Everton 0-1 Stoke City

Boxing Day... a home game and we turn up full of expectation after that debacle at Southampton; on receiving the team lineup, most were optimistic with the only debate being who would get the winger's job as we only had Mirallas as a recognised wide man... So who? Naismith or Barkley? By the end of the game, I don’t think we got the answer as players were popping up anywhere and everywhere yet without quite knowing why... or so it seemed from the stand.

The walk up seemed eerie as the roads were thronged with a full house crowd yet hardly any sound was to be heard. Big news on the Fat Van, though, as it was turned parallel with Spellow Lane rather than Goodison Road — Still no bacon though.

Z-Cars rang out and the crowd gave the gladiators in Blue a fine reception; "Would they respond?" I mused... and on the fair-play handshake (now that’s a laugh when playing Stoke), I noted it was Boxing Day and we are playing at home against a team playing in red and white stripes ... I wondered: Could the outcome be the same as last Boxing Day? I was to get my answer — and not like it.

We started the half kicking the wrong way as we attacked the Street End yet we did start it brightly enough with Mirallas getting pulled back but waived on by the ref only to come a cropper in the box, claiming a penalty that was waived away by the man in black. The ref today was Lee Mason who, whenever I see him reffing, I can’t help but think I am watching a man doing a job that he has not much interest in but realises it pays well; and who thinks if he can get away without having to make decisions and just get the game over, all well and good.

The half was littered with injuries, though, that disrupted play for both teams, the first of which was a lengthy affair as Lukaku and Shawcross clashed heads. Both recovered and continued but the clash did not seemed to have knocked much sense into either of them. Then Whelan went right through the back of Stones leaving him a heap on the turf; the ref saw no foul and waived play on, leaving Jags with a two-on-one situation which he did really well to deal with and get in a block that sent the ball up in the air for Howard to claim. Stones then had lengthy treatment but recovered enough to limp off and run back on. Stoke had a chance with a header that lacked pace but then injury time again as Barkley was sent to the touchline by the ref to have white things stuffed up his bleeding nose and return to the fray... but not for long as he was off twice more with the same affliction; clotting finally occurred.

We then had a bout of that maddening fiddling about at the back until the crowd's displeasure was most audible, so Jags broke out and carried the ball forward until that man Whelan left his foot in, as they say, and got just a word from the quiet-life seeker... From more Stoke pressure, a high ball into our box was cleared by the jumping Jags who looked to fall awkwardly and another lengthy hold-up as he got treatment.

After a Stoke attack was halted for offside, we took a free kick that led to our first corner but Stoke cleared that without much trouble.

I thought we were looking much better than last week — which was not too hard to achieve — as we got moves together but, as it has been all season, they tend to end abruptly once in or near the opposition box. Barry showed Stoke he could leave his mark as good as any Stoke player when he left one of theirs on the deck with the ref seeing nothing and waving play on... in fact, he did make a decision soon after when Naismith took down the Spaniard Bojan. Then we attacked again when Naismith was fouled in Mirallas territory. The Belgian hit it well only to have it deflected for a corner, from which Barry had a gimmie at the far post but, instead of heading into goal, for some reason he headed it back across goal to be cleared. That was a great chance and should have given us the lead. I wondered if it was real bad judgment — or has he got a 50-pence head?

Coming up to the 40-minute mark, we saw the game won and lost — and the ref had a huge part in it. First, when Walters produced a blatant pull-back on Baines and being the last man; then the penalty is normally red... but our ref gave only a yellow — much to the disgust of players and fans alike. Moments later, Stones gave the ball away when trying to play out and Bojan was off with McCarthy in hot pursuit; the Everton man caught up with him as he got into our box and was attempting to shepherd him along the by-line where both players seemed to come abreast of each other and go down; our ref deemed it a foul by our man and gave a very soft penalty which Bojan slotted. The way we have been playing this season, I somehow just knew that would be it. To be proved right was of very little consolation. McCarthy and Bojan had a bit of a scuffle as McCarthy definitely saw it as a dive.

