All in place for a midday kick-off with some fans direct from last night’s clubbing. Kalashnikovs loaded and knives left behind. All the songs could be heard and optimism high but the news of the team missing Mirallas, Coleman and McCarthy was a touch sobering.

For the first few minutes, we had control of the ball and were bedding in but, as soon as Man Utd won it back, a quick break saw Howard have to make a smart save from a close range header which to my mind set the tone for the rest of the first half: it saw Man Utd break swiftly and dangerously from us mainly giving the ball away when reaching the final third. It was disappointing seeing players become overanxious in that final third and making wrong decisions after good approach play.

Our first bit of excitement was when Lukaku won a corner when challenging for a header, then Besic, who was showing well with Barry, was booked for a tackle on Falcao and then, to the ire of those assembled in blue, Naismith was felled with a very similar tackle for a free kick but no card. The ref was Kevin Friend so inconsistencies could be expected.

As we passed the 25-min mark, the game was a bit of a stalemate until Pienaar got eased off the ball very easily and he resorted to tripping his man, getting a card; from the free-kick Man Utd in three passes had Di Maria curling home – what a blow and self-inflicted. Just a minute later and Pienaar loses the ball again and gives away a free kick which is hit well with pace and Howard leaps to his left to make a very good save. Pienaar is not having his best first half at all.

On 35 mins, we gain a corner which causes all sorts of chaos in and around the box but, despite good intentions all round, we again fail to put ball within those white things that hold the net up.

Whilst it might read like I have it in for Pienaar, that is far from the truth... but I have to report that Man Utd’s next attack came from Pienaar seeming to collapse to the floor leading to them gaining a corner which thankfully came to nought. From the kick out, Baines made ground and picked out Lukaku on the left edge of box with a delightful ball that allowed the striker to turn on goal but his shot, shall we say, ‘lacked direction’ – I am trying to be kind there. Still none on target.

Man Utd then gained two corners with sustained attacking after Stones blotted his copybook by trying an overambitious ball to try to release the lesser seen McGeady but we held out and it looked as though we would go in just the one down as 2 mins is flashed up. They were two magical minutes as Pienaar seemed reborn and produced form akin to his earlier times with us. He jinked, feinted and dribbled across the pitch and played Hibbert in, he raced toward goal and was felled — "Penalty!" we yelled — the ref obliged! Up stepped Baines — he never misses — HE MISSED!

Half-time... And I can’t remember a shot on target by us except that Baines effort at the death. The half-time chat was not very complimentary so I won’t dwell on it. I just thought we can’t be that bad again surely? Besic, who looks to be settling better now, put in the best shift and was our best reader of the game.

No changes as the second half gets underway; we had early stalemate and then Man Utd getting on top but, ten minutes in, we changed the course of the game when a decent joined-up move with a bit of pace saw Baines cross a beaut that was met by the ever alert Naismith who headed powerfully giving the excellent De Gea no chance. Euphoria from the Blue end and, with Allez-Allez O ringing around the ground, Howard held onto a corner from Man Utd to great cheers from Blues assembled.

Naismith showed well again in the air and this time gained a corner which was cleared from the goal-line. We seemed rejuvenated and the team on top at last until just about 8 mins later when a Man Utd cross was deflected toward the corner flag. Howard chased it to save a throw in to Utd, he reached the ball but just played it up the line straight to the Utd right back who was urged to shoot toward an empty net but instead he played the ball up-field, Di Maria had a shot that fell to the unmarked Falcao in the box (UNMARKED IN THE BOX?!!?) Criminal, I thought, as the Columbian netted – fans gutted.

The manager acted and Pienaar was swapped for Oviedo who got a grand reception. Pienaar looked quite bedraggled as he trudged off in a manner that suggested an injury along with a torrid afternoon shift.

