A good win away in Europe and playing the bottom team in the Premier League should have been easy meat for the Blues at a rain-soaked and cold Goodison Park. Yet, somehow at the back of many a mind in the room of nonsense pre-game confidence was found wanting given our record of results after a Euro encounter.

The teams came through and right away I wondered how the midfield would perform as McCarthy and Besic are an untried force and that is not the best of situations for that all-important engine room. Both players are tireless workers but creativity is something seldom seen from either; not exactly midfield generals.

Pre-kick off, the 2015/16 season ticket promo video was played on the big screen and it looked classy and slick and was well- received by those assembled. Any more games like today and we may need a sequel to drum up support especially as we haven’t won at home since December 15th and a home record in the EPL that reads played 13 - drawn 7 Won 3 and lost 3. Fortress Goodison?

The first half started with Leicester making the running and any thoughts of a ‘park the bus’ scenario were soon put to bed as Leicester came for us. All over the park we had players looking shaky and none moreso than Besic and Barkley, which is disappointing as we fans are looking to them to be our future and have faith in them. But today showed they have some way to go yet before the word consistency is used and that is very important in the positions that they are occupying. Lukaku is another running more cold than hot and demonstrated that first half when he shot high over the bar after good work by Coleman who beat his man in a run for the by-line and pulled the ball back for that over-the -ar effort from just about 10 yards.

Next Lennon showed good pace got down the right and put in a good low cross that saw Lukaku swing at it and have it blocked but the ball ran kindly for once and gave our other hot-and-cold man Barkley a wonderful opportunity in front of goal but his effort was, shall we say, a little high. Poor effort really.

So the half went on with us having maybe more of the possession but forever breaking down on either offside or a poor first touch and, yes. even passes to no one in particular. In between, Leicester broke when they could and, in truth, looked more dangerous than us and this was highlighted on the final knocking of the first half when the wonderfully named Schlupp got in and was only denied by a great block from John Stones.

H/T and the chat was of no one really knowing what to make of it as chances had been made and passed up but, conversely, going the other way we looked as though we were not as water tight as we would have liked and Leicester were testing us.

Second half and more of the same from the off. Leicester were pushing on and Tim Howard had the crowd gasping and then showing displeasure when he palmed a shot from wide right into the path of that man Schlupp who, thankfully, blasted wide when better could have been expected by his manager.

Just three minutes later both Besic and Barkley were hooked in favour of Gibson and Atsu, there were a few booing when Besic went off but really neither player was offering much. The manager’s move was vindicated within two mins when Gibson strode forward looking ahead and found a good ball forward to Lukaku who held it up well on this occasion it has to be said and he turned one around the corner for the ever willing Naismith to latch onto and shoot passed two defenders and find the net just inside the post.

A roar of relief was heard and the faithful replied to the Leicester hoards who had been likening our support to excreta by chanting ‘We only sing when we are winning’. I think many thought that would be it but, hey, you never can tell with us; when we are ahead we somehow seem to abandon what got us into the lead and go all jittery making unforced errors, and so it was today.

Time after time this season we have succumbed to shipping a sloppy goal—guess what?—we did it again when Leicester responded to our two subs and sent two of their own on just some five minutes after ours and they did to us what we had done to them. Vardy, on for Schlupp, raced clear down our right after we gave the ball away and his cross had Howard and Stones acting like strangers at the near post. The ball ran on for our true Blue fan Nugent on for Mahrez who gleefully swept home. The silence from our fans told a story.

For those who may not have seen the game, look away now as it got worse. Just seven minutes after their first Howard again blundered when he no more than flapped at a ball and it fell to Vardy near the by-line who cut it back for the evergreen Cambiasso to sweep home and celebrate as if it was in the Champions League final. The travelling fans were delirious singing ‘we're bottom of the league and winning away’ and with many a Blue making for the exits it did look as though that might be it.

I held to the belief that you just never know in this great game of ours and so it panned out. Lukaku, who had been guilty of three glaring misses second half and none worse than when Naismith fed him in and he brushed off his man with strength and speed and with the goal gaping hit it over the angle (incredible miss that one). But it was the Belgian who dived to head a great cross from Atsu into the net... that is until the goal was replayed and it was clear it was an o/g, but nonetheless, without the cross and header, a goal would not have occurred.

We did drive on in the last minutes but frustratingly a poor touch or final ball was the best we could do and in the four minutes added we found ourselves defending a few corners and I think in the end we were glad to hear the final whistle.

