A windy day in L4 and it’s off to Goodison Park via the Room of Nonsense to see the Blues take on the Champions from Manchester in the form of City. Liverpool were on TV so a fair bit of pre-match banter was to be had. There is always one with the loudest voice giving it his all with advice to any red player who wasn’t perfection. His description of Balotelli and his contribution was a highlight as I am convinced he believed his hysterical ranting’s aimed at the big screen could be heard by the players. Free entertainment and a chance to bait them was priceless especially as they had no idea that they were being baited.

We did have time to discuss our chances and the team as announced showing only one change... then the knee-jerkers were forecasting the score with Man City winning either 4 or 5 to 1 or nil using evidence of our last 8 games as enough knowledge to get off to the bookies. The hardened Everton watchers took a different view in that it would be close as we always raise our game at home when meeting those teams that win things on a regular basis... and indeed that was how it was to work out.

The walk up was as different again to the WHU cup-tie with the approach roads overflowing with fans and many having to dodge the taxi back jigger rat-run riders. Goodison Road was back to normal with all outlets doing well. Those with social media on their phones would have been aware that the turnstiles opened 15 mins late due to some safety problem but things were back on track and Z-Cars was heard on time. In Goodison Road, there was a lone piper and, when I passed, he was performing Z-Cars on the bagpipes... whether it was a gust of wind or not, he momentarily lost control of them and produced a sound akin to a the strangulation of a cat, it brought many a smile to many faces.

First half started tentatively as players looked to be making sure they didn’t do anything silly and fans fearful that they might. Not a lot happened really. Our keeper now known in some quarters as ‘Barney Rubble’ kicked a clearance straight to a City player but it was no more than a scare and we put it down to the swirling wind. We got a free kick near the edge of the box that Lukaku took but hit the wall and then our captain Jags got in a right tangle with himself which offered a scoring chance to Navas but he put it wide. We got another free kick in roughly the same place, this time taken by Baines but he could only find the same spot in the wall as Lukaku.

As the half wore on, we were being dominated by City a bit. We were managing to make them play in front of us but they did give us heart-in-mouth time as they tried to pass the ball where it shouldn’t be passed (over-playing) and gave City a couple of chances. However, as the half neared half-time, a change could be noticed as we belted the ball away when finding ourselves in a tight position. Lukaku was chasing these down with Naismith also showing and the big Belgian was giving Ł30 million pound Mangala a bit of a chasing and this almost paid off when he out-muscled his man and beat him for pace and brought a great blocking star save from England’s Number 1... Only for Coleman to pick up the rebound and hit the bar – damn and blast – an inch from perfection.

The half was one of good build-up play from City without being able to use those cute little one-two’s to breach our defence, whilst our contribution was one of hard work and individual spurts which kept City on their toes. It was a bit too frenetic as we were on a mission to give nothing away that our play was a bit ropey rather than a joined-up build-up but I suppose – after our performances in previous games – then this was not a bad half with us at least showing we were together and battling.

Hal\f-time: 0-0 and in the main the chat was of a positive nature. During the break, Z-Cars rang out for us to welcome and show appreciation of one Andrei Kanchelskis who had travelled from Russia to be at the Old Lady. He was well received and looked fit enough to replace McGeady...

The second half started with a bit of a bang as we attacked and a City defender had to foul to stop our progress. It was in range and the miss-firing Barkley took it and his excellent curling attempt beat the keeper and the far post by a whisker. A goal would have been handy then, I mused. Besic was having another tidy game and he broke up a City attack and came away with the ball and then gave it for Lukaku to chase and, with his pace and power, he got past Mangala who appeared to foul him and the ref agreed and showed him yellow. Barkley took the kick but fired it too low and it was cleared but only to McGeady whose cross went high and long right across goal and that ended that attack.

The crowd, which had been supportive in the first half, were now getting into full voice as the high wind swept in the rain. "Everton – Everton – Everton" cascaded down the terraces, creating a cacophony of sound that the players were riding on as they went toe to toe with the Champions. City’s clever one-touch-and-move approach play was met by resolute defending and quick breaks that were, if not as polished as City’s, threatening enough to trouble them.

