Everton find a way to win ugly

By Paul Traill 25/11/2018 14comments  |  Jump to last
Everton 1 - 0 Cardiff City
Due to be picked up at 12:30pm, I was midway through making a jacket potato, well I say making, waiting for it to be sufficiently electromagnetically zapped until it’s in an edible format isn’t what I’d call “making”, but that’s what I was doing at about 12.10pm when the call came in. “Can you be ready in 10 minutes, I’ve made a mess of the times today” said Dan. That was the jacket potato abandoned then, that became Katja’s lunch, and sooner than planned, I was in the car and on the way to the match.

Well I say on the way to the match. I wasn’t quite on the way to the match. Dan’s son Alfie plays football and we had to drive back towards Bromborough, have a quick turn around there, then on to Prenton to pick up Ste, and then on to the match. We were in good time though. We had to work a little harder for our required parking spot, but were in the pub for about 1.30pm with plenty of time to relax over a few beers before making our way to Goodison Park. The line up, rightly in my opinion, remained unchanged. Gylfi Sigurdsson was available after what looked a nasty injury, and Yerry Mina was retained following his clean sheet and man of the match performance at Stamford Bridge. There was talk, from supporters at least, of pitting Ademola Lookman in ahead of Theo Walcott but I felt it was the correct decision to continue with Theo.

Leading up to the game most of us were perhaps getting a bit carried away and predicting a 4-0 rout. I was less convinced. I expected Neil Warnock’s Cardiff City to be gritty, robust and competitive and as it proved, they never went away in this game. I also expected the usual injury or suspension to occur prior to the Merseyside Derby, but thankfully this never materialised. We thought it had for a moment when Jordan Pickford went down in a heap, but he thankfully got back up to his feet and continued. As it turned out it was Liverpool who were dealt that blow when their captain Jordan Henderson managed to get himself sent off. Maybe, just maybe, it’s our time next Sunday.

Anyway, that’s for then. As for now, we did just enough against Cardiff City and on the balance of chances you’d have to say we deserved to win, but they are quite a solid outfit and I’d fancy them to pick up more points in the league than say Fulham, Huddersfield Town and, unless they buck their ideas up, Southampton. Richarlison, who was somewhat out of sorts, wasted a good early chance to put us ahead when he headed tamely at Neil Etheridge; and, the continually impressive Andrew Gomes did well to construct an opportunity when he wriggled into a shooting position and hit the side-netting. Into the break we were all square.

There was a really nice moment at half time. It hadn’t occurred to me why they rattled through the ‘Hit the Bar’ competition so hastily until the arrival of the legendary Adrian Heath on the pitch. His presence alone received a great reception, but the really nice touch was to follow. Great work by the Everton Heritage Society in recognising this. They touched base with UEFA to explain that, despite playing a key part in earlier rounds of the competition, injury had led him to miss the European Cup Winners Cup final in 1985, and alas, he didn’t receive his winners medal. Brilliantly, UEFA agreed to recreate it, and he was awarded it by his old striking partner Graeme Sharpe and a representative from the Everton Heritage Society. It was a really nice moment and the faces of Evertonian’s in the crowd who had witnessed that generation was fabulous as they all beamed with delight. ‘Inchy’ looked pretty stunned.

Well done to all at Everton Heritage Society for arranging this. If you ever have time to kill pre-game by the way, swing by St. Luke’s church and head upstairs as they always put on an excellent presentation of programmes, memorabilia and photographs a lot of which is relevant to the team we are playing on the day, and a lot of which is available to buy, with proceeds going towards the Everton Heritage Society. I don’t get there a lot these days myself, but it’s well worth a visit.

Back to proceedings on the pitch and Everton needed to find a winner from somewhere, and ramped up their performance after the break. Gylfi Sigurdsson almost scored when he rounded Etheridge and found his effort cleared off the line by the impressive Sol Bamba. However we, and he, didn’t have to wait long to find the net when good work by Theo Walcott found him in the clear and in on goal. His shot across goal was saved by Etheridge but only put into the path of Gylfi who had plenty of time and the composure to slot into the empty net from around the penalty spot. It was good reward for Gylfi who had put in a dominant display while confronted with quite a hostile reception from the Cardiff City supporters, presumably because of his Swansea City connections.

