Everton 1 - 0 Brentford

As a second successive campaign of worry and stress over the grave threat to Everton’s continued membership of the Premier League grinds on, it’s almost impossible not to have your emotions dictated by the ebbs and flows from week to week of the Toffees’ fortunes.

You may not have shared the fatalism of some who were convinced the club was heading into the Championship following that desperately poor defeat at West Ham in January but even the most level-headed Blue must have felt fairly deflated after the failure in the  transfer window, successive defeats to Aston Villa and Arsenal and then the failure to hang on to three points at Forest last Sunday.

With Everton having played a game more than the teams around them at the bottom coming into this weekend and only 12 fixtures left to either get to the famous 40-point threshold or somewhere close, this match — a home game, no less — against one of the form teams in the division felt as though it had taken on outsized significance.

The Blues are at the stage where every game, every point is massive and Bournemouth’s improbable win over a Liverpool side (that put 7 past Manchester United last time) in the lunchtime kick-off had ratcheted up the importance of an Everton victory this afternoon over a team that hadn’t lost a League game since October.

Of course, the last side to come to Goodison Park unbeaten in five months was Arsenal and they left with a 1-0 defeat and so it was again today as Dwight McNeil fired the Toffees into a lead after just 35 seconds that they simply refused to relinquish despite ending the contest with a mere 33% possession having spent most of the second half under pressure from Thomas Frank’s men.

This was close to a quintessential game of two halves; although Brentford did have a spell midway through the first period where they threatened to erase that very early advantage, Everton were largely on top during the first 45 minutes and were it not for David Raya in the Bees’ goal, an wayward finish from the below-par Amadou Onana and a horrific decision by VAR to overturn what should have been a second goal for the Blues, they could have been as comfortable as they were in last season’s FA Cup tie under Frank Lampard.

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The visitors were unquestionably on top after the break, with Everton unable to establish any rhythm on the ball and by the closing stages they were hanging on to a degree, even if they were able to keep Brentford mostly at arm’s length in the final 10 minutes plus stoppage time.

That was thanks to immense displays by Idrissa Gueye, Seamus Coleman and James Tarkowski, a reassuringly composed second-half performance from Michael Keane, and ceaseless graft in the press from the likes of McNeil, Abdoulaye Doucouré, Demarai Gray and Alex Iwobi. There was much that Sean Dyche would have loved about this overall showing and quite a bit he wouldn’t about his players’ poor use of the ball at times after half-time but there is no question that, at the end of the day, the three points were absolutely vital.

Though Vitalii Mykolenko was available again after missing the 2-2 draw at Forest through illness, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin absent once again Dyche named an unchanged starting XI that saw Ben Godfrey and Keane keep their places at the back and Gray lead the line up front.

The club’s top scorer this season had done enough at the City Ground last weekend to convince Dyche that he was worthy of starting ahead of Neal Maupay and though he was never going to win any aerial duals with Brentford’s centre-halves, he did what he needed to in the first minute to get Ben Mee to head into Iwobi’s path after Coleman had launched the ball down the line after Everton had broken up a Brentford attack from kick-off.

Iwobi presciently knocked it inside to Doucouré who moved it on to McNeil approaching the opposition box. The winger, reborn under his former manager at Burnley, exhibited close control before firing a crisp shot across Raya and into the far corner. It was a lovely finish but it behooved the home side to ensure that they kept pushing to increase their lead against a very difficult opponent.

Keane had a chance to double the lead when Gray fired a deep free-kick into the box that the defender could only head well wide when a glancing effort might have steered it home before Amadou Onana spurned a gilt-edged chance, side-footing disappointingly wide after Iwobi’s fizzed cross from the byline had been parried into his path by Raya.

Brentford began making inroads of their own around halfway through the first period, trying to catch Everton out by drawing the press and then hitting balls down the channels for Ivan Toney and Bryan Mbeumo.

The latter forced a first save from Jordan Pickford in the 24th minute that the England keeper initially spilled but then gathered at the second attempt while Toney was inches away from equalising with a header from a cross from the Bees’ right a minute later.

Six minutes after that, Pickford was called upon again to beat away an effort from Toney with two fists but 12 minutes from the interval, Gray almost made it 2-0. Everton counter-attacked well and Gray ended the move by driving into the area and aiming a shot inside Raya’s near post but the goalie did well to divert it wide with an out-stretched leg.

From the ensuing corner, Iwobi must have thought he had scored from just a couple of yards out but Raya was there again to save with his foot and Onana mis-kicked the rebound wide.

The second goal that the Blues were so keen to get arrived three minutes before half-time, though, when Toney fouled the excellent Tarkowski in the centre-circle, Pickford fired the free-kick forward, Keane headed it into the area where Pinnock hooked the ball off the line but only into Gray’s chest and into the net.

That should have been that for the half but despite taking a long look at an inconclusive replay, Coote decided to overrule Simon Hooper’s decision on the field to allow the goal and ruled it out.

If Dyche had hoped that his men could retain the initiative and try and pad their lead in the second half, he would be disappointed as Brentford, spurred on by the much-lauded Thomas Frank, seized control of the contest almost from the restart and were almost level within two minutes.

Aaron Hickey drove a dangerous ball across the six-yard box from the visitors’ right and Henry arrived to try and convert but both Coleman and Pickford were there covering the line, with the keeper appearing to make the vital block with his legs from point-blank range.

Keane had a routine headed chance saved, Gray shot straight at Raya after taking a high ball down with his chest while, in between, Coleman stretched to head over his own bar with Toney lurking.

With 20 minutes to go and Everton dug in, determined to protect the lead while hoping to catch Brentford on the break, Toney bought a very cheap free-kick right on the edge of the box but his direct effort caught the wall and deflected behind.

Pickford made a mess of coming for the resulting corner, leaving his goal empty apart from McNeil who got to the loose ball after Pinnock had knocked it forwards and whacked it clear.

Kevin Schade then rose at the back post in the 79th minute but Godfrey did enough to ensure the substitute could only head wide but it would be the Londoners’ only real chance until Raya came forward for a corner in stoppage time and planted a header well off target.

The relief at the full-time whistle at the end of Everton's first top-flight win over Brentford since 1938 (coincidentally, the Bees' record 14-game unbeaten run in the old First Division was also shattered at Goodison two years earlier) felt immense and the victory aroused faith once more that this team can grind out enough points to stay up this season.

Dyche now has as many League wins as Frank Lampard managed in 20 fixtures this season and his team sits 15 points shy of 40 with 11 games to go. Perhaps just as important from the psychological point of view, they are also out of the bottom three for only the second time since the 3rd of January.

It will inject confidence into the veins of a group of players who have largely risen to the challenges posed by Dyche and his staff since they came on board six weeks ago that they can go to West London next Saturday and put in a performance capable of taking something off Chelsea. One step at a time, one game at a time, but things look immeasurably more rosy than they did before today.

Reader Comments (134)

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Peter Mills
1 Posted 11/03/2023 at 23:18:41
We all know that the season is going to take twists and turns. We are not happy when the twists arrive, so we have to be happy when there is a turn.

Our performance was not always pretty, but it was good, and I’ll take ugly defending all day long to get us out of danger this season. There was a great spirit about the team today, that can save us if it is there for the remaining fixtures.

John Raftery
2 Posted 11/03/2023 at 23:58:06
This was a vital win against an accomplished team. The haul of ten points from Dyche’s first seven matches contrasts very favourably with the one point gained from Lampard’s last seven.

Our attacking play in the first half was excellent up to the penalty area. In the second half Brentford made the pitch bigger by pushing both full backs into wide forward positions and dragging Iwobi and McNeil back with them. That left Gray isolated with the thankless task of scrapping for clearances on the halfway line.

Retaining possession became secondary to the task of keeping the ball out of our net. In that respect the team as a whole deserves immense credit for restricting Brentford’s opportunities despite intense pressure. The manager deserves credit for organising the players and building an understanding of their roles, individually and collectively. The players now look as though they believe in what they are being asked to do.

Seamus has been a key player and leader in recent weeks. The team has looked stronger for his continued presence while McNeil is now proving the doubters wrong. Using him in his natural role helps. We need not worry about him losing his pace. He has none. He does however have the skill to create enough space to deliver measured crosses and he can put a shot away as his goal today demonstrated.

Of course it wasn’t perfect. There is much work still to be done but we are seeing tangible progress in both performances and results.

Larry O'Hara
3 Posted 12/03/2023 at 00:17:04
Pleased with the effort but in the second half we rode our luck.

All-about perceptions but I thought Onana and Iwobi had off days

Tarkowski was immense as was Coleman but what about McNeil: a player reborn.

And Brentford are a good side, with a progressive manager: he made 5 subs in second half.

Amusing to see the useless ref giving us decisions when Dyche was in shouting distance

Finally, a novel way to free up NHS resources, giving Evertonians a free Cardiac Stress Test for the whole second half. Don’t want a repeat though: lets smash Spurs and show Richie the love next home game. Please!

Hans Fyhrqvist
4 Posted 11/03/2023 at 00:36:06
Three precious points for Everton at Goodison against Brentford in a game of two halves.

Everton were the better team in the first half and we should have scored more goals than the one which McNeil excellently executed in the opening minute. Fortunately in the end it was enough.

In the second half Everton were long periods under the cosh and we rode our luck a couple of times. Still our players gave their all on the pitch, every one really run their socks off. And they magnificently held on until the final whistle. It´s more remarkable when we consider, in wet and heavy conditions, that Everton made only a couple of late substitutions in contrast to Brentford who used their all subs and made their changes in good time.

Yes, this huge win gave us again more hope and belief that we can stay up. It´s a long journey, still. In our away games we must be braver than we have been, be it Chelsea and Manchester United. At home we know the Goodison Gang will play its crucial part in lifting our players to fight for the badge to the end.

Don Alexander
5 Posted 12/03/2023 at 01:06:27
Very pleased with three points, even in such a grungy fashion, but I have mixed feelings insofar as there may be, as a consequence, a glimmer of opportunity for Moshiri and Kenwright to side-step their responsibility for the seasons-long desecration they've inflicted on us all.

