Well, what a night that turned out to be. I’ve enjoyed the pub before the game in this Europa League campaign. There seems to be a bit more excitement in the air and it’s nice to watch an early game in the pub... Wolfsburg beating Inter Milan in this instance.

Antolin Alcaraz was the surprise inclusion in the team, replacing the virus-stricken John Stones at the back. We arrived in the ground nicely in time for Z-Cars and the teams, after what seemed like an age, took to the field, Everton all in blue for some reason. Did Dynamo Kiev just bring the wrong shorts?

I’d like to fast forward through the first 35 minutes or so because Everton were atrocious in the preceding period. There was no shape to the team and, though solid and disciplined, it wasn’t difficult for Dynamo Kiev to get the better of us. The goal we conceded was just diabolical. A nothing ball into the box was seemingly watched by everyone and eventually culminated in Everton giving away a cheap corner... and then an even cheaper goal straight from the corner.

“End of the road for Martinez” was pretty much the flow of conversation around us with most even saying to get rid of him before the Newcastle United game on Sunday, with Big Dunc until the end of the season mooted. The knives were out... who would have thought at that point that, come full-time, the Lower Gwladys would be singing his name?

Still, by hook or by crook, we did get ourselves back in the game. Lukaku had already missed a good opportunity from distance with Shovkovskiy off his line but he was thwarted by a fine save on his next chance from a free kick. We came even closer to scoring from the resulting corner when a Jagielka header was cleared off the line and the rebound deflected over the bar.

The momentum was starting to turn and on 39 minutes the goal arrived when a determined Lukaku stormed through a few challenges and kept on going, eventually slipping a ball through to Steven Naismith to finish and level the score. Delight and relief all around the ground, and though playing awful, at the break we had to be happy to be all square.

Onto the second half and though the crowd undoubtedly played it’s part, Everton were fantastic after the break with Dynamo Kiev camped inside their own half for large periods of it. We piled on a lot of pressure and the players found their bottle and were up for the fight. We missed good chances (it always seems to be the Everton way) but with hopes fading we got the lifeline of a penalty thanks to a Dynamo Kiev handball. Up stepped a confident Lukaku who just about found the net to put Everton ahead.

Stick or twist at this point? I said 'stick' though everyone else said 'twist' and it so nearly paid off when Osman’s header went across goal and couldn’t be turned in by Naismith on the stretch.

It was a fantastic effort from Everton in the second half and resulted in a thoroughly deserved win. It is crucial to go to Kiev ahead. Avoid defeat over there and we are through. 1-1 would have been very tough as we would have had to search for something. It won’t be easy... it will be extremely tough... but, if we can show that second half fight in Kiev, we should be in the quarter-final of a European competition.

Now if only we could show that fight in the Premier League.

Player ratings:

Howard: Seems to regaining his confidence a bit and not before time. 6

Garbutt: I was quite proud of Garbutt in the second half as he was well up for the battle and encouraged us forward. He had a great game, especially in the second half. We really need to get him signed up. We have a ready-made replacement for Leighton Baines right there. 8

Jagielka: Excellent in the second half. Kept us at a high line to force mistakes but showed enough pace and intelligence to keep everything in front of him at the back. 8

Alcaraz: Awful start to the game with passes array and defensive absenteeism. Improved second half though I’m never happy with him in the team. Hopefully Stones is back for Sunday. 5

Coleman: Got forward a lot but when did we last see a good cross or Coleman assist? Always full of effort but appears to have lost his way this season. 5

Barry: Seemed anonymous in the main. 5

McCarthy: A great effort by McCarthy and was one of the few who kept us going in that dire first half. 8

Mirallas: Glimpses of what he can do but didn’t look bothered for a lot of it. 5

Naismith: Took his goal well and was full of effort. 7

Barkley: Never settled in the game and it was only really a surprise that he wasn’t substituted sooner. 5

Lukaku: My Man of the Match. An awesome display. Will we see the same Romelu on Sunday? I doubt it somehow. Too many false dawns this season for me. Would love to be wrong of course. 9

Kone (for Mirallas): Put himself about and came close with one effort but I just don’t think he offers enough for the team. 5

Osman (for Barkley): Got into the game quickly and showed good intelligence. We need him in the starting XI as quickly as possible. One of the few calm heads we have out there. 6

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Paul Gladwell
1 Posted 13/03/2015 at 07:20:23
Good report although totally disagree on Howard’s confidence, he appears an absolute wreck, his reluctance to come for balls was evident in front of The Park End and had Jagielka having words with him a few times, not to mention him deciding to slow things down straight after we had scored when we had our tails up and them on the rack.