After all the injuries, we had the rare sight of the added time board showing 10 mins. We attacked and tried but — with Naismith, Barry and Coleman spurning decent chances — it was left to Naismith on the death to play Mirallas in on goal with only the keeper to beat; he shot ever so narrowly wide when a man of his calibre should have netted.

Half-time, with the rain falling and it seemingly getting colder by the minute no one was very happy. We were not bad to a point but creating a goal was a long way off — that was the consensus...

Second half and we were kicking toward the Park End who didn’t rise to the Stoke fans' jibe about playing in a library — in fact, the most noise seemed to come from shouts of advice from disgruntled fans. We had made two changes at the break, with Robles replacing Howard and Alcaraz for Jagielka. More injuries again which isn’t going to help in the scrap to come... The half soon had its first injury when Stones dispossessed Diouf but hurt his bad ankle again and hobbled on it a bit for a while.

The half wasn’t much to write home about as Stoke were determined to keep a clean sheet for the first time this season while the weather got worse and ever colder; we looked most unlikely to break them down. We did have two corners in quick succession which ended in Alcaraz heading over. The crowd were getting evermore restless and possession football was not what the fans wanted to see, even if the manager did.

The crowd did come to life when it looked as though Baines broke ranks and did what he thought best and had a couple of darts into their box looking to exchange passes. It didn’t quite come off but it rattled Stoke and lifted our crowd. I just hoped our manager had noted these proceedings and maybe he could concede that there might just be another way.

With 20 mins to go, our manager made his first unforced sub when he took off McCarthy and put on Eto’o — which disappointed many within my earshot, who wanted to see more of Kone — especially up against a big physical rearguard. Eto’o just isn’t looking like the man that lit up a World Cup. We then had Mirallas injured again as he cut inside at high pace and was chopped down, not another month out I hope.

We continued to attack but could not find the craft or guile to penetrate their rearguard, even though Baines had given them the clue of how it might be achieved. Barkley was the one who I thought just might have the strength and natural ability to cause problems in the box but alas today he had a shocker, looking ponderous and being caught in possession on a few occasions.

The crowd were now howling at the ref to take action on Stoke’s blatant time-wasting and he did book a couple as well as making it 7 mins added. Seven minutes where we got nowhere really and, with the crowd streaming out probably in pursuit of more favourable events to attend on a Boxing Day, the ref finally brought the game to a tame conclusion and a number of those left in the ground booed. The game had been like the weather: started okay and got worse.

MotM – At a push to find one, I give you Baines. If you saw the game, have a go at naming one for yourself.

What a season we are having. Heading the wrong direction in the league, picking up injuries as easy as picking daisies, as well as competing with a team with a complete lack of confidence and form, and a manager who still talks of a top four finish. Something is wrong.

The crowd seem split on the manager’s position but that counts for nothing as it is the Chairman and Board of Directors who must ultimately decide to back or sack... I hope they make the right call given the evidence so far this season. Football is a 'here and now' sport that is result-driven; the past counts for little. I hope this man can turn it around but he must do it sooner rather than later. We have some very good players who are not playing well at all and there has to be a reason for that — and that is a circumstance for the manager to take responsibility for and to put it right.

As soon as Sunday, we play again at Newcastle — who are having their own problems. What players will be fit for selection? Will the manager have a plan for those that are and a Plan B just in case? It should be fascinating — unless you are a ‘behind the settee’ type fan.

Here's to hoping and praying — along with any other trait that might work toward a win.

UP THE BLUES

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Reader Comments (34)

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Paul Hewitt
1 Posted 27/12/2014 at 02:31:48
Great report, Ken, but we are in serious shit.
Peter Creer
2 Posted 27/12/2014 at 02:00:06
Ken, thank you for the 'on the ground' view.....always personal and connected. I would agree that we started well and as I sat here in Canada watching the game I was buoyed by the fact that I thought this was our best 11.