Don't let that happen folks - keep the civilised protests going....... until the buggers have gone.

Bob Parrington
6 Posted 12/03/2023 at 01:25:45
Good character show for an excellent win. Should have been at least 2 up by half time. That ball came out at Gray so fast that he had no time to move in to it or away from it. Bad VAR decision from my point of view.

Well done Blues. Let's build up a few consecutive wins. COYB!

Mike Gaynes
7 Posted 12/03/2023 at 01:47:26
Unfortunately, the call on Gray was correct... under the current handball rules.

The problem is that the current rules are asinine, idiotic, moronic and counter to the history and spirit of the game.

The fact that handball fouls are now enforced far more strictly and intolerantly than any other fouls in the game -- with intent, accident and deflection no longer considered and the slightest touch assumed to be intentional -- is simply irrational. Previously legal goals like Gray's are pointlessly chalked off and penalties are assessed that simply would never have been penalties in the first 130 years the game was played.

Tragically, there's no going back. This lunacy has changed the game forever. I take so much stick on Friday nights for calling "ball to hand, play on" when a handball is purely accidental that it's not even worth playing on. The players simply stop on their own. So I blow the whistle, point, and shrug.

It isn't VAR that is ruining the game. It's the use of VAR to enforce this incredibly fucking stupid rule interpretation.

Pete Clarke
8 Posted 12/03/2023 at 02:06:43
We had to win that game and we did so that's more important than the performance. First half should have seen us with a bigger goal advantage and the second half was all grit and determination albeit short on skill and savvy.

Not sure why the cameras could not get a close up of the Gray disallowed goal but I would love the refs to be on microphone just like rugby so we can hear what they have to say and why. VAR and refs are getting away with too much for me and it leaves it open to bias.

If you look at the money Everton have spent and yet we are a total mess then look at how Thomas Frank has got his cheaply assembled team playing nice easy to watch football it makes you wonder how so many managers have failed to get more football out of this squad of ours. What do they do at Finch Farm ?

Very tough run of fixtures coming up and I'd like to say “ more of the same “ but that's too stressful to watch. We need Onana to show some of his potential and take control of a game? Older heads than him like Doucouré and Gana need to show a lot more composure because we can't keep giving possession to the other team especially those with high quality.

The league table looks a lot better today than yesterday though and I'll settle for that after 38 games.

Lyndon Lloyd
9 Posted 12/03/2023 at 02:11:36
The handball rules are ridiculous as currently written... and they were pretty stupid in the iteration before that. In fact, I'm struggling to think of a rule that made the game better since making level onside and the introduction of the goal decision system.

But the Gray decision was correct only if it struck his right arm (which I don't believe it did. I think it hit him squarely in the chest) because if the ruling was his left arm, it hit him above the "sleeve" and was therefore not handball. According to the spirit of the laws of the game (which should be the guiding principles) it was 100% a goal.

Kieran Kinsella
10 Posted 12/03/2023 at 02:35:13

I only saw highlights on Peacock but they showed 3 or 4 angles, while none were decisive my sense was it was a handball. Not a hand of God type, but a brush against the arm below the sleeve but like I said that was from the highlights only and maybe the full version had better clarity. That being said I think the rule as is is asanine. There’s a considerable difference between trying to cheat and physics causing your arm to inadvertently contact the ball. Thankfully it didn’t matter but had that counted I think we would have gone on to win by 3 or 4 which could have made a world of difference for goal difference down the line

Martin Mason
11 Posted 12/03/2023 at 03:17:17
The handball decision was physically wrong. He took the ball square on the chest, missing his left arm, he was moving straight toward the goal. For his right arm to have hit the ball, he would have needed a significant movement of his right arm across his chest and that didn't happen.

It could only have happened if the ball was moving left to right across his chest which it wasn't. It wasn't a clear and obvious mistake by the ref and the VAR was wrong to overrule the ref. The VAR can't be subjective and, in this case, it couldn't have been more so.

Mike Gaynes
12 Posted 12/03/2023 at 06:49:52

I believe it hit his right arm after it hit his chest, and that was the last body part to touch the ball before it went in.

For most of a century, a ball accidentally touching the arm after bouncing off the chest or thigh or head was no foul. Under the current brain-dead interpretation of the rules, that cancels the goal.

Lyndon Lloyd
13 Posted 12/03/2023 at 06:57:39
As I say, I'm not convinced at all it hit either arm and that, if it hit any arm, it was his left as that was the shoulder that was closer as he braced for the impact of the ball. It was hit straight at him; there was no trajectory where it could brush his right arm that I could see.

But again, the interpretation is immaterial because it wasn't in any way clear or obvious. That's my biggest beef.

Duncan McDine
14 Posted 12/03/2023 at 07:28:56
Completely agree with Lyndon and Martin. None of the replay angles gave evidence that the ref had made the wrong call.

Thankfully (this time) we didn't drop points as a result of the VAR getting involved.

John Keating
15 Posted 12/03/2023 at 07:30:24
Agree, Lyndon,

If it hit any arm, it would have been his left. A ridiculous decision with rules made up by halfwits that have obviously never played the game.

In my opinion, the VAR is ruining the game regardless of the incompetents running it.

Footy is all about the “moment” – not the 10 seconds, 2 minutes or more it takes to determine “a clear and obvious mistake”!

While humans are involved, the VAR will never work.

Alan McGuffog
16 Posted 12/03/2023 at 07:30:56
Having been convinced we were destined for the drop since before Christmas, I am now (very) cautiously optimistic.

Looking at the run-in, and no-one has an "easy" run-in, we have our destiny in our hands. We also have Garner, Calvert-Lewin, and Patterson to make appearances.

I'm veering from Private Frazer towards Captain Mainwaring

Tony Everan
17 Posted 12/03/2023 at 07:56:15
If it was a clear and obvious mistake by the referee, then the goal cancelled was a good decision. Just show us the evidence that it was a clear and obvious handball that the VAR based his decision on. I haven't seen any yet.

From the slow-motion replay, it hit his chest and the momentum of Gray caused the ball to ricochet into the net, maybe it did touch his right arm, helping the change of direction, but I've not seen any clear and obvious evidence of that.

Has the VAR explained his potentially game-changing, Premier League status-changing decision? There needs to be transparency over his decision-making process for this one.

Rob Baker
18 Posted 12/03/2023 at 08:07:44
Looking forward to the next 3 games, Chelsea (A), Spurs (H), and Man U (A), 3 or 4 points would be very handy from that run.

Come on you Blues!

Peter Warren
19 Posted 12/03/2023 at 08:13:53
I was in the ground behind the goal and it was clear it was a bad decision as the rule is, to overturn a decision, it has to be clear and obvious and this couldn't have been the case given the length of time that elapsed.

Have to go against Mike on this one – doesn't matter if you or I “think” the ball hit his arm, it has to be factual. I haven't seen any pictures conclusively showing it hit either arm and so the onfield decision should have stood.

Christine Foster
20 Posted 12/03/2023 at 08:22:35
Absurd, a defender hammers a ball into a player a yard away and it ricochet into the net. It clearly hit the body, irrespective of whether it touched an arm or not. It was not a controlled movement on behalf of the player, nor was the arm extended from the body even if contact with it was made.

In short, there was no conscious attempt to play the ball. How could there be? He would need a reaction time of a single millisecond to steer the ball into the net.

All that being said, the rules of the game now dictate that even if any of the above is true, if the ball strikes an arm or hand of the attacker – no matter what the circumstance! – immediately prior to the goal, it's disallowed. No matter how small the contact is.

The law is an ass.

Eddie Dunn
21 Posted 12/03/2023 at 08:23:40
I thought at the time that it might have brushed his left arm either before it hit his chest or afterwards as it rebounded into the goal. If there was some minor contact then it was incidental and didn't gain any advantage as the ball was going in anyway.

Mike points out the rule but, despite seeing the replay several times, I found it inconclusive and was amazed that the VAR thought it could be classed as a "clear and obvious error".

It is an example of the refs not really knowing what the limitations of their interpretations are. It's rank amateur and could have cost us the 3 points.

The subjective nature of the decision is the problem. If that had been Salah in front of the Kop, I wonder what the same man would have decided?

Christine Foster
22 Posted 12/03/2023 at 08:25:47
The debate then moves to: "Did it conclusively strike the arm or hand?"

No. Goal.

Christine Foster
23 Posted 12/03/2023 at 08:32:33
VAR failed to prove it did... significant doubt remains, goal has to stand.
Every week decisions like this are ruining the game, ruining livelihoods and costing millions to affected clubs. Without recourse, without appeal, without compensation of points or league placement. The day is coming when a club will sue because of relegation or title loss, because of a blatant bad call by VAR. Apologies are not enough. They cannot be judge, jury and executioner.
Steve Shave
24 Posted 12/03/2023 at 08:38:50
Completely concur with Eddie @21 and said the same yesterday. I don't wish to sound like a bitter blue but had the incident have happened to one of the sky darlings I do not think it would have been ruled out.

I have watched the replay multiple times, at no point do I see a ball strike the lower arm or a hand. I admit there doesn't seem to be a clear camera angle of it and the debate remains inconclusive. However, as Christine rightly points out, in which case the goal should be given for the simple reason there is no reason to rule it out.

It makes my blood boil and like last season, we never seem to get the rub of the green. One of these errors will send a team down, let's pray it isn't us.

More green shoots under Dyche yesterday. McNeil MOTM followed by the entire rear-guard. IF we stay in the PL it will be interesting to see what Dyche/Thelwell do with our defenders. Mina will go obviously, I can't see us taking Coady (who I like) now. Will he keep Keane even though there is likely to be interest in him? We definitely need to bring in Brainthwaite so where does that leave Godfrey and Holgate?

I guess it's a case of where money is on the table for some of these players, we have too many centre backs and will need to purchase at least two forward players and a central midfielder. For that reason (and his high wages) I can see us selling Keane.

Danny O’Neill
25 Posted 12/03/2023 at 08:43:14
Pretty much a perfect summary of the match Lyndon and similarly, the assessment of the players.