From one of our breaks, Barkley played a great pass for Lukaku to run on to and produce a shot that brought a great diving save from Hart who got just enough on it to divert it for a corner. As the corner was delivered, Zabaleta pushed Jags to the ground and, in response to a big appeal from our players and an almighty roar of ‘Penalty!!!’ from the faithful, the ref remained unmoved and waved play in in a rather theatrical manner; City broke at pace and the fast retreating McGeady fouled near our box. Nasri took and Barney punched away forcefully.

Pellegrino blinked first and introduced Aguero for Jovetic. The crowd were now even louder and a Goodison bear-pit was being fuelled by some refereeing decisions that seemed to favour City. This was compounded when Baines was upended and he took the kick which was indeed a great cross that saw Hart drop the ball under pressure and Jags poked home only for the ref to rule an infringement that the crowd did not agree with.

The noise grew louder and got even more loud and angry when City broke and, from a cross-cum-shot, Fernandinho who appeared to be standing in an offside position, headed home. Everton players and officials ran to the lino suggesting he should have flagged but all to no avail as the goal stood (TV replay later showed Lino to be correct) but this didn’t stop our crowd giving ref and his officials ‘Down the Banks’ with gusto.

Our manager replaced McGeady with Mirallas, much to the liking of the crowd. I wondered what sort of injury he is carrying to allow him to play only parts of games because, when he came on, he looked sharp and lively. 4 mins after the City goal, Baines was fed down the left and put in the cross of the match that saw Naismith on the move and getting just in front of Hart and Naismith glanced home — cue absolute pandemonium. All square and all to play for the under the lights, the Goodison bear-pit in full swing.

With this in the players ears, they put together a joined-up move from the back that was fast and forward; but for Lukaku straying offside, the winner may have been in the making. Howls went up as the ever striving Besic was pulled up for a foul that could have only been for heavy breathing near an opponent.

As time sped by, the only scare we got was when Lampard was introduced and to a man "That bastard always scores against us" was heard all over Goodison. It was not to be today, though, as we pressed on and if anything it was City who looked to making sure they kept at least a point as Lampard was on for the scorer and, on 91 mins, Kolarov for Nasri.

We attacked with pace and purpose; Mirallas showed what a danger he can be by beating his man, cutting inside at pace but his final shot lacked that ice-cool brain bit that the very best have and in his excitement he scuffed his shot and it gave Hart no trouble. The game was played out between two tiring teams who, although attacking one another almost in turns is was always ending in threatening build-ups coming to nought around each box. Three minutes of added time was played out and the half ended on the ref's whistle whilst we were attacking.

As the players were shaking hands Lukaku and Hart were hugging each other, I presume in mutual admiration.

MotM – Lukaku/Besic

Overall, a better show than of late with a lot of effort if not too much craft and guile. It was the sort of display and commitment that we will need to show from now till season end and we must show it against all opposition and not wait for a game against one of the top teams to display it. I thought that today we showed we can mix it up and play some joined up stuff as well as having no nonsense clearances when under pressure in the box. First half today we did have a bit of ‘tippy- Tappy’ in the box and got into trouble whilst second half we cut that out and looked that bit more confident and solid.

WHU in cup replay Tuesday and team selection will more than interesting but seeing as we don’t play again till the following Monday then no reason for not having a full hitter. A roller coaster season. How will it all end?

