Leighton Baines marked his 500th appearance with a second-half goal that earned Everton only their fifth home league victory of the season as supporters mounted their most visible protests yet against Roberto Martinez's continued tenure.
The England left back swept home a lovely finish to what was, arguably, the Blues' best move of the match with 25 minutes to go to end a sequence of seven matches without a win in all competitions dating back to the middle of last month.
While the three points will be welcomed by beleaguered Martinez, after the emotional tributes to the victims and families of the Hillsborough disaster before kick-off, the match itself was played out in very meaningless, end-of-season fashion against a backdrop of apathy from the home fans and scores of empty seats in the Park and Gwladys Street ends.
To further emphasise the level of supporter discontent, a noisy plane trailing the words “Time to go Roberto NSNO” flew over Goodison Park towards the end of a flat first half that had, nevertheless, seen two goals.
Everton, with mystery man Oumar Niasse making his first start as a lone striker almost three months to the day since he arrived for £13.5m and young defender Matthew Pennington at centre half, had started on the front foot but created very little until Tom Cleverley fashioned the opener.
Picking up Ross Barkley's neat pass into the box, the midfielder shimmied to side of his marker and fired a low shot past Artur Boruc in the Bournemouth goal with six minutes on the clock.
With depressing inevitability, however, the Cherries were level inside two minutes, albeit in somewhat controversial circumstances. Referee Neil Swarbrick saw nothing illegal in Callum Wilson's apparent push on Pennington near the touchline and the striker advanced to the byline and pulled the ball back where Marc Pugh was left unmarked to capitalise on poor defending and eventually force a shot home via Tim Howard's body.
Having responded so well from going a goal, Bournemouth then assumed greater control of proceedings. passing the ball about with confidence and setting the tempo while Everton toiled. After a poor give-away by Niasse, Matt Ritchie saw a deflected shot clear the bar and Steve Cook headed wide at the back post from the resulting corner as Howe's men threatened again.
Later in the half, as Niasse briefly came to life after an anonymous half hour, Barkley took advantage of strong work by the Senegalese striker but blazed over at the end of a surging run and then saw another shot saved well by Boruc after Niasse had played him in again a few minutes later.
Evertonians unveiled a large banner paying tribute to the victims of the Hillsborough disaster, their families and Everton's support for them.
The second half would eventually improve on the fare of the first 45 minutes — it couldn't have been much worse — but it was the visitors who threatened to take the lead first. Josh King fired wide from oceans of space in the Blues' area just before the half hour mark, Wilson drove a shot into the side-netting and Ritchie curled a tame free kick into Howard's arms after Darron Gibson had tripped him just outside the area.
With the wholly unimpressive Niasse having departed and Romelu Lukaku introduced four minutes earlier, Everton carved out what would prove to be the winner in the 64th minute. The ball was worked wide to Aaron Lennon wide on the right, his low cross skidded behind Cleverley in the centre but Baines popped up unmarked to despatch a crisp effort into the roof of the net.
Howe's men pressed in response and, after Pennington had done well to block a shot by substitute Benik Afobe, Bournemouth probably should have equalised again when the same player found himself unmarked in front of goal but he headed over the bar with just Howard to beat from close range.
A nervy close by a Blues side all too familiar with conceding late goals saw the Cherries probe in vain for a second goal but Ritchie drilled their best chance wide from the edge of the box and Everton held out. While Tony Hibbert had played the entire second half, promising youngster Kieran Dowell was only given five minutes at the end, which seemed baffling given the context of the match.
The 2-1 win is a result that Martinez will obviously embrace after a torrid run of results and it's one that keeps alive hopes of finishing in the top half of the table but it was a flat performance overall that will have done little to satisfy the Catalan's critics. If this was his attempt at convincing those who feel his time is up that better times are on the horizon, it was desperately unconvincing, even allowing for the changes to the line-up.
Apart from his part in the goal where he was perhaps guilty of not playing to the whistle, Pennington was accomplished and tidy on his full debut but Besic looked out of place again as a makeshift fullback and it said something that old man Hibbert was probably the best player in a blue shirt in the second period.
A group of fans remained behind long after the final whistle to voice their opinion of Martinez from the stands with chants and banners calling on him to go, a protest that was witnessed by new major shareholder Farhad Moshiri as he made his way out of the ground on his way back to London.
What he made of the library-like atmosphere and the supporter unrest is anyone's guess but his next trip to Goodison for the season finale could be just as uncomfortable if no decision regarding the future as been made public by then.
Everton gave Matthew Pennington his Premier league debut in their penultimate home game of the 2015-16 season this weekend against Bournemouth, with £13.5M acquisition Oumar Niasse making his first start since joining the club three months ago.
Tim Howard returns as captain for the first of his two farewell games in front of the Goodison crowd, while Gibson again starts in place of the injured Gareth Barry. Coleman and Jagielka are also missing through injury while Ramiro Funes Mori is suspended.