I agree with the comments, it's not VAR. It's a combination of the rules and incompetent officials' interpretation of them. It's like the ridiculous offside rule right now. They need reviewing. I believe had that not been a goal and that was a defender, handball would not be given. His arm was down by his side, not stuck out.

We had the first half, they pressed us in the second and we had to ride the storm, which we did. Very important 3 points. They are a very good team.

Gueye was brilliant. The goal aside, McNeil is growing in confidence every week. Coleman, despite being deliberately targeted in the second half as a tactic by Brentford, done what he always does. Their number 3 was giving him a torrid time.

Demarai Gray worked himself to the point of sheer exhaustion despite being isolated for long periods of that second half. Ben Godfrey, out of position, yet again put a shift in as he continues to come back from that injury.

I have to give a special mention to Michael Keane as I've been a renowned critic of him. He was solid and composed and stable for the second week playing alongside Tarkowski.

Which brings me on to my man of the match. Tarkowski was commanding, won just about everything and was just immense.

David Bromwell
26 Posted 12/03/2023 at 08:48:33
Yes that was a hard watch in the second half, but the team did brilliantly in the circumstances and defended with commitment and passion and once again the crowd were in fine form. However, for the second game in succession I cannot see what Dyche is trying to achieve with his substitutions. He obviously feels he has very few options on the bench but I feel the two guys he brought on last week and again yesterday offer very little as they are both slow and not able to win and retain some sort of possession. He has clearly devised a shape and pattern of play which suits his favoured best eleven, but this inevitably means lots of hard running and some players clearly visibly wilt. Hopefully for the up and coming games the manager will have a few more and better options. But I recognise that this is work in progress and overall a great result and very clear evidence of hard work, commitment and much, much better discipline in terms of shape and defending.
Colin Glassar
27 Posted 12/03/2023 at 08:51:10
That was Everton’s 100th consecutive league game without an opposing player receiving a red card. Add to that some very dodgy refereeing and suspicious VAR decisions and it makes you think that someone has it in for us.

Source: Twitter

Kim Vivian
28 Posted 12/03/2023 at 08:56:30
Christine - I thought, watching the incident yesterday and since, that Gray certainly did "shape" his body deliberately to control the ball just as you would anywhere on the pitch.

It looked to me like a shoulder/chest combination but certainly not below the t-shirt line or whatever crap they use these days. I thought back to the Rodri (?) penalty shout against City last year and the differences are clear to see. Goal should have stood without doubt and whilst I don't think there is any conscious conspiracy against Everton specifically I do believe the implementation and "expertise" of the officials is sadly lacking.

Similarly with offside - Richie scored to me a blinding goal yesterday but ruled offside by an imperceptible measurement on a computer screen. His body was clearly onside but a part of his shoulder (a goal scoring part of the body) was fractionally ahead. Maybe the respective two VAR officials should compare notes.

Something needs to be done.

Dave Abrahams
29 Posted 12/03/2023 at 08:57:50
The clubs in the premier league, the majority of them, maybe not the big six, cannot be happy with VAR, why don’t they get together and refuse to acknowledge VAR,it’s destroying football in England especially for those of us at the game, where you can cheer like a lunatic, me yesterday, all for nothing.

I had enough lung power to express myself at the end of the game though, Come on you Blue Boys, Just take that VAR out of the game.

Christine Foster
30 Posted 12/03/2023 at 09:13:58
Kim, I think it's debatable to watch in real time if his movement is an instinctive reaction or a lightening reflex rather than intent, but in truth it doesn't matter, intent or not, if it wasn't conclusive that it it hit arm or hand it cannot be given and the referees call stands.
Martin Mason
31 Posted 12/03/2023 at 09:17:40
Surely what he did with his upper body was exactly what you'd expect a person to do if the ball was directed hard into his chest. He is surely absolutely allowed to use his chest to do what ever he wants with it that is legal. His arms didn't even come into it in such a short amount of time, in fact I'd say that his actions were intended not to give the impression that he used his arms. When the ball is hit at you so hard that it rebounds into the net then it is obvious that use of the arms didn't happen. You can't cause an 180deg change of direction to a fast moving ball using the arms or hand without moving them a lot.
By the way, I thought he had a very good game yesterday.
Paul Tran
32 Posted 12/03/2023 at 09:25:23
I remember watching our display in Munich in 1985. Kendall was asked if he thought the clean sheet was down to good luck. 'No, it was good defending'.

Exactly the same yesterday. Pickford made one great save, but other than that, he was protected very well.

We're doing that weird thing called getting into the penalty box and creating chances. If only we'd bought players who can take them

I'd make the first half the standard for when we're in the ascendancy, with better finishing. I'd make the second half the standard for when we're playing a better team that's dominating us.

Going to be lots of twists and turns in the coming weeks. Let's hope that organisation and mentality gets us over the line.

If our new nanager was called Joao Goodnumbers, some would be raving about the energy, improved stamina, creating of chances, organisation and mentality, all changed over the course of a few weeks...

Kim Vivian
33 Posted 12/03/2023 at 09:30:16
Martin - which is pretty much what I was saying really in not so many words. Fortunately it made no difference (except perhaps to goal difference) so all is good.

Indeed, had it been allowed, it could have changed the pattern of play in such a way as we ended up drawing or losing (given the assault we endured in the second half). No one can, or ever will, know for sure.

I'll settle for the 3 points won yesterday. Thank you very much, boys.

Ben King
34 Posted 12/03/2023 at 09:54:07
Brilliant and important win. Dyche is making a silk purse from a sow’s ear.

What’s really impressed me was 1) we put the stupid handball decision behind us and made it a non event by winning anyway. That takes some mentality

2) that we held out despite what happened against Forest. We got the job done and got the win. That takes some mentality.

Obvywe don’t know what will happen this season but Dyche should get a 5 year contract, we should back him and bring stability and let him steer the good ship Everton. We’ve finally had a manager for the first time in a while that seems to know what he’s doing

Robert Tressell
35 Posted 12/03/2023 at 10:00:03
Paul #32,

It's interesting how Dyche has adapted from 4-4-1-1 / 4-4-2, based around big target men at Burnley, to this 4-5-1 / 4-6-0 at Everton, now based around a very lightweight winger or forward with a bit of pace and skill.

Despite having the "wrong" players, Dyche has still got us making chances and forcing the opposition to defend. The midfield and defence is well organised too from a defensive perspective. It's impressive. And it's definitely not the Ale House football many were predicting.

If you put players like Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin and Sigurdsson in this side, we could be putting 3 or 4 past teams, instead of getting these marginal results.

As I think you're hinting at, Dyche's own lack of pretension (and lack of exotic name) means he doesn't get the credit he deserves.

Oliver Molloy
36 Posted 12/03/2023 at 10:00:40
Having just watched the "impartial MotD on BBC", I reckon they should keep it like that – very few, if any, impartial pundits on there.

Regards the Gray disallowed goal, I am in the corner of saying it should not have been crossed off but I'm an Evertonian praying for miracles! However, if that had been awarded against us, I think ToffeeWeb would be going mental.

Danny Baily
37 Posted 12/03/2023 at 10:12:06
I feel like Dyche has stumbled on his best line-up in the absence of Calvert-Lewin in these last two games.

Pace up top and in defence is a must. That means Gray and one of Holgate or Godfrey starting.

We've created a lot, and yesterday we also got a fair chunk of them on target. We just need a forward to hit some goalscoring form.

Brian Denton
38 Posted 12/03/2023 at 10:19:09
Meet the new MotD, same as the old MotD. Everton last on.

Why does our announcer keep referring to Dwight McNeil as 'Roy' McNeil btw? At the match, I thought my hearing had gone awry, but MotD confirmed what I'd heard.

Christine Foster
39 Posted 12/03/2023 at 10:26:02
I think Thomas Frank got it spot-on in his post-match comments. He said Everton were very good and physical in the first half as they were against Arsenal and Leeds, but hung on in the second half when they tired.

Ain't that the truth! Now, we will see teams park a bus and wait for us to run ourselves into the ground and attack after half-time. So defence first half, attack us second. He is right, it's very much our weakness; we cannot keep that output level for 90 minutes.

It's worked so far but, when we tire, we are in trouble. So, different tactics or different approach?

Intensity has worked – sheer effort and determination – but we need 16 players to be able to carry it off and it's obvious we are a few short.

Is our plan going forward win the first half and close up shop? We have the defenders but we need the outlets too.

Brian Harrison
40 Posted 12/03/2023 at 10:42:17
I have to say, as the weeks go by, I am really impressed with what Dyche has done in the few weeks he has been here.

I remember some posters on here defending Lampard, saying even Guardiola or Klopp couldn't get a tune out of this squad. Well, he has got more than a tune out of this squad.

His organisation skills are apparent to all and I think he doesn't get the credit he deserves as he is so much more than hump it forward to two big forwards.

McNeil looks a different player and he didn't take too long to decide Coady was a liability. No surprise that both Onana and Iwobi have been subbed in his last few games, as both contribute very little.

I think the reason we aren't as good in some second halves is because he obviously thinks, with so little quality on the bench, any change will weaken the side.

I am sure if he had been signed before the World Cup, when it was obvious Lampard was way out of his depth, I doubt we would be anywhere near the relegation zone.

Also worth remembering that, because he was signed so late, he had no time to assess the squad and bring in a player, so he was left with a squad full of centre-backs but only 1one decent striker who has spent a long time in the treatment room.

Mike Price
41 Posted 12/03/2023 at 10:42:44
The VAR obviously brings in another layer of bias. You can wind the clock back to where you inevitably find something and subjective decisions are wide open for abuse.

It reminds me of when I was in the military and a flight instructor told me that, if they chose to, they could find a reason to fail every single pilot in every single check ride.

Ernie Baywood
42 Posted 12/03/2023 at 10:50:35
The VAR situation, I think, was fairly straightforward.

It did come off his chest. Left pec or front of shoulder to be precise. From the way they reviewed it, I assume they were looking at contact with the right arm and the pictures were inconclusive.