M.o.t.M. – Cambiasso but for us no one stood out. Maybe Gibson when he came on he did seem to possess some craft and guile, always went forward and tried to thread a pass.

Overall a disappointing day out as the game reflected the weather –not the best. As I was making my way out of the ground among the throng Howard, Barkley and Besic seemed to be in the firing line with Baines being deemed out of form. However, from my viewpoint, it seems that we are set up well to cope with the play in the Europa league yet the players seem to not be comfortable with our set up to cope with domestic matters and that is of concern. Domestic matters are our bread and butter. Lennon did quite well showing good pace and a willingness to work yet when Atsu came on for his cameo he looked the better all-round player to me. Be interesting to see what our present manager does with those two. A further meeting between Manager and players may need to be called.

Europa again on Thursday and then on the Sunday Arsenal away. If my theory is anywhere near the mark, God help us. Something is not quite right to the spectator’s eye so all we can hope is that manager and players are on to it.

Still in these days of positive spin I will close by saying today we gained another point toward safety on the back of suffering from ‘Europaitis’

UP THE BLUES

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Reader Comments (19)

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Glyn Jones
1 Posted 23/02/2015 at 06:19:17
Your back Ken, can't get to the matches at present, your report is the one I look for, maybe the defence has lost confidence in Tim.
Christopher Timmins
2 Posted 23/02/2015 at 07:19:14
Ken

Great to have you back. The following problems are coming home to bite with regularity:

1. Howard is is on the slide and while Robles may not be the long term answer he did not deserve to be dropped once Howard regained full fitness. This is the managers fault as Robles should still be number one until he makes an error.

2. Baines needs to play with a left sided mid fielder in front of him. I take you back to the first game of the World Cup against Italy last summer. He does not play the role well and needs support. His confidence is shot to pieces. This is the managers fault, he now either changes the formation or changes the left back!

3. Barkley's confidence is shot. The free kick attempt in the first half screamed a lack of confidence.

4. The team play much better when they are away from Goodison. What was always a positive is now a negative.

5. Besic and McCarthy do not provide enough going forward as a combination, there is some merit in playing Barry. A creative midfielder is a must during the summer.

6. Lukaku has a lot to learn but he did not hide, he kept going until the end.

Mike Oates
3 Posted 23/02/2015 at 07:28:32
Great report Ken. Both our full backs have repeatedly let their wingers get crosses in all season, time and time they don't get close enough. Baines is about as twice as bad as Coleman and it's about time Oviedo or Garbutt were given decent play time.
Jim Gore
4 Posted 23/02/2015 at 08:32:34
Accurate report ken as usual,I think back to the pre season games which were rubbish.with the exception of our European adventures nothing has changed!!
Clive Mitchell
5 Posted 23/02/2015 at 09:00:28
Great report Ken. As you say, 'something is not quite right'. Actually, as some astute observations in your piece and on this thread show, quite a number of things are not quite right. Howard has been below Premier League standard all season. To play 4-2-3-1 we need replacements for both Pienaar and the disillusioned/ crazed Mirallas for the wide roles in the 3. Finally, RM's approach, management and judgement are worrying. I want him to succeed, the evidence is mounting he won't.

MotM for me Naismith for effort, impact. Lennon must not be signed in the summer.

Charlie Gibson
7 Posted 23/02/2015 at 10:36:25
I was at the game yesterday. Frustrating as it was, my initial anger has subsided somewhat and I can rethink the game with a cool head today.

The fact is that, for all their huff and puff, Leicester only had two clear-cut chances; both led to goals, and both came directly from mistakes by Howard.

The first goal, Atsu was trying to get away - no criticism there. But then McCarthy (I think) let the cross come in, and Howard flapped at it on the ground. It was ridiculous. The contact was poor, hit Stones and fell perfectly for Nugent to stab home. What what Howard trying to do?! He was deliberately committing himself and pushing the ball out into the middle of the box. Insane.

Their second goal was another classic Howard blunder - misjudging a cross, flapping at it and diverting the ball straight to an opponent. Yes, it was windy and the ball was wet. So catch it, punch it or stay on your line. Don't flap at it.

The truth is that even with those two goals gifted to Leicester, we created enough clear-cut chances to win comfortably. In the first half, Barkley skied a shot over from ten yards, and Lukaku managed to put Coleman's excellent pull back over everyone in the Park End. Then in the second half, Lukaku again missed a tap-in from Baines' cross-cum-shot, missed the volley from Naismith's superb ball over the top, and put that shot over after he drove into the box. Even his header for the own goal was going wide.

