Lukaku's Rescue Act Provides Potential Pivot for Everton

Romelu Lukaku's injury-time strike kept Everton alive in the FA Cup and came as a massive relief to a beleagured Roberto Martinez.

Lyndon Lloyd 07/01/2015 36comments  |  Jump to last

Everton 1 - 1 West Ham United

Time will tell if Romelu Lukaku's injury-time strike that kept Everton alive in the FA Cup proves to be some sort of "Kevin Brock" or "Phil-Neville-tackle-on-Ronaldo"-style moment that turns this increasingly miserable season around. It certainly came as a massive relief to a beleaguered Roberto Martinez and his team who were two-plus minutes away from crashing to a fifth successive defeat when the Belgian struck.

The out-pouring of passion from the Blues' no.10 was proof enough of what it meant to Lukaku who has borne an unfair amount of blame for the team's malaise this season and who would have ended his month-long wait for a goal earlier had it not been for the latest episode in the refereeing horror show that is currently playing out in the domestic game.

Anthony Taylor, an official who is no stranger to controversy or utterly mystifying decisions, robbed Lukaku of an equaliser just five minutes after James Collins took full advantage of Sylvain Distin's negligence to put West Ham ahead by disallowing his headed goal for an apparent push on James Tomkinson. But the striker had the last word as the Blues profited, it should be noted, from a correct advantage call from the referee with an emphatic goal in injury time that forced a replay at Upton Park next week.

As thrilling a conclusion as it provided, Lukaku's goal masked some serious, ongoing deficiencies in Everton's performance, even if it vindicated a more purposeful approach going forward than was on display at Hull City last Thursday in particular. That it took 20 frustrating minutes following the departure of Kevin Mirallas in favour of Samuel Eto'o (you would hope, again, for reasons of fitness and not strategy) for the home side to finally threaten West Ham's back line again betrayed the desperate manner in which Martinez's side struggled for cohesion and ideas in stretches in the second half. And yet, when the chips were down and they were forced to push men forward and then go wide, they finally scored to avoid what would have been a sixth game without a goal in their last eight in all competitions.

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There is no question that the heat would have been turned up significantly on the manager had his record signing not come up trumps at the death; as it is, he has played a Get Out of Jail Free Card and been handed the kind of psychological boost that dressing rooms can build on. It was well-timed, too, given that the next visitors to Goodison Park are the reigning Champions, Manchester City.

The 15 chances created by Everton was the result of a more enterprising display overall than has been the case since the home win over QPR, even if the continuing lack of width in the side, particularly down the left, was a source of frustration on the night. With Leighton Baines apparently ruled out with a previously unmentioned injury picked up at the KC Stadium, Martinez elected to play Bryan Oviedo in his place at left back rather than usher Luke Garbutt back into the starting XI.

It also left the manager short on options in defensive midfield given James McCarthy's continuing recovery from hamstring problems and Darron Gibson's lingering knee issues. That meant continuing with the out-of-form Gareth Barry in partnership with Muhamed Besic while Sylvain Distin was preferred to John Stones who has already had one comeback attempt aborted by a knock to the ankle he injured in October.

If the 22,000-plus souls who showed up were expecting to see fire and brimstone from their wounded heroes, they would have to wait until the dying stages when their team was staring elimination in the face to see it etched on Lukaku's goal celebration. Prior to that, though, and particularly in the first half, they witnessed a suitable improvement on recent performances coupled with a solid defensive stand against a Hammers side that came to Merseyside rightly confident.

Sam Allardyce's men were making better use of the ball in the first half an hour and looked the more dangerous of the two teams overall, winning a succession of corners that were successfully repelled by an Everton side that has become worryingly pregnable in such situations this season. And no wonder, given how they stood off at a free kick in the 13th minute and allowed Stewart Downing, the formerly mockable Liverpool flop, to prompt Joel Robles into palming his effort over the crossbar.

Phil Jagielka then abandoned his duties as leader by example with a glaring error that Enner Valencia proved unable to punish and Matt Jarvis came close to converting a cross flashed across the face of the Everton goal after the resulting corner was worked short on the Hammers' left flank.

