Wednesday evening and I’m relaxing on the couch to Galatasary vs Chelsea with a few bottles of Premium larger and my phone rings. I don’t recognise the number and am surprised to hear it was Jordan on the phone. No, not the plastic-boobed, well… plastic-all-over model aka Katie Price but actually an old Hammers-supporting mate from university whom I haven’t seen nor had contact with for years. He tells me he’s attending the match this Saturday. Happy days…
Fast forward to this afternoon's match and I meet Jordan and his friend off the train at 12pm. With plenty of time to kill, I take them on to the Ship & Mitre for a few ales and some food. Very impressed with the boozer were they. It was great to catch up and chat about all things football… over and above Everton. He’s a light-hearted fella, Jordan. He has a prosthetic leg and has never let it bother him. We even recalled how some mutual friends with a dark, dark sense of humor once hid his leg on him whilst he slept, resulting in Jordan literally hopping mad at them the next morning as he was late for his exam. Hiding someone’s leg… as low as it goes, I guess, but Jordan has always laughed these things off and it was great to see him again.
We flagged down a cab to County Road and the driver was in some state… he’d just taken a cab-full of Essex girls from Lime Street to a hotel and was going berserk at the silly conversation amongst the girls with rollers in their hair… talking nail varnish and what-not. I think he was glad to have some male company after that and he chatted away to us on the short cab ride before we met the other guys in The Brick. A fun day so far. Could Everton make it better?
Yes, is the answer — and I shouldn’t complain as league wins have been difficult to come by of late but it’s been some time since we won a game comfortably. Regardless, I came expecting a draw and was relieved to leave with a win against a rugged West Ham side boasting four clean sheets in a row.
Naismith began up front with Pienaar and Deulofeu on the flanks and Osman playing just off the striker… Mirallas axed to the bench. There was also a start for John Stones at the back replacing the injured Phil Jagielka. Kevin Nolan, Mark Noble, Carlton Cole, Matt Jarvis, Steward Downing and James Collins all featured in a familiar, feisty and experienced West Ham XI. Jon Moss refereed.
Everton attacked towards the Park End in what was quite an edgy first half. Chances were at a premium. West Ham had their game plan of ‘soak-em-up & hit-em-on-the-break’ and it would have worked had Deulofeu not tracked back expertly to prevent a great chance for the Hammers. Still, Everton were more dominant in the play and probed more in the first half.
Naismith was played through and forced Adrián into a save from a tight angle, whilst four minutes from the break Deulofeu produced a fantastic dribble and then curling shot which drifted just wide of the post. He’d have brought the house down had he have scored with that one. At half-time, it was all-square with the flat Goodison crowd in need of a lift… something the half-time presentation of Li Tie couldn’t quite achieve.
Roberto Martinez resisted the temptation to introduce Lukaku at half time and waited until the 59th minute with Everton in dire need of some life to be breathed into the team. We were in fact in danger of going behind at times with West Ham dangerous from a succession of corners and a few snap-shots from the edge of the box one of which Howard slapped over the crossbar. We did have a great chance from a set-piece of our own when Leighton Baines delivery was put wide by Distin in unorthodox fashion as the game seemed to drift towards a draw. McGeady replaced Deulofeu when everyone expected Mirallas. The Goodison volume gradually improved with a win crucial for staying in the mix for European qualification via the league and this perhaps spurred Everton on for the winning goal.
We’d been probing down our left hand side and this was the only area the goal seemed to be coming from really with Pienaar busy all game. However, it was a surge forward into the box from Baines and a ball across the box which was swept home by Lukaku which did it. Unbelievably it was Leighton Baines's first assist of the season and Lukaku’s first goal this year. We’ll need more from both of them in the run-in but boy did Goodison explode with relief when that one hit the net… and then in the 90th minute we breathed in a collective sigh of relief when Everton managed to defend a late free kick from West Ham when we all feared worse.
