Random acts of kindness

Paul Traill 23/01/2022 14comments  |  Jump to last
Everton 0 - 1 Aston Villa
For the first time in a good while I was excited about watching Everton play. The Big Dunc effect had me. Maybe I was blinded by the whirlwind performance just over two years ago when Big Dunc was last caretake manager, and he had the team pressing and tackling anything that moved. In any event, there was certainly an expectation of intensity with a vibrant atmosphere, and if that was the yardstick to measure the days events by, I can’t have been disappointed.

Gaz was due to pick me at 10:00 am though was a little early and so we were parked up and in the boozer by about 10:15 am. The other guys we go the game with were either unable to attend or arriving a little later, so it was good to sit with Gaz and chew the fat for a while as we mostly bemoaned the disastrous managerial period of Rafa Benitez.

With an hour until kick-off our conversation was disrupted with a flurry of activity around us as people gazed at their mobile phones in bemusement at Duncan Ferguson’s team selection. Neither Vitalii Mykolenko and Nathan Patterson even in the squad, and Seamus Coleman and Michael Keane both dropped from the team also with Ben Godfrey, Mason Holgate, captain Yerry Mina and Jonjo Kenny making up the back four. Andros Townsend was preferred to Anthony Gordon on the right wing. Richarlison unsurprisingly replaced Salomon Rondon in attack.

Hungry, we made the unusual decision to head to the stadium early. The plan being to grab a quick pasty of sandwich from Gregg’s, only to find it is no longer there on County Road, so we went straight into the ground for a burger/hot dog and a quick beer before kick-off.

As expected, the atmosphere was raucous as the teams took to the field. I still find it ridiculous that the away team has to get changed in a Portakabin outside the Park End and then take to the field from the corner of the stadium rather than the allocated away team changing room. I get the importance of Covid safety, but surely it's now a bit ridiculous to have to do this given the teams are then going to be running around, tackling and physically competing with each other for the next 90 minutes or so.

Steven Gerrard was given an expected welcome as he made his way to the dugout, Lucas Digne was, a little surprisingly for me, booed when he first touched the ball, and Philippe Coutinho was also roundly jeered throughout.

From the get-go, Everton began well. They won their first few headers and drew a free kick early on, though failed to grasp this early initiative and allowed Aston Villa first to settle into, and then dictate the game. We battled hard, though couldn’t get into any rhythm in the first half, largely due to the busy and effective chasing and harrying of Douglas Luiz in the middle in particular.

We got caught out at the back a couple of times though Aston Villa failed to capitalise, Ollie Watkins had a good game and kept us occupied. We all expected to see the net bulge when he headed at goal from point-blank range but Jordan Pickford saved magnificently to keep the ball out. As it turns out, he was offside and it wouldn’t have counted, but the save was extraordinary nonetheless and the Gwladys Street certainly let Jordan know what they thought of it.

Though we didn’t register a shot from the opportunity, we missed a great chance to score ourselves when Abdoulaye Doucoure countered at pace in a two against one breakaway. He tried to find Richarlison in which seemed a relatively straightforward pass, though his ball could scarcely have been any worse and the chance was gone. When you’re on the backfoot and get a chance like that you have to take it.

Still, though Aston Villa had been the superior side up until this point, I don’t think they had done quite enough to be ahead at the break either and we looked to have got in all square. And then, already well into the two minutes of added time, Andre Gomes took a player out to give Aston Villa a free-kick. They took an eternity to take it. Even when they did take it they seemed to get themselves into a muddle as to who was putting it into the penalty area. It was eventually put in and headed at goal and I think Jordan Pickford tipped it over routinely.

Now when there is still a chance to attack and you are in an attacking area, I’m usually a believer that play should continue until that is no longer the case. However in this instance, and call it straw clutching all you like, but I thought given how much time Aston Villa used up messing around with taking the free-kick, that Craig Pawson would have been well within his rights to call half time at this point. I’m pretty sure it would have been half-time if this had happened at certain grounds with certain teams.

Obviously we then conceded. Obviously Lucas Digne, now allowed to take set-pieces again, set it up. Emiliano Buendia looped his header goalward, and it all seemed to kind of happen in slow motion but the ball eventually nestled into the corner. I didn’t see the bottle get thrown at the Aston Villa players as they celebrated, though Lucas Digne was on the floor from this for a period of time afterwards.

