Everton 2 - 1 Southampton

There were more than a few raised eyebrows in the pub prior to kick off as we got the team news with no less than five changes from the home defeat to Sunderland, the majority of which were enforced. Suspended duo Tim Howard and Gareth Barry were replaced by Joel Robles and Ross Barkley (though Leon Osman played deeper in the midfield with Barkley further forward) whilst a hamstring injury to captain Phil Jagielka presented a debut opportunity for Antolin Alcaraz. Leon Osman deputized as captain.

Elsewhere on the pitch the wingers were rotated. Pienaar and Mirallas both rested with Oviedo pushing further forward on one flank to accommodate a return for Leighton Baines at left back, and Stephen Naismith recalled to play on the right hand side. With all these changes I was a little concerned about our chances and fancied Southampton to grab a draw. As Gary said after the match, this made the win all the more impressive with so many changes to the team.

With the early kick off only Gary and Sue made the pub pre-kick off and as we took our seats in the Lower Gwladys the sun shined very bright. I needn’t have bothered bringing my sunglasses as even with them on I still struggled to see anything without cupping my hand over the top of my eyes. We were glad to see the sun disappear from view for the second period. Mark Clattenburg made his first trip to Goodison Park since 2007 and was greeted suitably by a sell-out Goodison Park crowd. I don’t think we need to remind ourselves of his horror-show of a refereeing performance 6+ years ago.

The atmosphere was decent and the sun shined bright as we, sensibly, kicked towards the Lower Gwladys in the first half with Southampton hampered by the sun. There was a reasonable tempo to the game though without a great deal of activity at either end in the first few minutes. Seamus Coleman had enough of this and on 9 minutes decided to take matters into his own hand. Our buccaneering full-back cannoning off on a mazy dribble into the Southampton penalty area, turning Luke Shaw inside and out before smashing an unstoppable drive past Kelvin Davies to the delight of the Goodison Park faithful. Watching Match of the Day 2 late last night and Kevin Kilbane described Coleman as the best right back in the league in 2014. He really is playing incredibly well and must be about the best value for money player in the league at £60,000.

Southampton are having a good season themselves and were never going to be pushovers. They battled back into the game in the first half and had a few openings with Lallana and Lambert both missing opportunities to draw Southampton level. We made it to half time at 1-0 with a display not exactly shining with inspiration, but solid enough to keep Southampton out thus far. Alcaraz got through the first half pretty well for his debut.

At the break Paul Rideout – scorer of the winning goal the last time we won a competition – was greeted to the crowd…that evoked some fond memories. The sun disappeared behind the Park End just on half time which was great for visibility but made for a sudden shift in temperature for the second half.

Southampton pushed for the equalizer more so after the break as the game opened up. Before they leveled the score Barkley had missed a very good opportunity to probably put the game to bed. A terrific break resulted in the excellent Lukaku spreading the ball out to Oviedo. The ball was a bit too wide for our Costa Rican but he dribbled it into the box and squared it for Barkley who squirmed his shot just wide from about six yards out. A let off then for Southampton and they made the most of it. They had created a bit of pressure and kept our centre backs busy for a lot of the second half so an equalizer was I suppose on the cards, but Robles will be mortified with how easily he was beaten by Ramirez from distance…the ball going pretty much straight through his hands even if it was hit with some venom. Should Ramirez then have been sent off though? I wouldn’t like to see players sent off for this but in celebrating he gave his shirt to a young lad in the Family Enclosure. That he did this in the first instance was baffling enough but in doing so not only did he leave the pitch, he also removed his shirt…you could also argue that he incited the crowd in doing so. He got booked for the shirt removal but the rest was overlooked…it would have made for an insane sending off.

It is frustrating that we have developed this habit in a couple of games of allowing teams back into games before finishing them off…though on the positive side it does show we have good resolve to overcome teams. We showed it again in this instance just three minutes after Ramirez struck. A lovely change of direction by Pienaar allowed him the space to play the ball into the colossus McCarthy. He played a lovely first time flick inside to Lukaku who finished first time to put us back in front.