We could really have done with killing the game off and substitute Ademola Lookman got closest to doing so when he danced through a few challenges and then perhaps could have done better to slot past Etheridge, who in fairness stood up well. That was mostly that though from ourselves as an attacking force, and in the closing 10 minutes it required a committed rearguard action to maintain the three points. A few long throws were hurled into the box, and a few corners really tested our resolve but we managed to dig in and get over the line. That’s what you’ve got to do sometimes. It’s a game we’d never have won last season, one we may not have in the early parts of this season, and it’s great to see a big defensive improvement.

When we were so tame defending corner kicks in our first few games you really felt the rot had set in, but credit to Marco, he must have worked on this and has learnt from this and now, nobody is complaining about zonal marking anymore. Roberto Martinez would never learn from this, even didn’t practice defending them according to Leon Osman’s book. That’s three clean sheets now in five games, one of which was at Stamford Bridge. It’s great to see clear improvements and we’re now sitting rather pretty in sixth place.

Keeping a clean sheet next Sunday will obviously give us a great chance of winning, given our only blanks from an attacking point of view have been away at Chelsea and Arsenal. For once we’re up against a mean Liverpool defence, but I’d back us to score. Do that and stay fastened up at the back and who knows, our Anfield hoodoo could be breached.

Player ratings

Pickford: Not loads to do but stood up to the examination towards the end. We were concerned when he went down injured, but I thought he was making the most of it really to kill a bit of time. 7
Digne: Did quite well. He felt he should have had a penalty in the first half, but they had a similar shout in the second and I’m glad neither were given - contact doesn’t mean foul. 6
Mina: Is very comfortable on the ball and carries the ball out of defence well. He’s a very composed figure, but wasn’t seriously tested in this game. His real acid test will come next weekend, let’s hope he’s ready. 7
Keane: Headed out a good few balls towards the end and is looking a very handy centre back. 7
Coleman: Fine. 6
Gueye: Good and solid, made plenty of tackles and interceptions. 7
Gomes: Very good and calm. Has fit in seamlessly and really is a class player. 7
Bernard: I find it strange that some are calling for Theo Walcott to be dropped for Ademola Lookman, but Bernard gets an easy ride. Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s got fabulous ability and can be a real class act…and probably will be once he’s up to speed, but he does make some startlingly bad decisions at times when in good positions. I’m not advocating he should be dropped either, things are going well and I wouldn’t change anything, just that nobody seems to question him somehow. 6
Walcott: I think he stays in the team because he gives you discipline and does all the basics well. I.e. he tracks back, he takes up good positions, he always wants the ball. I agree he can be wasteful at times but I’d leave him in for now. Ademola is doing great as an impact substitute currently. I think we’re better getting 60-70 minutes out of Theo and then 20-30 out of Ademola than the other way round. Good surge for the goal also Theo! 7
Sigurdsson: Andre Gomes got all the accolades for man of the match and I don’t begrudge him that, however it was Gylfi’s determination, effort and ability which won us the match, and wins him my man of the match. 7
Richarlison: Maybe tired from his two games with Brazil this last week (albeit one was in London and the other in Milton Keynes!) and he was struggling with an injury before that. He was a bit out of sorts but got through the game and now has a week to get right for the derby. 5

Lookman (for Walcott): Made a great impact as he has done lately and was unlucky not to seal the game. He can be a very tricky player with very quick feet. 7

Reader Comments (14)

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Ajay Timothy
1 Posted 25/11/2018 at 17:22:46
Great report as always, Paul, but I think that Gomes – especially after the first half performance – deserves at least an 8. He had me oohing and ahhing like I used during the Arteta days.

Also, a comment on Richarlison: he will never win Evertonian hearts if he keeps falling over at the merest touch. Well maybe he will if he scores the winner next week.

Dermot Byrne
2 Posted 25/11/2018 at 17:31:26
With you, Ajay, re Gomes. Absolutely the class we have cried out for for many years. Brill yesterday.
John G Davies
3 Posted 25/11/2018 at 17:41:59
An 8 at least for Gomes. Sheer class. A thoroughbred.
Kelvin Thomas
4 Posted 25/11/2018 at 17:54:54
Thank you, Paul.

I agree with your analysis and ratings except for Gomes. Again, I would push for a 7.5 or 8.