UP THE BLUES

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Reader Comments (48)

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Ajay Gopal
1 Posted 11/01/2015 at 06:40:05
Thanks, Ken. I think what you all present at the stadium missed (Martinez included) was the blatant handball (by Zabaleta I think) at the edge of their D that started the move leading to their goal. Good overall display - with lots of energy by Besic, Stones, Lukaku, Naismith, Coleman and Barkley. I think the team that played yesterday is our best team and should not be tinkered with except for McCarthy coming in for Barry to bring in more pace and energy. Mirallas, McGeady and Oviedo should be rotated.
Christopher Dover
2 Posted 11/01/2015 at 09:02:13
Once again a great report, I always look forward to it.
Peter Mills
3 Posted 11/01/2015 at 10:03:59
Pretty much spot-on as usual Ken. Despite our coming the closest to scoring in the first half I thought we were pretty fortunate to go in level at the interval, we very nearly gifted City 3 goals in those first 45 minutes.

As I left home at about 1.20pm I said to Mrs M "I might be home by kick off time, it's very breezy so there could be pieces of Goodison flying around Walton". Given the tragedy at Leicester a few years ago, such a risk is very much in the minds of Evertonians. It seems I wasn't far off, I wonder how much longer The Old Lady can continue to be granted a safety certificate?

Brent Stephens
4 Posted 11/01/2015 at 10:38:48
"Howls went up as the ever striving Besic was pulled up for a foul that could have only been for heavy breathing near an opponent." Heavy breathing near an opponent! Superb! I wonder if we practice that.

Agree on your Men of the Match - Rom and Besic - as per last Tuesday. I know that a few can't see what Besic brings but I'm not of that mind. His energy is tremendous, his positional sense pretty much spot on, a passion to the end, an inspiration to others, getting in the face of the opposition with some great "breathing" - a breath of fresh air.

Well done Rom!

Phil Walling
5 Posted 11/01/2015 at 11:04:37
I wonder if Besic's heavy breathing will be enough to save his place in the side when McCarthy is fit to return ?

I have a sneaking suspicion than Martinez sees the experience of Barry as vital to the team and will not be keen to omit him.

Brent Stephens
6 Posted 11/01/2015 at 11:22:38
Phil, I posted elsewhere in agreement with some views that Barry has actually played quite a bit better in the last two games, and am aware that some have suggested a midfield triumvirate of McCarthy, Barry and Besic. I think I'd like to see that.
Mike Oates
7 Posted 11/01/2015 at 12:03:48
Great report, Ken, couldn't watch the game until 5 min on MotD and it looked even with that 5 min we looked at the races again, which they way we played in Nov/Dec is a least some way forward.

Besic I'm sure will be the fall guy when McCarthy comes back, Martinez will want his experienced two together again. Besic's time will come, maybe more regularly next year as Barry's legs will tire, and for now acting as cover for Barry and McCarthy with a couple of Europa games thrown in.

Ian Gulliford
8 Posted 11/01/2015 at 13:31:58
Great game yesterday and best atmosphere we have produce in a long while. no coincidence that us playing with tempo on the pitch gets the crowd up eh?

I was livid with the ref at the time of a few decisions but watching it back this morning he actually got the majority right – what a rarity this season!!

John Keating
9 Posted 11/01/2015 at 13:53:13
Anyone else of a certain age group think Besic has a bit of Tony Kay about him ?
Brent Stephens
10 Posted 11/01/2015 at 14:04:19
John, Tony Kay to be sure. Just need to get the hair colour right, now.
John Williams
11 Posted 11/01/2015 at 12:58:33
Great report as usual, Ken!

A further improvement from Tuesday which was very heartening. If we show this type of passion and commitment then hopefully we'll be okay in the league.

Since being benched Lukaku has started to actually look a good player, running with the ball and getting chances rather than back to goal which is not one of his strengths.

Besic had a decent game again and once he cuts out some of the silly mistakes could be an integral part of this team and the future.

Barkley was not at his best yesterday, losing the ball often, though at least playing further up the field, and almost looking lost at times. For someone of his stature, I can't believe he doesn't track back and tackle. So, if he's in the team, he must play behind Lukaku for now at least because on his day can cause real damage.

So I wonder how Martinez will tinker with the team on Tuesday? I really hope he plays both Mirallas and McGeady and we have a good go at West Ham, I think they're there for the taking... COYB

Mike Balmford
12 Posted 11/01/2015 at 14:13:40
Why is nobody posting on the terrible form of our so-called captain Jagielka? Yet another awful slip yesterday... if that had been Distin or Alcaraz there would have been blue murder.