I just cannot see him keeping many clean sheets if any, we’ve failed to keep one since his return after three on the trot, he also refuses to allow defenders on the post for corners as they get in his way! Maybe if they did, they’d prevent one of the numerous goals we concede from corners.

Graham Holliday
2 Posted 13/03/2015 at 07:26:11
Watching on TV I went absolutely beserk when the first goal went in. The tide had been turning for 5-10 mins before that, and two things seemed to set us off... firstly, a simple ball into the channel from Barry for Lukaku. It’s strange how infrequently we’ve played that ball this season. It gave us some forward momentum and the crowd reacted to it.

Secondly, James McCarthy... I actually used the words "he’s magic that boy" to my better half. When we were as awful as usual in the first half he made about 5 brilliant tackles in as many minutes around the halfway line that gave us and the crowd impetus to get at Kiev. He was my man of the match, as good as Lukaku was, it was McCarthy that changed the game in my eyes.

I’d also like to point out that Baines on ITV when pressed about would the players stand up to Roberto and request to play a bit longer responded something along the lines of "we’ve looked most threatening when we have been direct" and "the boss wants to stick to his philosophy and that won’t change but I’d like to think the players will do what we can see works on the pitch".

It wasn’t directly confrontational but it was a fairly thinly veiled criticism from what I heard.

Anyway, much much better. The crowd are so important to this team playing well. They just need to give us something to go berserk about!

Ray Roche
3 Posted 13/03/2015 at 07:35:06
Graham (#2), you’re not the only one who noticed a reluctance from Baines to answer the question as clearly as he’d have liked to. What was between the lines was his opinion that the players have the right idea and could change the game once they’re on the pitch, something that seemingly happened in the West Ham game as well as last night. WE just need them to take the initiative more often.
Paul Gladwell
4 Posted 13/03/2015 at 07:39:39
Graham, IÂ’m sure Baines and many others are sick of his tactics, heÂ’s making a fool out of certain players and one of them is Baines who has had a fair bit of stick from the crowd, very unfairly too in my eyes.

All season long, I sit in the Park End near the away crowd so whenever I see Baines, Garbutt or whoever is left back picking up the ball, I get a great view of the space he could pass to in front of him, only we donÂ’t play anyone in front of him. ThereÂ’s nothing to aim for so time and again they cut back inside and pass back to our centre halves and then the crab passing begins, itÂ’s shocking and it was a big part of the crowds frustration again in the first half. IÂ’ve argued blue in the face for our manager up until Xmas, I now realise heÂ’s dangerous.

Nick Oakley
5 Posted 13/03/2015 at 08:26:17
Martinez has just got to stop playing Barkley and Mirallas. Barkley sadly hasn’t got a clue about how to press properly; his movement is awful; the reality he is simply ripped of confidence at the moment, and we cannot afford to play him through this problem.

As for Mirallas - anybody who needs to flaunt his wealth with a gold Bentley just doesn’t get what being an Evertonians really means. He doesn’t fit the bill on or off the pitch. He simply doesn’t care so would never be in my team regardless of the rare flashes of brilliance. I would personally get shot of both in the summer.

To get the high tempo we desperately need everyone needs to press and that starts up top. Mirallas and Barkley can’t or won’t – so let’s give Atsu and Lennon a chance and give them a clear brief – press, press, press until you are knackered and then replace them with new legs when they have run their hearts out.

Eddie Dunn
6 Posted 13/03/2015 at 09:23:06
Paul G, Baines was uncomfortable commenting on the tactics and, try as he might to hide his true thoughts, it was obvious that he, and the team, want to mix it up more.

For Martinez, I think it is a case of crisis management. He has had bad luck with injuries, and sometimes has not had the right balance in the side partly due to injuries to key players, but also due to his own favouritism, and the reluctance to strengthen the side in the summer or in January. If we stay up, it will be despite the manager.

Paul T, I thought that Barkley showed real passion and, when things were going wrong in the first half, the lad put in a couple of big tackles and gave the crowd a lift.

I can’t believe the improvement in Rom’s first touch and his receiving with back to goal. He looked the complete centre forward. I pray for more of the same on Sunday.

