Everton 2 - 0 Dagenham & Redbridge

We all assembled and ordered the beer and somehow you could just tell how the day would go by the fact no one really talked footy until the teams were beamed through. Most claimed to have forecast the eight changes and were delighted to see the long term injured getting a start. Oviedo, Jagielka, Gibson, Pienaar. How have they recovered? Will they slot right back in or take time to shake the rust? As the game panned out they would be aided and abetted by the visitors.

Time for the walk up and on hitting the streets it was eerily quiet for a match day, it wasn’t until Goodison Road was reached that we found a road chock full of punters. Fat Van and Fan Zone were popular and I am always amazed at how much merchandise the ‘Hat Scarf and Badge stall’ can cram into one small doorway. The giveaway to the attendance though was the very short queue at the ‘Blue Dragon’.

Z-Cars, handshakes and off we go. Within two minutes the MO of this game was laid before us. Oviedo got forward with ease and put in a pinpoint cross for Pienaar to head it back the way it came and on target and we are up and running but he missed heading over the bar. Bits of rust were found in the Park End!

From the resultant goal kick, it was easy to spot how the visitors had set up: 1-8-2 — now that was going to be difficult to penetrate but it also gave the returning players plenty of ball time as we patiently passed and passed to try to find a way through and such was our superiority and their determination not to leave their penalty box they could do it in the knowledge that they would not get much of a kicking.

The visiting fans chastised us for our lack of support but all Blues in attendance completely ignored that as we sat waiting for the first goal; it was certain to be ours as they didn’t do attacking but they did get a free kick some 25 yards out which whistled a few inches over the bar but Joel was alive to its height and waved it by. Our first real dangerous effort was from Funes Mori which the keeper tipped away. Funes Mori got a good handclap for that effort.

Dagenham had a rare foray forward but their player headed wide. The rain was getting heavier and the wind that bit more chill as we sat patiently for something to happen. The half hour mark arrived and the impressive Oviedo took a free kick and missed the first man and delivered to the far post where Kone climbed and showed Pienaar how it is done by heading back toward the taker, on target and one up but not too wild rapturous applause but more of ‘Well that’s it we are in the next round’ — such was the disparity between the teams plus Dagenham stuck to 1-8-2 so they were looking to avoid a tonking.

So until half time we passed and probed and passed and probed everyone had time on the ball everyone had a good run out so the chances of having fit injury back-up in the coming games was enhanced. On half time we gain a corner and again Oviedo took a beaut. Funes Mori attacked the ball but clashed heads with his marker and with blood streaming down his face and hand he was led away to the stitching department and his impressive afternoon was over with youngster Pennington taking his place.

Half-time: 1-0

During the break we had two youngsters on the pitch one of which had been very brave in hospital and was a mad Evertonian. The players had been to see him in hospital. The man with the mike asked who he would like us to play in the Capitol One cup without hesitation he said Liverpool so our man asked why. ‘BECAUSE THEY ARE RUBBISH’ was the instant response and a great applause he got.

More of the same except we were now attacking the Street end and our main source of excitement was the number of golden chances we missed or the number of almost balls that would have had us in. after good approach work except for the wrong or misplaced pass that thwarted us. Kone was chief culprit when somehow he failed to convert great balls in from Mirallas and Besic when from my seat it seemed easier to score.

After the hour mark Dagenham made a sub and brought on Cureton who is now 40yrs old and made his pro debut against Everton n21yrs ago. I could not help thinking we better get another or this fella could make headlines and all the wrong ones for us. However, nothing changed: we attacked... they stuck resolutely together, and had the luck of the devil.

With 10 mins to go, we had a flurry of excitement that had the fans up and cheering for the first time in the match. Was it a magical move or a rocket shot with curve and dip that almost took the net off? No... a CAT had entered the field of play. It was Black and White in appearance and a wag near me shouted ‘He is looking for the postman’.

The cat went forward then came back and entered the penalty area and lay down. It wasn’t a dive — he was eying up a very big figure dressed in green who got almost within striking distance but the cat would have none of it and ran off toward the Park End stewards.

More excitement as Mirallas did a one-two and was promptly tackled and toppled to the floor. ‘PENALTY’ we yelled; ref agreed. Mirallas took hold of the ball and did not push or shove or show his tantrum side he merely placed the ball on spot and slotted with aplomb. Most were ready to head for the ale house now but we had more excitement in store as the rain came down resembling a shimmering curtain in its intensity when, from the Park End, a young lad who looked about 14 appeared from either our crowd or the visitors and set off up the pitch and sidestepped a couple of Street End stewards and doubled back and headed toward the dugouts. The last I saw of him, he was captured by the coaching staff and being led away. It takes all sorts, eh.

That was excitement over except to mention we saw Leandro come on for 5 mins, seems a nice lad but no time to show any skills as the whistle went and we are in the hat and Dagenham didn’t get walloped so all off home happy.

MotM: – Oviedo for me but I would not argue with your preferred choice

Papers like the Echo put forward a piece about what five things we learned today. But for me it was a 90-minute competitive training game that gave players valuable playing time and see how well they have recovered from their various injuries. I noticed early on Oviedo was in a cruncher of a tackle and took it in his stride so that probably did wonders for his confidence. He did well as stand-in right-back.

Playing against a team as limited as Dagenham, who came only to frustrate, it would be hard to find much we learned football-wise except Kone is off the boil in the conversion stakes.

Small matter of Man City, Chelsea. Swansea and Man City again to deal with in a short time. Wouldn’t it be nice to win them all? Be a tall order though.

UP THE BLUES

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