At the other end, Lukaku had dragged a shot wide, the busy Steven Naismith had driven a cross-shot right across Adrian's goal and Mirallas saw a good opportunity go begging following Barry's excellent interception from Kevin Nolan's poor touch when his shot looped off a defender, enabling the 'keeper to comfortably save. Adrian was less convincing when Lukaku unloaded from distance, though, spilling the ball twice from similar shots and almost being punished by Mirallas on the first occasion but was able to get a block in as the Belgian forward followed up.

With matters evenly balanced at half time and Everton growing in confidence at the end of the first period, the stage was set for them to push on in the second half and when Mirallas lobbed a volley just over the bar and Naismith was penalised for a non-existent foul by the referee, Goodison began to find its voice.

Growing shouts of encouragement turned to howls of anguish 10 minutes after the restart, though, when Collins scored. Downing had again been afforded too much space to get off a shot that Distin glanced behind for a corner. And when the Frenchman completely abandoned his marking of Collins, the Welsh defender arced his run behind Coleman and ahead of Oviedo and buried an unchallenged near-post header.

Valencia almost doubled the lead two minutes later with another free header that Robles tipped over as the Blues threatened to fall apart completely before Lukaku planted a header of his own beyond the 'keeper and into the far corner... only to see it ruled out for a "foul" on James Tomkinson who appeared to just crumple to the ground under the Belgian's attentions.

What followed had the potential to become another nadir in an already poor season as Mirallas departed, Eto'o came on and Everton largely lost their way in their search for a way back into the game. Distin would also depart a few minutes later with a groin injury, replaced by the more composed and more determined Stones and West Ham dug in to defend their advantage.

They actually came closer to scoring again when Downing drilled a shot narrowly wide but, with escalating pleas from the crowd to push forward, the Blues finally did start to ratchet up the pressure in the closing stages. Barkley, at times a passenger prone to getting caught in possession in advanced areas but always looking capable of turning on the style at any moment, whipped a dangerous ball in that just evaded Lukaku. The 21 year-old then drove into the box via a fortunate ricochet and smashed a shot from the angle that Adrian parried behind.

The last-ditch effort to save the tie bore fruit with almost 92 minutes on the watch. The referee correctly allowed play to go on as McGeady went down in a tangle of West Ham legs outside the area and Oviedo sent the loose ball across the six-yard box where it ended at the feet of Lukaku. The ball sat up to an inviting height off his foot and he scissored home emphatically from close range to release weeks of pent-up collective frustration. His goal, fully deserved for a gutsy and determined personal display, gives Everton a lifeline in the cup and a platform on which Martinez can try to reverse his team's fall in the Premier League.

It doesn't alter the fact that the Catalan's team were at times suspect in defence and failed to consistently press the ball outside their own area although Stones' return will help shore up the back line in time for City's visit that they were too narrow without a recognised wide player on one flank or that they often lacked composure and inspiration going forward. But it provides a shot in the arm to a team struggling for confidence and that could prove to be vital in the coming weeks.

With a little less pressure on their shoulders heading into the replay at Upton Park next week, they can hopefully use this result to play with a little more freedom. Feed off the energy and commitment displayed by the likes of Lukaku and Besic this evening and they'll have a good shot but Martinez still has plenty of work to do to get back to the levels of last season.

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Reader Comments (36)

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Simon Temme
1 Posted 07/01/2015 at 03:07:45

Thanks for such a well balanced view of the match... There is life in the patient still.

Mark Andersson
2 Posted 07/01/2015 at 03:16:52
Good report as always. On to the next game, which most have already written off as a loss. Still, anything can happen, The crowd need to do their bit for that game.

Any news on transfare either way?

Timothy Sebastian
3 Posted 07/01/2015 at 03:48:03
I’m not sure you can call a last minute equaliser to save a draw at home as a turning point. Still lots of worrying signs that shows this team to be short of confidence and ideas. It may all go flat again at the replay, which on today’s performance seems likely.
Tom Brown
4 Posted 07/01/2015 at 04:07:59
Lukaku MotM for me. He was already on my shortlist before the goal. Part of that was the work he did to create his own chances which is good but not good that his team were not creating more chances for him.