We did regroup and started to gain a foothold again and by 70 mins I was thinking Eto’o for Lukaku who to me just did not seem to be putting in the required effort expected of such an expensive potential powerhouse and goalscorer... but no action noted on the bench. Fellaini was seen warming up with intent and receiving the odd comment when near the blue faithful then on 75 mins we did a double swop: Osman for Hibbert and Browning for McGeady. Hibbert I thought had coped well with both Di Maria and Shaw while McGeady had helped him little if at all and had a stinker but I must admit was slightly better than Atsu. I don’t know what it is with McGeady as he goes from hero to zero on a very regular basis, is it concentration lacking? Let’s hope Roberto can sort him and Lukaku before we resume on the 18th.

We were having a better 2nd half, well it could not have been worse, and we went into the last 5 mins attacking well with Osman being a revelation in the McGeady role, He put Browning in down the right who crossed for another Naismith header which this time was deflected for a corner. That came in and was cleared to the edge where Osman had taken up a clever position and he hit a good shot through a crowd that the keeper had to save. Another good forward move broke down when Lukaku was caught offside. At the other end Stones robbed Van Persie on the by-line with a superb tackle and set up another spell of attacking. By now, the faithful were praying – I swear I heard rosary beads rattling. We cut Utd open with a superb pacy joined up move of three or four passes and Osman ever available had a great shot stopped by a world class save, Drat.

On we go, there is still time we tell ourselves. Last minute of added, Baines is tumbled on the edge of box wide left. He takes – ball scrambled clear... Barry shoots – it hits a defender and out to Oviedo who shoots and that is cleared from the line. Oh how did they stay out?

As the dust settles Stones is seen lying in the area. Physio is called for and – by the looks of Stones's reactions and the use of a stretcher – then a 6- to 8-weeker can be expected.

We attacked again and got a corner ("Come on the ten men," I mused) that kick was cleared downfield to Howard who made a hash of his kick out and Utd gained possession straight away and played keep ball until ref blew. Another loss to go with a poor start to the season but still a long way to go and plenty of points to play for.

MotM — Besic

Overall a frustrating day. Everton produce a first half off dross the worst display I have seen for a long time yet second half was much improved and but for three super saves and two crucial blocks we could have won. Such are the fine margins of football, purely unpredictable.

I think a lot of our woes will be eradicated with the application of the two ‘Cs’ rule being sought and applied — Confidence and Consistency.

Villa next after the International break, they seem on a roll so let’s hope the two ‘Cs’ are in place and three points at home can break our duck. See you there...

UP THE BLUES.

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Reader Comments (27)

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Dennis Stevens
1 Posted 06/10/2014 at 07:40:11
Thanks, Ken. Great report, as ever. Two more "C's": Concentration &, in some cases, Commitment. Application of all four wouldn't go amiss.
Mike Oates
2 Posted 06/10/2014 at 09:08:56
Thanks, Ken. I was at game and agree virtually fully with your report, I actually only thought we were good for the first 10 mins and last 10 mins of the 2nd half. In-between, we are only a shadow of ourselves from last season.

I'm totally disappointed in Howard in the last few games. Lukaku is hopelessly off form, poor touch, no pace, asked to play wide to much, for a 㿈m man he should be in the box or running the channels; he does neither. McGeady is a total waste of time, creates zilch, never helps his full back. How many crosses did the opposition get to make from our right hand side? All season we have suffered from crosses from that side.

I was sitting in line with the goal area at Stretford End and also just looking at Falcao's goal on TV – the number of times John Stones plays people on is frightening, he's always 2-3 yds behind Jags. He's got to learn to read the line and quickly.

Franny Porter
3 Posted 06/10/2014 at 10:12:34
I'm quite concerned about the lack of effort from Lukaku. If you can't get yourself in the right frame of mind to play Manchester United away, what hope have we got for him against Villa at home?

Apart from the fact he controls the ball as if he is wearing wellies, he never, ever wins headers or pressures the centre-halves. He was up against a rookie yesterday and should have been smashing the lad at every opportunity but he never even broke sweat.

If only we had someone like Samuel Eto'o to bring on from the bench.... Oh, hang on....