Jags is not worth his place at present.

Frank McGregor
13 Posted 11/01/2015 at 14:08:33
Good report, Ken. I agree with your comments and the performances of Besic and Lukaku; generally a good performance.

I know McGeady is not playing up to expectations, however he should be given a chance as I don't believe Ross Barkley is playing much better –he was missing a lot during today's game.

John Raftery
14 Posted 11/01/2015 at 14:57:34
John (11) I would not start Tuesday's game with McGeady who was very poor again. At least he worked hard but he concedes possession far too easily and delays his crosses too often for my liking. I would start with Mirallas and go for it.
Jay Wood
15 Posted 11/01/2015 at 15:20:51
Mike @

Jags HAS been getting heaps on here, for his captaincy and performance. He was dreadful mid-week, better yesterday.

Your comment is an example of something I said on another thread. People highlight a single negative and ignore the good stuff, affirming their pre-conceived idea about how a player plays rather than judge them on a match by match basis.

Barry is another example of that. Yes, there were a couple of stray passes by Gareth in the last couple of games, but overall he played well in both games.

Jags is well worth his place, certainly in front of Distin and Alcaraz.

Peter Creer
16 Posted 11/01/2015 at 15:23:44
Thank you Ken for another great report which adds greatly to watching the game here in Canada. The game showed more of what we can do than we have seen in a while. Can't argue with your MotM selection, although not enough has been said about the steady play of John Stones. When we were under pressure in the game he was the cool head that was helping settle things down. I couldn't count how many times we had passes that were just too short and the resulting panic was frequently mopped up by Stones.

As for the tinkering, right now I would bring in McCarthy in place of Barry and leave the rest. I think Barry is better with McCarthy, however, Besic is showing a lot more skill and has the tenacity that we need in the middle of the field along with really good vision.Right now Barry is not playing well, even if it was 'better' in the last couple of games. I also like the suggestion to rotate Mirallas, McGeady and Oviedo.

Bring on the Hammers. COYB!

Ray Roche
17 Posted 11/01/2015 at 15:37:22
I agree with Jay, Jags has been way off the pace this season but if we are playing a style that's alien to him it's understandable that his form and confidence will slip. Jags has been an outstanding defender for Everton over the years, playing the sort of game for which Moyes bought him. Once Martinez cuts out the sideways passing crap I feel his confidence, and his game, will return.
Jay Harris
18 Posted 11/01/2015 at 15:41:24
Brent I have been advocating a midfield trio of McCarthy Besic AND Barry for some time now which IMO would be much more effective giving us the strength in MF to win the ball, the flexibility for one of them to go upfield safe in the knowledge we are covered and provide much more freedom for Baines and Coleman to go raiding down the wings.
In addition Lukaku's space would be much less crowded.

I would also use Oviedo when one of these is unavailable.

McGeady is totally ineffective, Barkley is inconsistent and SuperKev appears to be off.

Paul Tran
19 Posted 11/01/2015 at 15:44:46
Completely agree with that one, Jay. It would give the team more strength and balance, play to Lukaku's strengths and give the full backs more licence to go forward.

Martinez needs to realise that having more 'skilful' players in the team doesn't necessarily mean you create more chances and are more effective. In our case it has meant similar players getting on each other's way and confusing the full backs.

It's what he did last season; a balanced team that creates chances and scores goals. I really don't know what he's been playing at this season......