With plenty of time still on the clock Southampton were very much still in the game. We survived a reasonable handball shout when the ball struck Alcaraz from close range. That certainly could have been a penalty but we got away with one – though surely Clattenburg wasn’t going to award anything controversial against us on his return. Pressure continued from Southampton particularly from set-pieces though Distin and Alcaraz were equal to most of what was thrown at us and we saw the game out…Lukaku even coming close twice to adding some gloss to the scoreline.

Full time and we sat comfortably in third position. Ste and I got the train into Liverpool and watched the Chelsea vs Liverpool match in The Excelsior. Chelsea defeating Liverpool ensures Everton begin 2014 in fourth position. Ahead of Liverpool and ahead of Manchester United. When Roberto Martinez was appointed I thought it was a disastrous decision. We have a long way to go still of course but you have to be thrilled with our journey so far under Roberto and I’m delighted to be wrong about him.

Have yourselves a fantastic 2014. If Everton can keep up this form we have some excellent year ahead.

Player Ratings:
Robles: He seems quite comfortable around his penalty area and his distribution isn’t terrible but you have to question how he didn’t stop the goal. It’s a good thing that Tim Howard is back for our visit to Stoke City on New Years Day. 5
Baines: Fitted back in just fine. Great to see him back. He actually finished the match as captain when Osman was substituted. 7
Distin: Good and solid. Usual Sylvain. 7
Alcaraz: An excellent debut from our Paraguayan centre-back. He is a very composed defender and does show good reading of the game. He got a bit lucky with the handball but otherwise it was a pretty impressive debut from him. I struggle to like him as a character as I remember he was once banned for spitting in somebody’s face whilst at Wigan so that is something I don’t like, but in terms of performance it was hard to fault him against Southampton. He should have a run of games now with Jagielka out for four weeks. 8
Coleman: A wonderful goal by Seamus and a great performance to boot. As good as you’ll get from any right back in the Premier League at the moment. 9
McCarthy: My man of the match. He was excellent, covered so much ground and assisted the winning goal. A great display. Nice tough at the end also giving the kid in the Gwladys Street his shirt. 9
Osman: Put in a discipline shift though nothing too out of the ordinary. 6
Oviedo: A bit in and out though always busy. Excellent at times, a little brain dead at others. I assume he will slowly edge out of the team now Baines has returned but it’s great to know we have a very able deputy who can play a few different positions in the team. 6
Naismith: It’s great to have a player like Naismith who can come into the team. OK, he might not always have an end product but his effort and application is outstanding. A good shift. 6
Barkley: Decent and always exciting when he gets on the ball. Missed one or two decent chances but always keeps defenders guessing. 6
Lukaku: His best display in a while and no co-incidence that he marked it with the winning goal. We need more displays like that from Romelu. 8

Pienaar (for Oviedo): It’s funny how Pienaar divides opinion. I think he’s been excellent in the main this season and is one of our most important players. Others think he’s been poor this season. I think today he was somewhere in between. He was busy…he’s always busy, though didn’t always make best use of the ball. However for our winning goal he did a lovely change of direction which created space for McCarthy to slot the ball into Lukaku. He should stay in the team more often than not in my opinion though I can see the necessity to rest him over the Christmas period. 6
Mirallas (for Osman): Osman was sacrificed as soon as Ramirez scored for Southampton. Mirallas was average…as he has been all season. 6

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Ross Kerry
261 Posted 30/12/2013 at 18:42:47
I'd have thought it Paul. In fact I did predict we'd finish in the top four back in September.

What was your prediction Patrick?

Patrick Murphy
266 Posted 30/12/2013 at 18:47:49
I don't think I predicted anything but I might have said due to the change in manager that top 6 would be a decent achievement - I hope we can get top 4 but it is still a big ask, not impossible but it will take an extraordinary effort and the old problem of failing to beat the 'also-rans' could end up costing us.
Ross Kerry
268 Posted 30/12/2013 at 18:50:39
I think to finish in the top 4 we would need an outstanding manager, a cut above the ordinary football man. I think we might have one and I hope he will prove me right.
Dennis Ng
270 Posted 30/12/2013 at 18:57:02
Were you thinking we'll be 4th because OFM will bring manu below us?
Peter Jones
271 Posted 30/12/2013 at 18:53:07
Pretty sure every optimist on ToffeeWeb that wanted Moyes out and Martinez in believed this was possible. Our "lack of depth" is being proved a myth because we actually give our bench players a chance to step up when there is an opportunity. Martinez analyzed our weaknesses in key areas and made great signings. Barry & McCarthy are miles better than Neville & Osman. Most people that couldn't stand Moyes were screaming for Barkley. Now he's in the team every week. And then Lukaku is in another realm to Jelavic. Our back 5 is the exact same, but our core has strengthened significantly. Simples. Combine this with the power vacuum left from SAF leaving Manchester United and the great managers that have taken over this season and you get what is happening now. The real question is "Why didn't you think this could happen?"
Bill Gall
277 Posted 30/12/2013 at 18:49:59
Patrick #257