So, three points won — and what an important win it was too. We need to keep the pressure on; with two more home games and an away game at Fulham this month, maximum points are required if we’re to maintain this pressure sufficiently. It’s a big month this March, though if we can march on to Wembley and bring home the cup, really the league position would be pretty irrelevant come May.
Huge game at The Emirates next Saturday. Another couple of trips to Wembley? Why, yes please!!
Howard: Made one or two good saves and handled well with crosses. Distribution lacking at times but generally OK. 6
Baines: Had a good game and effectively forced the issue with his surge forward and ball in for Lukaku to bag us the points. We need a lot from him these next few months. 7
Distin: Coped with the threat of Nolan and substitute Carroll adequately. 6
Stones: My Man of the Match. Tough in the tackle, good reading of the play and decent distribution. One for the future for sure but was a credit to himself today. Has a big future ahead of him. 7
Coleman: Not surging forward as he can but did do well defensively. 6
Barry: Had a good game protecting the back line. 7
McCarthy: Did well. Showed good bite in the tackle and covered a lot of ground. 7
Pienaar: Very good and kept on going literally right until the very end. Was a thorn in their side throughout. 7
Deulofeu: Working his way back to fitness and did pretty well though is capable of more. Almost scored a wonderful goal in the first half. Another cracker at The Emirates next weekend would go down a treat. 6
Osman: Was busy and a bit unfortunate to be subbed but something had to change to accommodate Lukaku and Naismith was doing too well to take off in my opinion. Not a bad game at all though from Osman. 6
Naismith: Worked tirelessly up front. Put in a good honest shift throughout. 7
Lukaku (for Osman): Good to see him back with a bang. There’s a class player in there somewhere. That turn and volley was awesome, even Van Persie-like. Needs to be at his best for the run in. 7
McGeady (for Deulofeu): Worked hard. Still getting into the grove of things at Goodison. 6
Barkley (for Naismith): Didn’t quite get involved but not through lack of effort. 6
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255 Posted 01/03/2014 at 22:28:59
I liked him as a player too.
258 Posted 01/03/2014 at 22:35:56
Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more.
297 Posted 02/03/2014 at 05:58:33
389 Posted 02/03/2014 at 16:57:56
394 Posted 02/03/2014 at 18:05:01
My man of the Match choice was either Baines or McCarthy.
397 Posted 02/03/2014 at 18:16:42
399 Posted 02/03/2014 at 18:14:27
I watched Stones quite closely yesterday, and was mightily impressed. His positional sense was fine, which for one so young and inexperienced at this level, was very surprising. He also put in some fine sturdy challenges, one of which was wrongly penalised by an over-fussy ref, which indicated that Stones wasn't scared to match the physical presence of the likes of Carleton Cole (then Carroll), and Nolan.
Finally, I noticed that Stones was most often given the task of challenging Carroll in the air, and again he surprisingly won more than his fair share, despite being the shorter of the two.
Overall, a very impressive game by Stones, in the key match-up of the day, which went a long way in deciding the outcome of the game.
400 Posted 02/03/2014 at 18:24:36
One of the best moments of the match was Stones bringing the ball out of defence and playing a 40 yard ball to Baines on the wing. It was as cool as you like.
I also love his interviews. A really likable lad and always smiling.
403 Posted 02/03/2014 at 18:33:15
408 Posted 02/03/2014 at 19:09:18
Funny game to look for a MOTM, I didn't think anyone was outstanding except for Lukaku, who changed the game when he came on for his short stint.
I'd probably give it to Baines, with considering his inexperience Stones a close 2nd.
Stones had a very poor game against rs. & I would not have played him in this game!
The lad proved me wrong, and had a good game, especially up against their front two.
I thought Alcaraz was fit, he would have been my first choice but he wasn't even in the squad, Browning was on the bench instead!
448 Posted 02/03/2014 at 22:43:00
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