When you have one of those days when everything that can go wrong does go wrong you kind of fear the worst when going to the match. After navigating frustrating 50mph and then 40mph zones along the M56 and M6…and then meeting the East Lancs Road bedlam…and then really struggled to find a place to park…it was eventually nice to grab a quick pint in the pub with Ste and Simon before heading to the ground.

We were all a bit surprised by the starting line-up with no McCarthy in the team. “I hope he’s not trying to be too clever there” I said. It seemed he was as Crystal Palace cut through us far too easily as we made it very difficult for ourselves in handing The Eagles the three points.

The match was preceded by a nice tribute to commemorate the Hillsborough 25th Anniversary with the whole ground joining in the period of applause in respect to those that passed. The end of the tribute was met with the customary roar as the teams lined up, Everton without McCarthy, Naismith and Osman but including Deulofeu, Mirallas and McGeady. It’s fair to say Everton ‘went for it’. Andy Marriner got the match under way and Everton forced Crystal Palace onto the back foot immediately, forcing a corner within the first minute.

It was a bright start by Everton though Crystal Palace, buoyed by their fantastic support, withstood the pressure and were comfortably in the game. Despite numerous first half corners Everton’s efforts on goal all seemed to be from outside the penalty box…and were all wayward.

Albeit without real chances Crystal Palace were growing in confidence and it wasn’t exactly a massive surprise when Jason Puncheon finally buried his opportunity after Chamakh laid the ball off too him whence Howard had palmed out a low centre. Baines was beaten a little too easily by Bolasie prior to that I thought. 1-0 behind then but a long time left on the clock to claw our way into the game. Unfortunately this didn’t happen in the first half as we just didn’t get going again. McGeady frustrated (himself and everyone) and Crystal Palace had done their homework on Deulofeu on the opposite flank. The closest we came before the interval was a Lukaku drive which was turned around the post by Speroni, though Bolasie came a lot closer for Crystal Palace when he rattled Howard’s near post with a drive from the edge of the penalty area. Half time 0-1 but no need to panic as Everton have only gotten going in the second half many times this season…

Unfortunately Scott Dann didn’t allow us that opportunity, heading into the net from a corner just four minutes in the second half and leaving Everton with everything to do. The cavalry were called, if you can call Osman and McCarthy that, as Naismith had already been introduced. You wondered whether Martinez had shot himself in the foot with his selection as with starting with so many attackers on the pitch it left us with a lack of impact substitutes to bring on. Still, we rallied and for the fourth time this season Naismith came off the bench to score for us, the goal coming after Mirallas deep cross was headed across goal by Baines for Naismith to pounce on and stab home…cue eccentric time-wasting by Speroni.

The pendulum of momentum had certainly swung in Everton’s favour and it is then when small lapses in concentration can become critical. Distin failed to deal with a diagonal ball and ended up somehow giving away a throw in. From this Cameron Jerome eventually scored but surely somebody should have put a tackle in somewhere. Everyone seemed switched off somehow. 3-1 and the comeback opportunity was now mountainous.

Everton creditably plugged away. Ross Barkley came very close and was denied by a good Speroni save before Mirallas capitalized on Crystal Palace this time switching off, the Belgian rounding Speroni following a Barkley pass and scoring to set up the Grandstand Finish.

It wasn’t to be however. Crystal Palace survived more corners, a handball shout and two successive air-shots from Mirallas when it seemed easier to score but when all is said and done Crystal Palace deserved their win and Everton deserved to lose.

A lot of grumblings about the season now being over were heard on the way home. Everything is impossible to call or predict. With the fixtures we have it looks difficult for us but with four games to go we can’t stop believing in ourselves (and Chelsea) now.

Come on Everton. Let's give it everything.

Player Ratings:
Howard: Not at his best I felt. The first goal perhaps might have been pushed out a bit better, the second I thought he could have saved and for the third their seemed a bit of indecision between Sylvain Distin and himself before they eventually scored. I might be annoyed and just being harsh but that’s how I saw it. 5
Baines: Decent knock down for Naismith’s strike but was far from his best also. Beaten too easily for their opener. 5
Distin: Seemed a bit short of confidence, particularly after the third goal went in and also wasn’t quite at his best. 5
Stones: I thought he was brilliant. The way he carriers the ball forward and always looks for a pass belies his years. Looks an excellent player. My man of the match. 8
Coleman: Got forward well though perhaps lacking slightly defensively at times. 6
Barry: Did OK before subbed though nothing spectacular. Certainly plays better with McCarthy alongside him. 6
Barkley: A bit hit and miss though all part of the learning curve. 6
McGeady: Poor game generally. A few nice touches but looked a little lost at times. 5
Deulofeu: Also poor. Tried the same trick every time and barely ever beat his marker. Fair to say Crystal Palace had done their homework on him. I think starting with McCarthy and having Deulofeu available as an impact substitute would have been a better move. 5
Mirallas: Did pretty well. A bit in and out of the game but was one of the more likely players to grab a goal…and so he proved with his late strike. It’s a shame he fluffed his lines with an even later opportunity. 6
Lukaku: Really poor I felt. Didn’t offer himself as an option nearly enough and didn’t show enough movement for me. Will have to improve considerably for Easter Sunday. 4