Lukaku - our £28m man - had, I think, 5 shots from inside the box, all with clear sight of goal. Not one was on target. His finishing was woeful, and that was the difference in the end. He should have had an even easier hat-trick than the one he bagged against YB.

The bigger picture there though is that we created a lot. Over the dire Christmas period, the problem was that we weren't making chances. You can't say we didn't create enough yesterday.

There were two reasons we lost: Lukaku's awful finishing and Howard's glaring errors. I say bring Robles back immediately and, if we can create as many chances against Stoke and Arsenal, we should be able pick up 4 points from the next to game. Unfortunately, I don't think we will, and could be very nervously looking over our shoulders in a couple of weeks time.

Kunal Desai
8 Posted 23/02/2015 at 12:36:26
I really don't understand why fans need the feel to leave after 70 minutes. I witnessed this at the stoke game on boxing day as well. If your going to go to the game does it not make sense to watch the full 90 no matter how painful it is. Otherwise it's a real waste of money. I'm assuming thousands won't be renewing season tickets unless there happy to leave after 70 minutes.
Dave Abrahams
9 Posted 23/02/2015 at 12:34:10
Good report Ken as usual. Christopher Timmins is right, the players now hate playing at home, what was once a form of invigorating the team has become a burden for them, they are absolutely terrified of playing at home.
Mike Childs
10 Posted 23/02/2015 at 13:03:35
Glad like the rest to have you back Ken. Someone has to talk to the manager and open his eyes. Has any other manager in history taken 2 teams down in a 3 year period?
Tony Abrahams
12 Posted 23/02/2015 at 15:58:22
Have got to agree with your MotM, Ken.

Cambiasso was a joy to watch just like KenbiassoĂ‚’s reports are always the most accurate to me.

Steve Carse
13 Posted 23/02/2015 at 16:33:08
Ken, you refer to 'our record of results after a Euro encounter' but isn't it something like 8 pts from 7 games, which is par for the course for results for the whole season to date.

For me the Europa excuse holds no water. Certainly not if it's stated in relation to tiredness. If there is anything in it it's from having to incur further changes to personnel and tactics than would otherwise occur, so hindering continuity and understanding between players.

And let's not forget that without the EL we'd be playing only 41 games this season, something that would constitute a massive underuse of playing resources.

Harold Matthews
14 Posted 23/02/2015 at 16:46:48
Christopher. The player most suited to Baines is the right-footed Pienaar who cuts inside and reverse passes to Bainsey as he flies up the wing. Left footers can't do that.
Rahman Talib
16 Posted 23/02/2015 at 20:46:47
I think Howard has been our problem this season and we didnt realize it.
Colin Grierson
17 Posted 24/02/2015 at 10:33:15
Kunal, my record for leaving earlier than the 90 minute mark was the first game of the season against Arsenal a few years back when we capitulated in the first half. I think it was about 55 mins in when we went 0-4 down. I watched the rest of the game in the boozer and nearly spilled me pint when we got a consolation goal. The streets outside of GP were full of people heading off. Its one thing keeping the stream going on your laptop but to sit in the cold and endure the dross being served up can sometimes be too much. There should be a turnstile we have to go through so the players and manager know just how many fans couldn't be arsed to waste any more of their time hoping it would get better. Its their job to keep my backside on the seat and my prerogative to show them said backside on the way out.
Colin Grierson
18 Posted 24/02/2015 at 10:33:15
Kunal, my record for leaving earlier than the 90 minute mark was the first game of the season against Arsenal a few years back when we capitulated in the first half. I think it was about 55 mins in when we went 0-4 down. I watched the rest of the game in the boozer and nearly spilled me pint when we got a consolation goal. The streets outside of GP were full of people heading off. Its one thing keeping the stream going on your laptop but to sit in the cold and endure the dross being served up can sometimes be too much. There should be a turnstile we have to go through so the players and manager know just how many fans couldn't be arsed to waste any more of their time hoping it would get better. Its their job to keep my backside on the seat and my prerogative to show them said backside on the way out.
Colin Grierson
19 Posted 24/02/2015 at 10:46:48
Ken, great report as usual.

Harold, spot on. Too many left sided players leave us with less options. Pienaar was always cutting inside and looking for Baines to overlap in the space he left.

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