A rare day of relative comfort

By Lyndon Lloyd 11/03/2018  23 Comments  [Jump to last]
Everton 2 - 0 Brighton & Hove Albion

Everton have been strong at Goodison this season, with the best home record outside the top six, but with nerves and a lack of confidence never too far away, there isn't really ever such a thing as a routine home win for Everton. This was, though; a belated expression of the talent that exists in the ranks even if it didn’t always gel into effective football or manifest itself in a slew of chances.

Much of that owed to the presence of Phil Jagielka, Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman in defence and a performance from Wayne Rooney that was a lot closer to the maturity and composure that you would expect from a player of his age and experience.

The presence of those four relics of the Moyes era (one of them, of course, having returned from a decade away in between) served as the anchor to a lineup that had a number of changes foisted upon on it and yet looked and felt like one of the most settled of the campaign.

Ashley Williams began a three-match ban and both Idrissa Gueye and Morgan Schneiderlin were ruled out with the same virus which meant that with James McCarthy on the long-term injured list, there was no fit nominal holding midfielder apart from Beni Baningime. Despite having already demonstrated his readiness to step into the first team, the youngster was named among the substitutes and, thankfully, Everton were able to control the midfield regardless.

It helped that Brighton, despite coming into the game sitting one place above Everton on goal difference, didn’t offer much of attacking threat. They were under pressure early thanks to a strong start from the home side that almost led to Coleman opening his account, only for the Irishman to drag his third-minute chance across goal after strong work by Cenk Tosun.

And the visitors would remain under the cosh for the next half an hour or so, Everton forcing a succession of corners but only managing to prompt a save from Mat Ryan with one of them when Jagielka headed straight at the Australian from close range.

Yannick Bolasie, however, came within inches of turning another of Gylfi Sigurdsson’s dead balls in at the far post when he stuck out a leg and stabbed it the wrong side of the post. Later in the half, he made a mess of an attempted volley and dropped a header wide as the Blues continued to probe but, a couple of penalty appeals aside — the most viable one when Tom Davies was clattered through by Lewis Dunk as his team-mate Shane Duffy took the ball — gradually lost their early head of steam.

At the other end, Jordan Pickford’s only real test of the first half came from the in-form Glenn Murray whose 25-yard missile required strong hands from the young ‘keeper to parry away to safety.

Everton were unable to replicate their dominance of the first half in the beginning stages of the second but they still carried the greater threat. Walcott tore away on an early counter-attack but played his final ball a little behind Davies who couldn’t readjust in time to get a shot away. Then Duffy got in the way of a goal-bound Rooney effort that yielded yet another corner.

It felt like it should only be a matter of time before Everton’s superiority told but a goal remained elusive, promising moves faltering in the final third and the hosts just lacking enough cutting edge from both flanks.

Bolasie, in particular, was enduring a frustrating afternoon but just when the mind started to again wander over the question of why Nikola Vlasic, for example, can’t even get on the bench, the former Crystal Palace man cut inside into the space in front of him and engineered the opening goal. He swung in a wicked cross to the back post that left Gaetan Bong few options but to turn it past his own goalkeeper — which he did — or make no contact with the ball and let Walcott behind him do the honours.

Obviously, it would have been more satisfying had Walcott supplied the finish but the goal was the important thing. And just as important was Everton’s reaction to and defensive of it. Far too often this season, even at home, they have allowed the opposition to come back into the contest and make things difficult; instead they kept at it and doubled their lead thanks to a sumptuous finish by Tosun.

The build-up, however, was vintage Baines. He exchanged passes with Tosun to drive into the Brighton penalty area and wrong-foot Ezequiel Schelotto before squaring the ball back to the Turkish international near the top of the box. He set his sights and lofted a shot in off the underside of the bar to double the Blues’ lead.

If that goal hadn’t killed off the Seagulls’ chances, Pascal Gross’s audacious but slightly off-target attempt to catch Pickford off his line from the subsequent kick-off and then a straight red card for Anthony Knockaert did. The Brighton man’s own frustration got the better of him when he retaliated to an accidental ball in the face by lunging in with both feet on Baines and was summarily dismissed by referee Roger East for dangerous play.

