Like many of you, no doubt, I over-indulged over the Festive period. In a bid to make a start with getting rid of my belly I got myself down the gym last Saturday. Feeling plucky, I went on the Sunday also, only to pull a muscle in my back whilst 'pumping some iron'. I'm now in some pain every time I move...

Despite moaning about this to anyone who will listen I got in the car and drove to the match tonight... even ducking out of an evening sales meeting in work to attend. "You whinge about your back but you're able to go and watch Everton lose five in a row" my Red boss sniggered as I left the office. A quick dart home, grabbing Ste on the way and meeting Gary and Sue in the pub for a pre-match drink or two before heading onto the match. "Is there a game on tonight?" joked Sue as we walked on to Goodison Park up the quiet street. Indeed only 22,236 attended tonight, though hardly surprising that many stayed away given how poor our performances have been lately.

Barkley playing on the wing aside, we were fairly happy with the starting line up. Oviedo given a game at left back with Baines rested. Lukaku recalled to lead the line up front and Barry partnering Besic in midfield. West Ham's team was quite strong with only Andy Carroll and Alex Song the really noticeable exclusions. We attacked the Park End in the first half.

We looked nervy to begin. Jagielka getting himself in trouble on more than one occasion and on another day West Ham may have been ahead by the break. Winston Reid headed over with a free header from a corner; on another occasion the ball was deflected behind by Oviedo for a corner following a Jagielka gaff; and a few minutes before half time, Amalfitano blazed over the crossbar with a good chance a few minutes before the break.

Having said that, Everton were miles better than they have been lately...you could argue it was difficult to get any worse but we did at least show a bit of character tonight and actually put up a bit of a fight, encompassed by Romalu Lukaku's injury time winner. It was nice to see that fighting spirit return as we rallied for the draw.

We hadn't showed a great deal in terms of attacking threat in the first half. Mirallas shot straight at Adrian, Lukaku threatened once or twice and Naismith skewed comfortably wide but it will have been of comfort to the team to go in at half time with a clean sheet and not be behind in the game...as has been the case in three of the last four fixtures.

In the second half we hadn't threatened the West Ham goal though had at least been in the contest however on 56 minutes disaster struck when James Collins headed in quite easily after poor marking from a corner. The sense of apprehension around the ground was palpable with most perhaps expecting Big Sam's West Ham to see the game out but credit to Everton, though outfought in the main on the pitch they didn't give in. For the first time in as long as I can remember Ross Barkley got behind the defence and drove at goal only for Adrian to save as we approached the closing stages.

It looked like our moment had passed but they really gave it everything in the dying minutes and when substitute Aiden McGeady seized possession from Winston Reid just outside the penalty area and played the ball to Oviedo the Gwladys Street was on its feet in hope. Oviedo's ball was a good one and Lukaku, who deserved a goal after an excellent display, took a touch before powerfully volleying the ball into the net. We've had so little to celebrate lately so probably overcooked our celebrations but it sure felt good to see a goal go into the Gwladys Street net again.

There was still time on the clock and though Goodison roared West Ham stood firm and we were unable to force a late winner. Anthony Taylor blew for full time and we go again at Upton Park in a weeks' time.

It'll be tough away at West Ham but stopping the rot was important. It'll be very tough on Saturday but who knows, maybe this result might just spark us into life. It was great to see our team show a bit of bottle at last. Credit to Martinez for his substitutions also. Eto'o didn't make a huge impact and I scoffed "here comes McGeady to the rescue" as he readied himself to enter the game but fair play, he made an impact in a short space of time and had a big hand in our equalizer.

We're still in the cup. Let's hope that's still the case this time next week.

Player Ratings:
Robles: Not bad. Saved what he had to and had no chance with the goal. He came and claimed a couple of crosses. Would like to see him become more decisive with distribution. He always seems to want to bowl the ball out and dummies to do it and then stops. Gary likened it to "pretending to throw a stick for a dog and leaving the poor mutt confused"! Certainly his best game yet. 7
Oviedo: Great to see our full backs get forward a bit more. Whilst most of Oviedo's crosses weren't of great quality at least he was getting forward and getting balls into the box and hey presto, one created a goal. Not bad at all. 6
Distin: Not sure who was supposed to be picking up Collins but otherwise he was OK until he came off injured in the second half. 6
Jagielka: Seemed nervous first half but just about got it together in the second half. 5
Coleman: Had a decent game, especially defensively I thought. I still long to see his fearless forward play. 6
Barry: Much improved on recent performances. I hope he can maintain that level. Faces a stern test on Saturday. 7
Besic: He sure likes a tackle. Played well. I like that he's always up for the fight. He reminds of a certain previous no. 17 with his work rate at times. 7
Mirallas: Poor. Never got in the game. 5
Barkley: Blew hot and cold. Excellent at times, brainless at others but he is always a threat. He does worry the opposition. Just needs to get in-field more. 6
Naismith: Did well, busy as ever. 6
Lukaku: My man of the match. His best performance of the season. The referee seemed to have it in for him all game. I'd like to see his disallowed goal again as there didn't appear to be a lot wrong for me. I was made up for him with the goal. Well deserved. Please, please, please kick on now! 7

