:11:15
Ken, great report but David (#1) does say that Valencia carried no threat which I think is what Thomas is referring to.

I agree with Thomas; as a team we carried no threat in the last 25 minutes so to saddle Valencia with an inference that he won't cut it is way too harsh. I thought his movement and effort were fine and if anything he did more in his time on the pitch than Rom who I thought tried hard enough but was crowded out by a very physical Borough side.

Valencia may or may not make it but it was not possible to form a proper opinion based on Saturday. Likely he will start tomorrow with Rom carrying a knock and we will get a better idea then.


Brent Stephens
10 Posted 19/09/2016 at 11:21:33
Yes, "Park End coaches" I enjoyed!

I actually thought the second half wasn't bad at all, from a purist point of view. 3-1 up, a now-solid defense, no actual threat from Boro. Contain, control, retain possession but not in a negative way, with little bursts of energy and attempted cute through balls, and a few shots. Nobody going hell for leather unless necessary and so not risking injuries.

Anto Byrne
11 Posted 19/09/2016 at 11:27:16
Rom deserved the goal for sheer desperation; otherwise, it would have been a fairly easy save for the keeper.

Before you blame Stekelenburg for not collecting the ball properly, it was Coleman who gave the winger acres of space to put in the cross.

I still see a lot of areas for improvement and I'm hoping this isn't just an early season good start and the wheels fall off in a few weeks. Having said that, if we have a good points haul after 10 games and don't lose any players to hammys or the like, we should be able to build up momentum and make one of those top six positions our own.

I have a feeling that Chelsea and Man Utd will struggle and RS may be a bit inconsistent. Barkley started off slow and by the end of the game was directing traffic; let's hope he can get to the level of air traffic controller and quickly.

Jay Wood
12 Posted 19/09/2016 at 11:48:43
Since Saturday on various threads there has been some disappointment expressed at the 2nd half performance, that we didn't put Boro to the sword.

My reading is if we can play well for just 20 minutes every game, establish a 3-1 half time lead and comfortably see out the 2nd half without anxiety for the remainder of the season, I think I'd settle for that.

I don't think our performance dropped off in the 2nd half. As Brent mentions, we had a couple of spells in which we were entrenched around the Boro area, but added no goals.

Overall, I saw the 2nd half as a really mature and professional one. We were in total control. Our own goal was never threatened. We conserved a lot of energy as there was no need to go all gung-ho. Koeman himself made mention at his delight in our 2nd half performance.

Who knows? That 2nd half and others like it may benefit us in the long term, later in the season, giving us small percentage gains that make all the difference when we need to call on those unspent energy reserves to retrieve a losing situation.

Col Wills
13 Posted 19/09/2016 at 12:40:08

Mention needs to be made about the Boro supporters chants for Derek Ackers and the respect they showed, much appreciated by all blues.

Jeff Winter (ex ref and Boro fan) did a little speech afterwards in which he noted the respect both clubs have shown each other on previous occasions.

I would also like to congratulate Stekelenburg for the calming influence he has brought since his arrival and what a fine acquisition he is proving.

Tony Heron
14 Posted 19/09/2016 at 12:48:32
Thanks for another great report Ken. As I've said before yours is the only report I take any notice of including all the national and even local press. I agree with Dennis @8, the way you capture the atmosphere from the "room of nonsense" through to the actual match is both hugely entertaining and informative.

By the way, Dennis, you are blessed to share the same name as one of my favourites from the Everton team of the early '60s. I wonder if any one else remembers him, with his habit of holding his shirt cuffs tight throughout the game much the same way as Ronnie Goodlass did in later years.

Jay Wood
15 Posted 19/09/2016 at 13:12:44
Just read that under Martinez between February 2014 and May 2016 Everton only managed to win from a losing position twice in Premier League games.

Koeman's Everton have already equalled that in his first 5 Premier League games at the club, against WBA and Boro.


Patrick Murphy
16 Posted 19/09/2016 at 13:19:28
Whilst I'm in agreement that we were largely untroubled in the second half of Saturday's game, it was a snooze fest and if it hadn't have been for Gareth Barry getting his deserved accolades at the final whistle, we could have all gone home at half-time and missed very little.

The last 20 minutes at Sunderland was similar; I'm not complaining about it though, I'd rather Everton be in a comfortable position than not. But I hope we don't miss out on anything significant for not improving our goal difference when the opportunity was there in both matches.

Tony Kost
17 Posted 19/09/2016 at 13:35:25
As has been mentioned - in two games we have come back from a losing position. These results have not gone against the expected result tho.

But no games in the Prem are gifts. Just look at Watford - Man Utd and Burnley - Liverpool.

Last season, we were totally unpredictable – losing games/drawing from winning positions.

Our back 4 and keeper are now much more secure. Ross is having a go at tackling – he just needs to win those tackles now.