In all probability, I don't think it did touch his right arm but it doesn't really matter what I think... the footage was inconclusive and that means the decision stands.

The VAR overstepped his mark. For it to be disallowed, he must have made a statement along the lines of "it hit his arm". He couldn't possibly make that statement.

He's a professional who is supposed to be able to apply the rules. If he made a false statement, then he's absolutely accountable for that.

If that slides into history just because we won, then something is very wrong. We're talking bias, match-fixing or incompetence.

There are millions of pounds and people's livelihoods at stake. Not to mention the supporters and sporting integrity side of things.

That decision can't go unchecked. We should be raising hell about it. Not least to ensure the next bloke who just wants to get involved in the game thinks twice before doing it to us.

John Raftery
43 Posted 12/03/2023 at 10:55:09
On the VAR decision, was there a TV picture from behind the goal?

Like Peter Warren (19) I sit directly behind the Park End goal. My immediate reaction was the ball did not strike Gray's arm.

The fact it took the VAR so long to make a decision suggests they did not have a clear view on what should have been a straightforward matter of fact.

John Raftery
44 Posted 12/03/2023 at 10:58:11
Brian (40),

Iwobi was replaced in 90+2 minutes. If Dyche was unhappy with the player's contribution, it seems unlikely he would have left it so late.

Brian Harrison
45 Posted 12/03/2023 at 11:10:45
John 44

I accept the substitution of Iwobi yesterday was to help run the clock down, but he has subbed both him and Onana in the last couple of games for a reason.

I saw a tweet yesterday from a Brentford fan who goes home and away with his team and he said that yesterday was the first time this season he has seen Brentford out-fought. He said he thought we comfortably won the first half and defended as if our life depended on it in the second half.

So even opposing fans are noticing the change in our approach to games. Prior to Dyche taking over, we hadn't ou-fought many this season.

Martin Mason
46 Posted 12/03/2023 at 11:29:19
Brian @40, I agree.

He is doing a very good job and could achieve the almost impossible and keep us up.

Eddie Dunn
47 Posted 12/03/2023 at 11:39:24

I watched the game on a stream which did have a replay from behind the goal. It was fairly difficult to be sure but it looked like the ball did touch the upper arm or pec as well as the chest.

If you take a size 5 football and place it against the centre of your chest, there is little room either side of it. So it is quite difficult to "chest" a ball without a little bit of pec or upper arm touching it.

It reminded me of a goal Fellaini scored for us at Old Trafford, when he "chested" the ball into the net. The ref didn't spot it but he used a fair bit of upper arm that time, but we didn't have the VAR back then.

Yesterday's was nowhere near as blatant and, in my opinion, the original ref's decision was not clearly wrong and the goal should have stood.

It was another determined performance but I was worried as the second half progressed that we were tiring and I was again surprised at how late Dyche made his changes.

I thought Tarkowski was excellent and good shifts put in from Doucoure and Gana. Onana was a bit in and out (as usual) and I would have liked Garner on for him.

Iwobi looked a little isolated on the wing and didn't give Seamus enough cover, especially in the last 20 minutes when they seemed to target our old talisman.

A very important result against a very good side.

John Hood
48 Posted 12/03/2023 at 11:44:04
Bees fan...(again.).

No complaints about the result... Brentford were strangely off the pace in the first half and didn't create enough in the second, so well done to the Everton team. It's not the first time in recent years that we've been given a thorough Dycheing.

Best of luck for the rest of the season. I think it's impossible to predict who the Bottom three are going to be but that level of commitment shown yesterday certainly gives you a fighting chance. Just make sure that the same isn't happening this time next year.

Danny O’Neill
49 Posted 12/03/2023 at 11:57:05

Good to hear from you.

I was talking to a few Brentford supporters as well as a dad-and-lad Kent-based Evertonians on the way home last night.

Really good conversation and we all came to the same conclusion about the match. The proverbial game of two halves and we came out of it. Just about.

Best wishes for your season returned. Despite yesterday, Europe is still within reach for you and would be a fine reward for your supporters who have followed from the depths of the lower leagues and are now enjoying life.

We, however, are in constant anxiety. We have got to get the armbands and boxing gloves on, stay afloat and fight with all our might.

Robert Tressell
50 Posted 12/03/2023 at 12:05:42
Christine, that first-half intensity is not unlike Rodgers at Liverpool and Pochettino at Spurs. Opposition teams will adapt and make it harder but it's still effective, especially at home.

The Villa game is an anomally really because we should have at least drawn based on chances / balance of play etc. Unfortunately we just don't have the asthma medicine to keep it going - and we don't have the bench for much of a Plan B.

The next 3 games pose an interesting challenge where the opposition will be under pressure to attack rather than sit back. Maybe that will change how we approach things.

The good thing is that no opposition side will be looking at an Everton fixture as straightforward. They know it will be competitive and we'll get opportunities to score.

Eric Myles
51 Posted 12/03/2023 at 12:16:27
Eddie #47,

If the ball touches the pec, it's not "handball" as the pec is part of the chest, not any part of the arm.

Dave Abrahams
52 Posted 12/03/2023 at 12:21:49
John (44),

As quite a few fans are saying, there is not a lot of midfield players to choose from and he left the invisible man on the pitch for around 80 minutes and he couldn't have been happy with his display.

Leaving Iwobi on didn't mean he was happy with him. Dyche is not soft, were you happy with Iwobi or the invisible man, John?

Eddie Dunn
53 Posted 12/03/2023 at 12:30:57
Yes Eric, I know but it is the upper arm that is in question, not the pec.
David West
54 Posted 12/03/2023 at 12:52:48
It's a confidence boost for the team.

Brentford are a good footballing side, and we held them at bay for over 90 minutes. Admittedly, we rode our luck at times but, on another day, with better finishing in front of goal, we would have been 3 up in the first half, so positives all round.

Keane and Tarkowski are looking a better pair than Coady. Gray is offering that element of pace and trickery that Maupay just doesn't have.

I still think Onana has been struggling a bit compared to the start of the season, but Gana and Doucoure have upped their games to compensate. Gana was everywhere!

Coleman!!!! People wrote him off 2 years ago, yet the man was immense and led by example yet again.

We are not playing like Man City or Brazil, but Dyche has shown, even with the same players Frank had who were having 0 shots on goal in matches, if you get forward, you will make chances.

We now have midfielders having shots, getting in the box, on the end of crosses which just didn't happen before. Yes, we will lose some games, but we will win some too by being more aggressive and adventurous going forward.

For too long, we were just trying not to lose games; Dyche has us actually trying to win matches.

David West
55 Posted 12/03/2023 at 13:00:43
As for the VAR decisio, it can't have been clear and obvious if we are all still debating it. The VAR is being used to give the least controversial decision in most cases where it's not obvious.

Not giving the goal yesterday, or the penalty against Seamus last week, is the easy option for them. A penalty not given or a goal disallowed is less controversial... It's ridiculous!!

Dave Abrahams
56 Posted 12/03/2023 at 13:36:34
What fans were sayying in The Upper Bullens Road Stand about the goal that didn't count was why were they taking such a long time to decide such a simple task?

It couldn't have been such a clear and obvious mistake by the referee on the pitch if they were taking so long to decide the issue.

Barry Rathbone
57 Posted 12/03/2023 at 13:39:10
Our tiredness comes from having too many players incapable of the basics, so permanent retrieval of the ball becomes the name of the game, together with missing the simplest of chances.

Players who can control and pass a ball comfortably are not only more productive but energy-wise more efficient and more likely to slot.

Nothing we can do about it except pray 3 other clubs turn out to be worse in that respect. My own plan, after some serious analysis of the situation, is to eat more donuts.

Rick Tarleton
58 Posted 12/03/2023 at 13:52:46
Christine Foster (29) and Barry Rathbone (57) are spot on about the tiredness.

Energy levels are crucial in the modern game. Part of our neighbour's problems stem from the fact that Klopp's game plan needs younger, fresher players who can play to his style, week after week.

At Everton, we haven't the strength off the bench to introduce four or five players who are as good as the tiring players who come off after 60 or 70 minutes.

Without a striker who can hold up the game and has the strength to play with his back to the goal, we need to be clinical in our striking. If you read today's Observer, you'll see an article that details statistically how rare such players are outside of the Sky 6.

However, that is what we need. Calvert-Lewin, we need you fit, raring to go and durable. It hasn't happened so far.

Jonathan Tugwood
60 Posted 12/03/2023 at 14:32:30
The three 1-0 wins in the Dyche era have shown again, if we didn't know it already, what a key player Pickford is for us. It's massive that he's signed that new contract.

With so few goals in the team, we have to keep as many clean sheets as possible to have any prayer of staying up. Stay fit, Jordan, and keep bollocking that back four, whoever they may be!

Eddie Dunn
61 Posted 12/03/2023 at 14:35:54

The Brentford boss mentioned that he had watched our previous home games and that we were strong during the first half of all of those games but tired in the second half. The same could be said about last week away at Forest too, the home team making inroads late-on.

The new 5 subs rule really benefits the clubs with good quality squads. Our midfield put in a heck of a shift but was tiring and Dyche didn't dare bring on Davies until a few of them were goosed.

Tom didn't get up to speed during his brief cameo despite looking super-sharp in the training clip put out.It must be crazy to play in the current game, so quick, all the space is relentlessly pressed.

Remember how in the past the defence could form a line along the half-way line and compress play into a narrow corridor. The goalie could pick up back-passes and offside was anyone ahead of the last man.

Defending is a lot harder today.

Rick Tarleton
62 Posted 12/03/2023 at 14:45:26
My point exactly,Eddie.
Henrik Lyngsie
63 Posted 12/03/2023 at 14:47:24
Danny 25 and Eddie 47.

I think you are both misreading the Brentford tactics. They were not targeting Coleman, but they were targeting Iwobi.

I was in the Lower Bullens and was shocked about how much space their Number 3 was given in the second half. Iwobi tracks back to his position, but that's it.