Roberto Martinez is under great pressure from fans who have mostly had enough of his 'philosophy' and continually failed promises of 'jam tomorrow', but the Everton stewards are renowned for preventing banners within Goodison and clamping down on protests from the stands.
The visitors kicked off with Dan Gosling on the bench but Everton took possession and structured a couple of early attacks. Everton scored through Cleverley. He was found by Barkley following a neat bit of play down the left flank and, after taking a tidy first-touch to set himself, drilled a low, left-footed finish past Boruc and into the bottom corner.
But Everton almost immediately surrendered the lead in a fashion that was typical of the season. Pennington was shirked off the ball by Wilson who slide a cross into the area. It was helped on by King to the unmarked Pugh who, at the back post, who had the simple task of slotting a finish past Howard. Not the best way to celebrate his farewell...
The game had the pace and intensity of an end-of-season affair, the crowd getting a little concerned in the bright sunshine as Blues attacks were at best uninspiring. Cleverley had another attempt that was well off target.
Niasse started to get more involved and some of passing looked good, some awful with a dreadful giveaway direct to the opposition that then led to a corner for Bournemouth, headed wide at the far post.
Barkley sprung into life thanks to some good work by Niasse but his shot was high. He almost got in on Boruc but the keeper was then out quickly.
Some poor corners from Cleverley didn't help the mood although Niasse came close to converting one with a flick. But most attention before half-time was for the sound of a plane overhead, and a banner trailed behind: "TIME TO GO ROBERTO NSNO".
A massive reception after the break for Tony Hibbert, coming on to replace Mo Besic, his first appearance in 16 months. He looked a little rusty in his first touch. At the other end, Niasse was doing a good impression of Lukaku watching the ball bounce past him.
There was a sudden burst of slick passing that took everyone by surprise, Gibson out to Lennon, Niasse to McCarthy, then in for Barkley but he could not take a shot. This at least led to some pressure on the Bournemouth goal but no clear chances being created and The Cherries were soon off the hook, Wilson running at the Baines.
King was given a lot of space but chose to shoot early, low and wide past Howard's post. Wilson was next to attack the Everton goal, getting off a good shot that Howard may have touched behind. Niasse was replaced by Lukaku on the hour.
Pennington did well to defend against Wilson but Ritchie picked up his clearance and was fouled by Gibson (Yellow card) for a dangerous free kick with Ritchie getting the ball over the wall and into the hands of Howard.
Straight up the other end, Barkley played Lennon in wide right and his bobbling cross looked to to have been missed by Cleverley but a superb left-foot strike from Baines coming in the left channel rocketed the ball into the roof of the Gwladys Street net.
That produced great relief and a much more lively tempo of play from the home side, with Tony Hibbert getting forward to great shouts of "SHOOT!!!", Barkley even setting him up for a shot that turned into more of a pass back to Boruc.
A couple of subs by Eddie Howie changed the largely one-way traffic, and a couple of half-chances almost saw another equalizer from the visitors, Stanilas and Afobe creating some danger but no goals.
Stones, who had been superb commanding the defence, strode out of defence and looked imperious with the ball at his feet, energizing things going forward, but he got pushed out to the corner flag and, although he kept possession, the impetus was lost by the time the ball found Barkley.
Wilson was always causing trouble and he pulled a brilliant cross back from the byeline right onto Afobe's head but somehow he missed an open goal. It was Wilson's final contribution; Grabban replacing him with 12 minutes left.
Stanislas looked to have beaten Hibbert to get a shot off but for a superb piece of work by the veteran Evertonian to chase back, slide in and block it, much appreciated by the Goodison crowd.
Past the 78-minute mark and no mass movement of fans to the exits in silent protest. Instead, a great reception for Kieran Dowell, replacing Barkley for the last 5 minutes or so. And he was keen to put pressure on a Boruc clearance. But the ball was soon down the Everton end, Ritchie striking the ball just wide.
Lukaku again was caught passively watching a ball bounce around him, totally incapable of making a decisive touch to control the ball, which wound up going back down the other end. Maddening from a supposed £50M striker.
Into 4 minutes of added time and each spell of Bournemouth possession caused consternation and panic for the Blues all round, two corners being given up. But the Blues kept their nerve a pulled off a much-needed win — their first in seven Premier League games, and a real rarity at Goodison Park this season.
At the end, a couple of "Martinez Out" banners but no mass protest at the incompetent management of Martinez, the pressure no doubt relieved by this rare home win.
As the crowd (and the targets of their protest) dispersed, a small group of Evertonians (50-200, estimates vary) remained in the Lower Gwladys, with banners and chants protesting the continuation of Roberto Martinez as manager.
Everton: Howard (C), Baines, Stones, Pennington, Besic (46' Hibbert), Gibson [Y:62'], McCarthy, Cleverley, Barkley (87' Dowell), Lennon, Niasse (60' Lukaku).