I’ve since seen the footage of this and while nobody is condoning the bottle throwing, the way two or three Aston Villa players went down like they had been shot was ridiculous, especially as the bottle doesn’t seem to hit any of them.

Craig Pawson then even made us restart just to immediately blow half-time (what’s the point of that by the way?) and Mason Holgate summed up everyone’s collective frustration by punching the ball toward the referee as our players trudged down the tunnel. I was cross. I really don’t think we should still have been playing at that point. Going in all square at the break would have been fair.

Into the second half and it took Duncan all of five minutes to make a change, swapping out Andre Gomes for Allan. I wasn’t convinced this was the right move, I felt that withdrawing Andros Townsend and introducing Allan into a midfield three would have given us more of a foothold in the game, though Duncan didn’t waste much time in hooking Andros either, replacing him with Anthony Gordon. And in fairness to Duncan the changes worked and on another day we would have equalised, the atmosphere would have become electric and then who knows?

Certainly one of our three great chances should have been put away. Richarlison is handy in the air and when Anthony Gordon found him in the penalty area after a strong surge by Demarai Gray, you could have expected our Brazilian to score but he flashed his header over the crossbar.

Likewise, when Anthony Gordon then found the stretching Dominic Calvert-Lewin you could have expected him to score. Them chances are usually his bread and butter. He does look rusty to be fair and is short of match sharpness, but that was also a great chance.

And then there was Yerry Mina’s header. He couldn’t really have come much closer than that and was unlucky to see his header sail just wide. It was that sort of day. We definitely deserved a point, though as painstaking as it was at the time from Tyrone Mings and co, you have to dove your cap a little on how well Aston Villa saw out the game. They wasted plenty of time in doing so, and Craig Pawson really lost control of the game. He probably should have added more time on but I don’t think it would have mattered as our momentum was somewhat stunted by this point.

At full-time, I was pretty dejected. I felt we had a good go and deserved better. It's pretty deflating to lose in that manner. I felt the players deserved more.

Something which is painfully apparent to me for Everton, and was cruelly exemplified by Lucas Digne’s assist, is that we’ve got nobody in that team who can put a set-play into the penalty area. We’ve moved on James Rodriguez and Lucas Digne both of whom could, and with Gylfi Sigurdsson unavailable, it leaves us totally toothless at set-plays, as demonstrated with our last chance of the game when Anthony Gordon, again, hooked the ball out of play before getting it in with a last-minute corner kick.

I don’t know if that is something they will try to address in the next week or so before the transfer window closes. It can’t be easy to attract players when you’re in freefall and don’t have a permanent manager, but it is surely something they have to address.

One advantage of the early kick-off is that it does kind of extend your day, and so Gaz dropped me off near the city centre and I went and met my wife for a few drinks and some food. I met her at a pub and she was already there at a seat with her drink so I went to the busy bar to grab a beer for myself. I waited my turn, and then when it was mine the barmaid served somebody else who had literally just arrived next to me.

That was frustrating but I figured I’d be next. She then overlooked me again and went well out of her way to serve someone else. You kind of feel it's deliberate when this sort of thing happens don’t you, and I said “Hang on, I’ve been waiting ages here now”, which caused more hassle than I wanted as the other person then said “well I’ve been waiting ages too”. Conscious of avoiding any confrontation I let them go ahead and get served.

I was pretty annoyed by this point when a voice to the left of me, in unmistakable Brummie tone, said “I bet you’re fuming there mate, I’ve been watching, you were definitely next then”. I had a good laugh with the fella and had a little chat about the game.

I then finally got served by someone else and as he came back with my beer he said “anything else?”, at which the Brummie said “yes two pints of that please” as he pointed at a beer, “I’ll get these”. And he bought my beer for me despite my best efforts not to let him. What a nice thing to do, taking pity on an opposing supporter and doing a nice thing like that.

It really made my day. I’ve always liked Aston Villa. A big club with great fans. As our we. Keep on backing the boys, they need our help to make sure we remain a big club with great fans…in the Premier League.

