Despite doing the driving for our doomed trip to Wembley last weekend, Ste generously offered to drive to the game again. We were in the noticeably quieter than usual pub in good time, meeting Gary and Sue. It was a strange atmosphere in the pub with nobody sure of what sort of atmosphere to expect from the game given all the talk of protest and supporter unrest throughout the week.
With Lukaku out of form of late I was hoping Oumar Niasse was to be given an opportunity and was pleased to see he was in ther starting XI. As too was Matthew Pennington, recalled from his loan spell at Walsall and playing centre back alongside John Stones with Mohammed Besic continuing to deputise at right back. As was publicised on Friday, Tim Howard took place in goal for the penultimate occasion at Goodison Park.
It was a nice sunny day and Goodison Park looked splendid, and all the better with the Bournemouth supporters packing into their full allocation. A touching tribute to the Hillsborough families was made before we got under way. Such was the sun I was relieved I remembered my shades.
It was a generally poor start to a generally poor game from both teams with neither team really taking any early initiative when, out of nothing, Tom Cleverley seized the initiative, moving the ball quickly onto his left foot and quickly hitting a low drive past the diving Boruc. Everton ahead.
As is Everton, or at least Roberto Martinez' Everton, the lead didn't last long. Only two minutes in fact when a shove on Pennington by Callum Wilson went unpunished and Marc Pugh eventually stroked the ball in with acres of space. Our players protested in vein about the shove but having seen it since, I can't say I was too disappointed with the referees decision. He was generally letting these things go throughout the game and was pretty consistent in letting the game flow. Regardless, Everton had instantly been pegged back.
With little else happening on the pitch, we wondered what would happen off it with the crowd and the answer is - not a lot. The plane flying with the message MARTINEZ TIME TO GO NSNO was applauded by many, though the timing of the plane wasn't the best as it circled around Goodison Park pretty much on half time. I wonder what reaction this may have stirred on about 55 minutes as Everton laboured.
With Oumar Niasse perfectly demonstrating why he hasn't been involved, it took the introduction of Romalu Lukaku to stir some life into the team. His introduction meant that we now at least had a focal point to our attack. A player who could hold the ball up and bring other players into play. From what I've seen so far you could never use Niasse as a lone striker. He might, maybe, do OK with someone to work off, or perhaps running direct from the wing, but certainly not a lone striker. Absolutely not. As Ste pointed out at the time, you wonder what situation we'll be in should we not sufficiently replace Lukaku if and when he departs Everton.
The winning goal provided some cheer not least because it was a splendid finish by our popular left-back Leighton Baines. Following good work by Aaron Lennon who's cut across the box was just behind Tom Cleverley, the ball ran through for Leighton Baines who drilled high into the net. It was a classy celebration from Baines also, barely breaking into a smile given the tough situation we currently find ourselves in. It was Leighton Baines first goal of the season, and his first from open play since he netted against West Bromwich Albion in January 2013.
Other reasons to smile? Well, though we scoffed somewhat upon his half time introduction it was pleasing to see Tony Hibbert back on the pitch following his injury torment. He made a few of his trademark tackles and did have an effort deflected on goal though alas it seems his elusive goal will never materialise.
Otherwise the performance of Matthew Pennington was a joy to watch. His style of play reminds me a little of Phil Jagielka. Maybe he's learnt a lot from our skipper. He certainly seems to make the grade, and I question why we spent heavily on a certain Ramiro Funes Mori when we have Pennington, Browning and Galloway all at the club and ready to contribute. He certainly reads the game better than Funes Mori from a defensive point of view in my opinion. The introduction of Kieran Dowell was also pleasing, though it would have been nice to see what he can do for longer than just the three minutes he was allowed. Anyhow, despite a few uncomfortable moments from Bournemouth, we got over the line with three points. We've survived!
