A trip down the M6 to meet the Baggies on a Monday night is always a bit of a stressful dash for fans but loads of advertising revenue for Sky who are the Premier League's paymaster, but we still go anyway. Time for a pint and a chat and some WBA fans reckoned they would know how to stop Lukaku and take a home win. The teams came through and I thought if they did stop Rom then they may have a point. Of our regular back five only Tim and Jags were available – granted those chosen in their place are very promising players but would the understanding be there?
Into the ground and our end soon filled with a full complement and in good voice. Bobby Madley was the ref and he got us underway and for some reason the thought entered my mind that we were playing on the highest ground in England and the way we had started you would have thought we were playing uphill such was our pedestrian buil- up play. Barry had said in the week we needed to be patient but this seemed to be taking it a bit too far. Our crowd had gone from boisterous to quiet as the half wore on.
Not a lot to report in that first half. For us Deulofeu was almost a passenger out on the right as no one would give him the ball and his waving got ever more frantic. At last Barry found him with a long arcing pass and he showed what he could do as he found Barkley in on goal with a wonderful ball but from a seemingly open goal position he seemed to sort of stutter and the ball went past him when any sort of prod toward goal would have had us in raptures. I found out later he had got his feet mixed up!
The half was going on without either keeper being unduly troubled until Howard had one smashed straight at him which he held. Their crowd offered to sing a song for us which brought nothing but apathy from the away end. Boy ,we were showing ‘em we could do patience. The game was winding down to half time and I noted that Mori after a bit of an uncertain start was coming to terms with the game and his surroundings and looking like a good addition to the squad and that Galloway was indeed living up to his present billing, while Browning was having it a little tougher against the quicksilver Berahino and Jags was working overtime in trying to keep the unit intact with some clever help from Barry.
Less than five minutes to the break and I wished I had kept those thoughts to myself, but it just shows what football can throw at you. Howard bowled the ball out to Mori on the left touchline who held on to it a little too long and a tackle squirted the ball out but, fortunately, to Barry who inexplicably passed direct to Morrison (he plays for them I thought) who played a good pass into the middle of our box bisecting Jags and Browning leaving Berahino in on Howard one on one. He shot and Howard seemed to get a foot to it and deflect the ball upwards but not upwards enough for it to beat the bar and we are one nil down. The language around me was ripe!
H/T and we wondered how the manager would play out the second half as now patience was starting to run thin. Someone said that was the first goal we have conceded away this season but it didn’t make us feel any better.
Second half and we were expecting at least a quick and lively start, if not all guns blazing but, no, it was much the same as the first... just too slow in the build-up. Throughout the game thus far there had been plenty of neat and tidy passing but never with an intensity that looked like spooking them, even though they lost centre back Olsson to injury early first half. The crowd had a brief Everton chant and song medley to raise spirits but before ten minutes had elapsed we were two down when, from a corner, Dawson had risen unhindered near goal and headed in. Dejection abounded with many saying things that translated meant ‘well that’s our night ruined’.
Watching that goal go in so easily I wondered why we don’t defend corners like many other teams. Grab hold of your man and let him go as soon as the ball has passed. Refs never see any of that going on as we have seen when our lads are held and pushed to the ground. It doesn’t seem to be a foul anymore. Memo to Roberto: show 'em a vid of Shawcross defending a corner at your next get-together; they could learn from a master.
You have to pay tribute to the travelling hoards here as the EVERTON-EVERTON-EVERTON chant rained down as we kicked off and I then witnessed something I had witnessed only once before and that was at our place when Chelsea scored from a kick-off without one of our players touching it. We kicked off and within seconds the ball was worked out to Deulofeu who spurned the chance to take his full back on the outside as he quickly put in a beaut of a cross that saw Rom rising and his power was too much for their sub Chester and the ball was in the back of the net. Rom went after it and he ran back to the centre circle with it and left WBA to kick off a goal less in front without touching it from our kick-off. Amazing. The delight from our lot was now building as a sense of ‘you never know’ was born.
From that moment you could sense a change as Mori became more assured, Galloway was immense yet again and the crowd certainly let it be known that they wanted Deulofeu on the ball more. Although now on top we had the feeling the manager needed to change things a little and on 70 minutes he did, swapping Naismith, who had been booked, with Kone and Browning who had struggled with Gibson. OK, hands up those who said ‘I wonder if he will last the twenty odd minutes’? He did and looked good, if not match fit. To accommodate this McCarthy went right back with Gibbo in centre mid and Barkley pushed left, a regular 4-4-2... or maybe not.
It sure worked as just 4 minutes later we were level. The impressive Galloway robbed his man with a good tackle and a move was started from our goal-line that would see at last a quick move of great joined-up stuff that featured among others Gibson, Barry and Deulofeu. The ball quickly reached Lukaku with back to goal and between him and Kone a play took place that looked to me as one practiced on the training ground. Lukaku rolled his man and Kone was off into the box timed to perfection to beat the offside flag and he finished across the keeper in fine striker fashion and we are all square and the celebrations brought the street end to the Hawthorns. Now we were up for it. Now the players were up for it so between us WBA were starting to rock on their heels with the all Blues looking bigger, stronger and fitter by the minute and the excitement levels were the polar opposite to that first hour.
Coming up to ten to go and it happened. Barry again fed Deulofeu and again he didn’t engage his full back but put another of those instant crosses in that he used for our opener and he got the same result. The ball was delivered toward the far post where Lukaku was lurking, he got up between his marker and the keeper and the ball somehow squirmed from them all colliding and bounced toward goal with Lukaku in hot pursuit. He was first to it and squeezed home at the opposite post. What a celebration! Lukaku gave an impressive gymnastics display and the fans gave it the perfect ten as the whole end went crazy. Players, fans and stewards all mixed up but who cared, we had taken the lead.
Now the singing started in earnest and none longer or louder than when the Goodison Choir gave them ‘We only sing when were winning’
WBA now threw caution to the wind but in truth even allowing for and extra 5 minutes added we sucked ‘em in and broke fast. We had one scare when that Liverpool fan that didn’t play for them came on very late and had one chance but hit it wide as he was tackled by Jags. From my seat I thought, if he had got it on target then Jags would have blocked.
Final whistle and you would have thought we had won the league the amount of pure unadulterated joy, relief and pride that was on show. Players came over, some threw shirts into the front rows. What a win made all the sweeter for coming back from 2-0 down. We don’t do that often – '94 and '66 come to mind and those games were wildly celebrated. Just shows that the names and faces in the crowd change over the years but the passion? Never
MotM: Lukaku, but with special mention for Galloway and Deulofeu.
Plenty to celebrate and we move toward Sunday high on confidence but Derby matches are one of a kind so it's hope and prayer beads at the ready and let's cheer the lads to a result that ensures dancing on tables down L4 way. Coming out of a pub last night I saw a lad walking out with his head tilted right back staring up into the sky. I asked the lad with him if he was looking for that moon eclipse? He said no he is walking like that in case he spills any of his ale.
See you soon...
UP THE BLUES!