Player Ratings

Jordan Pickford: I don’t know if this says less about the rest of the players or not but he’s my man of the match. Though offside, I don’t think it can be overstated what a great save he made. I thought he was helpless with the goal though did his best and mostly distributed well. He was positive and carried the fight as best he could. 7

Ben Godfrey: He did his best and got forward well but is very limited in that position as he is unable to use his left foot. I can understand why Duncan put him there though as he knew what he was going to get from Ben. Vitalii is a bit of an unknown quantity as yet. 6

Mason Holgate: Duncan clearly likes Mason, probably because he has a good attitude. He did quite well. He was committed and brave and probably exceeded expectations on the day for most. 7

Yerry Mina: It’s nice to see him back and he does make a big difference in defence. We really can’t afford him to get injured again now this season, which is why I’m unimpressed that now that he is finally back to fitness he is immediately away to Columbia for some World Cup Qualifiers. You don’t like to begrudge a player the opportunity to play for their country of course, but having been injured for so long I really think he should be with his employers working on his fitness instead. Anyway, he had a good game and was unlucky not to score. 7

Jonjoe Kenny: I don’t want to pick on Jonjo as he tries his best, but we really need more quality there. Some of his passing was poor and he wasn’t effective going forward. I’m surprised Nathan Patterson hasn’t had any game time yet, you would assume he will get this in the FA Cup against Brentford. But if neither Rafa or Duncan have used him yet you can only assume he isn’t yet ready. 5

Demarai Gray: He seemed to drift in and out of the game and we probably needed more consistency from him. That said, he was well marshalled by Matthew Cash. 6

Abdoulaye Doucouré: He was much more at it than he has been and was very busy in the middle. It’s a shame he couldn’t find Richarlison with that breakaway because that was a great opportunity. And it was an even bigger shame to see his afternoon cut short with injury. I really hope that’s not a serious one. We really need him available. 6

André Gomes: He showed a few neat touches in the first half though failed to exert his authority on the game, and he was then substituted five minutes into the second half. That he was already on a booking by this point may have been a factor, though I’d really like to see he, Allan and Doucoure in a midfield three. This would allow Andre more time on the ball and give him the chance to do what he’s good at. He’s certainly not best suited to a two-man midfield. 5

Andros Townsend: Worked hard, did his best. 6

Dominic Calvert-Lewin: He’s clearly still a bit rusty and probably needs another couple of games to retain match fitness. He’ll be disappointed not to have put that opportunity away. 6

Richarlison: He worked hard as always but just didn’t see enough of the ball to make an impact unfortunately. I do feel that with he and Dominic in the team for the remainder of the season that we will be OK. 6

Allan (for Andre Gomes): He certainly improved our midfield by adding intensity. As I keep saying, I’d like to see him in a three-man midfield. 6

Anthony Gordon (for Andros Townsend): He really had a positive impact on the game and created some good chances. We surely should have put at least one of them away. He has to start next league game away at Newcastle United. 7

Tyler Onyango (for Abdoulaye Doucoure): It’s the first time I’ve seen him play first-hand. Jesus, he’s tall, just shy of two metres tall in fact, a real man-mountain. As for performance, it was hard to judge, he seemed quite busy, though didn’t get on the ball much. I’ll be interested to see more of him. 6

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Reader Comments (14)

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Steve Hogan
2 Posted 23/01/2022 at 20:03:13
For my money, and having watched both closely all season, Gomes and Allan, don't have the legs or speed needed for this Everton team. Both players very rarely contribute with a goal either.

Opposing midfield players stroll through the centre of our midfield with ease. We need strength and mobility in that area, both player's lack either quality sadly.

Until that happens, we will always struggle to control any aspect of the game.

Shaun Laycock
3 Posted 23/01/2022 at 20:40:23
Seems a no brainer for me:

And don't tell me professional football players can't pass the ball from one to another.
Away with this back to front, long ball, throwback tosh.
This team, given its head, would be okay!