Eddie Dunn
4 Posted 06/10/2014 at 11:18:03
Great report Ken, but the "C" I would most like to see is "Coleman".
Dick Fearon
5 Posted 06/10/2014 at 12:02:02
Hi Ken,

I agree with your choice of Besic for MotM and would nominate Naismith for runner-up.

Mike Childs
6 Posted 06/10/2014 at 12:38:07
Spot on, Eddie Dunn, re Coleman. Great report, Ken.

I have yet to give it to Romo too hard given his age and changing positions every week but I am sick and tired of his nonchalant attitude on defense. No excuse for it. Some bench time is warranted so he can find his hunger.

Peter Cummings
7 Posted 06/10/2014 at 13:14:11
No excuse for a terrible first-half display all round. I canĂ‚’t really criticise Baines for the penalty, he was due a miss... pity it had to be there. The linesmen were flagging offsides that werenĂ‚’t yet their winner was clearly offside.

No doubt about it, our version of Balotelli has to start performing or be benched indefinitely. RM has to drastically rethink tactics that have become all too predictable.

It was great to see little Oviedo back and buzzing. Last but not least, this was three points lost, not given, thanks to great Ă‚’keeping and that penalty miss.

David Harrison
8 Posted 06/10/2014 at 14:11:52
Can't help but think Roberto has got his planning for the season spectacularly wrong. I honestly think he deliberately undercooked pre-season in light of players at the World Cup and the extra demands of the Europa League.

He has clearly prioritised the Europa League but, if we don't start picking up points soon, this will have to be abandoned in favour of a relegation dogfight. I don't honestly feel we will go down but with this squad we should be doing a whole lot better.

Talk of a difficult set of opening fixtures is a bit of a red herring considering Palace took us to the cleaners at home and they've just been beaten by erm... Hull. Time to sort it out, Roberto!!

Eddie Dunn
9 Posted 06/10/2014 at 17:07:57
David 8; Perhaps you're on to something there.

Is Roberto thinking of a piece of elusive silverware? He has won the FA Cup, after all, and knows what it takes.

If we finished say 12th in the League but won the Europa, or the FA Cup, would we be happy?

Chris Lawlor
11 Posted 06/10/2014 at 17:14:38
You know what, Eddie, I'd take anywhere from 10th up in the league if we won the Europa League. There is negligible difference in terms of income between 6th and 10th if we manage to make the CL through winning the EL this season.

A trophy in the cabinet and a rebuild for next season with a spine of Stones, Besic and Rom (assuming he finds his shooting boots soon) would suit me fine.

Linda Morrison
12 Posted 06/10/2014 at 17:27:52
David, yes we should be doing a lot better with the squad but over half of our best players are out injured for long periods. I'd take the Europa League and mid table.

We all need to calm down and believe in the manager and the team that did so well for us last season and stop going on about age. Osman and Hibbert had very good reviews from the game.

Once Barkley and Coleman are back, Rom will thrive.

Wayne Smyth
13 Posted 06/10/2014 at 17:36:18
David (8) I don't think the difficulty of the opening fixtures is something to be disregarded on the sole basis that we lost to Palace too. We always lose to teams like Palace on occasion. That inconsistency has been one of our weaknesses for many, many years.

Paul McGinty
14 Posted 06/10/2014 at 17:44:52
Thanks, Ken. Watching on TV, not at pitchside, Stevie P was sat down injured before the pattern of play which resulted in Tim playing it down the line when it was obvious it needed to be played out into the proverbial Row Z, so we could make the substitution.

It ended up costing us because we were getting stronger through the second half. I liked Besic's mobility, comfort on the ball and ability to pick a pass. With Barry not playing up to last season's standards... it will be interesting if Besic and McCarthy get paired in an upcoming fixture.