Substitutes:
Eto'o (for Mirallas): A bit hit and miss. Had a good calming influence on play at times but also played some odd passes. Always a handy substitute to bring on. 6
Stones (for Distin): Showed good composure to come on in what must have been a difficult game to enter into. Looks set to play on Saturday. 6
McGeady (for Besic): Made the required impact. Did well to win the ball back for the goal. Was lively. May make for a useful impact substitute after all. 7

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Reader Comments (29)

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Mark Andersson
1 Posted 07/01/2015 at 01:59:40
A well written and balanced view. I would like to believe that this is the turning point of the season, but for our captain to be so below par is indicative to the real problem.

However football is a funny old game, and Martinez can keep the knives at bay, but not for long me thinks.

Rahul Gandhi
2 Posted 07/01/2015 at 04:07:31
It was a good read, Paul. Just summed up my thoughts and more. Phew... what a relief to see a goal getting into Gwladys Street end which leaves something for us to talk about instead of moaning about annoying ’Roberto’ tactics.
Helen Mallon
3 Posted 07/01/2015 at 05:22:52
Good read that. I just hope he does not break up the midfield on Saturday just keep the same side that started less Distin ( as injured ).
Ernie Baywood
4 Posted 07/01/2015 at 06:02:33
Generally agree, except I think a 7 was generous for Barry and a 6 generous for Eto'o. Nothing went right for Samuel... another one suffering for being played out of position. He should be up front or on the bench. We do have wingers.

The key remains getting Ross into the centre. The talk of him being overrated disappears when you see him driving through midfield. Yet we stick him on a flank. It's the most baffling call of all.

Paul Andrews
5 Posted 07/01/2015 at 06:16:53
If the game showed us one thing, it showed we can put the nonsense of "heÂ’s lost the players" to bed.
Nick Armitage
6 Posted 07/01/2015 at 07:54:57
I didn't think Jags deserved 5 and your boss sounds like a right ringpiece.
Colin Glassar
7 Posted 07/01/2015 at 08:03:20
Jags was the weak link last night. He lacked composure and his positional play was poor but on his day, he is still a great defender.
The most important aspect of yesterday's game was to stop this string of defeats and to show the fans that the players really do care. There were definitely signs of that last night.
As the great man said, "This is not the end, in fact it is not even the beginning of the end but it might be the end of the beginning".
Jim Bennings
8 Posted 07/01/2015 at 08:55:00
Let's be honest we are all desperately relieved to still be in the Cup but it was in the main another way below performance where your still left struggling to see where our next win is coming from.

The late late show last night could just be a catalyst who knows, but it's up to the players now to make it a catalyst, it's no use getting turned over with another lame display on Saturday and then still going out the Cup in the replay.

We have now only won just ONE match in the last TEN in all competitives, let's not forget that fact.

Big changes are needed in our creaking defence, Jagielka had his worst game for a while yesterday, the age old problem of failings at crosses/setpieces remain evident too.

We are not realising what is needed to start scoring more goals, it's not rocket science really is it?

Tempo...ball out wide...early cross into the box...end result GOAL.

Let's hope the last few minutes last night have finally started to hit home with the players, that's what we need to do every game, tempo and urgency gets the fan's roaring and singing and basically gets the fan's back onside, makes a change rather than hearing disgruntled booing.

Franny Porter
9 Posted 07/01/2015 at 09:09:03
Can anyone explain the odd behaviour displayed by Jagielka in the post match interview, constantly staring down at the floor. Very strange, looked like he was sulking. If thats the case, perhaps he needs to fucking grow up and start acting like a captain.
Jim Bennings
10 Posted 07/01/2015 at 09:51:49
Franny

Could have just been slightly embarrassed by his own performance, he'll look back and accept it was not a great one, that moment in the first half where he got caught dawdling on the ball followed swiftly by some seriously erratic defending was not pleasing from our captain.

Seriously though we badly need a new commanding central defender soon.
Jags and Distin are past it now, Distin won't be here next season and Jags will have deteriorated more.

Even James Collins showed what a proper commanding centre half should be like.
A clogged but at least he is strong in the air.