Naismith: Did well. Came on, got involved and got himself a goal. It’s amazing to think what a key player he has become. 7
Osman: Missed one reasonable chance with his left footed volley and also grazed the bar with another. Was certainly more involved than those he replaced. 6
McCarthy: Good bullying in the middle which was needed. Should have started the game in the engine room...not on the substitutes bench. 7

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Mark Tanton
838 Posted 17/04/2014 at 07:43:54
If Lukaku is trying to put himself in the shop window, he's going a funny way about it.
Phil Walling
845 Posted 17/04/2014 at 08:13:47
Big game bottling is in our DNA ,Paul ! That's why we should sure to beat the Sunderlands and Crystal Palaces !
Peter Foy
850 Posted 17/04/2014 at 08:20:43
I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Lukaku is fucking shite. No movement, never available, not interested and his first touch is not to the standard of a footballer nevermind a professinal one. His second touch isn't even a tackle, it's a fucking journey. He believes his own hype and knows he'll be in the champions league next year with chelsea anyway. Not good enough for Everton football club.
Jermaine Jennings
877 Posted 17/04/2014 at 09:05:51
Lukaku will be good in years to come but we can't keep on getting these young players on loan helping them to develop its not what we need right now!!!

I actually thought Lukaku improved this when he returned from injury but his bad first and second touch has returned and he doesn't put himself about much neither which is frustrating!!!

I was talking to some evertonians on Saturday and one of them said "we we easily beat palace" and I said this is Everton matey its never that simple if it was we would comfortably be in the top four!!!

I would like to see Jags at centre half and john stones play alongside McCarthy for the Utd game but back to the point we always bottle these big games and I'm gutted no radio, no newspapers, no sport for a few days until i've calmed down!!!!

Every time we have have chance of doing something good we just mess it up why!!! I could go on forever!!!!

Harold Matthews
881 Posted 17/04/2014 at 07:34:34
Two goals should have been enough. Unfortunately, our last line of defence had more holes than a worn out sieve. Tentative people not getting close enough. Using the wrong leg to block a shot so their body is not wacked by the ball in a sensitive area. Who is our defensive coach? Tinkerbell?? The whole shamozzle at the back was an eye-boggling farce. Free headers, free shots, three goals and three days to sort it out. Never mind the problems up front. We've sprung a leak and it needs to be fixed. Pronto.
Harold Matthews
890 Posted 17/04/2014 at 09:43:39
Paul. I think you need to study their three goals again. Who was badly placed on the goal-line for their first? (Why was he hiding behind Howard??) Who allowed Scott Dan a free header for the second? Who failed to block off the third? Yes, you've guessed it. Your Man of the Match.
Darryl Ritchie
892 Posted 17/04/2014 at 09:28:38
I had the game recorded. Came home from work, checked the final score online....erased it! I have to admit, though I was wary about the match, I was looking past it to Man Utd... From I'm reading on TW, so was RM and the players.

I don't really feel disappointed; just kind of deflated and numb. I think I see 4th disappearing over the horizon.

Roberto's putting on a positive spin on the situation, as usual. There are probably going to be a few more plot twists for every club before this seasons ends. Hopefully this result is not the momentum killer.

Let's destroy the Mancs on Sunday!!!

Ryan Holroyd
894 Posted 17/04/2014 at 10:02:30
John Stones was fantastic last night. Distin, on the other hand.... Beyond useless!
Conn Prosser
925 Posted 17/04/2014 at 12:18:07
The big game was Arsenal, which we didn't bottle. The next big game is Man Utd, which we won't bottle.

I don't blame Martinez or the front line, I blame the defensive staff as whole. I will analyse their goals to see if Harold's suggestion that Stones was badly positioned for all 3 has legs.

We missed McCarthy for sure. Hope he is 100% for Sunday.

Nigel Gregson
930 Posted 17/04/2014 at 12:42:54
We missed McCarthy big time. We simply do not have depth in the the holding midfield spot and it showed. Our defenders get exposed badly without Barry and McCarthy working in tandem and doing their thing.

As Harold rightly pointed out, I think they wouldn't have scored 3 had Jags played, as Stones, while great on the ball, has still to learn a few things defensively.