How do those people who think we are just a flash in the pan explain that out of the top 10 teams in the Premier League only 1 has beaten us, 5 we have beaten, and 4 we drew against.

I think a lot of Everton supporters with the change of the manager were a little apprehensive on how we would do at the start and now, halfway through the season, are pleasantly surprised how well we are doing.

As for the rest of the season, I can not see us moving out of the top 6 unless we have a rash of injuries or suspensions and BK and his cronies do not back the manager in January by selling our top players or not providing finance for future players.

Let's all remember in regards to our chairman he has not always backed up his talk with action.

Dennis Ng
278 Posted 30/12/2013 at 19:04:20
Peter, he did come from relegated Wigan, with the FA Cup in hand. But credit to RM, he is showing that resources we allow him, much more than what Wigan could have given him, he can do much more than what we're told to expect for the past decade.
Gerry Quinn
290 Posted 30/12/2013 at 19:16:10
Ross, you quoted, "I think to finish in the top 4 we would need an outstanding manager, a cut above the ordinary football man. I think we might have one and I hope he will prove me right."

You have said it all in such a simplistic statement - nice one, son, take a bow!

Tom Bowers
334 Posted 30/12/2013 at 20:37:31
It's a great position for the Blues and thoroughly deserved.
Still the hardest team to beat.
A few hiccups along the way but they have something to build on now and should not become complacent in upcoming games against Stoke and Norwich.
Mick Davies
383 Posted 30/12/2013 at 22:30:32
I think you were a bit harsh on Mirallas, he played better than of late and in his limited appearance time, set up a couple of chances.

This has got to be the best side we've had since the late 80's, and if we don't win anything/achieve European qualification, it's still been an amazing turn around in terms of the football being played and the optimism of everyone connected with the club. I posted months ago for us all to be patient; Rome took a lot longer than one season. So we can look forward to a brighter future now we have a man in control who knows what he's doing

Harold Matthews
409 Posted 31/12/2013 at 00:25:40
Paul. He didn't spit into someone's face. He was a couple of metres away and it was almost half-hearted. That said, it's not something I condone.

I think you owe Oviedo an apology.

Ross Kerry
412 Posted 31/12/2013 at 00:43:55
A half-hearted spit in the face from a couple of metres?

This boy should be up front.

Eric Myles
427 Posted 31/12/2013 at 04:38:29
Didn't we start 2013 in fourth too?

Let's hope our board finally learn from their past mistakes and don't repeat them again.

Paul Paxton
432 Posted 31/12/2013 at 06:12:54
I'll admit I was quite apprehensive when we first appointed Martinez but he has definitely taken us to the next level in terms of the quality of football we now see on a regular basis. Perhaps I was listening to the whole "he relegated Wigan" argument but I am happy to be proved wrong. Something the commentator on MOTD mentioned struck a chord, we now have almost the same points total as Wigan did in the whole of last season.

Unfortunately, I was only a small boy when we were revelling in the glory days of the eighties and so grew up amongst the dark days of the nineties. Even though we had some good times under Moyes I can say this is the most optimistic I have ever been as a blue and finally feel we can shake the annoying tag of "over-achievers" (which drives me mental).

Brian Garside
502 Posted 31/12/2013 at 12:12:03
Our second goal started with Baines at LB who passed it to Pienaar. An almost copy of Mirallas goal away at Swansea last season when Neville to Coleman to Fellaini to Pienaar to Mirallas down the right-hand side.

Naismith won nearly all heading duells. A solid squad player, the kind who is is asked to do a job and does it right. Baines was off the pace and caught in possession but will come good again so long as he is not disappointed by not moving to Manure. Alcaraz looked calm and classy.