Much better performance today from the team but it still looks unbalanced and has severe problems.

Putting that aside.... very impressed with the responsibility Lukaku took on today. He’s still a kid, he hasn’t been in best form and the whole team is under severe pressure but he did not hide, he was a man. He did everything he could for us.

Peter Barry
5 Posted 07/01/2015 at 04:20:46
Just not good enough - no more needs saying
Brian Hill
6 Posted 07/01/2015 at 04:57:59
The defending from corners was embarrassing. Our whole team repeatedly gathered in and around the six yard box and watched whilst West Ham had the freedom of the pitch to do whatever they wished. Matt Jackson on commentary was almost speechless.
Paul Ferry
7 Posted 07/01/2015 at 04:57:23
Nice Lyndon and very well balanced. Love the way you set this up for 2015 being Inchy at – was it called the Manor Ground? I was at that match, in January 1984. Oxford had some future redshite in their team.

Onwards and upwards! I still believe! Plenty of bright spots today but also sadly an equal number of worrying things! I refuse still to accept that we have hired a dud and I’ll give a more considered response if requested but it’s near midnight in Chicago and Zzzzzzz-cars


Robin Cannon
8 Posted 07/01/2015 at 06:53:25
While patchy, it was a performance with more purpose and more passion than we’ve seen in recent weeks. We’re panicky in defence, but we tried to press the ball more further forward and we tried to make chances rather than just pass the ball back and forth interminably.

I think the reaction that came out for the equalizer undermines the "they’ve given up on RM" argument, and was just reward for a motivated, energetic and very positive performance from Lukaku.

It was far far from perfect, but it was positive. As Lyndon said; remains to be seen if it could be a turning point. But at least it has the potential to be.

Tony Hill
9 Posted 07/01/2015 at 07:17:00
Exactly, Robin. In fact, I agree with the other measured reactions here, the biggest plus was the evidence that the players have not given up on Martinez. Lukaku was indeed excellent and I also continue to find Besic a real light in the darkness, despite his lapses. His spat with Cresswell (was it?) is exactly the sort of thing we need to show.

It will be interesting to see what happens with Baines/Oviedo on Saturday.

Anthony Flack
10 Posted 07/01/2015 at 07:58:36
Less tippy tappy, committed Lukaku, Oviedo excellent, good progress from Besic, my view is free Barkley from the shackles he operates under and we will improve.


Rick Tarleton
11 Posted 07/01/2015 at 08:46:52
I agree that it was considerably better, but Brian Hill’s point is relevant about the defending, which we deign to practise, from set pieces. Incidentally at the time of the West Ham goal it was their twelfth corner, so much for there are only three or so set pieces per game.
Adam Luszniak
12 Posted 07/01/2015 at 08:37:46
Signs of improvement certainly. Dropping Lukaku seems to have done him the world of good! Also agree that there didn’t seem much evidence that Roberto has lost the respect of the players, as we played ’til the final whistle, for once!

On the live forum people were talking about how shakey Jags looked in his post match interview. Did anyone see it? His display was worrying. I do feel for the defenders under Martinez. Whatever you think of his system, it puts more pressure on the back four in every sense. If Barkley looses the ball we all groan and the game goes on, if Jags makes a mistake our hearts are in our mouths! I hope he can recover from yesterdays performance and put in a commanding display alongside Stones against City.

Still lots of problems. People are highlighting our poor defending of corners and associated training methods. I’m not sure where I stand on this one. Apart from their goal I thought we defended corners ok. We probably conceded too many, but then West Ham do love lumping it into the box.

As much as this was an improved performance, we do tend to freeze when we reach the opposition box. West Ham were well drilled, and we found it very difficult to move the ball between their two banks of defence. Part of the problem as I see it is lack of movement from our forward players. Barkley passes to Besic passes to Barry, and in front of them Mirallas, Naismith and Lukaku are relatively static. Last season we had Baines and Coleman providing the runs, aided by Deulofeu and Mirallas. We just don’t have the same movement up top these days.

