Everton 1 - 1 SouthamptonI was looking forward to going the game yesterday. Despite the very tangible gloom amongst the supporters, I somehow convinced myself we were in for a bit of a performance simply because we need one with the tough task ahead of us next week.
Sadly, and expectedly I suppose, I was wrong. The game was a non-event from Everton with Martinez deciding to rest a number of players ahead of the two huge games next week. None of us really knew what to think when we saw the team news in the pub as Oviedo, Gibson, Osman, Besic, Mirallas, Deulofeu and Kone were given opportunities. There was also space on the substitutes bench, and ultimately on the pitch, for two products of our excellent academy in Callum Connolly and Tom Davies. Despite our current plight, we were in good form in the pub with Wembley high on the agenda. I also caught up with some close family friends whom I haven't seen in some time. All good fun.
With the sun shining on we walked to the Gwladys Street and we were in our seats well in time for kick off. It was quite a turgid encounter from the start really. I guess you can accept a little rustiness when that many changes are made to the team but we really struggled to put anything meaningful together throughout, whilst Southampton passed up a plethora of chances even before the break.
Having players out of form, out of match practice and out of confidence is one thing and all this contributed towards another poor performance. However, something which startled me at the match was the quite palpable discontent between the players. Leon Osman and Ramiro Funes Mori had a row. John Stones several times sent daggers to Joel Robles. Seamus Coleman really had a go at Robles at one point and also had to have a word with Gerard Deulofeu. And, Darron Gibson also waded in at Joel Robles, the brunt of the message seemingly asking for the players to talk more.
The scenario prompted my thought process to wonder if there are divisions amongst the camp, perhaps between the senior players who worked with Moyes and the newer ones who have been brought in by Martinez. Remembering David Moyes's meticulousness when it came to not wanting to give anything away cheaply, I couldn't help but wonder if those players who were complaining (all players brought by Moyes, by the way) have a higher level of standard required when it comes to defending and communicating than that integrated by Martinez. Our number of goals conceded would suggest as much. Pure conjecture of course, but that was my trail of thought. Either way, when players are visibly arguing amongst themselves on the pitch, it really isn't a good sign of how things are.
This was all in the first half at the Gwladys Street end so may have continued into the second half at the Park End but I'll never know. We were a little relieved to get into the break at 0-0 as our backs were against the wall defending a succession of Southampton corners. The biggest cheer of the half perhaps came when Leon Osman berated the referee Craig Pawson at half time for his failure to spot two rather obvious Southampton handballs whilst Everton were on the ropes.
The second half was just as bad, so bad in fact that one young lad decided to take matters in to his own hands, running onto the pitch from just a few rows in front of me in the Gwladys Street and making a bee-line directly for Roberto Martinez. When he was pounced on by four stewards he attempted to punch one of them, before squaring up to Leon Osman. Whilst there is no place for that at all, it symbolises another sign of discontent amongst the supporters. When things like this are happening, you know things are bad and when I think back to other times this sort of thing has happened - a fan running on the pitch to confront referee Paul Danson in a fixture at home to Arsenal, as our once promising season under Joe Royle petered out woefully amidst the disillusion and discontent of the supporters; and, more infamously, whilst we wasted away under Walter Smith and an outraged supporter ran onto the pitch, also against Arsenal, this time at Highbury and asked Alex Nyarko if he would like to swap shirts given his lack of effort. This reflected the bad mood amongst the fans at the time and yesterday's incident does highlight the frustration amongst Evertonians.
Whilst Southampton continued to miss chance after chance (they hit the woodwork twice), I felt we might just nick this game if the right opportunity came our way and so it proved when a Kevin Mirallas corner was weakly headed goalwards by Funes Mori only to be weakly half-cleared back to him. This invited our Argentine centre-back to have another crack and his drive back at goal deflected in off Bertrand to give Everton an unlikely, and undeserved, lead.
We didn't hold onto it of course, this time lasting only eight minutes before Tadic waltzed into the box with Everton fast asleep and Mane eventually bundling home in yet another sloppy goal conceded by Everton.
Southampton continued to go for the win and will feel unlucky not to have collected three points. One, or two, positives were the introduction of a couple of debutants from our Academy. Callum Connolly was introduced sooner than Everton would have liked when he had to replace the stricken Seamus Coleman on 54 minutes. Losing Coleman, who's had a season to forget, is a headache we could do well without given the week ahead; however, Connolly coped fantastically well and it was pleasing to see. Ditto Tom Davies who was introduced later in the game. He looks a promising player, very busy and technically good. Let's hope for big futures for both of them.
Whilst I remain somewhat optimistic for our FA Cup semi-final as given it's a one off game, I am petrified of Wednesday's trip to Anfield. I hope that getting our scrappers on the pitch in Lennon, Barry, McCarthy and Besic might, just might stifle them a little bit and we can put up a fight but it's really difficult to approach the Merseyside derby with any realistic optimism.
Who believes in miracles?
Robles: It may be because some of them are closer to Tim Howard than they are Joel Robles, or it might just be because they don't think he's very good, but I get the impression the defenders don't like Joel all that much. Personally, I think he's got some way to go before he's our number one, but I have to say that these last three games he has impressed me. He made an error for the goal at Watford yes but did make some amazing saves that day, and also made a couple of good saves at Crystal Palace and also contributed towards preserving a point in this game against Southampton. Hopefully he's hitting form just at the crucial time. Probably more so with a lack of contenders than anything else but he's my man of the match. 8
Oviedo: Had a shocker. 4
Funes Mori: Generally defended sensibly but made a few mistakes and seemed to be ball-watching a bit for Southampton's equalising goal. Nice to see him get on the scoresheet. 6
Stones: I think he's played pretty well these last couple of games. He, like the rest of them, needs two huge performances in these next two games. 7
Coleman: Was doing OK until he had to withdraw. Has had an injury-plagued season and he'll surely now have to miss the derby and the FA Cup semi-final. 5
Besic: Not really involved in the game as much as he should have been. 5
Gibson: Had a fantastic first half before tiring in the second half. It's a shame it hasn't quite worked out for Darron Gibson at Everton. If we could have kept him fit we could have had one talented player in the middle for a good few years. His first-half performance hints that he might, just might, have something to say about the season yet. 6
Osman: Worked hard but struggled to impose himself on the game. At his age it's got to be difficult to come into games that irregularly and be expected to be match sharp. 5
Deulofeu: Poor. Looks a shadow of the player who exploded onto the scene earlier this campaign. 4
Mirallas: Played a bit more central for the most part and didn't offer much. His burst forward near the beginning of the game which should have heralded a red card for Fonte was impressive but we didn't see near enough of that throughout the game. He was starved of service in his defence. 5
Kone: I didn't understand why the whole stadium thought it was so funny that he attempted that overhead kick in the first half. I thought it was a great effort to manufacture something out of nothing. Otherwise, it was tough for him. I don't think the opportunities Kone gets are really fair on Kone. We all know he's not the answer, but you can't play him on the wing and expect results as he's not a winger. Similarly, if you want results from Kone as a striker, you need to play a striker up with him as he can't carry the attacking burden on his own. He battled gamely but was let down by unaccommodating tactics. 6
Connolly (for Coleman): Fantastic to see the young lad come on and acquit himself so well. Is there a chance he will now be plunged into the Merseyside derby? 7
Barkley (for Deulofeu): Really poor. Contributed very little. 5
Davies (for Gibson): It's come to something when a young debutant makes a seven minute cameo and is a serious man of the match contender. Joking aside, he looked right at home out there and showed calmness and class on the ball. Hopefully we've unearthed a diamond there though important not to get too carried away too quickly. 7