Everton 1-1 Crystal Palace
It's that much fun watching a cup draw in the pub that I think I'll do it every time from now on should we, as expected, skip past Dagenham & Redbridge or Whitehalk, of course, next month at Goodison Park. The "uh's and arrr's" which accompany the draw always makes me laugh, the funniest moment being when we thought we'd drawn Brentford away though it was ball No.60 that came out, not 16. The draw went as about as well as it could have done.
After a few drinks we set on up to Goodison Park in an unseasonally mild night. Tom Cleverley was the only change from the team which drew at Bournemouth, replacing the stricken James McCarthy in midfield. Craig Pawson got the game under way with Everton attacking towards the Park End in the first half in what was a lively beginning to the game which saw Ross Barkley curl over and Connor Wickham denied by a point blank Tim Howard save.
It was a tight first half with little between the teams though Everton did eventually attain some authority on proceedings and were very unfortunate not to get ahead when Romelu Lukaku got his shot away but it came back off the inside of the post with some assuming it to be a goal. Arouna Kone also blazed well wide with a reasonable opportunity but at the break the scores were level.
Into the second half and though we again struck the woodwork when Ross Barkley's free kick was flicked onto his own crossbar, and the impressive Tom Cleverley was denied by a top drawer save by Wayne Hennersey; and though we were dominating possession and dictating play, we were always vulnerable on the counter-attack. When Phil Jagielka plays he uses his pace and reading of the game to help prevent opposing counter-attacks, though with him injured, we appear much more susceptible, and so it proved.
Crystal Palace had already been denied once by a good Tim Howard save, and this time were again thwarted when Jason Puncheon was denied by the American after our defence had halted Yohan Cabaye. From the resulting corner however, Scouser Scott Dann headed in to give the Eagles the lead against the run of play on 76 minutes.
Romelu Lukaku almost replied almost instantly when the ball sat quite nicely and he hit a half volley past Hennsey from the edge of the penalty area which thundered back off the crossbar and out of the radar of the onrushing Arouna Kone.
Undeterred, Everton pressed on and got the deserved equaliser when Deulofeu got by his man and this time put a low ball into the danger zone. I think Gareth Barry got the faintest of touches to it and Lukaku was on hand to score goal number 50 for Everton. Boy he sure got there fast. I hope he sticks around to score 50 more at least.
We were poised for what we hoped would be a cavalry charge but due to a combination of poor decision making, tired efforts at goal, good game-killing by the visitors and a little bit of poor officiating, we never really puffed and the goal looked less and less likely - the last action of the game being a Kone drive inside the penalty area which was blocked and out for what should have been a corner though Pawson elected to blow for full time despite overlooking some quite blatant Crystal Palace time wasting at a throw in. He probably only saved us more heartache mind you. Our corners are so bad it's almost laughable.
What isn't almost laughable is Roberto Martinez' continued insistence on not making substitutes when it's clear they are needed. I could painstakingly point out a number of instances throughout the season where a substitution may have made a difference, though in the last two league games it has been particularly apparent. With a talented Kevin Mirallas on the substitutes bench, why you wouldn't gamble with replacing Kone with he I really don't know. It was clear at Bournemouth, and would have been worthwhile this evening, at least for the last 10 minutes. That's not just me having a moan about Kone, but he is 32, and is still on the way back from a long term injury.
Kevin Mirallas, though not always my cup of tea either, at least offers a different dimension and might just turn a game for us given the opportunity. Even if Martinez doesn't want him, surely we'll get more money for him if he's involved and playing rather than left on the substitutes bench. And don't get me started about why we've signed Aaron Lennon!
I wait in hope that we freshen it up at Norwich, though won't hold my breath.
Howard: He was getting a bit of flack around me though I'm not really sure why. He was a bit indecisive at times but did make three very good saves also. 7
Galloway: Showing a lack of confidence in attack though didn't do badly otherwise. 6
Stones: A bit hit and miss. Some good defending, some bad. Some great passes, some poor. All part of the learning curve. 6
Funes Mori: The pick of the centre backs. 6
Coleman: Had a good game. Perhaps didn't get his cross in often enough but was tenacious throughout and always up in support of Deulofeu. Had a good game. Hope he can gallop on now. 7
Barry: Did OK but was looking pretty leggy by the end. At his age I think we really have to manage him better. He's a brilliant player for us Barry but needs to be in form. I worry we may burn him out if he continues to have to play every minute of every game. He may struggle through our busy Christmas and January spells. I don't have a solution to this though unless we can get Muhammed Besic back on the pitch. 6
Cleverley: Played well. I'll be interested to see where/if he'll feature when McCarthy comes back. Wonder if he'll be winged again? 7
Kone: Had a poor first half but grew into it a bit in the second. Was getting no joy down the left and, as Gaz pointed out, you wonder how any relationship from the left could flourish between he and Baines. He seemed to do better in-field when joining Lukaku in attack, but really should have made way for the fresher legs of Mirallas or perhaps even Naismith. 6
Deulofeu: Not a great first half but improved after the break and was a constant menace. Barry may perhaps have nicked his assist, I don't know, but that Deulofeu-Lukaku partnership is worth a lot of goals to us. 7
Barkley: My man of the match. His passing and use of the ball was intelligent and I even saw him chase a player back and put in a solid tackle at one point. He didn't get forward into the box as much as he has done in some other recent games but seldom wasted a pass. A very mature display - something we haven't been able to say often about Ross. 7
Lukaku: To make 50 goals in such a short space of time is impressive and he is easily on course to be our first 20 goal a season striker since Yakubu. He could have scored more today and was unlucky not to. Hope he can keep it up. His form and fitness is imperative to us this season. We would struggle for goals horribly if we lost Romelu for any sustained period of time. 7
Baines (for Galloway): I'm still frustrated this was the only substitution we made, and this not even really a tactical one. He's certainly struggling for match fitness Baines and it may be a few games yet before he's back starting games again. 5