A trip to deepest South Wales and a journey that saw four seasons in four hours, weather-wise, for a game that would pit our present manager’s team against the team he built from the ground up. It would be full of emotion for him as today he had to plan their downfall; with two teams playing mirror-image styles, it was never going to be easy.

The Blues saw two changes: Deulofeu and Osman out; McCarthy and Mirallas in. The Blue corner was packed with Blue Santas who soon showed they could sing as well as the Welsh choristers and we definitely had the edge in wit.

We won the toss and elected to play toward our end second half, a good move as it turned out. The start was quiet and box-to-box, the first chance of the match fell to Routledge whose shot, shall we say, was off target as it went out for a throw in! With the game lacking much excitement, the Swans fans launched into a song ‘Cardiff City is falling down’ obviously wallowing in that team's difficulties.

The 20-minute mark was reached with the Blues on top possession-wise but little else until Mirallas was put in on goal after a Swansea cock-up; however, he elected to shoot when a simple pass would have been less selfish... his shot came off the keeper and fell to Barkley who surged forward but the best he got was a corner that came to nought. Mirallas was not having the best of halves and when he gave the ball away near our 18-yard line, we did well to survive. Our crowd had been relatively quiet to that point but that incident upped the noise as they tried to lift the players.

We entered the last 15 minutes of the first period having lost some of our oomph and allowing Swansea a decent spell in which Bony fired over when well placed. With both teams matching each other in shape and style, it left the game with a lack of excitement and it seemed to frustrate us more than them; our passing got a bit loose and a Coleman ill-advised backheel attempt put us in trouble but we managed to get the ball out for a corner which was cleared. But then Distin made a mistake and when the ball came in Bony seemed to miss it altogether for another let-off.

At the other end, Pienaar took a rehearsed corner and found Oviedo on the angle of the box and his excellent cross just evaded the late arriving Jags and Distin at the back post. The returning McCarthy seemed off the pace first half and was caught in two minds too often; as the half ended, he backed off a Swansea mid-fielder too far and afforded him a free shot which thankfully was woeful.

Half-time: 0-0 and many thought we should have done better; many thought Deulofeu would be a big miss in an impact role. Plenty of Christmas cheer about though.

Second half and right away we gave away a free kick in a dangerous position which was well taken but we shuffled it clear. We then started to get to grips with things and this coincided with McCarthy getting into the game and starting to play like his normal self. He got Barkley in on 55 mins and Ross surged on goal with a distinct look of Zidane, he got to within 2 yards of the goal and fell over his own feet! Perhaps not Zidane-like just yet...

Next, Coleman burst from the right, passed two men but when in on goal, over-ran the ball... oohs and aahs were heard and we wondered: Would this be our day? We were well on top now and our crowd were in good voice, Allez-Allez- O struck up as the rain descended like stair rods.

On the hour Mirallas took a good corner and Distin headed up in the air but he was first to the ball again and headed forward for Barry to hook over the bar. We were really dominant now and all the songs you ever knew came out and none were louder than ‘we shall not be moved’ well maybe ‘we are gonna win the league’ rivalled it.

Next, on 65 mins, Barkley burst into life with another surging run past two defenders and a left-footed missile seemed destined for the top corner until the keeper got just enough touch on it to divert it onto the bar and over. Good save that! Coleman was a constant threat down the right and his pace, persistence and all round good dribbling left Swansea nerves a jingling and the play of Oviedo doing similar on the other flank, Kafu and Roberto Carlos came to mind. But still even with total domination we could not fashion that vital goal.

Lukaku looked lost but he wasn’t getting any real service and the way we were playing seemed as though we didn’t need an out-and-out striker as we tried to fashion chances from those running from deep and ignoring the out-and-out striker.

We continued pressing and gained a throw-in on our left which Oviedo took and the ball was shuffled smoothly into mid-field and McCarthy saw Coleman free on the right; he fed him the ball and Seamus set off at pace and – from some 25 yards – let fly... Now from my seat it was but a blur that moved and bulged the net – what a goal! Cue pandemonium and the sight of sprawling celebrating players and the frenzied dance of the Blue Santas.

Swansea came back strong and we had to soak up pressure for a while but then we got a break, Coleman was fed and as he crossed halfway, an almighty roar of ‘SHOOT’ went up... followed by ‘We are gonna win the league’ being roared out.