At full time Ste and I waited on a little longer than usual to see if anything happened by way of protest, and not far to our left in the Lower Gwladys some banners were unveiled with a few chants of "Roberto Martinez, get out of our club". With not a great deal seemingly going on we left the stadium, and it was only later on when we were in the car listening to Radio Merseyside that we heard that 100+ supporters were still in there, protesting peacefully, but with Everton drowning out their voices with loud music over the tannoy.
I am ashamed by Everton for this. By my estimate the fans protesting collectively spend about Â£50,000 per year just on season tickets alone. That's not even guestimating merchandise, away games, cup games, match programmes and food and drink inside the ground. If there were over 100 fans there, then this price goes north. To take their voices away is disgraceful of Everton. The banners were not offensive and nor were the chants. Whatever your opinion, and lets face it we have good reason to be unhappy with the club, you have a right to protest and Everton should apologise for their behaviour towards them supporters...or customers as they may see them.
So a poor show on and off the pitch from a usually classy club. Many supporters will be asking – when will this nightmare end?
Howard: Distribution not really up to scratch but he was quite alert in and around his box, albeit with little to do. 6
Baines: My man of the match. He and Hibbert rolled back the years somewhat in the second half with solid tackling and good support in attack, culminating in a well-taken goal from Leighton Baines. 8
Pennington: He did ever so well and it begs the question of - why wasn't he more involved earlier in the campaign? I'm not sure if he was injured or not but moving forward he should be involved a lot more and we should be looking to build our defence around he and Stones. A good performance. Very well done. 8
Stones: Also did well. After a very patchy season he seems to be settling down a bit now and looks more like the good player we know he can be. 7
Besic: Clearly not comfortable at right back and I can't quite fathom why Callum Connolly, after an impressive debut against Southampton, hasn't even made the substitutes bench in any of our games since. I'd have liked to have seen him get another opportunity there instead. 5
Gibson: Had an impressive and busy first half though seemed to tire easily after the break as he struggles for fitness. Glimpses of what he can do these last few games however perhaps suggest he might be worth keeping on for another year. If only we could get him fit he could be a decent player. 6
McCarthy: Covered plenty of ground in the middle. 6
Cleverley: Performed well and scored a good goal. 7
Lennon: Drifted in and out of the game at times but made a key contribution by assisting the winner. 7
Barkley: Laboured at times and would be completely anonymous, and then all of a sudden he would get on the ball and bring others into the game nicely. Needs better coaching and a more defined role in the side as currently I'm not sure he's getting the right instructions of what is expected of him. 6
Niasse: He didn't get involved for about 20 minutes and doesn't strike me as a player who wants the ball a lot. He occasionally showed glimpses of promise and brought others into play but really offered little, if any, end product. The difference from he to even an out of form Romalu Lukaku was palpable. If this summer Roberto Martinez leaves Everton, as I expect he will, and Romalu Lukaku leaves Everton, as I expect he will, then I don't know what the next manager is going to do with Oumar Niasse as from what we have so far seen, he is not the man to lead the line for us in attack, and only a change of system may accommodate him. I hate to write off a player before he's even began, and I really hope I'm incorrect in my appraisal but look out for "EXPENSIVE FLOP" and "BACK OUT ON LOAN TO RUSSIA" in the press this summer. 5
Hibbert (for Besic): It struck me as a waste of a substitution when he came on but credit to Tony, he got involved, made some solid tackles and was always good for the pass. It was great to see him out there again and it was nice to see him get a generous applause from the Gwladys Street at full time. He patted his badge at the fans probably thinking "I might not get another chance to say goodbye". Well done Tony. 7
Lukaku (for Niasse): Though not at his best, he demonstrated to Niasse how to hold the ball up and how to bring others into play and at least showed a desire for the ball. His introduction alone perked Everton and spooked Bournemouth and contributed to our winning goal - we scored it only four minutes after his arrival! 6
Dowell (for Barkley): He really should have been given 10 minutes but I suppose Roberto can't afford another defeat so wanted to get that ensured first. Perhaps he'll get more opportunities over the next three games. 6
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