That afforded Allardyce the opportunity to answer the clamour of Davy Klaassen to get a chance to shine by throwing the Dutchman on for the final 10 minutes and then another of his substitutes, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, to earn an 87th-minute penalty.

The young striker went down a touch theatrically under Duffy’s challenge but Rooney’s hopes of scoring his first goal of the year were snuffed out by Ryan who, having presumably done his homework, flung himself at full stretch to his right to push what was a well-struck spot-kick wide.

Mason Holgate’s late slip in stoppage time, when he passed straight to a yellow shirt, thankfully wasn’t punished as Pickford beat Gross’s shot away and the Everton ‘keeper was able to celebrate a first clean sheet since Boxing Day.

For all the obvious reasons, this was a big result and the importance of it wasn’t lost on Allardyce. He claimed afterwards that he was always going to name an attacking side, a response to repeated criticism of an overly conservative approach, particularly away from home, but it was interesting to see how comfortable Everton were without a recognised defensive midfielder on the pitch.

Again, Brighton’s own cautious outlook and attacking limitations made it a comfortable afternoon for the Blues’ midfield and it won’t be anything like as routine the next time they’re at Goodison to face Manchester City but on this occasion the formation worked. What a difference two natural fullbacks make!

Survival, while always likely despite the lingering threat of a relegation dogfight to end the season hanging around in the background, is virtually assured thanks to an afternoon that would leave you wondering what all the fuss was about if you hadn't endured what came before it and the manner in which this season derailed in the first place.

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Reader Comments (23)

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Dave Speed
1 Posted 11/03/2018 at 19:59:30
Isn't it amazing Lyndon how quiet things are, comments-wise? It's so good to relax a bit and not have that gut wrenching feeling of having to face the RS on Monday morning. It's especially good when they have just lost their 'real' derby (Re Winjaldum - sod the spelling). It gets better when they were denied 4 (4?) penalties, one of them a stonewall it seems due to a bad Fellaini challenge (better again!). Not getting complacent, just relaxing. Everything bad about this season will be in the past soon, including FS and Little FS. Just relaxing and zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Paul Kennedy
2 Posted 11/03/2018 at 20:25:10
If this is what happens because we play with a proper left back and no kamikaze in central defence then, please, please, same again.

What kind of idiots would plan a season campaign without proper back up?

Once we reach 40 points, can Sam go please??

Dave Abrahams
3 Posted 11/03/2018 at 20:28:14
Lyndon, the only chance Brighton had in the first half was a blockbuster of a shot from Murray that was set by a weak header from the "mature and composed" Wayne Rooney.
James Flynn
4 Posted 11/03/2018 at 20:53:39
" . . . . the presence of Phil Jagielka, Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman in defence and a performance from Wayne Rooney . . . . "

Yep. We actually looked like a TEAM for once.

If only the were all 5 years younger (Sigh). We'd be going places.

Derek Knox
5 Posted 11/03/2018 at 21:19:02
Good report Lyndon, and a vast improvement in performance, though I must admit that is tempered slightly, by Brighton not really playing like they have been recently, in fact they were pretty poor.

The real test of both team and Manager, is to carry that on at Stoke, provided he doesn't change things too much.

Particularly impressed by Baines, who resembled the player we all know and love, before injury even, he was a shadow of his former self, but nevertheless, still better than Martina.

In all fairness to Martina, he was playing out of position, and did his best.

Jack Convery
6 Posted 11/03/2018 at 21:34:59
The fact we are relieved to have beaten Brighton at home says it all for me.
Matthew Kneale
7 Posted 11/03/2018 at 21:39:15
Good comfortable win, like you said, Lyndon. Now is the time time to start planning for next season. Safety is all but assured now and I'd hope that Mr Moshiri is identifying target's for his new manager.

Let's face it, Big Sam would have picked a fit Williams and a fit Schneiderlin on Saturday. He was very quick to heap praise on his team selection yesterday but didn't see him do that after the defeats to Watford and Burnley.

He seems very confident that he will be here next season, well if that is the case the club is dead. We need a new vision and now where safe it's time to start preparing for that. Both Marco Silva and the lad at Shakhtar are available now so let's swoop early before it's too late.

Thomas Lennon
8 Posted 11/03/2018 at 21:54:09
I always find it a but too negative to state that we won partly because the opposition played poorly. They weren't allowed to play in this match with their main outlet to the right snuffed out by Baines all afternoon and both clentral defenders calm and composed with Jags particularly strong and certain in the first 20 mins.

