From My Seat: Hull City (H)
An action packed week had flown by and it was time to get down to Goodison Park. Always a great experience even in the pouring rain. We met as usual and over a pint we chewed over this week’s happenings. Rom’s outburst was the only item and after some deliberation most were agreed that, apart from going public and saying our club lacks ambition which could have negative repercussions in the player recruitment department, he was spot on. Remember Ratner’s Jewellers when the owner said his stuff was crap the public believed him and the business is no more? We could have had players lined up for the summer giving us the swerve after Rom’s remark.
Our manager handled the situation superbly and after the reception our fans gave Rom roaring as one when his name announced over the speakers so let us put this to bed and hope no damage done and get on with the task of breaking glass ceilings along with an announcement regarding our new ground.
The walk up was one of Umbrellas, hoods, caps and coats worn by fans bending forward toward the rain but still in high spirits. Another sell out which ensures brisk business for the fast food outlets and hopefully a good attendance at St Luke’s for a good dig around.
In for Z-Cars and we are attacking the Park end. Both teams made a bright start and looked to be played in open fashion with both teams needing the points albeit for different reasons.
Barely ten minutes had passed when Barkley played and excellently weighted pass to Davies who had stayed onside and our energetic youngster broke clear down the right and whipped in a low cross that Calvert–Lewin tapped home, much to the vocal delight of those in attendance.
We had visions of putting this game to rest early doors but that was not to be the case as Hull dug in and gave as good as they got. It was all a bit frantic with both teams making errors as they played the ball about in search of an opening but both teams were guilty of misplacing passes at crucial moments as well as calling their ball control into question.
This end to end with no end product went on until half time with just a couple of chances each, for Everton Calvert-Lewin got his head to a cross but it lacked power and from a Barkley whipped in cross both Davies and Calvert-Lewin just failed to connect.
On the half hour Schneiderlin went down and had to come off with a calf problem and replaced by Barry. This was a shame as up to this point the Frenchman had been lively and commanding in the holding roll. The winger on loan from Liverpool raised some derisive cheers when from well in the box he skied his shot into the crown.
Then we had comic cuts between Joel and Williams as the Welshman dithered over a back pass and Clucas got between him and Joel and lifted the ball over Joel and fortunately for us over the bar. After the goal kick Joel and Williams amid much arm waving eventually settled their differences and that was the first half.
Hull came out with renewed effort and desire and certainly did most of the attacking. The way they came down both flanks and got crosses in had many of us seeing the equaliser sooner rather than later. After a good few minutes of this pressure we did get the ball down the right channel and Rom was on to it and cutting in onto that howitzer of a left peg and fired one in full of venom but alas the keeper was well positioned to see the ball fly just over the bar.
It was noticeable that Hull had the upper hand thus forcing further back than we would have liked so our manager made a change by bringing off Calvert-Lewin and sending on Funes Mori and change the shape to three at the back with Coleman and Baines as wing backs. Mori was soon in the action as their keeper punched a ball out straight to him but alas he hit it hard across goal and out, was it a cross or a shot only he will know.
We were now gaining momentum ourselves and some good passing movements got us in to good positions but yet again it was breaking down in the final third. Rom lifted spirits when again he got on the ball out right and cut in at speed and hit one with real venom that the keeper got hands to it and put it behind, I bet he felt the force of that. Hull would not lie down and a one goal margin is always difficult each time the opposition get into the heart of our defence especially so when a Hull player had a side foot effort at the far post and ruffled the netting. Much to our relief it was the side netting.
I was now watching the clock in interruptions in play as Hull kept coming but then with about fifteen to go Huddleston launched himself into a head on tackle with Gana which put the Everton man into the air. The ref deemed it dangerous and produced red. Huddleston was roundly booed as he trudged off. Gana limped off after treatment but then came back on.
Against ten men we regained control of the game so our manager made another change and took off the excellent Davies who had covered most blades of grass and sent on Valencia. A good moved as it turned out as within minutes Rom turned provider and fed a delightfully weighted ball into the path of Valencia who had found him with a good pass. Valencia strode on goal drew the keeper and slotted. Relief all around as we sensed that three good points would be ours.
But this game was far from over as the fourth official held his board aloft signalling four minutes added. In the first of those minutes Valencia returned the compliment to Rom by producing a defence splitting pass for the big man to go one on one with the keeper and he slotted with aplomb and if that was not enough of rubbing salt into wounds then in the last of the four mins he did it all over again. The Rom song was aired after each goal and on the whistle he clapped and waved to his admirers so we all set off out of the ground the best of pals.