Ajay Gopal
15 Posted 06/10/2014 at 18:03:01
Some of the match reports (BBC/Sky?) mentions that the Di Maria 'pass' to Falcao was actually a mishit attempt on goal. If that is so, blaming Stones for playing Falcao on side is a bit unfair, isn't it?
Brian Hill
16 Posted 06/10/2014 at 18:07:26
Peter@7, their winner was not offside. We can make as many excuses as we like for this defeat, but that is not one of them.
Brian Hill
17 Posted 06/10/2014 at 18:14:13
Ajay@15, it was a mishit shot, but no defender should ever assume offside. Stones's fault? The other defenders in this match were far more experienced than he, but I already know which of them would be first in my team.
Wayne Smyth
18 Posted 06/10/2014 at 18:36:52
Brian, I think that particular goal is mostly Stones's fault as the other defenders had pushed up and he should've been in line. Howard needs to also take his fair share as he should've played it out to allow us to regroup, being a man down.

That said, I agree with you if you're saying Stones would be first on your team sheet. On current form, he's by far our best centre half.

David Harrison
19 Posted 06/10/2014 at 18:40:09
Linda, I appreciate we have injuries but we now have a reasonable enough squad to cover for them. I haven't been overly concerned by any of the teams we have put out so far – apart from the fact that they all look so lethargic.

Wayne, I know the odd shock result happens but, in the context of our other performances/results, a failure to beat Palace at home becomes more concerning.

Dan Nulty
20 Posted 07/10/2014 at 11:58:05
Thanks Ken, I pretty much agree with your assesment. I was sat in with the Man Utd fans unfortunately as a friend couldn't go and he has a season ticket to watch the scum. I nearly gave myself away when De Gea saved Bainesy's penalty, I had a feeling he was going to miss.

I think your selection of Man of the Match just goes to show how ordinary we are this year. Besic is average at best. He gave the ball away a few times (as did everyone) and didn't do anything particularly outstanding to make him Man of the Match in my eyes. But I can't really disagree with you. Howard pulled off a few good saves and couldn't really do anything about the goals.

Naismith was anonymous through out the whole first half and I don't get why Lukaku isn't playing through the middle. It just isn't right. Hibbert can't stay on his feet and at times his defending looked really good as he slid in and saved the day a few times; however, he was horribly out paced and horribly out of position at times meaning he had no option but to go off his feet. Browning looked overawed by being on the pitch when he came on for him.

My last piece of criticism is left for Oviedo, while it was good to see him back and he forced a wonderful save out of De Gea, right up to that he was absolutely abysmal. Giving the ball away, passing and flicking to no-one, awful movement. He is about ten yards off the pace and shows how thin we are that we are having to rush him back.

Oh and I really don't rate McGeady. Man Utd were very ordinary in midfield and at the back (not goalie obviously) so the fact we only scored once tells you everything you need to know about how poorly we played. For the first time this season, I am really concerned about where we will finish.

Bill Gall
21 Posted 07/10/2014 at 18:36:32
On vacation and watched on TV in Arabic that the commentator made the game sound more exiting than it was.

Have to agree with a number of comments made: (a) Lukaku was very poor with his control and effort; (b) It still seems that Everton as a team are not capable of 90 mins' fitness (poor pre-season preparations). Only complaint about Baines penalty save was keeper seemed from the replay to far off his line.

A point that I think should be taken into account this season is that other managers have now realised how Martinez likes to play and are setting up to combat it and Martinez does not seem to have a plan (B) to change it.

Along with other supporters I had high expectations for this season but unless things change soon we are going to revert to the disappointments that a number of previous seasons have provided. The thing that worries me is the amount of goals conceded (not the problem of one man ) and no effort made in the transfer window to help.

Still a long way to go but the manager has to turn the season around as in the premier league there is no easy games and looking at our injury list the squad is not as strong as many of the supporters may have been thinking.

Wayne Smyth
22 Posted 07/10/2014 at 19:36:41
Bill, lots of people have said Martinez has been found out by other managers, but I don't buy that. Most teams have a certain way they play and they don't tend to chop and change every week to keep other teams guessing. We're no different.

It's more likely that with half the squad out injured, particularly in key attacking areas, those that are filling in are just not as competent.