Tony J Williams
931 Posted 17/04/2014 at 12:49:45
Conn, the front still needs to put a shift in too.

They were strolling through our midfield and let's be fair, they deserved the 3 points.

Too light in midfield, big error by Martinez.

Kevin Green
933 Posted 17/04/2014 at 13:19:20
Just a curious choice for RM to start Barkley out of position. Still don't understand the reasoning behind that.
Ben Jones
940 Posted 17/04/2014 at 13:52:24
The headline put me off. We beat Arsenal for god sake!!!!
James Martin
945 Posted 17/04/2014 at 14:00:30
It's not about whether it's a big game or not; it's about playing with pressure or expectancy.

We botched the first three games because there was the early season expectancy. Then, as soon as the pressure was relieved, we started winning up until the turn of the year when suddenly we were in a good position and had the chance to hurt our rivals. Of course, we didn't; we lost just enough that everyone wrote us off.

We revel in that position of unseen underdogs so stormed back to win seven in a row. As soon as the spotlight was shone back on us, though, we crumbled. If you present this Everton an opportunity, they'll present it back straight away.

Quite simply, they only win when it doesn't seem to count. Any meaningful game of note over the last decade or so we've messed up. I have no doubt we'll probably beat Man Utd or City now and finish one behind because that is where Everton are comfortable. There is only one specialist in failure and it's not Wenger — it's Everton. I pity Martinez having to work with these weak-willed players. So much quality there but so little mentality or respect for the fans.

Paul Ferry
973 Posted 17/04/2014 at 15:31:23
With all due respect to PT, a bunch of others, the fella who wrote the long post on another thread combing through big losses we have had since the '77 League Cup Final, this we bottle big games stuff really bugs me!

Like this season, for instance, Arsenal home and away, Man-Utd away, Liverpool home, Chelsea. And yes, I know, just to level the see-saw folks will leap on Liverpool A, Arsenal in the cup blah, blah, blah, blah .....

Provide for me concrete evidence of a bunch of teams who do not lose big games against big teams or in finals in much the same way as we appear to have done or it is claimed that we do. The insinuation here implicit but actually explicit is that somehow Everton are exceptional in this bottle issue when in fact that is 100 per cent Tom O'Connor dogsbollocks!

Yep, I was at the '77 final(s) and was well pissed off and the '80s lost finals and was well pissed off bordering on clinically depressed, but "bottling it" was not the reason that we lost a single one of those finals. Hmmm '95 doesn't fit the bill really does it?

Chelsea final, Liverpool semi, yep truly awful experiences with memories of dumb mistakes and being clinically tactically out-thought. Hang on, the Man Utd semi doesn't fit the bill either, does it?

We lose big games, so do others. We lose finals, so do others. We perform in such inexplicably hopeless ways at times that the only available explanation seems to be that we bottle it, so do others.

I have had too many disappointments to count over the last 35 years and many, many glorious experiences. This Everton bottle it/don't turn up for big games thingy is a lazy, convenient red herring. We are neither exceptional in our record or in fact consistent in it.

Ho hum off to the airport soon for another 'big game' Sunday and let's hope we don't "bottle it", eh! Don't wanna be down in the dumps flying back over the Atlantic Monday hitting the bottle musing on the lack of bottle I saw the previous day!


Harold Matthews
984 Posted 17/04/2014 at 15:40:51
Ryan H. Yes, he is fantastic on the ball. He always is. A joy to watch. Unfortunately, he is in our last line of defence and his main job has very little to do with looking good. It's all about preventing the opposition from scoring goals and, in that respect, he failed miserably. Of course, he's not on his own. We don't have a Terry or a Vidic who have balls of steel and will use them to block shots. Far too many of our lads are terrified of being sexually knobbled and twist away from a hard shot with both eyes tightly shut. When Bolasie hit the post with a 25 yard screamer, Stones pirouetted out the way at great speed. I'm actually looking at it now on the box. The ball is whizzing past the seat of his pants as he turns frantically away. If you like that kind of defender, fair enough. I'm in the Mourinho / Pulis camp where CBs have to be as hard as nails, take no prisoners and welcome pain.
Patrick Murphy
986 Posted 17/04/2014 at 17:18:07
Paul like you I have witnessed all the ups and downs of the last forty years or so and whether it is a lack of bottle or plain bad luck our record in the matches that count is not a particularly proud one. We have probably lost more cup finals and semi-finals than any other club, we have often looked as if we were going to do something only to have it snatched away from us or worse fail to turn up on the big occasion.

I think this 'bottling' situation is a relatively recent phenomenon and it includes the 2009 Semi-Final with United and last season's capitulation against Wigan. The problem is exactly what Roberto described last night - we failed to be ourselves. The reason is perhaps understandable as the players are so very desperate to give the supporters what they want that they get caught up in the excitement and expectation and then fail to produce when it matters.