The game did start well but we were undone by two things; Lee Mason and the wreckless tackling of Stoke. Mason made a huge mistake when Baines was taken down and was clearly the past the last man. This was then compounded when Bojan was given the penalty for nothing more than the same contact that was made on Mirallas at the other end. Who would have believed that we would end the game without Mirallas and Jagielka as a result of some wreckless tackles and my greatest concern was the way that Stones tried to rebound from his injury, with many moments when I thought he should have been taken off the field.

Disappointment doesn't cover properly my thoughts on the match. My concern is who will be ready for the game against Newcastle. We need Baines and Coleman to be more willing to bomb forward as they did last year. Today, our threat came when that happened. I agree Ken that Baines was the MotM. Also, it has to be time to give Lukaku a rest and Kone his chance.

We need to get behind our team and know that we do have a team that is not a twelfth placed team....COYB

Anto Byrne
3 Posted 27/12/2014 at 02:46:01
Baines has been pretty dreadful for weeks and today was no exception. It just shows how dire we have become when he is our best player. I gave it to Robles as he managed to keep a clean sheet and only had 3 touches in the whole of the second half and didn't have one shot to save.

If Martinez can't sort this mess out in the coming weeks, we are going to have to start blooding some of the younger players who will show a bit of fight. We can write this season off and start digging in for the 40 points we need. Is Kone fit to play as I was mystified with the Eto'o sub????

Derek Thomas
4 Posted 27/12/2014 at 02:17:51
There was so much wrong with the Game yesterday, most of it our own fault, but not all. It's got to such a state now that there's no easy fix, or so it seems, that I don't think it could get any worse for Roberto. The only thing missing to make his Festive season any worse would be for the Chairman to come out with the dreaded 'vote of confidence '.

After typing the first para.I've sat for 10 mins. trying to think of a positive point in our favour. Added to this there are the inevitable rumours of internal bickering, dummy spitting and general pissed off'dness between players and management and between players.

Given our disarray, they may even be in the ' no smoke without fire ' category...which does not bode well for the goodship EFC, seemingly rudderless and drifting into the Mike Walker doldrums.

After trying to think of positives I did...We started with a bit of urgency, not much but a bit more. Baines popping up in the old inside left spec ( more than once ) for the red card that never was incident. Lukaku's first touch and little layoffs, were, for the first half showing improvement...and Stones, well for just being Stones.That's it...Oh and the fact/hope that it can't get any worse, but this is Everton, so I won't hold my breath on that.

John Williams
5 Posted 27/12/2014 at 04:04:26
I haven't looked at the stats but our last 3 games can't recall the opposing goalkeapers making any saves of note.. Can't remember any meaningful sustained pressure... probably decent possession stats though which someone seems to think is the be all and end all .
This game today has put everything into perspective for me as we clearly over achieved last season and is now all apparent.. As anyone who as ever played this game will tell you confidence is a vital part of football but that now has totally drained for us to become a rudderless ship on and off the field. This is a big worry as relagation is a strong possibilty from which this club may never recover..
I liked RM before he came here and after to a point but now cannot bare to listen to his diatribe before or after a game. I fear not only laymen like us have have seen through the bull.... and thats the most worrying thing....
Bob Parrington
6 Posted 27/12/2014 at 07:38:42
Derek #4, "there are the inevitable rumours of internal bickering, dummy spitting and general pissed off'dness between players and management and between players".

This usually means there is a bad egg (or apple or somebody). This shouldn't be too hard to resolve. Find out/admit who it is and tell him to go.

There is an I in teAm and it's in the A hole.

Paul Hughes
7 Posted 27/12/2014 at 08:51:11
They say that it's the hope that kills you. After another shambolic performance, there is no hope left for getting into a European spot, so, strangely I don't feel that upset about this result. We can but hope that we have something still in us for a run in either of the cups.

Problem is, though, I can't see us beating West Ham, particularly as I anticipate a half empty Goodison on a Tuesday night. I'm not bothering paying extra money to watch more of this rubbish.

Peter Mills
8 Posted 27/12/2014 at 09:15:53
By the end, every player seemed drained of any shred of confidence in their own ability, and any ounce of belief in the system they were supposed to be playing.

The walk back to the car in the biggest, wettest and coldest of snowflakes was more fun than watching the second half.