Swansea were now a different team and we were pushed back but we did seem to be dealing one way or another with their attacks... yet you just knew we needed to be careful. On around 70 mins, we were undone in unfortunate circumstances when a regulation cross that looked harmless came right across the box; from my seat, it looked as though someone slipped (Pienaar?), a shot ensued which deflected and left Howard stranded. 1-1 and silence in the ranks.

The game settled a little and Jags had a hopeful long-range effort go well wide but Swansea had got their tails up and were pushing us. Martinez made two subs: Naismith for Pienaar (who was limping) and Osman for Mirallas (who was ineffective).

Barkley showed his versatility by being asked to play the Pienaar role with Naismith going right and Osman in the hole. This change stemmed the flow and the game went more end to end as both teams had designs on winning. Swansea had the first chance and they got a player in on goal but he chipped softly into the arms of Howard.

The 85th min came around and the much improved McCarthy set of on a lung-busting run toward goal and was unceremoniously tumbled some 25 yards out. Free kick and a booking and I think that was the first yellow of the match. Lukaku and Barkley stood over it, it looked like Lukaku to take but no it was Barkley and the ball flew into the goal via the underside of the bar. An absolute gem of a free kick and the celebrations? Unbelievable. Many a Christmas present was delivered with that strike. How one small corner of the ground could celebrate like that in the prevailing weather conditions was remarkable. Only awayday Blues eh.

Swansea had nothing to lose now and just went for it. We repelled a few then Barkley gave a daft free kick away in a dangerous area... Breath was held, kick came in... and, after a bit of a melee, we headed clear – only for a following-up player to hammer it back and, but for a top-class save from Howard, we would have been undone.

The tension wasn’t over as Swansea again got the ball into the box and we were all delighted when their player mis-kicked right in front of goal, another let-off. "Has that clock stopped?" I wondered... then Barkley brought the ball out and was fouled. "Take yer time" was the yell – they did. Lukaku scored but it was disallowed and no-one cared as the whistle went. Players celebrated with fans, songs were sung. Hugs, hand- shakes and best wishes exchanged.

MotM – Coleman... Barkley the highlight of the match.

A good three points which puts us in a good position league-wise. I thought the game today lacked a little due, in the main, to similarity in style and set-up but none the less absorbing. Win away without hitting any heights is the mark of a team on the up and long may it continue.

With games now coming thick and fast, our medical team will be as vital as the players as our small squad needs to recover well in a short time for a few matches to come. When you look at teams around us, the difference stands out in quality squad numbers so we will end up pushing many of our key players more than managers like... so "Play up, the medics!" Do we have psychologists as well???

Sunderland Boxing day and we should be able to field a team fresh enough to win that one but nothing should be taken for granted. Sunderland are desperate for points.

All the best for Christmas and may 2014 be kind to you. See you Boxing Day. I am bringing the mince pies, Big H is doing the pigs trotters and Tommy is getting them in as Buddy Holly sings "That’ll be the day"...
UP THE BLUES

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Graham McCann
195 Posted 23/12/2013 at 01:56:34
Great report as always, Ken. Spot on about Lukaku and the no apparent need for an out-and-out striker. We don't pump everything forward to the big Belgian bloke, but we need him as a focal point for our play in the final third of the field.

I think that Romelu is tiring a bit now, maybe that's why Vellios was on the bench today? I wouldn't mind betting that Vellios will have a role to play in the coming few games. After all, we have no apparent need for an out and out striker. It's all about the attacking players, barring Howard, Distan and Jagielka, they are all attacking players.

COYB

Cenric Clement-Evans
207 Posted 23/12/2013 at 04:33:37
Everton fans were awesome yesterday after a quietish start. The singing was tremendous with the away end literally bouncing! My 13-year-old had to keep on telling me to behave from our seats amongst the Jacks! I was desperate to join in.

Great report as ever Ken. Happy Christmas Evertonians everywhere!

Mike Gaynes
212 Posted 23/12/2013 at 06:09:34
Ken, your reports are always better than the game itself... thanks from all for your commitment to a long journey and a long day to bring us the inside-the-ground viewpoint. Much appreciated, sir!
Martin Lam
224 Posted 23/12/2013 at 09:01:13
Thanks for the great report. Players lacked their passing touch as game stats show that Swansea passed more accurately and had more possession. But in an away game under such weather, it's certainly the determination of our players that won us the game.