Shaun Laycock
13 Posted 07/01/2015 at 08:56:47
Lukaku operated with more freedom last night, a bit more instinctive and the result was an excellent performance. Besic put in a shift as did Oviedo. More players looked ’up for it’ last night.

I am worried about Seamus though. At one point we had isolated him with his full back and the ’old’ Seamus would have beaten his man and shot at goal or put a cross in. Instead he passed inside. This is part of the current malaise that is Everton. Pass inside and across teams not through, between and behind to turn the defence, giving them something different to think about. Here’s something to chew on Bobby...a goal from a cross is worth just as much as the ’perfect goal’.

Ross needs to be played in the 10 position as Naismith puts in a shift but so many times he received the ball and because of a negative first touch, played back out and across, as opposed to taking the ball on the half turn and going at the defence. This is Barkley’s strength but it will only hurt teams if he is in a central position.
Anyway, rant over, COYB. Perhaps City’s possession game may work in our favour...allowing us to counter attack them?
Charlie Gibson
14 Posted 07/01/2015 at 09:36:19
The players played for their boss in those last ten minutes - and got their reward. That goal clearly meant the world to Lukaku.

I just hope Martinez takes note of the key things to come out of last night:

1) Barkley must play through the middle;
2) Besic should partner McCarthy; the Serb is currently twice the player Barry is;
3) Lukaku needs the ball whipped into him at pace;
4) Distin, sadly, is done;
5) Most importantly, we score when we play at high tempo, when we get in the oppositions faces, run at them and get lots of balls into the front men early. We concede when we play slowly across the middle. Barry and Jagielka will never be Xavi and Puyol.

No one expects us to get anything against City this weekend; the perfect chance to go for it. Let’s hope Roberto has finally learned and will set them up to get at City, to hound them, to be physical and dynamic and play the whole 90 like the last 10 minutes yesterday.

Sid Logan
15 Posted 07/01/2015 at 09:43:51
As usual, an excellent report. Lyndon.

Not much cause for optimism but some slight improvement here and there. Definitely Lukaku MoM and a well deserved goal for him.

We seem to have conceded quite a few goals from corners this season which is pretty ironic considering Martinez places so little value on them. Far better Managers than him understand the opportunity they present.

Whther this is some sort of tiny forward step will be revealed pretty quickly come Saturday!

Jay Wood
16 Posted 07/01/2015 at 10:06:54
@ Adam I agree, signs of improvement, but plenty to be still concerned about.

Whether Roberto has lost the respect of the players or not is pure speculation. Even if there is some truth in that social media rumour, the fact we played until the final whistle as you say is not ’proof positive’ to the contrary. I would expect that as a bare minimum of any professional sportsman at this level. Pride in their own personal performance and a hatred of being easily beaten.

Jags had an absolute MARE of a game. He’s an honest fellah who would know that for himself. I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt as the reason he looked so sheepish in his post match interview. He didn’t start the season well, but he came storming back. The collective has been poor during this abysmal run – not Jags alone. I’m confident he’ll be back on point Saturday.

Although it was a better performance last night (in terms of commitment alone), the frailties that have exposed us all season still remain.

As you say Adam, Martinez’s system puts more pressure on the back four. Last season Barry and McCarthy were imperious in protecting or filling in for the back four as Baines and Coleman rampaged forward. A number of factors have negated that effective system:

1) the opposition is wise to it. All teams now maintain two wide men in an advanced position to occupy Baines and Coleman and make them think twice about steaming forward. Negating that threat further allows the opposition more time and liberty to simply maintain solid defensive lines we struggle to bypass. They simply have to wait for our ponderous recycling of the ball to be turned over to start countering us.

2) we no longer play consistently with effective supporting wide men in front of Baines and Coleman. The rapid interchange the full backs enjoyed last season between Pienaar and Mirallas has been forsaken. Injuries in this area have hurt us, but even when such players are available Martinez has stubbornly selected ill-suited players for this role – Barkley, Eto’o, Naismith, even Lukaku. The result of all, as mentioned by others, is we play a very narrow game, trying to tip-tap our way through the condensed centre.

