Everton 2 - 1 AFC Bournemouth
We arrive at the Room of Nonsense via Anfield and Wembley and still-shell shocked at the outcomes of the games at those venues. In both of those games I came away with the impression that our present manager employs scatter-gun instructions to his players as throughout the derby and first half at Wembley our players were all over the place, thus leaving gaps to be exploited â€“ and they were.
Then in the second half at Wembley after about ten minutes the players seemed to rip up the script that had been given to them, played from memory of what is right and wrong and with better finishing from Lukaku could have won it. Still thatâ€™s water under the bridge now so it was Bournemouth to contend with today and the opinion in our room was that we hoped he didnâ€™t play too many youngsters as the last thing we need was to shatter their confidence early doors. As it happened, only Pennington started in the left centre back role and I donâ€™t think he did his chances any harm at all.
The talk turned to the Martinez conundrum and agreement was unanimous that his reign so far had gone demonstrably backwards. Most seemed to think that protest these days isnâ€™t taken that seriously by owners unless the whole ground is fully involved so we hope for the board to come to a decision on the best course of action, basically either "in" or "out" and to communicate this to the fans as soon as possible. If it is "in" then most will not be happy but at least the uncertainty that his dogging all aspects of the club will be resolved. Also the board will have noted that even with all the fan outlets hinting at various types of action including boycotting the game the attendance today being 38,345 tells a story.
The walk up was pleasant in the L4 sun and we mingled with the visiting fans discussing all things football. At the fat van they went their way and we made our way among a heaving mass of fans and entered the ground in decent time. Z Cars rang out earlier today as we showed solidarity with the families of the 96 in celebrating â€˜Justice and Truth' at last. As the families waved to all sides of the ground one gentleman with them raised an Everton scarf aloft. We may have right ding-dongs with them over football but when push comes to shove they are indeed our blood brothers and amid the mighty cheers, clapping and general raucous noise He Ainâ€™t Heavy, He's My Brother played through the PA system. Was that a tear I wiped away?
Our ref for today, Mr Swarbrick, got us under way. It was a strange first few minutes as there was quiet about the place as if we were weighing up what version of Everton was on display, especially as we had a new spine to the team with Howard in goal, Pennington at centre back, Gibson in the Barry role and our first real glimpse of Niasse. Our start was sharp enough and with just six mins gone we put a decent move together down the left and Barkley fed Cleverley with an astute ball. Cleverley controlled the ball with some aplomb and turned as he did so and placed a crisp shot across the keeper. One nil up. I thought players and fans were a little muted in celebration at that goal, probably the result of the hangover from previous games.
But right from the kick off, us being Everton, we got ourselves in a bit of a mess. It all started on our right with Besic trying to play keep ball too long and then hitting a left-footer across field without looking straight to a Bournemouth player. This allowed Bournemouth to attack up our left and it looked as though Pennington was pushed to the ground but the lino and ref saw no foul, much to the disgust of our fans. The ball was put across our box and the first shot was blocked, the second was saved by a Howard star jump but only out to a third attacker who netted. Our players remonstrated with the lino and ref but to no avail but in truth it was Besic who made an unforced error that allowed that attack to happen. Some things never seem to change.
The rest of the half tailed off in end of season fashion which was causing a bit of unrest from the faithful. Niasse was in and out of the game with some decent movement and pass one minute then diabolical stuff the next e.g. passing back direct to a Bournemouth attacker who luckily did no more than force a corner. Barkley was only noticeable in patches and in one of these Niasse made one of his good passes and Barkley was on to it but, alas, aimed at the top of the stand. But he was back again a few moments later in a foot race with keeper Boruc who just won it. Cleverley got some stick for not missing out the first man at a three corners before Baines eventually took over.
As the half wound down a plane appeared trailing a banner with the words â€˜TIME TO GO ROBERTO NSNOâ€™. It looked as though the pilot tried to drop the banner onto the pitch but he was well wide with the attempt. It was time for Roberto to go but only down the tunnel as the H/T whistle went
H/T 1-1 and the chat seemed to be anything but football.
