Aston Villa 1 - 2 Everton

So we were all set on the Tuesday, Gaz to drive, Dan and I looking forward to a few tinnies on route to Villa Park, when the WhatsApp apologetically beeped. It was Gaz.

“Really sorry, lads, I won’t be able to make the Villa game tomorrow now. Late notice I know but I’ve only just found out myself. See you Saturday.”

Come the Wednesday, Dan kindly opted to drive in the end. We set off at around 3:45 pm, and bar a couple of minor traffic patches, it was pretty plain sailing along the M6.

A few evenings earlier, I went for a late walk and bumped into a mate, Chris, who was walking his dog. He goes away every game watching Everton and tipped me off on a decent pub called The Bartons Arms. Just shy of a mile from the stadium, it was a good safe distance as in not too busy and had quite a few Evertonians in there, including Chris and the rest of his mates.

The pub does food too. Thai food at that. Having got a table upstairs, I shouted Dan and his son Alfie dinner as a thank you for driving… it’s not too often I have a Thai green curry with coconut rice as my pre-match meal. While tucking into this, we saw the team news and were surprised to see Jack Harrison beginning the game, and Sean Dyche going with three at the back. Dominic Calvert-Lewin led the line.

We walked the 20 minutes or so to beautiful Villa Park. I’ve never sat in the top tier of the North Stand before; ordinarily you are off to the side at Villa Park (or at least you definitely used to be!). It is some view from there and the 4,500 or so travelling Evertonians raucously greeted the team as they came out.

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There’s something beautiful about Everton playing away all in Blue. I was made aware before kick-off about the likely poor attendance from the Aston Villa fans due to obscenely high ticket prices for a League Cup game. Swaths of empty seats made for a dull home atmosphere. The Evertonians took full advantage of that and made themselves heard loud and proud.

And with the way we played, why wouldn’t we? Everton were straight into Aston Villa and took it to them in what was a fabulous away performance. Aston Villa had one or two meek attacks near the beginning of the game but that was about it from them in what was a very poor first-half effort from the home team.

It took only 15 minutes for Everton’s superiority to be rewarded. A dreadful pass/clearance from ex-Toffee Robin Olsen bounced up off Douglas Luiz and was seized upon quickly by Arnaut Danjuma. The Dutchman, after Dominic Calvert-Lewin had headed it back towards him, had the nous to head it backwards while on his backside to Amadou Onana. His through ball to James Garner was excellent, as too was James’ left-footed finish down in front of us. Delight from players and fans alike for James Garner’s first Everton goal.

Jack Harrison, who had a good, solid debut, slotted in a fine ball to Dominic, though Robin Olsen was out quick to thwart him. Unfortunately Dominic could only put the rebound into the side-netting. And John McGinn very nearly put the ball into his own net though Olsen again denied us. Really, you didn’t want the half to end.

Come the break, I was somewhat ruing our inability to punish Aston Villa while we were on top as I felt they couldn’t really play any worse in the second half…though it turns out they were equally as bad really despite their substitutions. 

Though it was only 5 minute into the second half when Dominic effectively put the game to bed. A lazy pass from Youri Tielemans I think was seized upon by Dominic. He effortlessly swept past Ezri Konsa and slotted nicely into the net beyond Olsen. It was a fantastic moment for Dominic and the travelling Toffees.

Jordan Pickford was shortly afterwards called into action when Michael Keane lost possession and Aston Villa broke. Thankfully Jordan was able to get something on Moussa Diaby’s drive and keep the ball out to protect our 2-0 advantage.

If there is any room for criticism about our performance, it would be the level we eased off when we made our substitutions. We seemed to lose our way a little though not exactly critically.

It’s hard to be too critical about the goal we conceded as it was bad luck more than anything else. This made for a nervy last 10 minutes or so, but we saw it out generally well, and when Dwight McNeil won a throw-in, and then a free-kick down the far corner of the ground, we knew we’d won, as did the Aston Villa fans who were trapsing away.

The scenes at full time were brilliant. Sheer delight for the travelling Toffees. We made our way back to the car and had a good laugh chatting away on the way home. We heard on the radio that, after six consecutive away draws in domestic cup competitions, we now finally have a home draw, and not a bad one at that too in the form of Burnley. Win that and we’re in the quarter-final. Wembley? Who knows?

We’ve more pressing matters in the league to take care of first though before we start thinking too much about that, though I for one am looking forward to marching down Goodison Road on Saturday afternoon with a smile on my face.

Up The Toffees.

Player ratings

Jordan Pickford: Didn’t have loads to do but was there when needed. Not sure why he didn’t catch that weak free-kick, but never mind! 7

Vitalii Mykolenko: Had a good first half, hopefully the injury won’t keep him out for long. 6

Jarrad Branthwaite: He did pretty well. He’s got a very calm head and makes defending look easy at times. 7

James Tarkowski: These last two games, he’s really taken on that mantle of captain. He’s doing well. 7

Michael Keane: I have to mark him down a grade because of that solitary error, though otherwise he did very well. 6

Nathan Patterson: I thought he stood up to the task of Lucas Digne in the second half very well. 7

Amadou Onana: He was excellent in the middle and seemed to enjoy working in there with James Garner. 8

James Garner: He really looks the part in the middle. He’s got tenacity, can pick a pass and, as we saw, has an eye for goal. A great effort from James. My Man of the Match. 8

Arnout Danjuma: Not great but handy at times. His ability to use both feet is quite an asset and he contributed to the goal of course. 6

Jack Harrison: A good solid debut from Jack and you expect he will only improve as he gets more involved in the team. He did very well to get 65 minutes under his belt. 7

Dominic Calvert-Lewin: Isn’t it great to see Dominic playing with a smile on his face again. He took his goal very well too. A great striker’s performance from Dominic. 8

Ashley Young (for Vitalii Mykolenko): He has shown a marked improvement these last two games in my opinion and he settled in nicely in the second half at left-wingback. He’ll have enjoyed that at his old club. 7

Dwight McNeil (for Jack Harrison): Got involved and carried on pretty much where Jack left off. A good solid effort. 7

Idrissa Gueye (for Arnout Danjuma): He got involved though was a bit haywire at times. 6

Beto (for Dominic Calvert-Lewin): Not great, but all part of the learning curve in a Premier League team. 5

Abdoulaye Doucouré (for Amadou Onana): Seemed to struggle to get into the game. 5 

Reader Comments (3)

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James Flynn
1 Posted 29/09/2023 at 14:24:28
Thanks Paul. Good stuff.
Lee Courtliff
2 Posted 29/09/2023 at 17:44:42
Good read, mate, glad you enjoyed the day out. I've only been to Villa Park once and that was just over 20 years ago for a tepid nil nil on a Wed night!

Long journey home, that was.

Dale Self
3 Posted 29/09/2023 at 20:27:16
Nice Paul, the all blue kit always works for me as well. I’m looking forward to more of these rewarding away match articles. Keep it going.

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