3) I have sympathy for the defence, who appear incompetent and nervy, but IMO it is a direct result of the unbalanced team selection and overall strategy imposed from above – the manager.

Whilst the belief amongst some that Roberto has lost the changing room is purely speculative, the revelations this week in Osman’s autobiography about the training methods and preparation is not. It comes from a reliable source, a top pro, within the camp.
If true - and there is no reason not to believe him - fitness sessions are nowhere near the intensity of Moyes and, probably, most other PL teams.

The total lack of work on defending dead ball situations is HUGELY concerning. Such situations are easily studied and you increase your chances of negating them and preventing the opposition from scoring if you drill players as to what to expect. Allowing players on the pitch ’to sort it out’ is a recipe for disaster.

By practicing both offensive and defensive dead ball situations, you improve muscle memory and reaction time. There is no confusion, no delay in the thought process. You know your role and you carry it out. The mental alertness such preparation and drilling seems absent in Everton at the moment.

I don’t agree with you Adam that we defended corners well. WHU did more than merely ’lump the ball into the box’ as you say. I am sure I was not alone in my concern last night at the number of corners being conceded, nor indeed the poor way they were being ’defended.’ I could see it sat on my sofa, the number of times a quick short corner was taken with Everton players jogging casually into position with their backs turned. Buy enough tickets in the lottery and eventually you will win a prize, which der ‘ammers duly did.

Some lay the blame solely at the feet of Distin. Look more closely. It was a collective failure – again! Lukaku is actually closest to Collins the goal scorer, but loses him as the corner comes in, running into the back of a couple of our own defenders on the 6 yard box. There is a run towards the ball by a WHU player which Coleman doesn’t track, Besic does get attracted to that player from defending the near post, he is left in no man’s land as the ball sails over his head and Collins is free to plant the header home.

On other performances, Barkley is clearly an outstanding footballer – a natural instinctive footballer. However, I do wonder about his peripheral vision and his ability to comprehend even the most basic of tactics. He doesn’t appear to be a ’heads up’ player who ’sees’ all the options available to him when on the ball.

I appreciate and accept Ross has the ability to make something happen no other player in our squad has. But at the same time, he needs to balance that against a more pragmatic approach in certain situations and areas of the pitch.

I don’t think he is being helped by Roberto’s insistence of playing him out wide, when very recently, after Ross’s best game of the season against QPR, Roberto said the following about him (having played Besic and Barkley together in deep central midfield):

"The most impressive aspect of the way he took his goal was the way he got into that position. Not many players have the power, pace and ball control and the ability to get into those positions. I think that suits Ross really well.

"There are certain players the shorter the distance they have to cover to have an influence on the game the better, Ross is different. The more distance he has to cover the more effective he is."

Read that last paragraph again, then ask .... sooooooo Roberto .... by your own words, why neuter Ross’s effectiveness by starting him further upfield out on the flank, rather than deeper and central where "he is more effective"...?

Barkley is a TREMENDOUS asset to EFC, but we are failing to effectively utilize the assets he possesses.

Eto’o is another one. When, in his entire EXTREMELY successful career, has he been asked to play so deep and wide in midfield as Roberto consistently asks him to do? Surprise, surprise! His best performances for EFC have been up front, in his default position. There, he looks a player still. As he is currently being asked to play, we again negate his best qualities.

I am happy we salvaged a draw and live to fight another day. But there is still much work to be done.

Max Wilson
17 Posted 07/01/2015 at 09:52:33
Yes, Lyndon, it’s good to read something balanced. Elsewhere people are writing that they wished we’d lost. We don’t know and will have to wait and see if this game was a turning point,but I saw a more attacking, direct Everton last night. Lukaku was a 10 for me and if he’d get into the box a lot more, he’d be an 11.

Robles looked better,Distin just as bad; I can’t believe how their goal was allowed to happen.It was a simple training ground ball to a far corner. Distin stood and let it happen. Jags looked stressed. Coleman worked hard but is still out of sorts (is he mentally playing somewhere else now?).

