Everton 0 - 1 West Bromwich AlbionWe meet up in the Room of Nonsense after gaining back-to-back wins in the league to face West Brom, who are going through a torrid time and in danger of being dragged into the relegation fight. As long as Roberto does not change a winning team, then most were more than confident of a sound victory. Bets of 4-0 and 3-0 wins were common so what could go wrong considering the teams beamed through on 2:00 pm showed us to be same again.
Unanimous decision was that this was the correct thing to do; however, there was many a disappointed fan on noting that our new man Niasse was not on the bench as his debut was eagerly awaited. It also put paid to those who had us winning by enough goals to introduce the new man with 15 mins to go, so he could show us what he may bring to our table. Aah... the best laid plans of Evertonians, eh.
The walk up was completed in the teeth of a cold wind swirling up from the Mersey and those who had the foresight to have about five layers of gear on were already winners. The queue at the Fat Van was as big as I have seen for a long time and dwarfing the one at the Blue Dragon and blocking most of Goodison Road. Good old red hot baps with various fillings were the order of the day.
Into the ground in good time for Z-Cars and we lost the toss (was it an omen?) and kicked toward the Gwladys Street end into the sunshine that had now graced our stadium. I think all assembled knew what to expect from a Pulis team that needs points so we spent a couple of minutes passing back and forth across the back and a couple of forward passes to try to gauge how far they may venture forward and how many may break on us. My estimation was was: not far... and about three.
We then went forward and in no time Lennon had us cheering and clapping with some good mazy runs, one link-up with Coleman forced a corner which the keeper grabbed. Oviedo joined in by firstly catching one of their players and giving a free kick away which Barry cleared; then, at the other end, Oviedo took a good pass from Barkley and forced the keeper to be down quickly and save at the foot of his post. Lennon was ever prominent and often cutting to the by-line and pulling the ball back; many thought a goal was getting close. Well they were right... when, with 15 minutes gone, WBA got a corner and scored. br />
It seemed from my seat to go into slow motion as the corner was flicked on by that man mountain Olsson and with Everton players seeming transfixed and Joel looking like he was in deep mud, the ball dropped to the back post and Rondon sort of headed and shouldered the ball over the line. It took a moment to register what had happened and then it dawned that yet again we had gone behind at home. The goal also reminded me of one of my pet hates – namely not having a man on the post at a corner.
As usual the goal knocked the stuffing out of us and we allowed WBA to press on us until we got some semblance of order. Once again, it was Barry who got us through that spell with some well-judged interceptions and cute passes. We got it together again and Barry’s superb through-ball to Lukaku who turned his man and hit one in but alas Coleman’s glancing header did not have the right contact. We were now on top again with Lukaku having mixed luck with his control, their keeper blatantly wasting time and winding up the crowd, the ref did eventually warn him.
A Lennon run and cross was half-cleared but Jags following up had his 50p boots on. Barkley swapped passes and hit one that deflected the wrong side of goal and then Funes Mori got his head to the resultant corner and had his effort cleared off the line. Oviedo was taking corners and good ones mostly. From one of these, Lennon got a shot in with power that looped off a defender and almost looped the keeper.
We kept the pressure going; Barkley got the ball and moved along the 18-yard line a little then curled a beaut that hit the post with keeper stranded, what a downer. We were soon with great expectation again when Cleverley cut in from the right and hit a vicious curler that hit angle of bar and post. I was now thinking this just might not be our day.
It’s all us now and Lukaku caused havoc in their box but just could not get a shot off as he was surrounded by men in red. We had a bizarre moment when the ball was fired to Lukaku’s feet and he inexplicably played the ball back from goal to a WBA attacker who set up Berahino but we scrambled clear. Lennon, who was having a great game, again got to the bye-line and crossed for the excellent Barry to head goalward but the best he got was a corner which was taken by Oviedo. He was in fine corner taking mode but the opposition defenders did their job well and again we were thwarted.
The chat was of missed chances, bad luck and a goal must come.
Second half and could our luck change, attacking the Park End? The answer was to be No but we did attack, yet always seemed to falter at the last. We pressed and shots were blocked or hit our own man but no luck in troubling the net. Loud cheers when at last our ref booked a WBA player for time-wasting. It was Fletcher in the book but nothing changed – he just passed time-wasting duties to another outfield player. Their keeper had been at it all match and was on a final warning; eventually he was booked again to raucous cheers.
Near the hour mark, we made a sub: Kone replaced Cleverley and a few disgruntled voices were heard as the Ivorian went to play up with Lukaku but his ball control did him no favours as he seemed unable to gather a ball in and lay it off although to be fair he did play one peach of a pass to Barry that he flashed just over. Lennon looked the most likely to fashion something with twisting runs and hard low crosses to go with regulation ones.
We pressed and pressed but floundered regularly as we met a determined and well set-up defence. We knew what to expect from WBA pre-game and boy we were getting it in spades. Then, with 15 minutes to go and the board went up to indicate the change of personnel, with Deulofeu replacing Lennon. This incensed the faithful and boos were heard from all four corners of the ground. Most thought that Deulofeu should have replaced someone else and for us to play with two out-and-out wingers. Still it’s the managers call and you have to hope he gets these things right. I haven’t heard all four sides of the ground react like that since that sub by Moyes v Spurs...
It definitely wasn’t our day when a great cross from Deulofeu was played back to Barry who was picking his spot from just 5 yds when a WBA defender got a block on his effort. Would you believe it?
We seemed to be getting nowhere so our manager had one last throw of the dice when he replaced McCarthy with Osman with 8 minutes to go. The crowd were urging more balls into the box and more shots but we stuck to our guns and kept looking for that elusive opening. Barkley at last got a gilt-edged chance when with the ball at his feet and a clear sight of goal he seemed to hurry things and hit it high over the bar; he should have done better.
Deulofeu hit a hard, fast and low corner that caused panic stations in the box boy somehow WBA smuggled it away. The officials gave us an extra 5 minutes to try to score but, with the ground emptying fast, we attacked but were repulsed each time. Barkley had our last two chances, the first of which he fell on his face racing into the box but no penalty and then put a header over when better could have been expected. Final whistle and another home defeat left the faithful to file away muttering dark mutterings.
MotM — Barry/Lennon
Although it is not nice to hear boos at your home ground you have to concede that match-going fans paying out for season tickets and others matchday tickets but only seeing draws and losses after being told by many that this is our best squad since we last won the league can be forgiven for showing their discontent.
I was a bit disappointed with our approach today considering every fan and his dog knew how WBA would perform. I thought our attacks lacked variation and we had far too few shots actually on target therefor lessening our chance of deflections in such a highly populated box. Still maybe we are still learning but this game has gone and with it three points that we won’t get back. In a nutshell, Pulis came to hold on for a point and took three.
UP THE BLUES