That is a good sign but it has to be better managed and I'm sure we have the man to alter that mind-set but it will take him time and let's be honest Roberto picked the wrong starting eleven last night which didn't help the nerves of the players or the fans. But if we can get the players to believe that they are as good as the best and better than the rest we will see that psychological barrier broken and have something to celebrate in the near future.

Tony Byrne
068 Posted 18/04/2014 at 01:46:11
Harold@890, My thoughts exactly as I had mentioned this on the way home from the game to my brother, Stones looked like a young Franz Beckenbauer coming out of defence spraying passes around the pitch which is fantastic to watch.

However, he is a defender first and foremost and I feel he was at fault for their 2nd and 3rd goals, his defending being more Jack Bauer than Beckenbauer!

But he is a young lad who will learn from his mistakes in good time. It ain't over yet for that 4th spot.

Conn Prosser
088 Posted 18/04/2014 at 04:47:49
"Weak willed players" is a bit strong James Martin. I usually nod at your comments but not that one.
Kieran Fitzgerald
098 Posted 18/04/2014 at 08:03:36
How often have we had this weight of expectation in recent years? With the exception of the odd game, very few and far between. I think this squad will have learned a lot from this season. We will be in a much better position to manage the expectation better in the big or important games next season.

We destroyed Arsenal a couple of weeks ago. There was huge expectation on us to put a decent performance in. Would we have managed it last season? Or the season before? No, we wouldn't. I think we will see more performances like it next season.

Man Utd or Chelsea have won the majority of these games in recent years because they have the experience of being there every year. They have developed the mindset to deal with the expectation as a result. We have developed that mindset this year. It was the one thing missing from our locker in recent years.

Ed Smith
124 Posted 18/04/2014 at 11:47:05
We didn't lose because we bottled; it we lost because the intensity and cohesiveness we showed against Arsenal was missing. The last time our midfield was that disjointed was West Brom away and we threw away the lead and 3 points there.

McGeady, Mirallas and Deulofeu are too similar to play together unless it all clicks straight away. They haven't got the balls to dig themselves out when the foot starts going in, so we could carry one or two for 10 or 15 minutes but not three.

Our midfielders were isolated whereas Palace seemed to have two lines of four with clear sightlines to each other disturbingly often.

Steven Telford
274 Posted 18/04/2014 at 23:39:17
We did well in a fair few of the big games, but when you do that, the little games become little-big games, and there is were the price looks to have be paid.
Mike Allison
502 Posted 19/04/2014 at 22:54:12
The Headline is nonsense. Conn at #925 has the right of it, we absolutely smashed the big game hammering Arsenal who were lucky to get away with 3-0. This wasn't losing the big game, it was failing to take care of the nitty gritty business in the ones you're expected to win.
Danny Kewley
559 Posted 20/04/2014 at 08:24:28
Agree with Paul Ferry on this one... I mean, if we did just bottle it everytime for a big game, what would be the fucking point of turning up! Okay so we have lost a number of important games over the years; Everyone Does!!!

Chelsea v Sunderland yesterday, for example... and Palace won another away game against West Ham against Newcastle lost at home to Swansea.

The games don't come much bigger than today and hopefully we can put a little twist on the subject after doing the double over Man Utd... We're Everton it's what we do! COYToffeeeeeeees!!!!

Matt Traynor
567 Posted 20/04/2014 at 09:45:43
Yeah I'd love to see the definition of what constitutes a big game. The other lot have had their share as well it's worth remembering (and thank fuck for that as they'd have been even more intolerable down the years than they are already).

1988 - FA Cup Final. Wimbledon. That's right. First penalty missed in a final as well, ger in there Aldo lad. Oh...

1989 - The League. Emotion still high after the tragedy of Hillsborough, but in the final game of the season, live on ITV on a Friday night (before all final games had to kick off concurrently). Grudgingly watching with the arl fella saying "they deserve it after that tragedy" etc, but as Mickey Thomas slotted as "It's up for grabs now!" we cracked open the beers and just quietly watched. The twats got their revenge on me and my old man at Wembley, and I was there for that.

1990 - FA Cup semi final. Beaten 4-3 by Crystal Palace. The LFC comedy back four was in full swing by then (soon to appear in 4-4 at "Goodison, End of Kenny"). Yes they won the league, but after that semi defeat, I actually liked Alan Hansen for a bit when he said their new song should be "We're forever blowing doubles".

Were they bottlers? No. Anyone could beat anyone back then, just as they do today. The key thing though is you have to at least be taking part in big games to lose them. Too often in the past we've had nothing to play for at this stage (or even still scraping points to be "mathematically certain").

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