In midfield things had improved-Naismith worked hard all night, means well I am sure, but is too slow and quite thick, 6. Besic was a 9, can’t wait to see him play with McCarthy, Barry was too slow a 5,

Barkley disappeared from the game a lot but what he did was okay-5,
Up front Mirallas didn’t chase some good balls,let them go, but here and there gave some threat-5, Lukaku worked his socks off all night.I just wish he’d get into the box not outside it.

Goals by great strikers happen in the box! Eto’o had to work to some complicated instructions from RM but did his best when the team was showing a l,ot of fight at the end-6.Overall, this was a better showing than we’ve seen for weeks and we can only hope it continues.
Dave Abrahams
18 Posted 07/01/2015 at 10:10:47
ShaunLaycock(13), that wasn’t a rant it sounded like a lot of sense to me.

I think there were some grounds for hope given the improvement on previous games, a bit more fight and they didn’t give up, but a couple of signings needed in January.

Hugh A Ross
19 Posted 07/01/2015 at 10:15:12
Thanks Lyndon, great report.

What about a ball winner? Could Joey be the answer? His distribution has certainly improved.

Brian Williams
20 Posted 07/01/2015 at 10:31:12
The signing I would make as my top priority would be someone who lined up against us last night, Winston Reid.

If ever there was an example of us needing a fresh injection of young speedy, mobile defenders last night was one. The return of Stones was a very welcome sight. Seeing him running out of defence with the ball, confident and able, was one of the very few highlights of the night.

Secondly I’d go for a new keeper. I think with those two and the return of McCarthy to shore up the midfield we’d stand a chance of escaping this slump.

That and someone telling Ross Barkley how to stay in the game and influence it. There were times I forgot he was playing last night, and there were others where he went past defenders like they couldn’t run! Too little too seldom though.
Denis Richardson
21 Posted 07/01/2015 at 10:20:00
We live to fight another day in the cup. However, a lot of questions still to be answered.

The jury is well and truly still out as to whether Roberto is the answer. However, if we can at least maintain the performance from yesterday then we’ll hopefully sneak enough points against the ’lesser’ teams to avoid trouble. I think we can all safely forget about any notions of finishing top 8 this season (nevermind top 6!). Right now, we could finish anywhere between 10th and 20th!

The West Brom and Palace games are MASSIVE. If we don’t manage to get at least one win from these two games, we will likely be sucked into the relegation battle. I’m assuming that we won’t get much from the other games before the EL starts, so anything against city, RS and Chelsea will just be a bonus. We simply have to beat West Brom.

I can’t see BK sacking Roberto until we’re really in the shit but I hope he’s already putting out feelers for a replacement just in case. If we’re in the drop zone come February, then he’s got to pull the trigger as by then Roberto would have had enough time to turn things round.

Until then, it’s going to be interesting to see what squad we have some 31 Jan with all the rumours.

Nervous times indeed...

Liam Reilly
22 Posted 07/01/2015 at 10:56:28
RM wont be sacked. He royally screwed up with preseason and I’d suspect that has been discussed behind closed doors; just as it should be.

We move on; hopefully with this goal as a confidence builder. I don’t buy the; "we won’t get anything from City, Arsenal or the RS"; this is Everton - expect the unexpected.

Brent Stephens
23 Posted 07/01/2015 at 10:52:10
Jay #16, agree about Ross’s effectiveness when driving forward, over a distance, from a slightly deeper position. And that needs to be into a less crowded central are in front of their defence, which means we need other players to be pulling them wide to create space for Ross. I think a lot of the times he ends up in a cul de sac and loses the ball is to do with that.
Mark Fitzgerald
24 Posted 07/01/2015 at 11:00:07
@Charlie (14) Spot on comments that I agree with fully. I really think we can get back to being a force with just a couple of changes; New GK is badly required, Robles did better last night but not the answer (nor is Howard). Great to see Stones back, hopefully he & Jags will form a season long partnership now (but a replacement CB is also on the wishlist (Reid?, Kjaer?).

Fullbacks are sorted, just need them back to their rampaging best. CM has to be Besic and Macca. Infuriating to see Mo subbed late on rather than Barry. Wings are still an issue, Mirallas on one side but the other is available. McGeady only as a sub. New face required.