Well done, lads. COYB!

Peter Mills
226 Posted 23/12/2013 at 08:40:33
Ken, I've got no idea how you manage to post these works of art so quickly after the match. I drove home from Swansea, arriving back around 11:30pm, and while I read all the reports and comments on TW, I was so tired, I just couldn't be bothered offering any thoughts. You, however, find the time and energy to paint a vivid picture of the occasion – thank you for doing so.

I was in the posh seats yesterday, on the half-way line. The Everton end was something to behold, a fantastic turnout. The crowd we were amongst were mostly Jacks, including the dad of a pal of mine who was celebrating his 95th birthday there. One or two of them were muttering that they had deserved a point, but on the whole they were pretty gracious, and very complimentary about our football.

There were also murmurings about the ease with which young Ross fell over, and the equal ease with which Mr Mason awarded him a free kick – it was difficult to argue. McCarthy was excellent in the second half, and Barry was constantly in space to receive the ball and keep it moving.

The Lukaku situation is a difficult one; even when he is not at his best, he is keeping two defenders occupied, creating the space that others take advantage of. We were saying at half-time that the game was ripe for an impact substitution at 60 minutes, Romelu could be devastating in that role for a game or two but it would be a huge decision to rest him to the bench.

Thanks again Ken, best wishes.

Phil Walling
235 Posted 23/12/2013 at 09:28:56
Don't very often say it but I agree with Mr Kenrick's every word above. And thanks Ken for another great report!
Kevin O'Regan
239 Posted 23/12/2013 at 09:47:55
Ken, thanks for all your hard work, you're a legend and a very talented writer,

To be honest, I was shouting quite a bit at Seamus in the first half, as he was shaky in defence and out of position and gave a few passed away, but made up for it in 2nd half. Great lad, and true blue spirit. Great to have a McCarthy style player again and a great mix of experience and brazen, young and talent with confidence and as Roberto says with arrogance. That arrogance was missing in DM's time.

Starting to worry about Lukaku in terms of frustration – I'd like to see Roberto give him a break or time off. Put Mirallas up front, or the Greek lad – but Lukaku needs a break soon.

Michael Winstanley
240 Posted 23/12/2013 at 09:47:47
Great report as always Ken. I'm still on a high here this morning. I thought it was a good test for us yesterday and we came through with another three points.

Delighted for Seamus and Ross, two fantastic strikes, nice to see we have the quality to edge a game like yesterday and we always looked a threat.

Patience is the key to our style of play, however I would like to see us take the lead a little earlier in games. Hopefully over the next few weeks we'll see our dominance produce a few more goals.

Thanks for your reports Ken, Merry Christmas to you and all the Blues out there.

Eugene Ruane
245 Posted 23/12/2013 at 10:28:15
It's true Lukaku looked a bit lost and got little of the type of service he thrives on, but imo, many of the gaps that open up for others are as a result of how closely he's being marked. It's clear he (and we) would love a goal or two right now but I'm actually impressed with the effort he puts in and how he (consciously or unconsciously) drags defenders out/around creating spaces for our attack-minded midfield and fullbacks to run into.
Gary Mortimer
246 Posted 23/12/2013 at 10:59:22
I think that if the Swansea fans were moaning about the free kicks that Mason gave for fouls on Ross, I guess they were ecstatic about all the times Mason ignored all the fouls on Pienaar – who was pushed over / dragged back at least 3 times with no intervention from the ref.

There was no way Swansea deserved anything from the game, we had the best chances and should have killed them off before their flukey equaliser.

I hope players get their feet up for a few days and come back on Boxing Day in the mood to put a shed load past Sunderland.

Denis Byrne
247 Posted 23/12/2013 at 11:00:44
Great report as usual Ken. However, may I take issue with your reference to one of the chants. You suggest "Allez-Allez-O", alluding to a Franch origin for the song. I may be mistaken, but I assumed the chant is derived from the old childrens song, "The Ally Ally Oh", which if you go to the last verse shows this is a worthy inclusion to the terrace psalm book,

All together now...

"The big ship sails on the ally-ally-oh
The ally-ally-oh, the ally-ally-oh
Oh, the big ship sails on the ally-ally-oh
On the last day of September.