Ged Dwyer
9 Posted 27/12/2014 at 09:27:45
Hi Ken

I've heard people say it was our best 11. But Barkley being played on the left isn't right, Lukaku provides nothing up front and to solve this problem Lukaku needs to be rested so both Barkley and Naismith can play down the middle. Despite what some say Pienaar will be fine with games and we need him to link up with Baines again.

Injuries aside, the manager needs to scrap his ridiculous rotation theory and play a balanced settled team. Finally, the manager needs to tell all the players to work as hard as McCarthy. Unfortunately my confidence in him to do this is almost nil.

Tony Rutherford
10 Posted 27/12/2014 at 09:26:31
Ken, great write up as usual. Must admit, the start did make me a bit happier as we did at least start with a bit of tempo, and it did cause Stoke a few problems. Think McCarthy helped in that respect. Problem was we soon fell back into the way we have played all year as the tempo soon slowed and movement in front of the ball was totally non-existent. Why Martinez persists with Barkley out wide I can’t understand either play him in the middle or not at all. Still feel sorry for Lukaku though as we don’t play to his strengths at all. Nothing happening at all to get a ball in front of him and he has to make all the chances himself. We make poor teams look good at Goodson which is a real concern!
Mike Oates
11 Posted 27/12/2014 at 09:40:08
Unfortunately we need a desperate 1-0 win against all the odds after being battered for 90 mins against some team of other. We can't just suddenly play the fast possession football we did last season as it just doesn't happen ike that. The only way back is a real scruffy period were we somehow manage to get undeserved points on the board. Once you do that over a couple of games we just may , just may turn the corner.
That was the good news, the bad news is that we've been sussed completely , Baines and Coleman just can't find the space, the links, they hit brick walls every time they venture forward and it was these two who were our main attacking threat last year.
I think we've reached the stage where we need Kone and Lukaku upfront, we hit them early and we hopefully win the 2nd balls, but Martinez will not even consider dropping his 㿈m current misfit.
But again all will change with a few fortuitous breaks.
Joe Clitherow
13 Posted 27/12/2014 at 10:11:20
Bob #6 I think youĂ‚’re absolutely right but I think your bad egg is Martinez who needs to go immediately.
Mark Dunford
14 Posted 27/12/2014 at 10:04:43
A decent cup run should go someway to boosting confidence.We can hope that the Newcastle game is postponed because of the weather which would help the mounting injury crisis. It seems unlikely given that it is on TV.

I remember writing some months ago that we were hovering dangerously above the relegation zone before we won a couple of games to head into mid table safety. We're now back in a position just above the relegation scrappers. I don't fancy a squad combining too many underperforming 30+s, too many players of rich promise and too few at their career peak if the going gets tough and we get sucked into a fight I'd be very surprised if the side did go down but we need to pick up points and the last two home games should have yielded six points. I'd be amazed if this side challenged for a top four spot via the league. It seems fantastical to even suggest this.

The transfer window opens in a few days and we need a decent left sided centre half - Williams from Swansea, a goalkeeper to both challenge and deputise for Howard and a pacy winger (assuming we accept McGeady doesn't have enough impact). We also seem to bring back players when they're not fully fit - further evidence of a threadbare squad. Worrying times.

Dave Abrahams
16 Posted 27/12/2014 at 10:37:33
Another good and accurate report Ken.

Confidence is the key now, the players are better than the way they are performing, we just need the breaks to go our way.

I want Martinez to succeed, like most Blues but he is making it hard for himself by his unwillingness to change his style of play.

Derek Thomas
17 Posted 27/12/2014 at 10:47:04
Bob #6 maybe yes, maybe no, but as the players can't say boo to a goose without the Club's say so, these 'leaks' and thus the back story have a way of coming out.

And yes, while there is no 'I' in team except as you say in the 'A' for arsehole, there most definitely IS an 'I' in WIN ( also in shite )

This will get worse before it gets better and will all end in tears, with everybody bickering with each other, here on TW on the pitch, in the dugout and in the boardroom.