M.o.t.M. Barkley and or Davies
A 4-0 win that looks on paper a bit of a tanning but it was anything but. Hull gave a good account of themselves for a good 70 minutes but a sending off and a late, late goal-fest did for them. Still another three points toward that top table where we sit sixth at the moment but Arsenal and Man U have a couple of games in hand but we have the points so who knows.
A bit of a break now until we pop across the road to the neighbours for lunch and a kick-about. See you soon.
UP THE BLUES
Can we take the opportunity?There's something special about an English game of football in cold, wet and windy conditions, and walking on to Goodison Park from the pub, you really felt that buzz amongst the pre-game bustle.
Prior we had enjoyed a few beers watching a dismantling job by West Bromwich Albion on Arsenal. It's always good to see a big team get beaten, but I do feel a bit uncomfortable with the criticism that falls on Arsene Wenger's door after over two decades of success nearly all other Premier League clubs can only envy. Anyway, that's their no problem, not ours.
We were in our seats in time for the retained Phil Jagielka to lead the team out. I was pleased he kept his place and it was good to see Leighton Baines also recover to play. Romalu Lukaku received generous applause from the Gwladys Street as he strolled out. Otherwise, Gareth Barry will have felt unlucky not to start the game after an impressive effort against West Bromwich Albion, whilst Kevin Mirallas was given the day off to enjoy the birth of his new daughter. It was good to see the kids gain an opportunity in their place. Tom Davies and, perhaps more surprisingly, Dominic Calvert-Lewin both more than benefiting in abundance, them along with another young academy graduate, Ross Barkley, combining with School of Science craft to unlock Hull City for the opening goal only nine minutes into the game. Somebody stood up in front of me a bit too quickly and I missed Calvert-Lewin putting the ball in the net but it was a dream start to an entertaining game with Everton firmly on top.
Our united belief amongst those around us and I in the Lower Gwladys is that Ashley Williams has been disappointing so far at Everton. This view was supported when his hesitancy resulted in a golden opportunity for Sam Clucas who lofted the ball over Joel Robles but onto the roof of the gaping net. You have to take them chances when you're down the bottom. In fairness to Ashley Williams, shortly afterwards he did anticipate well to make a brave block-tackle inside our penalty area following more Everton dithering. The injury sustained to Morgan Schneiderlin aside, coming in at half time the feeling was more than satisfactory.
The second half, for the most part, was a tense affair. So concerned was I with Hull City's growing confidence in the game that at one point I turned to Ste saying "I don't want to go into the last five minutes at one nil. We need to kill this off". Andrew Robinson came closest for the Tigers with a fairly tame volley into the side-netting, while Romalu Lukaku twice came close to scoring with similar breakaway opportunities, one when he blazed over the crossbar when he had a good chance to play in Dominic Calvert-Lewin; the other came when he was found by an outstanding ball from Leighton Baines. This time his drive was beaten away by Eldin Jakupovic.
Ronald Koeman was also concerned with Hull City's threat and removed Dominic Calvert-Lewin to add another centre back in Ramiro Funes-Mori. This did help us control the game but we got additional help with the red card for Thomas Huddlestone. Having seen it since I think it was probably a bit reckless and probably a red card. I thought it was a bit similar to the one Ross Barkley got away with in the Merseyside derby, except the whole world turned on Ross for that challenge. Everyone seems sympathetic for Thomas.
Ross's form back then was questionable at best, however he now seems to have put that poor form firmly behind him. His play was scintillating yesterday and if we are to topple Liverpool in a fortnight he'll need to find that level again.
With Hull City down to 10 men we seized the opportunity to finish the visitors off. Romalu Lukaku and substitute Enner Valencia combined masterfully to put the game beyond reasonable doubt, Enner's goal coming immediately after he took to the field. I said to Ste that this was an opportunity to really punish Hull CIty and we did just that with Romalu Lukaku in on the act late on with two injury time goals against our weary opposition. His first when he slotted past Eldin Jakupovic with his left foot, his second when he intercepted a tired back pass, rounded the goalkeeper and stroked the ball home with his right foot. League goals number 20 and 21 for Romalu this season. This completed the demolition job and though a deserved three points, the scoreline was more than flattering.
These two consecutive home wins after our slump at Tottenham Hotspur has given us an opportunity to really shake up the top six if we can go and win at Anfield and Old Trafford these next two fixtures. History dictates this would be unlikely, but we need to hope and need to believe.
Do we want to make a statement of our ambition? Well here's our chance to do it, right here.