Up front, Lukaku showed what he can do given the right ball in the right places. Barkley, who can be so frustrating at times but shows moments of magic when he’s on his game, to play off the front man. Enough on the bench to cover. So just 2/3 new players in this month . And please, please, pick up the pace and ban the tippy-tappy laborious build ups.
Brian Harrison
25 Posted 07/01/2015 at 10:48:39
I thought we played a bit better in patches last night than we have for a while. Could have gone in 2-0 at halftime, both Lukaku and Naismith had good opportunities. But their goal just highlighted our lack of organisation for set pieces, Collins went unchallenged for his goal.

I don’t know why but we seem very reluctant to play the ball into the area which is amazing considering Lukakus biggest asset is his finishing. There still seems to be as many questions as answers, but the last 10 minutes showed what this group is capable of if played in the right way.

I don’t think we can play Eto, Naismith and Barkley in the same team we become very narrow when we play the 3 together, and neither Barkley or Naismith are comfortable playing in wide positions.

I thought that was Lukakus best game for weeks and surely if RM learned anything it was get the ball to him early and let him turn and run at defences. The same applies to Barkley his strength is running at people with pace and should be encouraged to do this more often and also encourage him to shoot more when he gets around the opponents penalty area.

Tony Draper
26 Posted 07/01/2015 at 11:27:42
Last nights performance was much better than I feared that it would be; that’s by no means a complete endorsement, but it is a measured approval.

Lukaku worked much harder, but also had much more to work with and in areas which suit him better.

Besic improves with every performance, he also has some "fire in his belly" and although this can get the better of him occasionally. Better to have it than not.

Oviedo.....just great seeing him back on the pitch, and he really looks determined. Cracking ball in for the goal.

We now need to continue the improvement and determination.

Denis Richardson
27 Posted 07/01/2015 at 12:07:02
Liam, I admire your optimism but the last gasp equaliser doesn’t mask over 4 league defeats in a row, which would point to a likely loss against the likes of city and chelsea.

Anything can happen of course but I’ve long grown used to hoping for the best whilst expecting the worst supporting this club.

Am at least expecting a ’phenomenal’ performance this weekend.

John Keating
28 Posted 07/01/2015 at 13:31:05
With Man City on the horizon plus points from last nights game
1. Lukaku
2. A "bit" of fight after West Ham scored
3. Err ? That’s it
Kevin Tully
29 Posted 07/01/2015 at 13:47:59
We still looked very vulnerable last night. How many short corners did West Ham take when none of our defense seemed aware until it was too late? I didn’t see Jagielka’s post-match interview, but is he the right captain for us at present? The only time I saw him speak was to move Distin over slightly at set pieces. No rallying call when we went behind.

As I see it, we have some very young, inexperienced players in Besic, Barkley and Lukaku, who all require guidance and leadership on the pitch. There was none last night, and only Besic was giving out orders in the midfield. Surely this should be the role of Barry?? I didn’t hear a peep out of him.

If the senior pro’s aren’t going to step up and lead by example, then these younger players will be lost.

Still something very wrong with this bunch, I would love to know what the problem is.

Nigel Gregson
30 Posted 07/01/2015 at 14:56:19
1) The players are behind Martinez and are willing to fight right till the end (shame on those Goodison faithful shown leaving at the 81st minute mark).

2) The team always carries an attacking threat and creates chances (and it has been even during the string of losses), but has not been finishing them off.

3) If stories of Martinez not focusing on defending set pieces are true, then I bloody well hope he wakes up and makes it a priority now. We are giving up inexcusable number of goals to them.

4) Goodison when alive works as player Nos 12 and 13. There is no way a ref would dare give clangers against us at home, if the crowd were as alive as it was in the last 3 minutes.

5) Ross Barkley needs a spell out of the team. He needs to go to some place where he can’t hear his own hype and watch videos of his actual on-field performance.