On a number of occasions, Brentford attacked on our left side and they made a cross where Coleman had to defend against two opponents while Iwobi was still in “his position” outside the penalty area.

Opposing managers know it and Dyche knows it. Under Lampard, Iwobi played the full 90 every time. Dyche obviously does not trust him but is having no alternatives.

Eddie Dunn
64 Posted 12/03/2023 at 15:00:46

I did write that they were targeting Coleman and that Iwobi wasn't giving him enough cover.

From your seat in the lower Bullens, you could see it better than me on a stream in cyberspace, so you could see the movement of Iwobi off the ball.

I think he is more effective and more dangerous in the Number 10 role but Dyche seems happy to just push Doucoure up to help Gray at the moment.

Without Townsend and with Gordon gone, and Gray himself as the striker, we are rather short on right-wingers.

Ben King
65 Posted 12/03/2023 at 15:00:49
David #55,

Spot on: the VAR making easy rather than correct decisions. Least controversial.

Absolutely weak and pathetic refereeing.

Mike Gaynes
66 Posted 12/03/2023 at 15:59:49
Danny #25, agreed on Keane, and it makes me happy to see his success. Interesting to think that, when Mina leaves this summer and Branthwaite returns, it may be Keane who remains instead of Coady. Who woulda thunk it?

David #26, what better options? I was looking down our bench list in the 75th minute and realizing there was nobody there who could make a difference. Dyche doesn't have the luxury of subbing for any reason other than tired players.

Ben #34, great point about mentality. Dyche has instilled some genuine mental toughness in this club.

John #48, thanks for dropping in and sharing good thoughts. And belated congratulations on not only reaching the Premier League – along with a mate who's a lifelong Beees supporter, I rooted for you for years to make it – but staying and proving a consistently worthy member of the elite. Your club does it right.

Dave #52, Iwobi can drive us crazy, but he's often the only player we have willing to look up and crack a really good long pass. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but at least he tries it. Frequently.

John Raftery
67 Posted 12/03/2023 at 16:27:51
Hi Dave (52),

Yes and no! I was happy with Iwobi in the first half. In the second, Brentford pushed their left-back further forward. He was hugging the touchline and being found by a regular supply of long diagonal balls. They were also pushing men into the old-fashioned inside-left position which created a dilemma for Iwobi in terms of staying narrow or going wide.

In essence, he fell between the two stools. A similar situation arose in the match at Arsenal just before we conceded the first goal. As we've noted before, Iwobi is not at his most effective as a wide player but is doing a job there in the absence of any suitable alternatives.

If or when he gets fit, I would like to see Patterson tried in that role with Coleman behind him to give direction and support. That might strengthen us defensively – especially when facing teams controlling the majority of possession as Brentford did in the second half.

Onana was indeed invisible in the early stages, so much so that after 10 minutes, I checked if he was on the team sheet. He remained peripheral, as he has been in most of the recent matches. I am not sure what he is and wonder if Dyche feels the same.

When we first saw him play at Villa Park, as a late substitute, I thought he was the dynamic, driving midfield player we badly needed, a player who would win possession and power past opponents to create and convert chances in the final third.

Instead, what we are seeing are timid performances from a player who is playing too many safety-first passes and too often taking the easy option which in itself creates problems when we should be trying to make the most of counter-attacks.

The task of driving the team up the field is being left to Doucouré and Gana with Onana apparently sitting in more of a holding role. That position requires a disciplined approach, an awareness of danger and the ability to direct those around him. He is not that player, at least not yet. His concentration seems to wander and he also spends too long lying on the deck after taking knocks from opponents.

I still think he has the potential to be a very good player for us but he needs to be much better focused and ready to make a much greater impact on games. As others have mentioned previously, there are parallels with Fellaini's first season when Moyes was unsure whether to use him as a defensive midfielder or further up. In the end, Fellaini did his best work supporting the attack.

On the bigger picture, Dyche will need time to work out what exactly he has got and how best to use it. In that respect, the manager has made a decent start.

Bill Gall
68 Posted 12/03/2023 at 16:31:20
I think the word 'handball' is not correct and gives the wrong impression of the foul when it is called. The hand is on the end of the arm and the arm socket fits into the shoulder. Basically, the call now is if the ball hits any part of the arm it is a foul and there is no sleeve area.

The use of the VAR is becoming a joke, as one of Brentford players guarding the post has both hands clasped together around Iwobi's midsection, not allowing him to move, and that is not a foul as the referee never saw it, and yet whoever is the VAR can tell him to look at other incidents he has not seen. It may become correctly used when there are intelligent people using it.
Dave Abrahams
69 Posted 12/03/2023 at 17:03:33
John (67),

It's no so much what Iwobi does but the amount of work he doesn't do. A big part of his job is to cover Seamus, he simply doesn't do it. He wants no part of grafting or fighting for the ball.

It is so painfully obvious watching him from the Upper Bullens and going forward, he never takes his full-back on or, if he does, and it is a race for the ball, he gives up or is easily knocked off the ball.

As you say, he is there because there is nobody better. As for him playing central, his lack of fight means vital battles are lost and big gaps have appeared there when Iwobi has played central.

As for the invisible man, I think he is a ringer, he can't be the player we paid £30M or more for, they have swapped him and sent this fella in his place. He does absolutely nothing for me.

Yesterday, he did a bit more than usual, he missed a sitter and in the second half committed at least six stupid fouls, although being fair to him he does expand considerable energy dancing and singing with the crowd after the bleedin' game has finished!!

I'd get a DNA test him on him immediately and find out what they have done with the real Onana who we scouted.

David West
70 Posted 12/03/2023 at 17:55:17
Dave 69.. agree on Iwobi. When he's in the centre, he's better, Imo. He's what some managers would call a luxury, I'd say.

On the right, Brentford played the ball back, knowing he would chase it, leaving Coleman exposed. Then they just knocked the ball over Iwobi, and Coleman's got his work cut out – he's not disciplined enough, not in this team that has its defensive issues.

The thing is, it's probably our best option at the moment, until Patterson or Garner can come in.

Brian Harrison
71 Posted 12/03/2023 at 19:02:11
Dave @69,

As you know, I have been critical of Onana and Iwobi for months, and maybe why we tend to run out of steam in games late in the second half is simple. Gana and Doucoure are having to cover for Onana and Coleman gets no help from Iwobi who makes an art of just getting there too late to make a serious tackle.

I am sure Dyche will be hoping that Calvert-Lewin is able to start against Chelsea, then he can play Gray on the right, and maybe Garner can start in place of Onana. The beauty of playing Calvert-Lewin against Chelsea is, with the International break, he will have 16 days to recover before our next game.

Jamie Sweet
72 Posted 12/03/2023 at 19:14:35
Great result, which is all that matters now.

Despite it being quite enjoyable to witness Liverpool's new found level of mediocrity this season, they have now gifted three points to Bournemouth, Wolves, Leeds and Forest, as well as conceding 2 points to Palace. If ever there was a season when we needed them to be winning those games, it was this one.

5 points separates 12th and 20th. Could be the most exciting relegation battle in years. Just wish we weren't part of it!

David Cooper
73 Posted 12/03/2023 at 20:35:52
I see “Pretty Boy Gordon” has been saying he didn’t think he was thanked enough from saving us from relegation! My memory must be slipping but don’t think he score against Palace!
But if PBG is worth 45,000 how much must Dwight McNeil be worth now!
All he needed was his old boss to arrive at Goodison and get him playing. Maybe the same can be said for Keane? Both are confidence playing and Frank never gave them any. If only we had seen the writing on the wall earlier we could have been challenging For Europa Carabao Conference Milk League Cup!
Ray Jacques
74 Posted 12/03/2023 at 20:42:24
If only the idiots on the board had any clue then the manager would have been changed in November giving a 6 week pre-season followed by a 4 week transfer window to wheel and deal.
Would likely be comfortable in mid table now as doubt home defeats to both Soton and Wolves when each were bottom and we led in both would have given a decent haul of points.
On the handball if it's a clear and obvious error the surely one camera angle and a 10 second look would confirm it. If it doesn't then it's not clear and obvious!!
Philip Bunting
75 Posted 12/03/2023 at 20:52:21
David, seen the comments from Gordon, everytime he opens his gob its a slight on someone. Its a wonder his head can fit threw the door at St James...we really struck lucky off loading him for that wad of cash
Colin Glassar
76 Posted 12/03/2023 at 21:12:01
I see (some) fan’s favourite for the Everton job, Big Dunc, is on the verge of getting the boot at Forrest Green. Oh well, there’s always perennial fave, Moyes ready to return. Oh, hang on….
Andy Crooks
77 Posted 12/03/2023 at 21:18:26
John Rafferty, you should write a column on here. Insight, patience, analysis, calmness You do it all, John.
Philip Bunting, spot on.
James Newcombe
78 Posted 12/03/2023 at 21:34:27
Yes Colin, hopefully I never have to hear ‘give it Dunc until the end of the season’ ever again. I’m glad he tried it though.
Andy Crooks
79 Posted 12/03/2023 at 21:51:24
Colin, to be fair, Forest Green were the most lost of lost causes when Duncan went there. He was truly mad to take the job.

Unfortunately, it will condemn him to oblivion. They needed an inspiration, a "let's go for it" motivator, and it didn't work.

John Raftery
80 Posted 12/03/2023 at 23:25:18
Thanks, Andy (77).

Patience and calmness only come after the match! During the match, I am a complete lunatic.

Paul Kernot
81 Posted 13/03/2023 at 00:27:31
Lots of comments on the VAR on this thread and rightly so with reference to bias. Mike #41 'another layer of bias'. I would add one more.

I noticed during the World Cup that added time went from standard Premier League games of around 3 minutes per half to double and more. It seems it's creeping into the Premier League too now and that benefits who? The teams with a bench of 5 players capable of changing games during the last 15 minutes when playing teams in the other bracket.

No surprise then that there are more goals scored in the final 15 minutes than previously.

Jonathan Oppenheimer
82 Posted 13/03/2023 at 02:27:40
As to some of the comments on this thread, a few things come to mind.