Nigel Gregson
20 Posted 11/01/2015 at 15:44:40
Jay @15. You are right that Jags is better than Distin and Alcaraz, and that in itself is a sad report of how poor our defence is. We need to sign someone ASAP. Preferably someone not Europa cup tied.
Brent Stephens
21 Posted 11/01/2015 at 15:53:42
Jay #18 - I know, I was alluding in my post to calls like your own. As you say, that midfield 3 can be used flexibly - we know at least McCarthy and Besic have the stamina to be all over the pitch (including to pull defences wide and create space for Rom and Bakrs - one problem for Barks, I feel, is that he's trying hard to do difficult things in congested areas).
Mike Childs
22 Posted 11/01/2015 at 15:48:20
Could I please get an explanation for "taxi back rat-run riders"? Another turn of phrase. As for Barry I would be surprised if he completed 55% of his passes.
Tom Martin
23 Posted 11/01/2015 at 15:46:15
John (9), I was saying to my son that Besic's style reminds me of Nobby Styles. At only 22 years of age he is a great prospect.

Does Naismith's leap remind any of you old timers out there of a certain Alex Young?

Ray Roche
24 Posted 11/01/2015 at 16:39:30
Tom, that's a pretty good call, Besic and Styles. Being biased I think Kay was in a class of his own and Besic has some way to go before I'd go so far as to compare the two favourably.
Naismith has the ability to jump higher than his relatively small stature would suggest but, again, Naismith and Young? Similar? Man, you need help.
Victor Jones
25 Posted 11/01/2015 at 16:25:14
That was a very good report/article. Here's hoping that the piper is okay.

Now I just wonder what tune Martinez will have Everton playing to for the rest of the season... no more cha cha cha, tippy-tappy falling over your feet nonsense. How about some Rock and Roll in-your-face thunder.... quick quick quick. Forward, forward, forward – no side-stepping.

Anyhow, it ainĂ‚’t over till the fat lady sings... and, going by yesterday, sheĂ‚’s just getting warmed up.

Steve Carse
26 Posted 11/01/2015 at 15:30:41
Brent (5), with the need to grind out results given our position I would definitely go with all 3 of Barry, McCarthy and Besic. Who would drop out? Well on recent performances, either Barkley or McGeady/Mirallas.
Tony Hill
27 Posted 11/01/2015 at 16:52:26
Tom I know what you mean. Young had a capacity to "hang" in the air and you saw that particularly with Nsismith's jump for the goal.
Jay Harris
28 Posted 11/01/2015 at 16:57:58
Tom that was exactly what I was thinking when Nais glided that one in.

It was just like watching the Golden Vision ghosting in.

Victor Jones
29 Posted 11/01/2015 at 16:54:56
I donĂ‚’t think that people will agree with me, but Besic sort of reminds me of John Hurst (and I mean in his playing style). I always liked Hurst and he was also a no-nonsense type of player who would run all day. Just like Basic.

As for Naismith... IĂ‚’d liken him more to Alan Whittle – a good impact player who scores vital goals when needed. But Naismith is never an Alex Young.

Has anyone seen old Bill Kenwright play football... cause he reminds me of McGeady... Probably passes more accurately as well.

John Keating
30 Posted 11/01/2015 at 17:15:34
Tony, Jay
Had that had been Young he would have started jumping when Baines placed the ball, hung up there whilst the defenders tried jumping 5-6 times, had it in the net, waved to the crowd then glided down ! Sure that man had wings !!
Brent Stephens
31 Posted 11/01/2015 at 18:48:44
Steve - I think Barks can come good if we create space for him in the centre. As long as Mirallas can be persuaded to come in less from the wing (he cramps the centre when he does so, although can threaten with a shot when he does), then I'd say McGeady sits with "splinter group".
Tony Dove
32 Posted 11/01/2015 at 18:47:14
Has anyone noticed how Ross always looks to get the ball onto his right foot when he receives the ball in midfield. This seems to be read by the opposition and sometimes ends with him losing the ball. Yet he is clearly, judged by his shooting, just as comfortable on his left foot as his right which is a really rare talent.

Just think what damage he could cause if defenders didn't know which way he was going to go. I would love to think the coaching staff are onto this but I somehow doubt it.