Jim Bennings
11 Posted 07/01/2015 at 10:01:47
#clogger
Harold Matthews
12 Posted 07/01/2015 at 14:41:10
After the dreadful Saints game I posted comments about Jag's pre-match interview on the official site when he stared at the floor throughout and kept mumbling "Hopefully." Strange days indeed.
Nick Armitage
13 Posted 07/01/2015 at 15:05:04
Whatever it costs sign Ryan Shawcross.
John Keating
14 Posted 07/01/2015 at 15:07:30
Paul
in my opinion regarding stopping the rot I think we should wait until after the City game
Patrick Murphy
15 Posted 07/01/2015 at 15:09:44
Personally, I think it’s about time the manager realised that defenders are first and foremost on the pitch to defend, from that perspective I believe that we need two full-backs who concentrate on defending and not bombing forwards at every opportunity. Play two wingers out wide and release one of the holding midfield players. We need a balance in the team and utilising full-backs for attacking purposes whilst good when it works, doesn’t give enough insurance at the back when things are going badly. That doesn’t mean the team will be less attractive per se but it might just lead to some much needed defensive solidity.
Oliver Molloy
16 Posted 07/01/2015 at 15:10:03
We can count ourselves lucky that Andy Carroll was not available last night or we would be out of the cup in my opinion.
Both our centre backs had poor performances once again, and without Carroll to worry about !
Mike Corcoran
17 Posted 07/01/2015 at 15:33:56
Time to unleash the Hibbert!
Jim Bennings
18 Posted 07/01/2015 at 15:33:55
Nick

I'd absolutely LOVE Shawcross in our defence.

This has to be a the scariest defence I have seen commanding our backline for many many years.

Its nothing short of dreadful.

Steve Brown
19 Posted 07/01/2015 at 15:58:42
If we think the answer to our problems is the likes of Pullis as manager and Shawcross in defence, we really do deserve the absolute cack football we've generally been served for the last 25 years.
John Keating
20 Posted 07/01/2015 at 15:59:43
Realistically we have to stop the rot beginning with the match against City.
If we play like we have done all season or use Martinez' theory of playing to outscore the opposition we shall be battered
I'd settle for a point right now and be more than happy.
Robles
Hibbert, Stones, Jags, Oviedo
Coleman, Besic, Barkley, Baines
Naismith
Lukaku
Steve Carse
21 Posted 07/01/2015 at 16:16:52
Steve (19), what's wrong with Shawcross? Presumably you hold negative views then on all old fashioned, bulwark centre halves. I can see why Pulis doesn't garnish favour, but then again if our principal objective this season is survival, and surely it is, then there are worse options, including keeping Martinez..
Christopher Dover
22 Posted 07/01/2015 at 16:18:12
If as being stated by the pundits Everton are operating a Zoned system then no matter who comes in they will not follow the attackers but pass them on in hope that the next defender picks them up.
Jim Bennings
23 Posted 07/01/2015 at 17:56:03
This is the English Premier League Steve.

Its not a league where you can be "nice" it have nice young inexperienced lads playing the ball about tippy tappy.

We are as soft as shite at the back, the goal we conceded was Everton of the current moment in time in a nutshell, weak and no man, like a James Collins there to run and smash that ball home with a domineering header.

When is the last time am Everton player attacked a corner kick like that?
The one thing I noticed about Collins goal was the fact he actually RAN and moved to attack the incoming corner, not just a standing static jump like you see from our players.

Shawcross or Collins would improve our defence and yes it us that BAD.

Andy Meighan
25 Posted 07/01/2015 at 20:13:10
Too right the ref had it in for Lukaku, Paul. HeÂ’s a kopite by all accounts. HeÂ’d obviously deny that when asked but then again heÂ’s not the first referee with a soft spot for all things red is he? (Clattenburg).

He gave us absolutely nothing all game culminating in the disallowed goal by Lukaku. I actually got the feeling he enjoyed his nightÂ’s work the cretin. Now, IÂ’m not blaming him entirely for what I thought was a shit performance by us but heÂ’s not the first ref to call against us lately.

To be fair thereÂ’s been some shitty decisions against us recently so maybe Lady Luck will smile on us on Saturday, or in the next few weeks. Or will it...?

Phil Walling
26 Posted 07/01/2015 at 19:59:41
Gilding the lily a bit with those ratings, Paul! In any other season, that game would have been seen as a disaster but, perhaps, that's how far Martinez has lowered our expectations these days.

At least, you didn't mention any 'green shoots of recovery' or hark back to some quite unrelated happening 30 years ago. What a relief!

I noticed the cameras caught BK and Elstone in deep conversation at the final whistle. One more game for Martinez, eh?

James Martin
28 Posted 07/01/2015 at 20:41:29
How did Barry get the same rating as Besic? Barry's performance may have been marginally better than the utter dross he's served up in recent weeks but it was still absolutely abysmal and well short of the standard we require. He will have absolutely no hope against Silva Toure and Fernandinho.
James Flynn
29 Posted 07/01/2015 at 20:56:17
I get wanting a tough nut like Shawcross. We do realize he'll be carrying the ball out of the back. A lot. Do we want that, too?

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