I get that Alex Iwobi was not worth the obscene amount we paid for him, but we seem to have incredibly short memories and a general inability to appreciate what he does do well.

There's no question defense is not generally his strong suit and he backs away from tackles but overall under Frank he was our best player and he works his socks off.

Also, whatever people want to say about how much credit an assist deserves, he's got 6 of them, or 3 times as many as anyone else, and has played the second most minutes in the squad. He also made the beautiful pass for the Seamus goal against Leeds and a perfect quick pass to Doucoure to set up McNeil yesterday. And as others have noted, he's playing out of position.

Give the man credit where it's due. He goes missing and is far from perfect, but he's generally been a bright spot this year.

As to the handball and the VAR, I'm actually okay with the rule, but plenty of others have noted that it's not clear that the ball touched his right hand — and it had to be the right one Coote claimed to have seen — and so it should've stood. I definitely threw something when it went against us, because I was so sure it would stand.

Generally speaking, though, I like the new handball rules and they're more clear than they used to be. If a defensive player appears to be in a natural position or has played it themselves, they're erring on the side of no penalty. If it goes into the goal immediately after touching an offensive player's hand, it's no goal, so we don't have to interpret intention.

And elsewhere on the field, we should also be allowing more flow and not calling fouls unless a hand is making the body bigger or in an unnatural position, but as Mike 7 said, players expect anything that touches a hand to be called, so the referees often relent. So the confusing part becomes the unstated rule, which also applies to other types of fouls, where they're called differently in and out of the penalty area. All that said, this was much more an issue of VAR fucking it up royally, unless there's some video evidence they want to show us, than it is the interpretation of a rule no one will ever agree on.

For VAR I propose Howard Webb makes all of the decisions from Stockley Park. Sure there might be once or twice a year where he has two decisions from two different games to make at the same time, but I'll wait just so it's one guy consistently applying his interpretation of clear and obvious.

Steve Brown
83 Posted 13/03/2023 at 05:14:10
It will be interesting to see where Dyche will play Iwobi when Calvert-Lewin and Patterson are fit.

He obviously doesn't fancy Gray's workrate down the right when Coleman is playing. It is no coincedence that Iwobi's impact is lessened since he switched out right.

Dave A, I screamed ‘Iwobi!' a few times on Saturday and thought of you!

Iwobi should be played centrally behind Calvert-Lewin regardless when the latter is fit. We need opportunites created and converted, so he will definitely play every remaining game.

Onana can be rested as he looks like it is all getting a bit much for him.

Alan J Thompson
84 Posted 13/03/2023 at 05:19:19
It seems to me that the praise for Mr Dyche might be a bit premature. He has adopted a style, which is working, to get us out of the rut we are in and appears to be, play the long ball and fight for the second phase in their half rather than lose it in ours trying to play it out.

That is, negate any sort of a high press by the opposition and force them back into their own half –which then rules out our defence being caught by a quick breakaway – but it does require us to get men forward and we are seeing more bodies in the opposition’s penalty box at more time than we have so far this season.

As those players who get forward then need to quickly recover, it's easy to see why we are running out of steam early in the second half. A good example of it is seen when Tom Davies, probably under instruction, is used late in the game as he gets forward and then uses energy falling back and shows few others having the energy to do likewise in support. It may also be why Gray seems to tire around the 60 minute mark.

It also means somebody playing wing back in order to limit the opposition’s ability to play out of their own half, something which seems to suit McNeil better than it does Iwobi.

It is probably just what we need for the present situation but it will be interesting to see, if we survive, what players he brings in and if he has any alternate strategies for more attractive, not to mention effective, football.

Or will we just adopt the style and systems of the majority of clubs in th Premier League, and merely sign the big forwards needed to play the style he did at Burnley. But for the present, more power to his elbow.

Charles Brewer
85 Posted 13/03/2023 at 08:15:30
Football is a sport where the biggest and best reward during the match is scoring a goal. We all love a spectacular save from Pickford, but a Duncan Ferguson aerial assault on Manchester United or Liverpool beats that hands down. Goals are what players, supporters and the media love.

So the running of the game ought to encourage and maximise the scoring of goals. Unfortunately, the VAR has been adopted in a manner in which the slightest question of transgression of near arbitrary rules cancels goals. Gray's effort on Saturday (like Richarlison's) was one where only the most painstaking interpretation could rule against the goal being given.

In criminal law, guilt is only attributed when all reasonable doubt has been extinguished. In football, goals – the epitome of footballing achievement – are cancelled when the tiniest amount of possible doubt can be found.

The VAR, as used at present, is contrary to the spirit of the sport.

Ernie Baywood
86 Posted 13/03/2023 at 08:35:18
Charles, it's here to stay. Not because it makes good decisions but because it protects officials.

My issue with that decision on Saturday is that it was that they didn't follow their own rules. They overturned an on-field referee's decision based on guesswork. I don't like how the VAR has been implemented but at least if we have a standard set of rules, then we'll get something approaching serviceability.

I can't believe it's not a story that anyone is discussing beyond Evertonians. A Premier League official disallowed a goal that he shouldn't have. And not because he made a mistake, it was just because he chose to! How is that not being debated everywhere?

Charles Brewer
87 Posted 13/03/2023 at 09:02:51
Ernie, I entirely agree with what you say. My argument is not about “what is” but rather “what ought to be”.

The VAR is unquestionably about the conflict between effectively omniscient TV commentators who can see and re-see any incident innumerable times from multiple perspectives, every one of which is invisible to the referee.

The officials are on a hiding to nothing the moment they step on the pitch, which sanctimonious dim-witted twats like Lineker can comment on adversely with the benefit of an infinitely superior viewpoint and hours of review time.

What I'd prefer to see is the referee be allowed and encouraged almost always give precedence to the spirit of the game – scoring goals – and not to having to pander to third-rate commentators whose mediocre careers and lack of managerial talent pushed them on to dreary, archaic and formulaic TV platforms rather than staying in the sport.

Actually, the sports journalists like Dickie Davies or John Motson were far better analysts of the game than the washed-up ex-players whose comments vary from the banal (at best) to the downright incomprehensible.

Gray's and Richarlison's disallowed goals weren't like Thierry Henry's goal against Ireland or the drug-fuelled Maradona's blatant cheating, they were goals scored honestly, skilfully and in full accordance with the sporting principles of the game.

The argument would be that a goal is given if, in the referee's opinion, no significant advantage had accrued from the player's arguable technical transgression. Since the TV twats like Lineker, Carragher and Neville have no insight into the referee's mind, their opinions would be irrelevant.

Danny O’Neill
88 Posted 13/03/2023 at 09:45:20
Alan @84,

I'm pleased with what Dyche has done and Saturday was a huge relief in a match that many of our own had us written off.

But I'm not getting carried away. He seems to be doing what it says on his tin and obviously I wish him all the best because he is our manager.

All I am concerned about is getting behind the team on the pitch. I don't look at the dugout. I don't look a whether the board are in attendance or not. Right now, I just want my team and the club, who I care so deeply for, to get the points and stay in the top flight.

I'll be doing the same at Stamford Bridge at the weekend, alongside thousands of others.

Then I will rant during the week.

Steve Brown
89 Posted 13/03/2023 at 09:50:17
From the Athletic today:

‘Since he took charge in late January, Everton have recorded as many wins as they did in 20 matches under his predecessor Frank Lampard. Only four sides — Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal — have taken more points in the same period.'

To be fair, that's not bad.

Rob Dolby
90 Posted 13/03/2023 at 09:51:36
It was indeed a game of two halves. Not many people have mentioned the possible handball from the Brentford player in the first half when he leaned towards the ball.

From my angle, it looked like it hit his arm only for the VAR to wave that one away. I thought Gray's was handball in real time at the game but, when viewing replays, it looked 50/50.

Iwobi frustrates but is a creative source in a team devoid of quality. His pre-assist created the goal.

Onana is becoming the Emperor's new clothes. He is being carried through games by Gana. Maybe I am not seeing enough of his off-the-ball work but I am not seeing a £30M player.

We put a great shift in first half but can't sustain it for 90 minutes. Looking at the bench, we don't have any legs to bring on.

I think Brentford have a cracking team with both full-backs looking like they could play at a higher level. 12 games unbeaten is a great achievement in the Premier League. Dyche deserves credit for finding a way to be hard to beat and also create chances with our squad. Still a long way to go.

Gana was my MotM, closely followed by McNeil.

Dave Abrahams
91 Posted 13/03/2023 at 09:52:12
Jonathon (82),

As a matter of interest, do you go to the game or do you watch Everton on TV? Makes no difference as an Evertonian, you are still a Bluenose, but it makes a difference to how you perceive how the players perform.

Definitely no offence meant in asking the question.

Sean Roe
92 Posted 13/03/2023 at 10:10:29
For the rest of this season, I couldn't give a stuff about performances. As long as our goals-scored is superior to the opposition, that will do for me.
Rob Dolby
93 Posted 13/03/2023 at 11:02:20
Charles @85, spot on.

In its current guise, the VAR is being used to protect the referees and not enhance the game. We are all human and make mistakes, especially when 22 people are constantly trying to cheat.

The Newcastle game yesterday is another example of a clear miss by the ref but the VAR just backed the on-field ref up. A decision which changed the game.

Make any part of the body level onside, make deliberate handball the only handball infringement, and let's see more goals.

Put mics on the refs and let's hear the discussions.

Raymond Fox
94 Posted 13/03/2023 at 13:21:02
As Lyndon says it was indeed a precious win, I wonder what Moshiri would pay to stay up?

We are now hard to beat if nothing else; that's the manager's influence coming through. I would settle for Dyche long-term if I was Moshiri, because he obviously knows his stuff.

I mean what else do you need off a manager? We don't look like we will be up with the top teams any time soon do we, I doubt we will be splashing much money about on players.

It looks like the BBC are going to miss their chance to make changes to their football coverage. I would much sooner have more action and less yacking from the 'experts'.