Second half and Besic was jettisoned for the evergreen Tony Hibbert who received as loud of a welcome as I have heard for a long time. Tony was back and with his first touch he was urged to SHOOOOOT! Just think, this was Tonyâ€™s first game in 16 months. We seemed now to be getting on top a little but both teams suffered with the same thing â€“ no cutting edge. Both teams playing this possession footy and neither really able to get at either defence. We did applaud one piece of joined up play that had pace to it when Gibson, Lennon, Niasse and McCarthy combined to find Barkley who was in looking for a shooting chance but overstayed his welcome and had the ball taken from him.
It did precede a good spell of play though that had the visitors under pressure but no matter how many balls we provided in the box a shooting hole could never be found and the pressure slowly dissipated with nothing to show for it. Up to the hour mark with us and them shooting either wide or high or tamely. So our present manager swopped Niasse for Lukaku. Niasse got a nice ovation but I got the impression that he has some way to go yet before he can be considered first-team ready. I wish him all the best.
Pennington had grown into the game second half and Tony Hibbert had improved our back line. Gibson often operated as the third centre back with his defensive know how and you could see him organising them and getting them into proper position. Could he be the defensive coach we so badly need? In fact itâ€™s a pity he wasnâ€™t fit sooner. Maybe he would not suit our present manager as defensive know how seems foreign to him. Stones was looking good today too and was not shy in coming forward with purpose in that second half safe in the knowledge that Hibbo had the defence and its duties boxed off.
Sixty fifth minute and Barkley fed in Lennon on the right, his cross was miscued by Cleverley but it fell for Baines who thundered the ball just under the bar and into the roof of the net. The crowd responded well to that goal, Baines's first from open play since January 2013.
This did liven us up quite a bit and Lukaku was looking to get more into the game but the ball up to him was never quite what it should have been. Barkley laid a ball back encouraging Hibbo to shoot which he did but not with enough rocket power. Eddie Howe sent on two subs to try to get back into the game but only the odd half chance occurred and none enough for heart in mouth time.
Stones was having a fine spell and looking like he was enjoying it and was applauded for forays forward and good passes. That should help his confidence. The lad Wilson was causing us a bit of bother from time to time and with us having a tendency to concede late it was comforting to see him subbed with about ten to go. Stanislas came on, got past Hibbo but before he could pull the trigger Hibbo had chased back and put in a terrific tackle blocking the ball away and got rapturous applause from all assembled.
Eighty minutes came up and I wondered if would ever see Dowell. Well we did but with just four minutes plus stoppage time to go. You could not expect to see much from the lad in that time but he did look lively and pacy as twice he chased back passes and had the keeper worried on both occasions. He put Lukaku to shame as his contribution was no more than a carry over from Wembley. He just seemed to stand and watch until a ball bounced off him or get caught offside for not coming back after an attack. Now thatâ€™s just idleness, nothing to do with form.
Four minutes added went up on the board. Right away we looked a touch wary and edgy, such is our propensity for letting in late ones. However, we survived those and booted the ball away a few times and didnâ€™t try anything fancy. Eventually the ref blew and we breathed a sigh of relief and took in that we had actually won at home. Grand Old Team was played but much louder than normal and my guess was an attempt to drown out any dissent from fans. Some did stay and display banners and good on 'em. I hope, although small in number, their effort can resonate just a little with those that own our club,
M.O.T.M. â€“ Stones with a special mention for Hibbo. A true defender.
The walk back was much better and the mood lighter. We met up with some Bournemouth fans and over a pint talked footy. We all want Leicester to win the league and we all agreed that we had just seen an end of season game and neither team had much to write home about. They were keen to ask about the Martinez and said they were surprised as they thought he was a top manager. I told them that today we got our sixth point out of 24 on offer and this would be our worst season in our history for a few things. They seemed surprised.
Two away now and then our last game of the season at home v Norwich which could turn out to be the game that seals their fate depending how results go. I wonder if the board will have had anything to tell us by then? We can but hope.
See you soon.
UP THE BLUES!