The captain said it will never, never do
Never, never do, never, never do
The captain said it will never, never do
On the last day of September.

The big ship sank to the bottom of the sea
The bottom of the sea, the bottom of the sea
The big ship sank to the bottom of the sea
On the last day of September.

We all dip our heads in the deep blue sea
The deep blue sea, the deep blue sea
We all dip our heads in the deep blue sea
On the last day of September"

On second thoughts, there could be miserable omens here... let’s stick to the French etymology.

Iain Love
248 Posted 23/12/2013 at 10:58:38
Lukaku's play is the reason other players get chances, there will be times when defenders don't double up on him to cover other areas and then he will shine again.
Merry Christmas.
Trevor Lynes
257 Posted 23/12/2013 at 11:41:15
Efforts should be made to get Lukaku scoring and the wide men should be told to cross the ball sometimes instead of just shooting from impossible angles. Lukaku found space in the area at least four times when Mirallas shot or Coleman tried beating yet another defender. I reckon the big guy needs to be used better than he is being, he has pace and strength but he consistently receives the ball with his back to goal or not at all.

We played pretty well in spite of the conditions and it was a great result. Mirallas is dangerous as he has lots of pace and could perhaps be used more infield where he can run at the centre backs. McCarthy improved a lot in the second half as his first half display was pretty average. But Swansea are a decent team if allowed to play as they showed against Newcastle just a few weeks ago.

Julian Wait
279 Posted 23/12/2013 at 13:29:25
Thanks, Ken – great report as usual.

Does anyone have any insight as to why Coleman was so animated, toward what I presume were Swansea fans, after he scored? It was like had a a point to prove; was there some animosity there? It was hard to get any context on TV as I was watching without commentary...

Kieran Fitzgerald
283 Posted 23/12/2013 at 13:43:03
I caught the second half in the pub. It was hard to see how that was the same team that played the first half against Arsenal. The thing is though, compare how well we still played compared to difficult or poor games in recent seasons. The bar has just been set that much higher, I suppose, so when we don't play well it seems like we are dreadful, even when we're not.

Despite the performance, a win was vitally important. We are now averaging two points a game and confidence will still be very high after yesterday. Two good results this week means that we can go into the FA Cup weekend halfway through what is a great season. It also means that we can rest some players for QPR.

The bench caught my eye yesterday. The absence of Heitinga and Jelavic, added to Martinez's comments during the week makes me think that they may already be out the door. Fair enough, there was a little bit of squad rotation going on and while I was happy to see Vellios on the bench, I do think that not having Heitinga and Jelavic there was more than just rotation. The bench didn't fill me full of happiness though and I do think that we will need to buy players next month. I think Martinez will need to raise the cash before he can buy and Heitinga and Jelavic are the most obvious players to go.

Michael Winstanley
284 Posted 23/12/2013 at 13:58:12
Julian. Seamus explains...
http://www.evertonfc.com/evertontv/home/9759
Shane Corcoran
291 Posted 23/12/2013 at 14:27:04
Michael, for us non-subscribers, can you elaborate?
Michael Winstanley
300 Posted 23/12/2013 at 15:08:33
When asked about his celebration the interviewer suggests it must have meant a lot Seamus replies, it did yeah, just to score the goal, lately I've had a few tap ins so it was nice to score that goal. To score for Everton is a special thing.

And then he gets asked about Ross but at the end he said to those that don't subscribe, it's only an e-mail registration away. He seems like a nice lad.

Peter Mills
310 Posted 23/12/2013 at 15:49:20
Gary#246, your first 2 paragraphs are precisely how I responded to the Welshmen I spoke to!

Mr Mason was rather whistle-happy either way, but one thing he did do correctly was to take 10 decent sized paces to position the defensive wall for Ross's free kick.

Julian Wait
313 Posted 23/12/2013 at 15:56:46
Michael - not sure that really explains it; he looks very angry tbh and it seemed directed at Swansea fans. Not a big deal, just wondered if something had happened off camera...
Michael Kenrick
321 Posted 23/12/2013 at 16:29:13
Julian, I think it was right in front of the Everton fans... Seamus's body language in that celebration was something else — I took it as a real massive in-your-face, fist-pumping, chest-beating moment of pure personal exaltation.

