With having quite a few friends and family in London I always keep an eye out for our fixtures down that neck of the woods as it provides a welcome opportunity to catch up with them and visit the capital. My better half and I set off a little after 7am on a slightly frosty Saturday morning and made it down the M6 in great pace up until the M6 Toll road came into view. “M6 TOLL CLEAR” screamed the digital board in large bold lettering.

"Do I or don’t I?" I questioned like some indecisive oaf until deciding the road was clear enough as it was and that the toll road was not required. Huge mistake. The congested 50 mph speed limit restricted due to roadworks was a new Hell in itself and really held up the journey which until then had been plain-sailing. I won’t be making that error again and needless to say on the way back the £4.80 spent on the Toll Road represented money well spent.

Regardless we ploughed through the traffic (like we had a choice) and arrived in London in good time until Hell Part II arrived…the navigation through the busy streets of London to Shoreditch. I don’t think I’ve ever seen (and stopped at) so many traffic lights in one journey but we eventually rolled up at my friends flat at about 11.30am and after a quick cuppa was on route to Selhurst Park.

Hell Part III – the journey to Selhurst Park. Well it wasn’t actually all that bad. Actually it wasn’t bad at all. My friends kindly routed my journey for me, walked me to the bus stop and told me to get the overground train to Crystal Palace from London Bridge Station. The only problem was then of my own making as whilst on the bus to London Bridge Station I read on the Everton website that there was line engineering work taking place on my required route and that I was advised to take a train from Victoria Station instead.

With my navigation disorientated this was enough to send me into something of a frenzy. I got off the bus too early somehow and couldn’t find the station. Eventually I stumbled across the Underground Station and after asking staff was sent upstairs to the overground…in trying to find the overground I went in the wrong direction and with the rain tumbling down and the thought of missing kick off due to the rail replacement bus I was in all manor of panic. Thank Christ then for then for the extremely helpful staff at London Bridge Station who were able to inform me that I could instead get a train to Selhurt which was just a 10 minute walk to the ground and that the train was departing in five minutes. The gentleman even checked my (well my mates) Oyster Card and told me I had enough credit to get the train without having to pay extra. It was really top service and I was on the train with my mind now completely at rest knowing I would be around Selhurst Park at about 1.30pm.

Off the train and following the crowd to the ground I stopped by a pleasant little pub called The Clifton Arms which served nice ale and had friendly staff. After a couple of pints in there I headed up the road to Selhurst Park with a good 25 minutes or so to spare until kick off. It’s a strange little ground Selhurst Park. A little like Fratton Park as you enter and with a slightly old fashioned feel to it. I got through the turnstyle at about 2.45pm and was very surprised to see the time get to 2.55pm and see the players were still warming up. I then checked and found out the match had been delayed until 3.15pm due to heavy traffic. Annoying…I could have had an extra one in the pub.

Eventually the teams took to the field from the far corner of the ground but not before a cheerleading display by ‘The Crystals’ accompanied by a slightly bizarre version of Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes and, more interestingly, Crystal Palace’s eagle gliding through the stadium. Finally, after a well observed minute of silence to remember those that have perished fighting for their country, the game was on. Everton unchanged and in the navy blue and white kit. Both sets of supporters were in good voice from the off. Everton started brightly, Leon Osman twice came close to scoring when he twice got in the box though both times missed the target with reasonable chances. Kevin Mirallas also forced Speroni into a save as did Osman a little later when he struck a little too close to the Argentine goalkeeper.

Crystal Palace had their chances also. If they practiced heading the ball they would have scored as I seem to recall three good headed openings for them all of which they fluffed, and Tim Howard had to be at his acrobatic best to tip Jerome Thomas’ effort around the post. As the half ebbed on our play seemed to get worse. As for the home team…they certainly weren’t short of effort and desire but you could really tell the gulf in quality and it almost felt as though we were playing against an “up for it” Championship team in the cup to me…

Not that this inspired Everton of course and after the break our play was just as feeble, if anything worse, and we just couldn’t get it right at all. Actually Crystal Palace could, should and would have scored had Thomas not opted to be clever and chip Howard when clean through on goal. The ball nestled wide of the post…thankfully.

Credit to Martinez I suppose as he realized how bad we were playing and tried to change it early (just 10 minutes after the break) and replaced Mirallas and Osman with Deulofeu and Barkley. I would perhaps have persevered with Mirallas a little while longer. I don’t think he was having his worst game of the season and he was trying to take on Moxey and getting a tiny bit of joy…whereas Deulofeu didn’t really have much of an impact.

Everton’s main problem was that we were trying to be too clever with our play. Pienaar, Deulofeu, Coleman, Baines and Lukaku were all guilty of over-elaborate play when with the opposition rather poor simple passing and better movement would likely have been adequate enough to result in a winning goal. We did come ever so close on 77 minutes when Jagielka headed against the crossbar from a corner with Distin heading the rebound just wide. It was a good chance for Distin but it did flash back at him very quickly and he had minimal time to react.

Due to lengthy treatment to Moxey in injury time following a nasty clash of heads with Coleman the full time seemed to take an eternity to blow, but blow it did with the disappointing contest finishing 0-0. That Everton had 73% possession and managed only two shots on target throughout probably tells its own story of our flimsy play in and around the opposing penalty box.

As I trudged off up the road back to Selhurst Station after the match an Evertonian from Colchester ambushed me asking directions to the train station. It never ceases to amaze me how you can find Evertonians from all over the country…all over the world even. It really is quite fantastic. He was a funny fella and had experienced quite a day on the beer from what I could make out. Everyone eventually crammed onto the train to London Bridge Station. With everyone hot, bothered and solemn after such a poor match all was quiet on the packed train. “It could be worse” said the Colchester Evertonian, “at least your not watching X Factor with the wife”.