Dave Abrahams
95 Posted 13/03/2023 at 13:29:59
Ron (93),

“Put mics on the referees (especially the ones in the studio) and let's hear the discussions on why they made their decisions, instead of not being accountable for some of the most ludicrous and ridiculous ones imaginable.

Si Cooper
96 Posted 13/03/2023 at 13:48:29
We really don't need ‘snickometer' level reviews of handballs in the run up to goals, just a common sense judgement of whether an advantage was gained from any such contact.

For the Gray situation on Saturday, it should have only mattered if by striking the arm after hitting his chest, the path of the ball was changed to bring it on target when it otherwise would have missed.

They had enough frames from the ball hitting the chest for technology to project the path of the ball, and if it was on target (and avoiding all defenders), it should have been allowed to stand.

Jonathan Oppenheimer
97 Posted 14/03/2023 at 01:29:02
Dave (91) I’m an American who started following the club about 7 years ago and I’ve not yet been to Goodison, but plan to bring my family next April before we move to BMD, regardless of what league we’re in.

So I watch the matches on television. I have season tickets to Minnesota United in MLS. I fully appreciate all that I miss by not being at the match, and I’ve read all the criticisms of Iwobi (if that’s what you’re referring to). I think despite all of his clear shortcomings there’s a reason he keeps getting selected and we as fans often focus on deficiencies rather than strengths — I know I sure do. I’m guilty of being especially down on Gana and McNeil this year, and I’m happy to eat my words when they play well, as both did on Saturday.

My take on the handball and other rules comes from refereeing at a pretty high level for the past 13 years. Most fans haven’t the slightest clue what the actual rules are or how referees interpret them, and it’s near impossible for non-referees to understand what a referee is thinking and why they made a particular decision. I try not to be obnoxious about my view as a referee but sometimes I think it’s helpful.

And no offense taken.

Kieran Kinsella
98 Posted 14/03/2023 at 02:22:12
Dave 91

It’s funny you make that point. Years ago I used to go to Goodison but now live in the US so the most recent time I saw Everton was live in Minnesota with Jonathan Oppenheimer no less. The thing that struck me was beforehand based on TV I was quite a Demarai Gray fan. Watching him in person for the first time totally changed my view because I saw his inability to look around, his tendency to run in straight lines like a blinkered horse. You don’t get that perspective from TV.

Ps. I was the bloke in the Gwladys street near the corner always shouting at Earl Barrett

Paul Ward
99 Posted 14/03/2023 at 04:36:46
I think it is fair comment to suggest you see a different game live and on TV.
Unfortunately the best view is not always the one from the being in the ground.

In fact there are many parts of Goodison with restricted views and the inevitable incident can be missed unless you see it on the big screen.

I have had to watch the blues on TV for many years now since emigrating but Alex Awobi has never fooled me. He covers so much ground chasing and running but has that ability to just stop before contact. He is one of those players who believes in self preservation. I think that is why he never gets injured. When he was injured earlier this season it was from a tackle from behind.

He appears to be a likeable lad but I hope we don't renew his contract.

Mike Gaynes
100 Posted 14/03/2023 at 05:13:05
Jonathan, I didn't know you were a ref as well. What level?

Unlike you, I regularly pontificate about refereeing here with considerable obnoxiousness (if that's a word). After whistling for 46 years, I'm kinda jaded.

Danny O’Neill
101 Posted 14/03/2023 at 08:03:28
Dave Abrahams, I've been saying that about the officials for years and that we should follow Rugby's model for transparency.

I was treated to a day out to watch England v New Zealand recently. Not only have I always been impressed in how the officials discuss decisions on the screen and all can hear their decision making process, but if you wanted, you could purchase and download an app for your phone to listen to them throughout the entire match if you wanted to.

On the TV versus being in the ground discussion.

To be honest pros and cons. I can sometimes watch more of the technicalities on the TV, but can't see the entire pitch, so only see what is in camera view.

At the match, I can see the entire pitch. The shape, the movement, the leaving of acres of space for Brentford's left back, which was giving me kittens. But I admit to sometimes getting to emotionally involved in the stadium. But it's my preference.

We all watch the blues in whatever way we can. I've done so over the years myself.

Jonathon @99, get yourself over to Goodison. And then come back to Bramley Moore. Make sure you link up with some of the regulars on here. They'll look after you.

James Hughes
102 Posted 14/03/2023 at 08:40:40
Danny if yuo watched the Ireland v Scotland game on Sunday. There were two incidents when the ref marched the Scots back 10 yards for dissent. First time it was very clear and broadcast the ref stating you can't get in my face and challenge decisions.

I was looking forward to the introduction of VAR as it is well used in rugby & cricket but football has made a pig's ear of it and yes it should be audible and visible to the crowd.

Danny O’Neill
103 Posted 14/03/2023 at 10:14:04
Totally agree James. It was / is supposed to be the solution to those countless wrong decisions over the years. Especially those derby ones, but don't get me started on those injustices against Lucifer's children.

Tennis also uses the technology well, but football, as you say, has royally cocked it up big time. It shouldn't have been so difficult.

If anything, it has become a further screen, a shroud of secrecy for incompetent officials to hide behind.

I've also often wondered if, like managers and players, they should be interviewed after the match to explain their decisions.

Then again, if they were explaining live, there wouldn't be a need for that.

I think the key difference is that Rugby and Cricket officials are authoritative and in general know the game and control the players, so have respect.

I'm probably going to sound like.a hard done by, bitter blue, but ours are seemingly people who haven't played the game and get star struck in certain games.

Often yards off the pace and can't even use the technology to make the right decision, when it should make it at least 90% obvious. Nothing will ever be 100%.

Brian Harrison
104 Posted 14/03/2023 at 10:22:15
Many interesting points on different subjects, I have to say that watching any game live gives you a better overall picture of the game. Watching on TV you can only see what the camera shows you, you don't see the runs that players make off the ball. I think thats why you get differing views on players performance between people at the game and those watching on TV.

Regarding Daves suggestion of making the ref wear a mic, I remember they did this quite a few years ago and I think the reason they dropped it was because in one game Tony Adams confronted the ref with a tirade of foul and abusive language.

The difference between Rugby officials and Football officials is that the Rugby refs are far more competent. When they use video replays they not only include the ref viewing the replay but also their linesmen, when did you last see a ref consult with his linesmen. the other big difference is the respect shown by the players in Rugby to the ref, I still hear the players when talking to the refs call them sir.

For me the greater transparency involved in making the decisions the better for all. I still think that Sky viewers being allowed to see what VAR is considering while the paying customer inside the ground isn't allowed to see it is totally wrong. Also in 99% of cases it seems the final call is left to the VAR official, I would much prefer it if the VAR official sees something he should ask the ref to go to the screen for every decision. The ref on Saturday gave the Gray goal but the VAR official disallowed it, again the ref should have been asked to go to the screen to see if he wanted to stick with his on field decision or not.

Martin Mason
105 Posted 14/03/2023 at 10:39:51
Must admit that I don't believe that watching live gives you a better picture of what is happening. Behind the goal you have no depth perspective, up in the Gods you can't see detail, in a restricted view seat you miss much and at the ground many don't know who scored even because they have no commentary or slow mo. It isn't true that TV doesn't show the big picture, it shows what you see from the upper stand on the half way line which is the very best viewing spot in the ground. I've heard people say that you can't know because you weren't there, my answer to that in most cases is that you can't know because you were there.
Joe McMahon
106 Posted 14/03/2023 at 10:44:53
Martin it's not Wimbledon neck, it's Goodison Park neck. Trying to move and swivel in your cramped seat, shoulders banging into people next to you. Just to watch the game. Some would say in the 21st century to have this is shambolic. BMD can't come soon enough.
John Cook
107 Posted 14/03/2023 at 10:46:42
When you are at Goodison surrounded by like minds, the siren goes,z cars plays,then for me (after attending for 62 years)
there is no feeling like it in the world TV cannot replicate that.
Barry Hesketh
108 Posted 14/03/2023 at 11:21:21
I think that both Martin and John are correct, the TV does relay what is actually happening out on the pitch in greater detail than what many in the ground tend to see - unless of course they are in a prime watching position on the half-way line, however, the mood or the feeling of the game, is enhanced by actually being anywhere in the stadium, I think that's what gives Goodison its x factor. If I had have been watching the Brentford game on TV, I would have had a lot more nervous moments than I felt by being at the game. Sometimes less is more.

Danny O’Neill
109 Posted 14/03/2023 at 12:03:27
Joe @106, your last sentence about Bramley Moore is the future we'e all looking forward to. It's still going be gut wrenching though. Heart Breaking.

Brian @108, I have no idea what's gone wrong with such a talent. I have a niggling concern of something similar happening with Calvert-Lewin.

I hope I am wrong and way off the mark.

Brian Harrison
110 Posted 14/03/2023 at 13:00:32
Will 111

Once a player has signed a contract then whatever happens the club are committed to paying him whatever the contract was for. So unless he gets seriously injured then Everton are committed to paying him his £100,000 plus till his contract ends, unless he fails to turn up for training or refuses to play, and he and his agent are far to clever for that to happen. So thanks to Lampard we are stuck with him, and when this contract finishes he will find it difficult to find another club. Although I am sure a club will take him on at maybe £25,000 per week.

Martin Mason
111 Posted 14/03/2023 at 13:00:35
John@107 But I know what the atmosphere is like, I've seen hundreds of games at Goodison. Watching from my armchair is what you call quality. Going to Goodison struggles to compete now.
Bill Gall
112 Posted 14/03/2023 at 13:35:23
In regards to going to the game or watching on TV. I have had the best of both worlds as I supported Everton at Goodison and away from 1954 till 1976 when I moved to Canada and I have been back numerous times over the years always in September and October where the dates revolved around the Everton home games. The last time I was back was in 2010 and after that with the COVID restrictions plus surgery I needed I have not been back.
My impression of watching the game on TV is, you can hear the noise but you can have the sound as high as you like but you don't get the sense of what it is like being at the game, and that is the atmosphere, its like watching say the rolling stones on TV and then watching them in concert.
The other thing on TV they follow the ball, and miss a lot of the movement of players off the ball and incidents that happen off the ball.
I always like to read the comments from people at the game, even though sometimes I disagree with them as we get the advantage of instant replays, I believe that being at the game you see more than watching on TV.or any other device.
Just my opinion.
Will Mabon
113 Posted 14/03/2023 at 13:39:09

you are right generally but I don't know whether there is or could be an extraordinary circumstances angle; just speculating really.