Player ratings:Robles: Had little to do really. One decisive punch springs to mind but otherwise was rather untested. 6
Baines: Had a very good, solid and energetic game. Just what he needed after a minor injury going into the Merseyside derby. 7
Jagielka: Was pretty solid and comfortable. That should be enough to retain his place for the our trip to Anfield. 7
Williams: Is yet to convince. What strikes me is when he makes mistakes he never really takes responsibility for it, he's always yelling at someone else as if it's their fault. I hope he can improve, and fast. 6
Coleman: Not quite at his best though he did get forward a lot. 6
Gueye: Had a very good game. I was relived he got up from the Thomas Huddlestone foul and hope he comes back from international duty safe and sound. 8
Schneiderlin: It seems almost obligatory for a key player to get injured or suspended before a Merseyside derby, and I really hope he can recover as I believe he could be vital to success at Anfield, especially with James McCarthy seemingly unavailable. As we found last time, the pace might be just a bit too much for Gareth in the derby. I really hope that Morgan is available. 6
Davies: He never stops. He made a great assist for Dominic Calvert-Lewin's opener and was busy throughout. 7
Barkley: He provided awesome control of the game and was instrumental throughout. A quite brilliant display. My man of the match. 8
Calvert-Lewin: Did well. Not the finished article by any means but he looks a good prospect and knows where the goal is. Well done. 7
Lukaku: Worked hard throughout seemingly without reward and then showed what he's the best at with two late goals. I expect he will be leaving us come the summer and I don't necessarily blame him if he does so. I do hope for a few farewell gifts in our next two fixtures however. Also, is 30 league goals out of the question from him this season? It would mean a goal a game in the remaining nine, but on his current form I wouldn't put it past him. 8
Barry (for Schneiderlin): It took him the remainder of the first half to settle into the game but he did pretty well in the second half. 6
Funes Mori (for Calvert-Lewin): He settled into the game pretty quickly. He's certainly more comfortable in a back three. Though I'm not a big fan, it seems apparent that Ronald Koeman sees something in him as these last few games when he's been out of the team he's still found a way to keep him involved off the substitutes bench. 6
Valencia (for Davies): What an impact off the substitutes bench. It's great that Enner Valencia, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Kevin Mirallas have all given Ronald Koeman food for thought in attacking positions going into our next two huge games. 7
Everton play the second of two successive home games before testing trips to Anfield and Old Trafford as improving Hull City come to Merseyside.
The Blues have made Goodison Park something of a fortress in 2017; they're unbeaten since the turn of the year and can boast clean sheets in four of their last five in home turf.
Having comfortably dealt with West Bromwich Albion last Saturday, Ronald Koeman's men face a Hull side still battling against the danger of relegation but which has been much improved since the clubs last met at the end of last year.
Since then, Marco Silvia has them looking far less like the soft touch they had become under his predecessor, Mike Phelan, although it's fair to say they were surprisingly potent against the Blues. They have won four of their last eight games, although the match winner on two of those occasions was Oumar Niasse, the striker on loan from Everton who is ineligible to play this weekend.
They will also be without one of the goalscorers in the reverse fixture, Michael Dawson, as well as Dieumerci Mbokani and Ryan Mason, while the other scorer, Roberto Snodgrass is no longer with the club. It's also worth noting that those recent wins all came at the KCOM Stadium and that their last away match was a 3-1 defeat at fellow strugglers, Leicester City.
It points to what should be another routine home win if Everton perform the way they have in front of their own fans in the League for the past 10 weeks.
Of course, there is the potential shadow over proceedings cast by Romelu Lukaku's contract situation to consider. The Belgian's decision not to extend his contract with Everton has rocked the club this week but it's unlikely to have much bearing on the contest with the Tigers.
Lukaku's focus has always been on doing his best for the team and advancing his own career and with emotion having played seemingly little part in his Blues career thus far, it doesn't seem likely that any fallout from his contract issues will affect his game.
And given the positive reaction that his interview with the media this past week has generated from many Evertonians, he probably won't receive an uncomfortable reception from the Goodison faithful either.
All being well, the 23-year-old will add his name to the scoresheet once more, become the first player to hit 20 league goals for Everton since Gary Lineker 31 years ago, and the Blues will leapfrog Manchester United into 6th place, for 24 hours at least.
Koeman will have Leighton Baines in contention again after he recovered from the back issue that forced him off halfway through the win over the Baggies.
James McCarthy is still ruled out, though, leaving the Dutchman the same central midfield options as last week. Gareth Barry started last time out and could retain his place after putting in a good performance if the manager views Hull's midfield in a similar vein as West Brom's.
Phil Jagielka, meanwhile, almost certainly did enough to warrant keeping his place in central defense alongside Ramiro Funes Mori and it's conceivable the Koeman will name an unchanged starting XI.
Kick off: 3pm, Saturday 18 March, 2017
Referee: Paul Tierney
Last Time: Everton 1 - 1 Hull City
Predicted line-up: Robles, Coleman, Jagielka, Williams, Baines, Barry, Schneiderlin, Davies, Barkley, Mirallas, Lukaku