I mean, can you imagine, in your wildest dreams, hitting a ball so perfectly, getting it to fly initially straight at the keeper, then curve away and beyond him just inside the post, and into the net, right in front of 2,000 drenched Evertonians who had just watched attack after attack after attack come to nothing?

Simply fantastic stuff.

Julian Wait
326 Posted 23/12/2013 at 17:06:01
MK - thanks. That explains it. To me, Coleman should be Captain one day, he's exactly what we need to drive us forward when things aren't going to plan. He has the heart of an Ox.
Peter Creer
368 Posted 23/12/2013 at 21:56:36
Thanks for the report. You always paint such a clear picture of life in the stands. After watching the game live here in Canada it is always great waiting for and getting your report.

Chelsea and Arsenal have just finished and that leaves us tied for fourth with Chelsea and only two point out of first. For me the great part of the year so far is that we have only lost one game and, like this game, we have found a way to win. It wasn't Romelu today but it was two great strikes from Seamus and Ross. Consistency at the back has been critical and as we look forward to the next few games over the holiday things are looking very good.

Merry Christmas from Canada. Wish I was there!

Paul Kernot
374 Posted 23/12/2013 at 22:06:35
First blood to EFC. We took two points off both The Arse and Chelski yesterday/ today, both of whom have a recent history if losing it a bit in the last third of the season.

This may prove critical in the run in as, much as I hate to say it, it looks like the RS have finally got it together under Brenda (assuming they keep Suarez who does seem to be very happy there right now) and Citeh's home form should keep them in the top 4 so it could ultimately be one of these two we nick 4th place from if our season continues like this.

I do have concerns about Mirallas's service to Lukaku in particular but with so many others prepared to step up, it's becoming a habit to get results like the Swansea game. Long may it continue.

Finally,those saying Macca needs to add goals to his repertoire are crazy. 85 mins in and who was it that made the Barkleyesque drive through the middle to make something happen? Admittedly he was going nowhere and we were reliant on a lucky break (the needless foul) and a bit of magic from Ross to get us those all important, pre Xmas 3 points but what I saw was McCarthy's efforts creating that opportunity. Play to your strengths!

Jay Harris
391 Posted 24/12/2013 at 00:21:36
Really enjoyable report as always Ken.

Only 2 points off the top with only 1 game lost and the best defensive record in the league.

The thing I am really happy about is that we can mix it up short, long, tough, pretty, tight or open. We can be a match for anyone.

Happy Crimbers to all fellow blues and lets hope for a very prosperous New Year.

Stuart O'Malley
394 Posted 24/12/2013 at 01:02:56
I thought Gareth Barry was immense on Sunday, especially in and around the 18-yard box. The amount of times he intercepted and cleaned up around that area during the game was fantastic. A defensive midfielder masterclass.

Love the way when the two wingbacks are bombing forward, Barry just drops in between distin and jags so seamlessly if possession is lost and we need to defend as a three if the two boys are outta position. . Everybody is just totally on the same wavelength. Long may it continue. COYB.

Stuart O'Malley
395 Posted 24/12/2013 at 01:30:23
And brilliant report as always, Ken. A very Merry Christmas to you and all Evertonians, especially the ToffeeWebbers.
Harold Matthews
410 Posted 24/12/2013 at 06:07:06
Trevor. Terrific post as usual. With regard to Lukaku, Mirallas and Coleman, you've said it all for me.

Enjoyable report as usual Ken. The way we allowed them so much possession in the last 20 minutes was very puzzling and slightly disturbing, to put it mildly. We completely lost our shape. As you pointed out, they had nothing to lose but it took a brilliant performance from Howard and a goalmouth covered in stardust to keep us in front. Just when I thought dropping deep was disappearing from our game, it reappeared and scared me to death.

Dennis Ng
432 Posted 24/12/2013 at 10:07:35
Caught the game from ~35 mins into the game. We played very well and I was bemused by the analysts at NBC talking about how stale the game was at halftime. Possession football is awesome, even in a 0-0 game!

I agree, the game is forgettable for Lukaku but I hope he has patience because, as some mentioned earlier, this is one of those games where the wing-men do better because of the defence marking Lukaku down too much. I look forward to the games where he'll get more space as opposition start to realize we will attack them from all angles, not just Lukaku. Hopefully he'll get to catch up on his scoring then!

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