Subs not Used: Robles, Oviedo, Mirallas, Osman.
AFC Bournemouth: Boruc; Francis, Elphick, Cook, Daniels; Ritchie, Arter, Surman, Pugh (69' Stanislas); King (69' Afobe), Wilson (78' Grabban).
Subs not Used: Federici, Wiggins, Gosling, O'Kane.
Referee: Neil Swarbrick
From My Seat: Bournemouth (H)
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 – 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 that’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 didn’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 don’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 isn’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 ‘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 Ain’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 ‘TIME TO GO ROBERTO NSNO’. 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 Tony’s first game in 16 months. We seemed now to be getting on top a little but both teams suffered with the same thing – 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 it’s a pity he wasn’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 that’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 didn’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. – 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!
A frightening insight into life without Lukaku
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 £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
Everton stage their penultimate home game of the 2015-16 season this weekend as Bournemouth visit Goodison Park looking to continue their laudable first season in the top flight.
It will be the third meeting between the two clubs this season following the reverse fixture in the Premier League last November and the FA Cup 5th Round tie in February but the first time that the Cherries have played a League fixture on Everton's turf.
It will be a game played against the backdrop of bitter disappointment on the Blue half of Merseyside that, four games from the end of the campaign, the Toffees have nothing to play for beyond pride and the hope of perhaps beating Chelsea and Stoke to ninth place.
Indeed, it's an illustration of how poorly Everton have performed for a second successive season that Eddie Howe's promoted side are level on points going into the weekend and can, of course, leapfrog their more decorated and prestigious hosts with a victory. Furthermore, while it would take a catastrophic and highly unlikely sequence of results for them to get sucked into the bottom three by season's end, Roberto Martinez's team are still not mathematically safe from relegation.
It's little wonder then that 10 days on from their disgraceful performance at Anfield and a week since the painful but not altogether unexpected exit from the FA Cup by Manchester United, much of the focus will be on Martinez as his future as Everton manager. Reports have claimed that the board of directors will meet today to discuss the Catalan's position in the Goodison Park hot-seat but, if true, regardless of what, if anything, is decided, he will almost certainly be in the home dugout come 3pm tomorrow.
Martinez has said he understands the passion and the hurt felt by Blues fans at performances on the pitch but, should a section of supporters follow through with their plan to lead peaceful protests from the stands, it could make for an uncomfortable afternoon for the 42-year-old.
His hopes of registering what would be only his fifth home league win in over a calendar year won't be helped by a continuing selection crisis at the back, however. Phil Jagielka and Seamus Coleman are ruled out with hamstring injuries and Ramiro Funes Mori is suspended, leaving Martinez with just one fit senior centre-half and no experienced cover in terms of a natural right back.
Gareth Barry, the most natural choice to drop back from midfield into the back four, is also sidelined with a groin strain, leaving only the option to deploy someone like Muhamed Besic or James McCarthy as an emergency centre half or, more sensibly, hand Matthew Pennington his first senior start in the Premier League. The 21-year-old was recalled from a successful spell with Walsall last weekend and would be a natural choice to start.
Besic deputised at fullback at Wembley last weekend and was often exposed by the likes of Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford but it remains to be seen if Martinez feels he could cope better with Bournemouth's less potent wide and forward players. Callum Connolly, a debutant in the last home game against Southampton, is an option as a starter, however, which would free Besic up to play in defensive midfield.
Elsewhere in the side, much will depend on whom Martinez feels is deserving of a run-out based on recent performances. Gerard Deulofeu made a positive impact when he came on in the semi-final and could get the nod over Aaron Lennon but, with Kevin Mirallas only being thrown on in injury time against United, it would be surprising to see him start given what appears to be a cool relationship with his manager.
Martinez insisted in his pre-match press conference that every point is important but, given that there is little riding on the outcome of this game, it would seem to be the ideal opportunity to give Oumar Niasse some minutes and Evertonians another glimpse of the club's third-most expensive signing who has yet to make a start since joining almost three months ago.
For their part, Bournemouth will be without Harry Arter who has a leg injury but could welcome back forward Max Gradel following a thigh injury.
Following his side's stirring but ultimately fruitless second-half comeback last Saturday, an Everton win would be seized upon by Martinez as evidence that he can find the formula for success at Goodison despite what is two full seasons of evidence to contrary now.
It would seem that there can be no way back for a large majority of Blues fans where Martinez is concerned even if results were to pick up in the final weeks of the campaign but a decent display from the team would at least take the worst of the edge off the frustration and offer something to cheer after last week's agony at Wembley.
Referee: Neil Swarbrick
Predicted Line-up: Robles, Connolly, Stones, Besic, Baines, McCarthy, Cleverley, Lennon, Barkley, Deulofeu, Lukaku