Everton 1 - 1 Tottenham Hotspur
With more water on the roads than in the Mersey we met up in our temple of learning and entered the Room of Nonsense. Managers were either being sacked or given extra time to build, players being bought and sold and boards being urged to find buyers or leaving well alone. All arguments you could not hope to win and if we were a committee running Everton we would be in the old conference league. Much the same as ToffeeWeb I suppose except in your face and live. The discussion over the team selection when it arrived was priceless.
Time for the walk up and with heads and bodies slightly bent forward against wind and rain we made our way to a drenched Goodison Park. All looked drab in Goodison Road as fast food wrapper bins overflowed with limp rain sodden paper and what horse droppings and heavy rain mixed together produce is best spotted and avoided.
In for Z-Cars and that dirge that’s played for players to shake hands makes one wonder if that is the reason crowds are so quiet on and just after kick off. Anyway the game set off and somehow you could sense that Spurs had started while we were just thinking about it. There was an undercurrent amongst some sections of the fans that you could almost touch and our opening play did very little to dampen it and this was evident through a half that was totally dominated by Spurs but our answer to the bad defending jibes was to play deep leaving Lukaku so isolated it looked like he was looking for a game of footy to join in with.
Time after time we would defend deep and with Spurs playing high and chasing and closing everything down whether we played the ball out or hoofed it out the same result was achieved. I started to worry about a rout. I could write forever about how many last ditch tackles we made, how many goal-line and near goal-line clearances being made but I can sum up the first half by detailing the 10th minute. The 20th minute 30th minute and 45th minute.
10th minute. A Spurs attack and Kane lets fly from some 30yds beats Howard and crashes against the inside of the post somehow comes across goal and just misses the far post and then goes out for a goal kick. Phew!
20th minute. Cleverly again put in that raking long ball, a la Stoke, up to Lukaku who this time headed down for the supporting Lennon who took no time at all to hit a sweet half volley where lloris had no chance of reaching and somehow we were one ahead. It was also brilliant when the crowd sang ‘He is one of our own’
30th minute. Spurs gain a corner with the whole team defending cleared but to just outside the box where left back Davies was lurking and he hit straight and true but a gnats too high and the ball smashed against the bar, talk about riding your luck. This game was reminding me about our first half v Norwich.
45th minute. Spurs centre back sends in a long arcing ball into our box and Alli was first to react and got to the ball just before Coleman and slotted past Howard with aplomb. Oh the groans and the words ‘Typical Bloody Everton’ that resonated around the place.
To put that first half bluntly, they murdered us into a 1-1 score-line.
In that first half after all the criticism regarding defending we over compensated and almost paid a big price so something would have to change.
Second half and we kick toward the street end and after a few minutes I was heartened to see Barkley looking to get on the ball and make some positive runs. His final ball was not really in evidence but it was a step up from his first half showing where he was almost invisible. We were now making a game of it with Barkley and Cleverly pushed on a bit. I took a little time to watch Cleverly without the ball and was surprised at the ground he covers and the awareness he shows. He looks a different player than the one you see by just following the ball.
We gave as good as we got up to the hour mark but we just could not get the final ball right or players willing to get up and around Lukaku who was getting flick-ones but only to Spurs players. Then the present manager made subs. Lennon off and Deulofeu on, parts of the crowd boo-ed that decision, also Besic replaced Kone. Besic got a good ‘welcome back’ as he kissed the hallowed turf. For me they were the right subs at the right time as they brought something different to the game with Cleverly moving left to allow Besic to join Barry but as the box to box man and he gave a good display too. One dipping shot from the edge of the box almost beat the excellent Lloris and brought great acclaim. From the Lloris tip over a corner was taken and Mori headed inches wide.
Once Besic is match fit and up to speed and put in 90mins of that box to box stuff we could go up a notch in my view. Besic seemed to have galvanised Barkley as he was now showing the confidence that had been missing and this was exemplified by a glorious Crossfield ball to Deulofeu on the opposite flank, the Spaniard beat his first man but his cross was blocked for a corner which if memory serves me right was our first and Baines pulled rank and took a beaut and a scramble occurred with the ball finding Deulofeu who put in a fast cross that eluded the head of Lukaku by a very small margin.
From fearing a trouncing I was now thinking a win was quite possible but also aware of the danger of many a Spurs attack. Barry was immense in his reading of the game and he had improved with the introduction of Besic who seemed to know when to do his running for him giving Barry more time to organise a few defenders from time to time.
Before the end we had time to see Lamela booked for sticking his hand in Coleman’s gob. Alli had a well struck shot straight at Howard who held it well and got a little cheer. Deulofeu got back to do his defensive shift and ended up doing a Stones in our box by twisting and turning but somehow he held on to the ball and left four or five Spurs men in his wake as he cleared the box and passed into mid-field – He got a cheer. Then Stones showed us the real thing by dribbling in our area, Cryuf turns and all, twisting and turning as the Park End patrons requested him to perhaps just kick it up field a little. Such was the anxiety shown John had to request them to calm down. He got a free kick anyway and the game went on. We fans do get panicky at times!
The ground now was deffo Goodison as the atmosphere became electric as we looked likely winners. Spurs defended desperately as Lukaku hit over, Barkley hit straight at the keeper, Deulofeu put in dangerous crosses but each one just favoured a Spurs man. 3mins added and then the whistle .Talk about a game of two halves? You betcha we just saw one
M.o.t.M. – Barry. also well played Funes Mori
All in all a rocky journey but most I spoke to were happy with a point after that first half. A quirk of football is shown when you consider we have played Spurs twice and all square in both games yet they are 4th and we are 11th and they have drawn as many as us, maybe the word consistency covers it.
With the introduction of Besic and how he was played today I wondered if our present manager has hit on a formation that could work by accident. For some time now I have thought that it hasn’t been all the defences fault for throwing games away as from my seat I can look down on play I noted that we were not a team as such. We had gaps between the back and mid-field and another between mid-field and forwards and each group seemed to play independently of each other.
Today when Besic came on and played with Barry they seemed able to stich the team together and become one unit and we looked the better for it. We attacked and defended with some cohesion in those last twenty minutes, if only we could put that together on a consistent basis for the rest of the season and have all the squad clued in to the system to cover absences.
Man City twice will be a testing time and awaiting the team he picks for the FA Cup tie will be interesting. Never a dull moment eh? See you soon
UP THE BLUES