I couldn't agree more with regards to Theo Walcott. By no means is he setting the world alight. Still, he hardly deserves the criticism either. We are on a very good run. Why focus energy on criticism?

In my opinion, Theo is low on confidence simply because he knows the fans are on his back. Just get behind him. I'm backing him to score at Anfield.

If Lookman gets his opportunity, it should be on the left.

Peter Mills
5 Posted 25/11/2018 at 18:33:18
Nice report, Paul.

I wish I shared your optimism about the suspension of Henderson. I fear his likely replacement, Keita, may prove to be more problematic for us. That view, however, is shaped by paranoia developed over many years of derby matches!

I mentioned on another thread the award to Inchy Heath at half-time, but you have expressed it much more fully and eloquently – thank you.

Gordon White
6 Posted 25/11/2018 at 20:28:26
Enjoyed reading your report thank you. I would agree with everything except the Gomes score. I would have given him an 8. I agree about Walcott. If it hadn't been for his run and shot we wouldn't have got that goal.

Looking forward to next weekend. I'm hoping we keep a clean sheet. Anything else will be a bonus.

Paul Kelly
7 Posted 25/11/2018 at 20:44:16
Great to hear you made the Mrs lunch before leaving Paul, I used to just put the kettle on and leave the Bombay bad boy on the side.
Chris Watts
8 Posted 25/11/2018 at 22:53:14
Liverpool play PSG away on Wednesday night. They have 6 points due to their unexpected loss to Red Star Belgrade and absolutely need to win this game. Therefore, they are going to have focus on it with all their best players playing.

I hope we spend a week preparing well – I'm excited already!!

Bob Parrington
9 Posted 25/11/2018 at 23:53:34
Good one, Paul. Difficult to separate Gylfi and Gomes in our MotM selection. I reckon a shared position would be fairest.

Gomes is cool and talented and I still think we have the best of him to see in coming games. Sigurdsson is now showing why we bought him as he has sharpened up massively since last season.

Good to see us grind out all 3 points when not really running on all six cylinders!

Jim Harrison
10 Posted 26/11/2018 at 00:48:06
To separate the two players for Man of the Match, I have to say Sigurdsson got the goal. Gomes showed great skill and style but the crucial intervention comes from the Ice Man.

Kudos to Walcott too. Good burst to create the opportunity. He gets a lot of stick, but is miles ahead of what he was before.

Brian Murray
11 Posted 26/11/2018 at 04:37:54
Confidence unfortunately can't just be switched on — no matter how good Silva is at man-management. It's a big call over Theo because knowing our luck our best chances will fall at his, for now, two left feet!

No score after an hour and our belief and maybe their midweek tiredness will swing it our way — making a great Monday Club bender!

Darryl Ritchie
12 Posted 26/11/2018 at 06:15:12
An ugly win is umpteen times better than an exciting loss.

Why do we always seem to suck at corners, both ends? I cringe when we defend, and even with quality players both delivering and receiving, we are totally useless offensively.

Silva needs to implement some intensive passing drills in training this week. If we gift the ball to LFC the way we did to Cardiff, we will be slaughtered.

Danny Broderick
13 Posted 27/11/2018 at 00:06:05
I have been as frustrated as anyone with Walcott's form. I don't think he links up well with Coleman. Coleman would probably prefer to play behind a winger who tucks in, which would give him space on the outside when he overlaps. The two of them seem to get in each other's way...

This said, I agree with getting an hour out of Walcott and then bringing on Lookman if Walcott isn't performing. I don't think Lookman is a 90-minute player yet. Walcott is also a threat even when he is not playing well with his pace – this created the winning goal on Saturday, after all.

Unchanged line-up for me on Sunday.

Ernie Baywood
14 Posted 27/11/2018 at 02:31:47
Yes, Danny, I think Lookman has earned the chance to start, but hasn't yet proven that he can produce the goods when starting... The derby wouldn't be my choice for trying him out.

Walcott meanwhile hasn't been great but I think his form has been downplayed a bit. He's still a threat, he's still working hard (maybe to a lesser degree than before), and his pace still affects the opposition.

Last season, I remember Walcott and, I think, Bolasie being forced back to being practically wingbacks against Liverpool. That can't happen on Sunday. For what it's worth, I don't think it will happen. The wingers' positioning on the pitch will tell us a lot about our intent.

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