Outplayed is closer to the mark. Number one priority this summer is to strengthen in those two areas.

Ed Prytherch
9 Posted 11/03/2018 at 00:06:53
Excellent report, Lyndon. There is not much to criticize in the team performance hence the sparsity of comments.

Keane looked much better when he was surrounded by players that he could trust and who were giving 100%. I hope that Sam keeps these four together for a few games.

Davies and Rooney complimented each other with energy and creativity. Davies will be a good player when he improves his ball control.

Tosun is a real Number 9. In a years time, we will be happy that we signed him instead of Giroud. Bolasie went through a bad patch after half-time but he got it back together and played his best game since his injury.

It is great to be able to sing the blues again.

Pete Clarke
10 Posted 12/03/2018 at 00:42:37
We are a better team with the real full backs in place, that's for sure, but the rest is still too much of a mish mash to threaten any team in the top 6. We give the ball away far too many times to stand a chance of that.

I doubt very much that would have been the line up had the other players been available but we can only speculate on that. Any win is a confidence-booster so let's hope we can carry that into our next game against another struggling team.

Charles Brewer
11 Posted 12/03/2018 at 07:32:29
It just gets better. With a bit of luck we will never again hear from Gobber Carragher.
Steve Hopkins
12 Posted 12/03/2018 at 08:18:32
For me there was still a worrying number of basic and unforced errors, passes under/over hit, back headers almost out for a corner, poor control, square passes straight to a Brighton attacker. I have to question the coaching. When you look at that team on paper it's blatantly obvious that we should be doing so much better. Each one of those starting 11 is a very talented individual, man for man better than some of the dross we've seen over the the last 25 years and yet, as a team, they've got less fight and togetherness than even the perennial relegation candidates of the late 90s.

Hopefully we can now put this season to bed, make whatever changes are needed behind the scenes, keep the talent that we have and kick on next season

Noleen Daya
13 Posted 12/03/2018 at 08:27:03
I am all for us winning, but if it means FS will be given time until the end of his contract, I'd rather we lose - but not so much to be relegated.
Michael Lynch
14 Posted 12/03/2018 at 08:59:20
We did indeed look better without Gana/Schneids in a DM position, but Brighton were woeful - surely they had one eye on next week's cup tie? - so it's hard to know if we would get away with it against a better team. Having said that, it was the most balanced looking side we've put out this season. For me, this points to our rotten recruitment policy in defence as the most significant failing this season, rather than our three disappointing managers. With Coleman, Baines and Jags finally playing together, Keane looked less awful, and we looked more of a cohesive team. Tosun took his goal well, ran around a lot, and had a few decent touches, but that's about it. If we can get another season out of our Moyes-built defence, a couple of decent signings in the summer should help avoid another painful campaign like this one. But, much as I'd like to see a different manager appointed, I think our most important recruitment will be within the playing squad.
Dennis Stevens
15 Posted 12/03/2018 at 09:50:27
Allardyce out! Now!
Brian Harrison
16 Posted 12/03/2018 at 10:17:19
Seems that Everton look a far stronger side when we revert back to the 3 defenders who played under Moyes. The worry is Jagielka and Baines are not getting any younger, but both were amongst our best performers on Saturday.

Although we won I still think there is a lot wrong with this team, we seem to struggle when we get into the last third of the pitch. Although Bolasie helped create the first goal I think is overall play is poor, and his goals per game is not good enough. Tosun has taken his chances well in his last 2 games, but he just seems a little one paced for me. I like Tom Davies but for me he still gets out muscled for too much, but I accept he is young and will get stronger.

While agreeing with most fans that a change of manager is needed, I just worry that its back to the drawing board with 3 years wasted. This appointment has to be right we cant keep sacking managers every couple of years. I know it hasn't hampered Chelsea changing managers, the difference is they can attract some of the worlds top managers were we cant.

Tony Everan
17 Posted 12/03/2018 at 11:12:27
The win has to be taken in context. It was at home against a weak team having an off day. Saying that it was welcome and as Lyndon says, the ‘relics' had too much vintage class for Brighton.