Shaun Laycock
4 Posted 23/01/2022 at 20:41:41
And Pickford of course...
John Raftery
5 Posted 23/01/2022 at 23:53:10
Doucouré has become injury prone. With that has come a loss of form. His latest injury, a groin strain, seems likely to sideline him for a few weeks. That leaves us with Allan and Gomes as the only fit first choice midfielders. Both struggle to get through two full games a week. Assuming we are unable to sign anyone it looks as if Duncan will be forced to look at other options such as Godfrey and Holgate.
Geoff Cadman
6 Posted 23/01/2022 at 00:13:35
A well balanced report Paul. I agree regarding the added, added time to allow the corner to be taken. I Watched the recording of the game later. Pickford tipped the ball over the bar right on the 2 minutes. The corner wasn't delivered until 2 mins 30secs plus of added time, I have seen many a ref blow up before teams could take corner. It adds insult to injury when the same ref on VAR today awards the RS a penalty, when Jota clearly caused the contact. No doubt all refs have their favourites
Pete Clarke
7 Posted 24/01/2022 at 00:16:42
Nothing worse than being overlooked at the bar Paul especially when somebody who was behind you then claims to have been waiting ages 😡
My Mam had a pub and she was serving 3 or 4 customers at the same time as did my sisters who worked in bars.
I thought we battled well enough and it was a loss we did not deserve. DCL should have done better all around and not just the missed chance. Mina must have closed his eyes for his chance because that was a sitter.
Anyway, Gordon and Allan certainly improved things but without Doucouré we are again going to get overrun in midfield for our next few games unless Dunc can come up with a solution.

Dave Abrahams
8 Posted 24/01/2022 at 11:04:59
Jonjoe Kenny, some of his passing was poor you say, also you say you don’t want to pick on him, well didn’t you add that a lot of his passing was very good along with his tackling.

Then you thought Mina made a difference to the defence, opinions Paul, I would have swapped Jonjoe’s marks with Mina’s, Mina looked just as nervous as Keane is to me.

Danny O’Neill
9 Posted 24/01/2022 at 11:14:51
As always thanks Paul. We'll all be back!

I didn't really understand the abuse aimed at Digne. It's hardly like he manoeuvred his way out of the club, more the opposite, he was forced out it would seem.

I'm always excited about watching Everton, but I was apprehensive about the result. Let's hope we scratch the Duncan itch and get a management structure in place that we give a go rather than all this constant chopping and changing.

I called out Matty Cash ages ago. If you like a traditional defensive full back, he's your man. Solid, honest player.

One of my pet hates is people walking to the bar and claiming they were before you. I get quite vocal about it.

Brentford, Newcastle, Leeds. All big matches.

Allen Rodgers
10 Posted 24/01/2022 at 12:09:40
Good write-up, Paul.
When I used to drink before games I always thought Scousers were quite fair about getting served in the right order. I remember people in the Carisbrooke and Winslow making sure I got my turn and even in town the same happened. Only problem I ever had was in the Lord Warden with some RS gobshites!
Danny O’Neill
11 Posted 24/01/2022 at 12:42:53
I would add to what I've said previously about Cash's opposite number who it would now seem has been usurped by Digne.

If you like a traditional British style defensive full back, Target fits that mould, which is why Gérard replaced him. He does want to play that way.

We were playing an attacking full back in a deep lying defensive set up.

Alan J Thompson
12 Posted 25/01/2022 at 05:29:24
Paul, what was your opinion on their goal as no defender went with Buendia and Richarlison who was closest to him seemed to look around for somebody else while absolutely nobody seemed to be watching the flight of the ball or make an effort to be first to it.
Paul Traill
13 Posted 25/01/2022 at 09:01:50
Alan #12 - tbh I haven't seen it since so I don't really know. At the time I was a bit gobsmacked as to how the ball ended up in the back of the net. It struck me as one of those goals in which pretty much everything had to go wrong for it to end up in the goal. Though I've no idea on the marking as I haven't seen it since.
Stephen Brown
14 Posted 25/01/2022 at 20:34:54
We need a 3 man midfield!
Davies, Delph, Doucoure all injured
Gomes and Allan not in the best of form.
Gbamin still can’t get a game! Should we offer him a pay off? Is his place on the bench hindering the likes of Warrington?

Andy McNabb
15 Posted 26/01/2022 at 07:08:45
Thanks Paul. Really enjoy your reports and ‘add ons’ regarding the day.

As a group of supporters we can often get things wrong but living on the other side of the world I have to guided by the match goers. It seems almost unanimous that we need 3 in midfield, so why do those in charge of picking the team, rarely do so?

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