One area to improve on is starting on the front foot and remaining on it for the whole 90 minutes.

It was great coming back from 1-0 down to 3-1 at half-time. We should have pressed hard for another 2 goals in the second half.

We will play much better teams and so we should work on this 90-minute intensity against the so-called lesser clubs. It would prepare us for the tougher teams/games.

Peter Jones
18 Posted 19/09/2016 at 14:02:35
Barry gave away possession in a dangerous position in the first half. Luckily the Middlesboro player was inept. If Barkley had done the same the knives would have been out. It is amazing the way some players get a free ride while others, usually the local lads, are pulled up on any mistake. As if there is a player born who doesn't have the odd bad game.
Ken Rushton
19 Posted 19/09/2016 at 14:12:46
Tony (#14), Denis Stevens – one of the most underrated players of our great 1963 title winners. A lot of fans of the time took a while to understand why our No 8 was playing so deep. Nat Lofthouse credited Dennis with creating a large percentage of his goals when he was at Bolton.

Wally [Nobby] Fielding played holding his shirt cuffs... I don't recall Dennis doing so.

James Welford
20 Posted 19/09/2016 at 14:15:36
Thank you, Ken, for another wonderful report that was a joy to read. I am beginning to get very excited about where this team is going!

It's very interesting to note that you're seeing stuff the team and coaches are working on as hinted at by Koeman's press conferences. At last! A proper manager!

Ray Roche
21 Posted 19/09/2016 at 14:19:39
Tony, Ken,

True, Stevens was very underrated. I remember my Dad saying that he did more work than anyone in the team. They used to say that Martin Peters was ahead of his time, well Stevens was also AND he preceded Peters in his thoughtful but all-action style covering so much of the ground. Bit like Ball but without... well, without that special something that Ball was born with.

Ken, I don't remember the shirt thing either. Young used to do it sometimes. Consequently, so did I.

Steve Hogan
22 Posted 19/09/2016 at 15:22:03
Found this game a little strange to be honest. Everton started really slowly out the traps, allowing Boro to dictate for the first 15 mins. I also thought the Stek could have done better with the first 'goal'; if it was us who scored it, would we all be so convinced it was a foul?

However, it was his first 'blip' since he started in goal from the beginning of the season and otherwise he's been impressive.

In an ideal world, I would have liked us to have put Boro to the sword in the second half, simply because they offered nothing in terms of goal threat.

I thought Ross, having heeded the words of the boss, looked tentative in the first half and opted for the simple ball, however, that's not his game, he's much better than a 'McCarthy clone 2', hopefully he'll get his confidence and old verve back.

Koeman's no fool though, he'll know and understand that the current team aren't the finished article, the real test will come over the next few months, but great progress has been made in a very short period of time, as the team, and certain individuals in it, have improved beyond belief.

The icing on the cake is the 'mini dynamo', the mighty mouse, Gana. I watched his game closely on Saturday and he's very light of foot, he simply glides around the pitch and has re-invented the art of a 'good tackle', almost unknown these days in the Premier League.

I think we've got ourselves a little gem there.

Joe Brennan
23 Posted 19/09/2016 at 21:03:22
As I remember, it was Alex "Chico" Scott who ran down our right wing holding his shirt cuffs, which I used to imitate on Jubilee Park in Huyton!
Tony Heron
24 Posted 20/09/2016 at 07:32:35
Hi Joe @23 I too imitated my heroes on Jubilee Park (Wembley!!). Could you be the same Joe Brennan from Hawthorne Rd and ex St Alys?
Joe Brennan
25 Posted 20/09/2016 at 08:41:29
Hi Tony – I'd spotted your name and thought, No it won't be the one I knew. Over fifty years ago and mostly happy days! Wonder if there are enough of us left for a kick around?
Tony Heron
26 Posted 20/09/2016 at 08:53:23
Hi Joe thats the lovely thing about social media, the chance of finding an old friend from the past. As for a kick about, I'm not sure if we could get a 5-a-side, and a kick is about all I could manage! Happy days indeed, in the Boys Pen watching the Golden Vision, Chico and Gabby and all for a shilling (5p)! Best wishes to you, COYB.
Dave Abrahams
27 Posted 20/09/2016 at 09:14:03
Ken (#19) yes Wally (Nobby) Fielding used to play holding his shirt cuffs, what a combination he and Eggo (Tommy Egglington) were. Dennis Stevens was one of my favourite Everton players, a workaholic, don't recall him holding his shirt cuffs.
Mick Davies
28 Posted 20/09/2016 at 18:00:00
Steve @ 22, "I also thought the Stek could have done better with the first 'goal'."

So our goalie catches the ball, gets fouled and the ball goes in and he could have done better? Tell me what he could have done better? If anyone was at fault (besides the linesman and ref) it was Ashley Williams, who just refused to jump with (Negredo?) the striker.

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