They will need replacing soon with younger, hungrier players with even more quality if we are to progress. Doing that is one hell of a challenge, financially and logistically.

The most important thing about the win is that it gives us breathing space. We have scraped up the relegation cliff face . Now we are at the top with only our big toe left dangling over the edge. We can tentatively start planning for bigger and better things next season.

I am hoping it is now all systems go in laying the foundations for success in 2018-19.

A new quality manager in the mould of Fonseca may be able to attract the right quality of player to take us forward.

Kevin Gillen
18 Posted 12/03/2018 at 12:08:22
We were better on Saturday and it all started at the back although you could say it started with the selection.

I took my old mate who is a Brighton fan and a football coach. We agreed Everton deserved their win, their attitude from the off was to attack. Our shooting though was woeful and an area we need to much improve. Even Tosun's finish was a deflection when I saw it on MotD and it looked bound for Row Z rather than the top corner.

Brighton had very little of the ball but they did well with what they did have and MotD and the Sky coverage missed an excellent shot from Gross at the end of the game well save by Pickford – you can see why they have the points they do have. They defended their area well thanks to Duffy and Dunk and they never lost their shape.

Bolasie was really good fighting aggressively for the ball and beating a man but he had five attempts on goal in the first half and didn't hit the target once. He was better in the second half and his cross to Walcott deserved a goal.

We need a ninety minute performance at Stoke, no switching off for a breather like at Watford and Burnley so we can get back to where we reasonably should be this year 7th or 8th.

Steven Jones
19 Posted 12/03/2018 at 13:23:49
Sam has to stay for stability sakes.
Changing to another manager, no matter the sexy name is just another big risk.

We need to keep the same coaching team and build a team that has started to emerge.

With Theo and Bolasie building their roles and building their confidence and Cenk starting to fit in, with Wayne pulling the strings and Baines and Coleman back we have a shape and a threat against anyone .

Keep our nerve - Keep Sam and his team and let him build something special for us.

Steven Jones
20 Posted 12/03/2018 at 13:23:49
Sam has to stay for the sake of stability. Changing to another manager, no matter the sexy name, is just another big risk. We need to keep the same coaching team and build a team that has started to emerge.

With Theo and Bolasie building their roles and building their confidence and Cenk starting to fit in, with Wayne pulling the strings and Baines and Coleman back we have a shape and a threat against anyone .

Keep our nerve – Keep Sam and his team and let him build something special for us.

William Cartwright
21 Posted 12/03/2018 at 14:35:38
Steve,that all sounds very sensible. However,the early comments from Allardyce regarding the Stoke match are 'we have to dig in and work for the point...'

Having a good game and result against Brighton looks like it will be followed up with another dour, from the back foot approach which will gain us (if we are lucky) a point.

Sam is his own worst enemy, not the fickle supporters. We can all see the attitude problems of the squad a mile off. Why was he surprised at the booing of Schneiderlin for example.

With Sigurdsson out it, could be an opportunity for Klassen, but we will probably revert to type and ; Gueye back (I'm okay with that) b,ut we will simultaneously lose the influence of deep lying midfielder Rooney. His position on Saturday was forced on Sam by illnesses and yet he a) takes credit and b) quickly talks about the need to change?

The man is bonkers!

Leave well alone Sam? No chance, too simple and too obvious for the ego I'm afraid.

Steve Barr
22 Posted 12/03/2018 at 17:52:09
I wouldn't make any assumptions on our future based on the one win at home versus a very, very poor Brighton team on the day. I've seen Brighton play much better than that.

We have to display a much longer and positive progression before any commitment to keep Sam on after this season should be made!

Based on what I've seen since he arrived, my decision would be a loud "No Way". Also, based on his overall career management performance – a much less than 50% winning record – my decision would be another loud" No Way".

The final nail would be based on many other negatives as far as Sam is concerned (character, negative/defensive philosophy etc.) many of these have been shared on other previous threads, my decision is most definitely "No Way" that Sam should be kept on after the end of this season.

The board will just have to work something out (I know, don't hold your breath) as they have got us into this sorry position.

Jamie Sweet
24 Posted 13/03/2018 at 21:27:34
Steven Jones... you didn't happen to vote 600 times on the recent TW poll did you?

Just trying to fathom how it got to 6% to keep him on.

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