Raymond Fox
18 Posted 27/12/2014 at 10:32:53
I agree with Mike 11, the difference between last season and this is the opposition have found out that if we are closely marked our players cant cope with it.
Watch the difference between City et al and us, they have players that have the ability to beat their markers, and find a forward pass.
In other words our players are not good enough!
That shouldn't surprise us, our players have not been good enough for close on twenty years.

Not giving them our full support at home isn't going to help either, the players need our support more than ever, + influencing the ref.

One saving grace is that the teams on the whole below us are also getting beat too.

Raymond Fox
19 Posted 27/12/2014 at 11:20:51
A good deterrent for criminals would be, don't jail them, sentence them to buying a Everton season ticket each year for as long as they live, and stipulate that they have to attend each game.

Now that's severe!

Simon Harris
20 Posted 27/12/2014 at 11:17:49
In the context of yesterday's game and many preceding it, our players are MORE than good enough.

How many of Stoke's 1st team would get in to our team... 2 maybe 3 at a push. On paper and past performance our players are more than capable of challenging the top 6 and giving us a sniff at top 4 (we all need hope).

This team is a shadow of last season epitomised in the way Seamus Coleman has transformed from a worldly attacking wing back, taking the piss out of Arsenal last season, to a 60 grand Irish league full back.

The manager and his staff are to blame for this transition from top 6 to bottom 6.

Despite his stubbornness and inane patronising post match ramblings I still, for the time being, want him to succeed, as the promise of Sin Miedo (albeit the polar opposite at present) dynamic passing football is a lingering hope.

The big questions for me are:
Where is the next win coming from?
Will Bill be having a word and finding out how his manager intends to arrest this slide?
Will Bill have Tony Pulls on speed dial if we lose the next 2?
Will someone step up and please please please send the players out fired up for a second half?

Right, that's my Martinez esque ramble over with.

Raymond Fox
21 Posted 27/12/2014 at 12:02:57
Sack Martinez by all means, but who is looking like a top player in our side, I cant think of any.
They yesterday had plenty of opportunities if they were good enough and playing well.
How many chances did they create, very few, Lukaku couldnt produce a worthwhile shot, along with the rest of them!
We badly need a quality midfielder that has the ability to dictate and spread the ball around.

The couple of good chances that were there for the taking, Barrys effort was pathetic, and I could have scored Mirallas's chance.
Is the manager responsible for those incompetent attempts or the players.

On top of that the ref gave them the win, we cant even get good decisions at home now.

David Harrison
22 Posted 27/12/2014 at 13:57:49
There have been a few posts recently about how doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome is a sign of insanity. I’ve just realised that this is me (and so many others) with regard to Everton. Pass the straitjacket!!
Mike Allison
23 Posted 27/12/2014 at 14:12:37
Raymond that's absolute nonsense. Our players are most definitely good enough. In fact, that Martinez has assembled this squad is the one thing keeping him in a job in my opinion.

The problem is the 'philosophy' of not attacking, but passing the ball around pointlessly instead, and of refusing to utilise set pieces as an attacking threat. This all comes from the manager.

The form and confidence have evaporated at the moment, but Martinez could literally click his fingers, suddenly make the right decision and most of our problems would go away within a week of decent training.

Brent Stephens
24 Posted 27/12/2014 at 14:28:01
I haven't got a settee but I'm going to buy one in the sales today so I can watch the Newcastle game from behind it.
Jay Harris
25 Posted 27/12/2014 at 15:06:50
Great report as always Ken.

Happy new year to you and all the family and all fellow Blues seeing as we haven't had a very Merry Xmas.

I thought we started with intent yesterday but have 2 concerns.

Martinez team selection which I have been going on about all season and the way the players heads drop as soon as anything goes against us. I also have to add that Martinez Half time Pep talk seemed to have the opposite effect of what we needed.

It is clear that the Team spirit and bonding that Moyes built up is rapidly evaporating under this Fella and together with the Bizarre team selections ( too many forwards and not enough MF players) and amateur pre season I have had it with him.

I was always concerned that a top 6 side would appoint a manager who has just got his side relegated with record goals against but was pleasantly surprised by last season.