I suppose things could be a lot, lot worse. We sit 6th just three points of 2nd position and have kept three clean sheets in a row. The performance was poor this time but all will be forgotten if we manage three points in that little game against our neighbours a week on Saturday.

Player Ratings:
Howard: Man of the match for me. His distribution was top drawer and he made one splendid save in the first half. He had a few hairy indecisive moments but his distribution was what stood out for me. 7
Baines: Fine defensively but not at his best in attacking areas. Put in some decent corners but didn’t perform at the level of which he can. 6
Distin: Kept them out but distribution from the back wasn’t great. 6
Jagielka: See Distin. 6
Coleman: Kept on going I suppose but just didn’t get enough balls into the box or take his man on enough when in good positions. 5
Barry: The pick of the outfield players. Kept our heart beating and showed good positional sense throughout. 7
McCarthy: Perhaps played a little within himself as a yellow card would have ruled him out of the derby though another referee would have given him the yellow towards the end of the match. Didn’t exactly excel in the midfield. 6
Pienaar: Was busy as ever but just didn’t offer enough fluidity and couldn’t influence the game enough. 6
Mirallas: Whilst nowhere near the level he was at last season, I thought he was doing OK and was a bit unlucky to be taken off when he was. I’d have given him a bit longer. Still, he does need that pressure as his performances this season have been nothing like what he is capable of. If he doesn’t perform in the derby I’d bench him until he can get his act together again. 6
Osman: He had a good first half and on another day would have bagged himself a goal or two but he just didn’t get going second half and was taken off on 56 minutes. 6
Lukaku: Not at his best. Didn’t really get going all game. Perhaps Jelavic should have been given the final 10 minutes as we weren’t getting much from Lukaku. 6

Deulofeu (for Mirallas): The effort was there but his decision making was poor and he struggled to get past Moxey down the right. Couldn't influence the game. 5
Barkley: Positive but over-elaborate at times but he did offer more than what Osman was offering. Should be in the team for the derby I think. 6

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Jamie Sweet
477 Posted 11/11/2013 at 00:38:28
I agree with Howard as MotM. His save from Thomas was the only moment of genuine quality in the entire game.

We bossed the first 25 mins, but as soon as the commentator said "It's only a matter of time before Everton score here", it was all downhill from there. So I blame the commentator, whoever that bastard was.

I also agree we need to get Barkley back in the starting eleven. I just think he works better in the system we're trying to play due to his eagerness to link midfield with attack.

Paul Ferry
490 Posted 11/11/2013 at 02:43:12
Cheers Paul:

Howard 7 - Baines 4 - Distin 6 - Jagielka 6 - Coleman - Barry 6 - McCarthy 5 - Pienaar 7 - Mirallas 3 - Osman 4 - Lukaku (what on earth could he do and what do we expect, the service was Jimmy Tartbuck poor) can't give a mark because of absence of service from aforementioned below par midfielders

Paul Ferry
491 Posted 11/11/2013 at 02:52:53
sorry coleman 5
Dick Fearon
530 Posted 11/11/2013 at 09:39:41
Against Spurs Ossie was a second half sub and won the game for us with a goal and a sparkling display. I suppose it was too much to expect the same tactic would be used at Palace.
Jim Knightley
591 Posted 11/11/2013 at 14:43:16
It could be worse yes...arguably it should be worse, as I don't think we deserved anything against Palace, or Spurs, or Chelski. Our points total is acceptable, and our league positioning relative to others is more than acceptable, but our performances? The last two matches are about as bad as I've seen us play a long time. And that's even more worrying when one considers that Palace are probaly the worse team in this league, and that Spurs are stuttering at the moment.

We must improve, or we will not finish above 8th, which will look much worse given our decision to feed a second string in the Capital One Cup, and essentially surrender a chance of silverware. The tactics are dull, and uninspiring. We are not making chances, and are keeping clean sheets by fortune, rather than strong defending. It is early days, and Martinez needs time of course, but at the moment this is not good enough irrespective of potential contributory factors.

If I remember rightly, we face Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United in 3 of our next 4, with Stoke at home after Liverpool. We need to use these big games to get some momentum, and get our football going. Too many players are not performing at the moment... and we either need to rotate our squad a little, or look to vary our tactics slightly to better suit the current 11.

Clive Lewis
593 Posted 11/11/2013 at 14:57:11
I think the worry is we could be turned over easily by 3 out of the next 4 matches, lets face it we have had some look with poor finishing. If we play anything like we have been against the Shite, Arseanal and Manure they we could be on the end of a bit of a battering.

We need to really sort out our defense and midfield.
We are letting through too many runners and maybe need some steel in the midfield.
Osman is not good enough to start games he is too weak and gives the ball away too much for a passing team. The defensive coaches are just not working well, and lets face it, if you recruit coaches from a poor performing defensive team then the warning signs are worrying

Realistically we have moved from and overly defensive manager to a slap happy attacking passing manager, however the attacking part is failing at the moment and you are left with the midfield keep ball situation. The worrying thing is how long can the defense hold out before confidence starts to go shite.

The flip side of this is everything could turn out fine and we could be very good. I think we will know what direction the team is taking after Christmas and the new year. I must admit I am slightly worried, we have done OK but we have had a lot of luck.

Denis Richardson
807 Posted 12/11/2013 at 16:56:40
Thanks for the report Paul - out of curiousity, were you in the home or away end?
Paul Traill
930 Posted 13/11/2013 at 13:53:13
I was in the away end Denis.
Harold Matthews
942 Posted 13/11/2013 at 15:22:38
It was very noticeable Paul, even before kickoff, that the pitch, from a low camera angle, had holes and bumps all over it.

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