Everton 1-1 Crystal Palace
Palace at home on another wet and windy night ensured I checked out the Winslow roof as I made my way down Goodison Road. Well you can’t be too careful can you? Team was as expected with Cleverley in for the injured McCarthy.
Palace kicked off and you could see they were set up to defend deep but with pace aplenty to execute quick breaks and it was Palace who started quickest. Wickham had a shot that Howard made a bit of a meal of before clutching it to him as he sprawled. Mori was to the fore in making a few clearances and from one Barkley got the ball just short of the box and curled one just wide. Palace were having the better of this first quarter and from one cross hard and low the ball was hammered from point blank range and hit Howard and was cleared with some difficulty.
After that early pressure we started to regain some composure and on twenty minutes Barkley and Lukaku combined well. Lukaku turned his man and hit one leaving keeper stranded hit the post and rebounded out—Drat said the faithful! We were playing some joined up stuff now and pushing Palace deeper than even they wanted to go. From one move we got Kone in but his left foot shot was wide and a bit wild really.
The half hour mark was reached and Coleman and Deulofeu forced the Palace defender to give away a corner which was cleared but Stones who had stayed up sprayed one wide to Galloway who took it a pace forward and hit a low one across the box that but for a sliding hack clear by a defender would have been a tap in for Lukaku
It was our turn to dominate now as Deulofeu got a cross in that eluded Lukaku. Coleman joined the attack and found himself middle of goal some twenty yards out but his powerful shot cannoned for a corner off a relieved defender. The corner came to nought. Then Deulofeu raided again and got another corner which we kept in the box with some neat incisive short passes but that final touch and shot could not be found. Barry set up Lukaku in the box but a corner was the best he could get as the Palace filled the box with players making even a chink to shoot at hard to spot. Pardew sure has got them well drilled, which I took as a complement to our team.
The half ticked down with both teams giving the ball away as both tried in their own ways to conjure something. Cabaye had orchestrated well for them with Barry at the hub of our best attacks and Barkley looking more like the player he is tipped to become.
H/T 0-0 with most I spoke to enjoying the half and thought it only a matter of time before we scored.
We started brightly and quickly gained two corners which came to nought, then Palace had two corners which we dealt with and from the second one we broke and Kone received the ball and headed for the box. Barkley made up good ground but Kone could not find the right ball to put him in despite having two attempts, his first effort came back to him and his second was just behind Barkley who did get his head to it but his body shape was all wrong by then and the ball toward goal was weak and the keeper dealt easily with it.
Palace now started to push a few more forward on the counter and the game became end to end again which caused tension and excitement in both boxes. Deulofeu was causing havoc to their rearguard now and we were getting the ball out to him as often as possible. With Lukaku looking like the complete centre forward the combination of the two of them seemed most likely to get us in front yet Palace always seemed to have so many bodies in there and getting the vital touch to break our momentum. We gave Deulofeu a rest and went down the left and sent Galloway on his way but he was fouled and gained a free kick which Barkley whipped in dangerously and at pace, it hit someone and then the post and again came out, That’s twice the post has won.
The hour mark arrived and our present manager swapped Galloway for Baines. Galloway had done nothing wrong but his attacking had been better than his defending which is a bit odd for a player who is a centre back in waiting. Our next big chance came when the hard working Lukaku neatly set up Cleverley on the edge of the box with a clear sight of goal, he hit it sweetly and with GOAL in our throats the Welsh keeper made a great tip over save by diving across and up and palming over from just inside the top corner. An excellent save.
It was all Everton now and although being almost camped in their box we had to be wary of their fast breaks as a few times they had our hearts in mouths. We were committing more men forward and that left us looking a touch short as they looked to break. That is how they had come to play and they were showing they were well drilled in it and always dangerous. We did force three corners but all were crowded away.
75 minutes and although we were on top a quick break saw Cabaye beat Stones but not Howard who diverted it for a corner. That was delivered in regulation fashion – what went on with our marking I do not know but Dann had a free header which he did not miss and we were one down. Totally gutting and against the run of play but you have to say they made no secret of how they would deal with us. Still a downer though. What is it with us and set pieces?
We showed spirit and had a go back and within minutes a through-ball saw Lukaku get on the end of it, beat his man and hit the bar. The thought this is just not our night came to my mind. Three times we had hit the woodwork now and that would have deflated many teams but fair play to our lads they kept at it. Then at last we got our reward. Coleman started a move that saw the ball delivered to Deulofeu and this time his low hard cross was met at the far post by that man Lukaku and its 1-1 and Goodison rocking.
Those last ten minutes were bedlam as the Street tried to suck in a winner. We went for it and committed more forward which Palace noted and put a couple of pacy lads on and at times it was hairy stuff as they broke on our forays forward. In these last ten minutes Deulofeu was out on his feet and his passing was all over the place which made me wonder why our present manager didn’t put Mirallas on for a final push. It seemed mental tiredness with Deulofeu more than physical.
3 minutes added goes up on the board and a big ’Come On’ engulfed the ground. Palace had one attack when Much robbed Barry and shot but thankfully missed. Palace had got the point they came for and used time wasting tactics to see out time. We had one last attack and Kone was fed in but alas he could not control to clinch it and the whistle blew.
All in all a cracking night out, a thrilling game and some good performances from our lads. Stand-outs for me were Barkley who played his best game for a long time. Stones looked assured and classy, Coleman back to form and Barry immense yet again but for my man of the match it had to be Lukaku closely followed by Deulofeu. To be fair no one had a stinker which bodes well for the future as well as suggesting a fine team is being assembled. The club should try their best to keep hold of these lads and probably the best way to keep them is to recruit three top class players in the summer. Let us hope it is possible.
At this time of the season I take my first look in any depth at the league table and use my most unscientific way of forecasting finishing league position. It usually ends up with the position you’re in now plus or minus two places so tonight that tells me we are on to finish between 7th and 11th but with the way this season is going my reasoning may be somewhat off. I hope so.
Norwich next for another daft o’clock kick off and three points are a must but until the final whistle we can take nothing for granted.
UP THE BLUES