But as you rightly say it's about the here and now and never has a manager appeared to have lost the plot as this guy.

He looks more overwhelmed than the players and that is a major concern.

Tony Abrahams
26 Posted 27/12/2014 at 15:23:52
Mike 11, with reference to Baines and Coleman. Do you think that the problem could be that they very rarely have anyone out wide, up ahead of them?

I honestly could not believe how isolated they both were in possession at times yesterday. At least if we played them as wing backs, we would have two strikers on the pitch for them to hit. Because at the minute they haven't even got anyone to play a one-two with, never mind going round the outside on an overlap!

Bill Gall
27 Posted 27/12/2014 at 15:35:35
I allways like reading your reports Ken as you try to put positives in the comments but at this time it seems it is getting more difficult to find positives in Everton's performances.

I started to support Everton in 1956 and attended most home and away games until 1976 when I moved to Canada. Since then, we normally have been returning back on average every 2 years and always during the football season.

This season, it started off with that normal feeling of excitement before the game on TV and the yelling when we scored and the belief we will win when we went a goal down. This last 2 months, a strange couple of things have happened (a) if we score, I don't get excited – I just say we have to get another couple of goals before I think we will win; and (b) if the opposition scores first, I switch the TV off and go out with the feeling we will not win.

I will never stop supporting Everton and will still go to the games when I come back either home or away but I can honestly say that Martinez, despite all his comments, is the only manager I have no confidence in to move Everton back to the top 6 where we belong.

Paul Holden
28 Posted 27/12/2014 at 17:06:16
Too early to think about binning Martinez – we were singing "the School of Science is back" not so long ago! Get off his back lads!
Jay Harris
29 Posted 27/12/2014 at 17:22:57
Paul, better early than too late.

Pre-season was more like Sunday School than the "School of Science" and there are too many signs that this guy is out of his depth.

Mike Oates
30 Posted 27/12/2014 at 17:40:33
Tony # 26

Sorry that's what I meant what I said no links at all, they have no one to construct passes , they are totally isolated

Sam Fitzsimmons
31 Posted 27/12/2014 at 20:37:18
Simon 20 Coleman may not be playing at the same level as last season but I hope to God Arsenal or ManU don't come in with an offer for that 㿨 grand Irish league player because I'd like to see him at Everton next season no matter who's managing the club.
Simon Harris
32 Posted 27/12/2014 at 21:18:19
You and me both Sam.

The slump in form of Coleman and others is worrying - I just hope and pray Martinez can get them to rediscover what we know they are capable of, otherwise It'll be harder to keep the wolves from the door.

Ian Riley
33 Posted 28/12/2014 at 00:47:24
My biggest concern is the players we don’t have. At present, the team lack belief and confidence in what is being asked of them. Play the players in their position or don’t play them. The manager must take the blame for all of this due to the lack of ideas in changing formations and personnel when needed.

The team are in a dogfight at the bottom and unless we invest in players that have experienced this, then we are in trouble. There are teams without the quality we have, but they have the fight and a "nothing to lose" mentality. Too many players are out of form and with this comes lack of energy.

The fans feel this more than under Moyes because we started slow but still looked solid in defence. The defence looks over-worked due to the passing from back to front. Our strikers are not working hard to press the opposition, forcing them into mistakes and getting the ball.

The term "putting in a shift" has gone from our game. The fear factor for teams coming to Goodison Park has gone due to our style of going nowhere with the ball and giving it back. Teams have worked it out! The manager has this football style similar to big Spanish clubs, give us Messi and it might help!

I want honesty from our manager; don’t pretend all is well. I don’t know how it will work out but I know it’s not right!

All the best to all!

Anto Byrne
34 Posted 28/12/2014 at 13:09:15
Southampton sell a few players and rebuild with a team capable of getting into Europe. They have a new boss. Does this look a bit like the effect a new manager has on a club? Once the honeymoon period is over, it's back to mid-table anonymity. Man Utd, Chelsea and Man City are the money clubs and no-one can compete with them so just what is the point of this league?

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