Jimmy Salt
33 Posted 11/01/2015 at 18:58:48
I think the obvious improvement needs to continue before we can say we have turned it round. No one has mentioned the keeper as far as I can see , I think he had a decent game and he looks to be growing in confidence.
Andy Crooks
34 Posted 11/01/2015 at 21:27:35
John # 30, what a brilliant post.
Tom Martin
35 Posted 11/01/2015 at 21:30:36
Ray#24: Perhaps you're right! Got a bit carried away there
I think my memory's on the blink. Sorry!
Peter Mills
37 Posted 11/01/2015 at 22:21:02
Nobby Stiles. Sammy Lee. John McGovern. Kevin Richardson. Not the most stylish footballers ever, but count the quantity and quality of their medals.
Ken Finch
38 Posted 11/01/2015 at 22:46:49
A comment that was exchanged in our group in the TB was how we played almost in a Moyes style with a degree of Martinez. Interestingly, a similar remark was made in the match report in the Echo. All-in-all, though, it was good to see more commitment from the players. Bring on the Irons on Tuesday.
Joe Clitherow
39 Posted 11/01/2015 at 23:21:32
Never saw Young play, I missed him by a year or so. But the best exponent of the jump early and hang in the air technique I saw was Sharpy. We may all bang on about The Latch from recent times, and I do too, but I don't think our second highest ever goalscorer gets anywhere near the praise he deserves in general.
Tom Martin
40 Posted 12/01/2015 at 00:17:22
I did see "The Golden Vision" play and for a tiny man he could really leap.

But for me, the greatest exponent of the "early" leap and staying up there, was Joe Royle!

Jay Harris
41 Posted 12/01/2015 at 14:20:03
For the record, I didn't consider Naismith equal to Alex Young – I was just commenting that the way he hung there and glided the header in reminded me of the great man but that's where the comparison ends.

I remember a game against Sheffield Wed at GP when he got the ball just over the halfway line, shimmied and sent a few SW defenders the wrong way and then chipped the GK.

I think we won that 4 or 5 -1.

Nais, for all his endeavour, does not have the silky skills of the Golden Vision (If only).

Ray Roche
42 Posted 12/01/2015 at 17:47:08
Jay, good memory you've got, we won 5-1 with Young getting a hat trick and the underrated Fred Pickering getting the other two. And it was August 1965! Young was unstoppable that day.
Tony Hill
43 Posted 12/01/2015 at 18:07:42
The opening of Ken Loach's film The Golden Vision sends shivers down my spine. It's still on YouTube.
James Joseph
44 Posted 12/01/2015 at 18:27:59
Yes Tony, the whole of the film is on YouTube - a 'must see' for every Evertonian.

Doesn't Bally miss a penalty early in the film, against Man City, the game where Ernie Hunt scored for us?

Tony Hill
45 Posted 12/01/2015 at 19:30:56
That's the one James and there's a shot of Wilf Dixon after the miss - Wilf died last year of course. It's the very start of the film with his daughter that always gets me for some reason.
Dave Abrahams
46 Posted 12/01/2015 at 23:40:47
Tom Martin (35). What are you apologising for, it was obvious you were comparing Alex Young's ariel power with Naismith's and not their football ability and you were right Naismith does hover in the air just like Young.
Laurie Hartley
47 Posted 13/01/2015 at 08:37:48
It's interesting that Naismith is better in the air than Lukaku who likes to run on to a ball at his feet.

One of the things Joe Royle was very good at was winning the long ball in the air and placing a glancing header in the path off an on running team mate.

Might work with Naismith and Lukaku? (If RM will let Robles go long occasionally).

Ray, I agree with you that Fred Pickering was underrated.
His party piece was to pick the ball up on the right wing, cut inside and drill the ball into the back of the net from outside the box.

Ray Roche
48 Posted 13/01/2015 at 09:13:43
Laurie, I'm glad someone else recognises Pickering's value to the club. I'm sure that, if it weren't for the injury that cost him his place at Wembley and led to him eventually leaving Everton, an injury from which he never really recovered, we would be talking about him in the same way we remember the Latch. 70 goals in 150 appearances with 56 goals in 97 is pretty good going.

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