6) We need younger legs at the back. The team simply can’t afford to have three 30+ players in Jagielka, Distin and Barry defending together. We look miles better as a team with Stones defending. If we have any money in the pot, we absolutely must sign a young defender this January. Alcaraz and Distin need to go; end of.

7) Jags never was and never will be a leader of players. It would be great if the new defender we buy is also a nasty piece of work that I’ve been calling out for.

8) We lack any genuine threat from the wide areas. Mirallas is the only first choice option there. McGeady has been inconsistent, Pienaar too old and Atsu too crap.

9) Robles is actually not as crap as he’s made out to be. He’s not as good a shot-stopper has Howard, but he seems more assured against the high ball and has a decent kick / distribution.

10) Lukaku was a revelation. I don’t know what changed. Maybe his toe finally healed or maybe being benched for Kone was the required kick up the backside, but this is what I would like him to play every freaking week.

David Israel
31 Posted 07/01/2015 at 16:52:25
Certainly a better display that we have seen recently, although many of the frailties were still in evidence.

I was also at the Manor Ground - yes Paul Ferry # 7, it was the Manor Ground, but I don't know if Oxford Utd. still play there - that evening back in 1984 when Adrian Heath picked up a poor back-pass and scored. I can still recall the sheer look of relief on Howard Kendall's face. However, someone once said (Marx?) that history repeats itself as farce...

So, now, from my point of view, we either get two results against Man. City and in the replay or we go on sinking.

Andy Crooks
32 Posted 07/01/2015 at 20:07:41
Paul # 7, over the last while I think our views have been pretty similar. However, I believe, now, that we have hired a dud.

I would be happy, though to be wrong. Put up an article to change the doubters. I think you'll find an open minded response to a sound argument.

Simon Hermansen
33 Posted 07/01/2015 at 20:41:55
I also texted 'Kevin Brock back pass' to a someone straight after the game. It just had that feel to it...a moment of hope in a time of despair.

Let's hope so eh!

Tony Abrahams
34 Posted 07/01/2015 at 21:43:15
Shaun 13, you have described the marked improvement in Lukaku perfectly. He played on instinct because we was prepared to play a bit longer last night and he got his just reward in the end.

Good report, Lyndon and I also thought Martinez got it badly wrong by replacing Miralles with Eto’o.

Best thing for me after the goal of course, was the way Oviedo was gesturing the crowd for more noise at the end. A team short on confidence needs the backing of the crowd, and although there was only 22000 inside the ground last night, it was the loudest Goodison has been for ages.

Maybe the players might actually start looking forward to playing at home again after last night's backing? Let’s hope so anyway.

Sean Kelly
35 Posted 07/01/2015 at 22:17:54
A bit better last night only because of the efforts of Lukaku Oviedo and Besic. Distin and jags are awful. Role go on about not practicing corners but these two have been around for a long time. It’s not as if its a new part of the game. They have been shite and cowardly in set pieces for years. They should be telling the younger ones where to be and who to get. This is not excusing Martinez either as he’s clearly not covering every aspect of the game. It like a student only studying half the course and expecting an A+. It’s not going to happen.

I fear for us against city as they are a big team and will hurt us on set pieces. Word is Aguero should be back also.

Last night Martinez used his get out of jail card but he’s just winging it now. We still need a change though I think billy will drag his feet to see what happens. Martinez and his cronies are of championship level and that’s where they should. I wonder would peg leg have them back. If Billy does find the balls and get rid of them he will be shopping in Aldi for a manager. His idea of a top manager in already in the lower leagues and comes cheap. What’s the bet on a Stubbs (prick) or a Mick McCarthy coming on the betting if he acts.

Now I’m not recommending Roy Keane but having heard about our inept training programme I can’t get his famous quote of "fail to prepare, prepare to fail".

Norman Merrill
36 Posted 07/01/2015 at 15:47:45
After the performances of late, it's going to be very crucial we get improved performances and results in our next two fixtures.

City will be near full strength, if news today that both Aguero and Dzeko, are available for Saturday is true?

Then we have the Tuesday cup replay, hopefully with no injuries from Saturday. Something we are not used to is a settled side, so let's hope things change for the next fixtures? And we start to get back to some decent form.

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