Looking good I think... Quiet optimism. Let the BBC and Sky ignore us for now. No pressure. Remember. He who laughs last..............:-)))

Ross Edwards
630 Posted 31/12/2013 at 16:00:43
Last season at New Year we were 6th with 33 points, 3 points off 4th, 16 off top.

This season at New Year we are 4th with 37 points, 5 off top.

I certainly think the Scottish manager was holding us back.

Harold Matthews
643 Posted 31/12/2013 at 16:14:43
I looked at their goal half a dozen times last night. It's hardly noticable but from one particular angle the ball appears to accelerate twice.
Dennis Ng
647 Posted 31/12/2013 at 16:26:49
Does anyone know a place to see the points growth year over year and games?
Steve Pugh
662 Posted 31/12/2013 at 16:48:34
When was the last time somebody actually came out and said anything critical about Martinez, I can't recall anything for weeks.
Dennis Ng
666 Posted 31/12/2013 at 16:58:42
Steve, I remembered a discussion just yesterday on how much he sucked at Wigan, but I think its the New Year and things are going too smoothly. I'm sure that will crank up when things go wrong. But I'll be one to watch from the sidelines silently and hope for more magic.
Paul Tran
670 Posted 31/12/2013 at 17:04:51
Steve, how about, 'he's too bloody positive', or 'he smiles too much'? You see that a lot.

The problem is that all the people who said he was going to get us relegated got it wrong. Then they said the players weren't good enough to pass the ball...oh dear. Now that we're fourth people are saying 'its too early to judge.' There's nothing left for now.

Wait till we lose a couple. It'll be open season then!

Linda Morrison
676 Posted 31/12/2013 at 17:15:37
I agree with Paul and we will lose some games but so will the rest of the league.

Some managers, in any field, are great at getting the best out of all their staff and I think Roberto falls into that group.

The main difference to OFM is that he struggled when people's form dipped or they made a mistake.They were just left out and their confidence dropped through the floor

It's easy with a big squad of very capable and expensive players. The pressures on OFM are different as they are from a business perspective.Despite all the rhetoric if MU don't get into the Champions League I think that will be a very short appointment.

I've just seen the interview with Roberto over Barkley, he made me laugh and shows he respects this clu8b of ours. Well done.
I have no doubt BK will back Roberto with cash for players, he did for Moyes

Barry Rathbone
699 Posted 31/12/2013 at 17:23:12
I just don't believe football ever changes the fundamentals being a creative and skilful team will beat a less creative and skilled outfit if the fitness is equal.

The dreadful mindset of points gained at certain matches being a bonus is just cowardly, sure it gives leeway to pack the place full of journeymen and compete with those around but absolutely nothing more.

Roberto is a completely different animal courageous and intelligent he's milked the system to get real footballers - Barry, Mcarthy and Lukaku down the spine of the team - it has absolutely transformed things.

Add in the unshackling of existing talents like Oviedo and Barkley not to mention Deleufeu and others in the wings and I wouldn't swap our manager or set up for any in the league.

What has happened at GP (irrespective of league placings) outranks anything the money boys are doing because it's so cavalier and unexpected.

I knew we'd challenge if Roberto come along I just didn't think so quickly.

Dennis Ng
706 Posted 31/12/2013 at 18:39:33
Barry, coincidentally, Barry is a big difference maker though. I would have loved him here instead of manc earlier but now is equally fine. He is an upgrade to pretty much ALL we had in that position for the past 10+ years.

The other side is as you mentioned, tactics. RM is playing more towards the strength of each player. As much as I hate OFM since he dug back at us for Baines and felli, he assembled a great team. BUT he could not harness them. It was simply not his gameplan. I continue to rate OFM as a coach. Manager...nah...

The pieces have to fit. OFM had the pieces fitted in a slightly dysfunctional way and RM merely adjusted it. Be it luck or talent, I hope it continues for many decades to come. He's just slightly older than me, so we have a long time to watch things to unfold!

Eric Myles
924 Posted 01/01/2014 at 14:38:47
Ross #630, but last season the league leaders had 49 points, this year only 44.

Do you think it's because of other managers holding back their teams this year?

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