Incidentally, I just read on BBC Sport’s Lawro’s predictions v Dermot O’Leary, that they are both going for a 2-1 Everton win on Sunday, but the funny thing is that Dermot said that Martinez is a "great manager" and he wants him to take over at Arsenal when Wenger retires! Hurry up, Arsene!

Jeff Hughes
7 Posted 13/03/2015 at 09:37:20
A good recovery and it is now starting to feel that the players are rallying despite Martinez and his damned philosophy.

My main point in posting is about Barkley. Believe me, I want Barkley to do well but I’ve posted elsewhere my frustration with our wonder boy. When I think of the way Rooney played at 16 and we still hear the same old apologists saying Barkley is young... blah, blah blah.

The cold reality of the situation is that he has been picked to represent our first team and consequently, to retain his place, he has to perform at that level. His contribution can at best be described as that of a passenger or worst as someone actually hiding from responsibility and too frightened to take the stage.

For his sake, but more importantly, for our teams’s sake, we cannot afford to carry anyone in the league given our current plight and he needs to be taken out of the spotlight. Someone needs to work with him at Finch Farm on how to read games; how to position himself to deny others space and how to move into positions to help teammates create space; how to use his physical strength more aggressively and more positively in winning and then using the ball and in driving forward to create danger.

Ryan Holroyd
8 Posted 13/03/2015 at 12:57:46
The crowd have totally broken Ross, Jeff. He’ll never recover from the dog’s abuse he’s had all season.
Jeff Hughes
9 Posted 13/03/2015 at 13:52:53
Two points, Ryan (#8)

First of all, I believe that most Everton fans have been extra loyal to Ross because of his youth and because we all believed he had great promise and could become a world-beater. No one wants him to fail and no satisfaction is taken from having to admit that his performances have been woeful and embarrassing. Where I sit there have been some groans but only in recent weeks and nothing that could be called barracking. The reality, Ryan, is that his failure this season has nothing to do with the fans.

Secondly, his poor form has everything to do with the manager and mistakes made in selection, balance of the team and most significantly his bloody philosophy of possession football. Ross has been played out of position, as have others, but what worries me is that he appears unwilling to take on responsibilities within the team and currently offers nothing. In fact, I would go as far as to say he is currently a liability and we cannot afford to carry any players, young or not!

Can Ross recover and can he become the player we all wanted? I would sincerely hope so but HE has to grow up; he has to understand the role of the modern midfield player; and he has to have the appetite and determination to impose his talents. If he cannot overcome a few groans he certainly will not be a top player. He should be dropped for his own sake, possibly to the bench but a more constructive option would be to play regularly at U21 level to learn game management and thereby find his game. Maybe then, he can return a stronger player and become the hero we all crave.

Tony Hill
10 Posted 13/03/2015 at 14:13:40
I think that’s fair, Jeff. But I’m convinced Barkley will come good and I’m convinced that his difficulties are all in his own mind. We and the club can only support him but in the end it is for him to unlock the very great talent which I believe he has.
Trevor Peers
11 Posted 13/03/2015 at 14:23:20
Whatever the situation is with Ross at the start of next season we need to have purchased a Top Class midfielder capable of providing some vision and able to create and score goals. Osman is at the end of his career as is Pienaar I think we would benefit from someone like Swansea midfielder Sigurdsson.
Clive Mitchell
12 Posted 13/03/2015 at 17:08:23
Trevor, no need to buy him, he’s already here. Barkley has to be allowed to mature in the team - not necessarily every match, but most of them he has to play. He’s simply too good to put to one side. I think Ross is a moment away from exploding into confidence - it nearly happened last night - and once he has he’ll be world class.
Mike Allison
13 Posted 13/03/2015 at 17:35:47
Ross needs to play, play and play some more. In the middle of the park, in either the 8 or 10 position. He needs to play without fear (what’s that in Spanish?) as opposed to the constant fear of losing possession that is being drilled into Everton players at the moment.

Ross should be taking the ball on the half-turn, driving forward and seeing what he can create, not maintaining possession and ’control of the game’ by passing backwards and sideways to players under pressure. Yes, he’ll lose the ball, but do you know what? We’ll win it back, especially from tired opponents who’ve had to work hard and track back to cover because of the threat we can pose. Every backwards and sideways pass helps the opposition rest and get organised, every forward move hurts them.