I think if we'd have had Pienaar, Coleman and Mirallas fit, we'd probably be sitting in a Champions League spot by now. Hibbert, McGeady and Atsu really have been a step down.

Bill Gall
23 Posted 07/10/2014 at 20:51:20
Wayne, I did not say he had been found out. My comment is Martinez has an attacking style of play with the full backs pushing up to support the attack that leaves the defense open to counter attacking. Last season, the defenders were able to to cope with the counter attack but this season they are not and the Manager has not done anything to help by either altering the style or bringing in other players or defensive coaches to resolve the problem.

As far as injuries go, all teams have injuries and the comments before the season started that the Manager would bring in 5-6 new players to build up the squad but only 1 defender was brought in and a number of youth players were promoted to the first team squad with most of the transfer money going on a forward.

I read an English newspaper and in it the Man Utd Manager stated he was upset at his players for not passing the ball into the spaces that the full backs left when up the field as Everton's defence had no cover.

My arguement with Mr Martinez is he is just expecting the defence to get better while we continue playing the same system that at the moment has conceded the most goals against in the Premier League. Clubs do change their systems depending on who they are playing and that is why some of them are accused of parking the bus and when you play in Europe you have to be able to defend successfully as away goals can count double.

Wayne Smyth
24 Posted 07/10/2014 at 21:24:07
Bill I disagree on most of your points.

I don't think we've been conceding goals due to our midfield offering no protection and teams getting us on the counter while our fullbacks are high up the pitch. Many of our goals have been basic defensive errors.

On Saturday, we conceded one goal because Stones played Falcao onside and after Howard should've put it out for a throw given we were a man down. For the Di Maria goal we had both fullbacks and our two defensive midfielders in place.

At Palace, Howard couldn't catch a football for one goal and he brought one of their players down for a penalty for another.

Against RS we conceded from a direct free kick

Against Arsenal we had 6 players behind the ball and still allowed a simple ball across our box for the first, then Jags and Distin allowed Giroud to head in a second without so much as a challenge. He was the only Arsenal player they had to mark.

Against Swansea, Hibbert got ripped a new one by Montero for the first goal, Distin contrived to head a long ball against our own crossbar for Sigurdsson to fire in the rebound on the second.

Essentially we've been architects of our own downfall. Jags, Howard and Distin have been particular culprits with very poor individual performances at times. They are making errors that are nothing to do with our tactics and everything to do with basic concentration and decision making.

Last season our players weren't fucking up simple things every weekend, and hence we won games. This season, we've still been scoring a few, we've been slightly toothless in attack due to injuries of key players, but individual errors are killing our results and our confidence.

I would say that (with the benefit of hindsight) I would have preferred Martinez to bring in another right back and a more creative central midfielder rather than bust the bank on Lukaku but, with the kind of mistakes our players are making, I'm not sure what difference that would make.

Bill Gall
25 Posted 07/10/2014 at 22:43:15
Wayne, as I stated last season, our defenders were able to cope with counter attacks by what you pointed out by not making basic mistakes as you quote this season. I never mentioned the midfield not giving coverage. The point I am trying to make is players making continuous mistakes should be dropped but this brings up the problem that our squad for coverage; ie, Hibbert / Alcaraz and a number of the young players brought in do not appear to be the answer.

The number of defensive mistakes as you stated is by a number of different players but one of the main culprits is the man you rely on the most, as Man Utd's goalkeeper showed on Sunday, is your keeper... so why is our keeper not dropped? The only reason that I can think of is that Martinez must have no faith in Robles and, if this is the case, why was another keeper not brought in when funds were available?

When you have injuries the players you bring in for coverage may be not as good as the player he replaces so therefore you may have to change the system you are using to get the best from them.

Playing players who are continually making mistakes and loosing you games is a recipe for disaster and will continue if you keep playing them hoping they will improve.

Harold Matthews
26 Posted 09/10/2014 at 03:40:21
Sorry Ken. Too much negative. In fact, one particular piece of criticism annoyed me.

With regard to the C" business, I have to go with the Naismith post-match view. "Concentration."

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