The Goodison crowd knows this, and desperately tried to get it across to the players last night. I think the players know it too, it was very interesting watching Baines try his best to be boring in the studio last night. There seems to be only one man in the world who doesn’t know it.

Roberto, if you want to ’control the game’ take the fucking lead, and put the opposition on the back foot. Make them scared to make forward runs because we can hit them on the break, and put their defence under constant pressure so that they’ll finally crack when their legs and concentration go, don’t make it easy for them to watch us pass the ball around pointless for five minutes.

Trevor Peers
14 Posted 13/03/2015 at 17:48:44
Clive#12 It’s not possible to progress as a team with a small squad pinning all your hopes on Barkley is a bit short sighted. Even if he did start to show the form required and then got an injury we would be caught short in the creativity department.

Unlike you I am still far from convinced that he possesses the mental agility to be a top midfielder he looks a bit vacant at times. Usually this is instinctive in the best players and isn’t something that can be coached into a player. As an example look at our past great midfielders: Sheedy, Steven, Ried, Bracewell. He doesn’t compare at the moment IMO.

Murdo Laing
15 Posted 13/03/2015 at 19:43:12
Trevor, you mention the Blessed Immaculate Kevin Sheedy. How different would this team be with a player of Sheedy’s craft playing wide left in front of either LB or LG? Still, the theme isn’t about craft or guile, it’s about "fight". I think we have seen with Lukaku that he does have another level after last night’s barnstormer , but we need all the players to "up" their level both in the domestic and Europa if we are to salvage any fond memories of this season.

Perhaps last night was some sort of watershed, and maybe the penny has dropped with the team that they all have to pitch in to show the fans they are sweating blood for that blue shirt? The reality is that very few of us know what goes on behind the scenes at Everton, so we are left to speculate that it was maybe the crowd who lit the blue touchpaper and not the manager unshackling the players.

All I know is that nothing less than the commitment shown in the last hour of last night’s game is the standard that the team should aspire to for 90 minutes of every remaining game. If that happens, I am sure they will start to enjoy their football as the mood of the supporters lifts?

Jamie Crowley
16 Posted 13/03/2015 at 20:55:45
I’d agree with almost all the player ratings but I would put Jags on an equal level with Rom. Jags was just immense in this game. He covered a ridiculous amount of ground and defended like a man possessed.

Rom would still be my MotM. And on that performance if he’d a bagged a second goal could we actually award the ever-elusive "10" to him?

He was a beast. His touch was fantastic. He put forth an effort that was "Naismith-esque". He was just superb.

There should finally be one 10 awarded - to the fans. They literally lifted that team to victory. Although watching on TV in America, you could just sense it and definitely hear it. 30,000 plus saying, "Oh no boys, not today. Today is not the day you give up. Today is not the day we will stand for anything less than 100%."

The fans were just beautiful. That fan reaction / atmosphere, along with (off the top of my head) the Hull 5-3 game (Saha hattrick?), Neville’s tackle on Ronaldo, Fiorentina in a losing effort but great game, Oviedo’s goal over Man Utd at Old Trafford, the FA Cup final (bad result but so great to be there), the FA Cup shootout victory, and the Arsenal game last year...

One of my favorite viewing experiences was THAT crowd on Thursday in my 8½ years of "Blueness".

Awesome. If you were there, pat yourself on the back. You deserve it. It was just freaking great to see.

Andy Crooks
17 Posted 13/03/2015 at 22:18:35
Paul, great stuff as usual, a proper fans view. I must disagree with you, though about Kone. With game time, he can be a big influence in our run in.

Jeff Hughes and Mike Allison: spot-on, I think, about Ross Barkley. He was really poor last night but I believe that persevering with him is a huge investment in our future.

Andy Meighan
18 Posted 15/03/2015 at 20:44:25
Paul, I always enjoy your report, especially your pre-match stuff. But IÂ’ve got to be honest here when you mentioned Big Dunc. You see, Paul, thatÂ’s the one thing thatÂ’s always rankled with me...

For me, Big Dunc (as heÂ’s so affectionately known amongst Evertonians) wasnÂ’t really that good a player (in my opinion); his goal-scoring record wasnÂ’t that good, and his attitude to the game was shocking at times... witness his disciplinary record.

And yet some people on here seem to think he’ll be the answer to all our ills. I hate to break this to you, Paul, but heÂ’s been on our bench all season... and look where we are. Good job, Big Dunc!

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