I did see and study a player contract some years ago. It was relatively basic, even for the time. I doubt that's the case now.

Dave Abrahams
114 Posted 14/03/2023 at 13:49:52
Jonathon (97), thanks for your reply.

Yes, we might stress too much on players' deficiencies rather than appreciate their strengths, that's a fair response. But I also think with some players (yes, Iwobi is one of them), we over-hype their limited strengths.

I have a great seat in The Upper Bullens Road stand close to the half-way line and I watch all the players. If they give of their best and make mistakes, it's annoying but it's allowed.

If they constantly, and I mean constantly, fail to do their best and shirk tackles or go missing for large parts of the game, then that is entirely different and, I let myself be heard in the ground and on here because to me they are taking liberties and that is out of order in my book.

Last Saturday, Iwobi did three or four good things; he took liberties on far too many occasions. Onana – he took more liberties than Iwobi!!

Anyway, Jonathon, I'm glad you're an Evertonian and I hope you and your family make it over to Liverpool and enjoy your visit and get to see the club you obviously love, very best wishes.

Danny O’Neill
115 Posted 14/03/2023 at 13:55:52
Dave, I genuinely woke up at 2 am this morning, still thinking about how Onana missed that chance.

Thankfully it didn't come back to bite us.

Tony Abrahams
116 Posted 14/03/2023 at 14:02:27
I think I can follow a game on television in the sense that I can still see a bigger picture han what is allowed on the screen but it doesn't compare to watching a game live where you can see so much more, depending on one's overall understanding of the beautiful game.

My partner has started watching football on the television sometimes but even she says it doesn't get anywhere close to actually being in the stadium and watching the game live.

If you go the game, then you definitely get a much more rounded and fuller experience but watching it on the telly can also be great – especially when it's a cold day or a night match and you haven't got to travel far to get to bed!

Jonathan Oppenheimer
117 Posted 14/03/2023 at 14:05:57
Mike (100),

I didn't start refereeing until I stopped playing a lot at age 29, but I've managed to get to the highest level in Minnesota, doing NPSL, UPSL, DA games and everything in between. I never travelled and tried to make PRO because I wanted to have a life with family and kids.

Now at 41 I no longer do DA games, but still about 3 NPSL games a year and another 75-100 youth and adult amateur games, so I stay in shape and get my mind off all the other crap we deal with in life.

Dave, I fully get the criticism of Iwobi not going hard into tackles, and it's maddening. I have to assume coaches are fully aware of this, and it's a problem, but they accept it because he creates changes for us and typically never stops running, even if it's not always to the right place or for the right reason. Anyway, point taken about not being at the matches, as it does make a big difference.

A little thing I noticed as a referee with the handball incident: Hooper never signaled for the goal by pointing to the centre-circle, so even though he didn't whistle, my guess is he was indicating he thought it was a handball, which likely led the VAR to feel less like it was an overturn than a confirmation. I'm pretty sure he immediately put his hand to his ear.

By doing that, he fucked us. He didn't know what happened and so he should've signaled goal or whistled; he did neither. I may be wrong but pretty sure that's how it went down, and it was a little thing but could've cost us big time.

Dele Alli is a sad case, but equating him with Calvert-Lewin is far off the mark. Calvert-Lewin just can't stay healthy, but there's never been any indication of a poor mentality with him.

I can't wait to get to Goodison and I will surely lean on the TW faithful to make it a grand old time!

Mike Gaynes
118 Posted 14/03/2023 at 14:45:45
Jonathan, that's an impressive commitment. Highest respects for that and your obvious talent and competence, since to achieve those levels you've had to pass numerous assessments with flying colors. Congratulations.

I briefly aspired to the highest levels as a linesman, back when referee and linesman were different career tracks, but my career as a sportscaster meant there were too many weekend afternoons where I was covering college basketball and couldn't accept assignments. So I topped out in the SJVL in California and the LASA in Massachusetts, both semipro, and a few NCAA Division 1 games before settling in as a high school ref. I've done probably a thousand HS games in seven states, and at 63 I was still speedy enough to work a state playoff game in Oregon. Today my Achilles limits me to indoor, where I do about three games a week.

May you long continue. American kids need quality refs desperately.

Tony Abrahams
119 Posted 14/03/2023 at 14:47:43
Good observation, Jonathan, mate, and this is why I was confused with how long it took whoever it was (start putting the VAR's picture in the programme!) to make the necessary decision.

My own view is that the VAR, should not be making any decisions, and the on-field ref should be the one going over to the monitor once he's been instructed to do so. It would take too long, I know, but at least we would still be getting decisions from only one man, and this should lead to more consistency.

If they want to mic-up, then this could change… but it's not something that they seem even remotely interested in doing. Until they do, then football will remain under a depressing cloud of uncertainty, imo, and nothing will convince me that the sport is 100% straight, down the line.

Danny O’Neill
120 Posted 14/03/2023 at 14:48:22
Your last sentence is the story of my Everton life of recent years, Tony.

At least I don't have too far to travel on Saturday. although it will still be a 2-3 hour round trip. I hope that's the score.

I don't mind how I watch Everton as long as I can watch them, but you cannot beat being in the stadium in my opinion.

And I think the dogs prefer it when I go the match. When I am subject to watching from home, I scare the dogs to the point of them running upstairs and end up getting lectured for being Danny aged 7.

I know not everyone can be there, be that through geography or not being able to get a ticket, which is an amazing testimony to our amazing supporters given what we have had to endure.

I can't and haven't always been able to attend, but it's the first thing on my mind.

But we are always there wherever we are. Body, mind and spirit.

Tony Abrahams
121 Posted 14/03/2023 at 14:56:43
I tried to ref a game only once, and it was genuinely well above whatever talent I had for playing football. Incredibly difficult, I was seeing the pass, but not the tackle, I was thinking where a player should have received the ball, and not where they actually did, and I was missing everything!

I never got on with many referees, but always respected 99% of them, although I used to hate the ones like Jonathan Moss, who sometimes had to give some ridiculously contentious decisions, just so he could take a rest. It's why I was impressed by your fitness at 63 years of age Mike, Well done, mate!!

Will Mabon
122 Posted 14/03/2023 at 14:58:26

That's exactly right re the ref's actions. I posted "What's he pointing at", as he did so, to exactly where Gray had been stood.

The shot changed on screen, following Gray etc. so I couldn't say he didn't indicate a goal but it seems so.

Odd one there. If he thought and then indicated handball it would look as decision made.

Not pointing to the centre circle indicates an incomplete decision but there is no conclusive sign to indicate that the ref has contact with the VAR.

Obviously they are likely being talked to when touching their earpiece. I'd be surprised if the VAR spoke to him in the time before he pointed to the 6-yard area.

Well done to both you and Mike. It takes a certain type and I just... couldn't.

Jonathan Oppenheimer
123 Posted 14/03/2023 at 16:13:32
It takes a certain kind of person to become a good referee. Unfortunately too many of them have huge egos. As many have stated, it helps to have played at a high level, which I did, though not necessary. In particular, by playing you intuitively understand when people are diving or looking for calls and how players react differently based on what may or may not have happened. For example, one way I always explain to others whether or not a ref missed a call is how the players react. If they’re not complaining or it’s a half-assed complaint, the ref probably got it right. Now premier leaguers will still try to con the refs, but you still learn a lot from their reactions.

As we all should know, the biggest impediment to having good referees and enough of them is the abuse teens take when they first start refereeing. We lose about half of new refs every year, which is staggering given how good the money is for a teenager. If we eliminated that, we’d be in much better shape. We’re making progress in the States but it’s slow. Just read about the Claudio Reyna/Berhalter saga and you’ll see how bad parents can be. Every club should be telling every parent to just shut up on the sidelines if it’s not positive.

One thing I always like to impart to non-referees that most don’t and can’t understand is that the best refs do the unseen and unheard game management things well. How they talk to players, how they protect players, how they judiciously use cards when needed and don’t when it’s not, how they sense the temperature of the game and react accordingly. The calls themselves are not always straight forward, but those we can argue about from the perspective of laws of the game. The best refs get most of those right but also know how to make players and coaches feel heard, while explaining to them why they’ve done what they’ve done. It helps me that I’m a therapist and get a lot of those aspects right, even when I get a call wrong. But even then it takes hundreds and hundreds of games and seeing things you can’t plan for dozens of times to get really good. Which is to say we should expect good refereeing at the highest levels but it’s damn hard. Having them mic’d up would be good, but I’d want it publicized only for debating a VAR call or big call, not for every word said. Some of that needs to remain private, like when I tell adults, “enough of this shit,” or something to convey a seriousness needed or tell an off-color joke to calm the mood.

I should add about Hooper pointing to his ear that he’s also asking his assistant if he saw hand ball, but assuming he didn’t, he should then be pointing to the center circle to indicate goal, and it’s not clear to me he ever did that.

Danny O’Neill
124 Posted 14/03/2023 at 17:06:54
You make a very good point about young referees and the abuse they get, Jonathan, especially on the parks here in England.

I had to deal with a particularly unpleasant incident here in West London a few years ago when a young female referee got verbally and almost physically abused by aggressive idiots encroaching on the pitch, shouting and almost spitting in her face over a free-kick decision in an U14s match.

I'm sure many will vouch for me, I'm not aggressive and don't consider myself a hard man, but fortunately I can look after myself and I won't stand for that type of behaviour so intervened.

Shocking to see at a kids' football match, so I couldn't stand by and watch it happen. Plus I was concerned for my boys as I was the coach of the opposition of those dickheads. I don't know where people like that learn or gain their alleged football knowledge.

It ended up going to a tribunal with the Middlesex County FA and they were fined. All over a kids' match.

To my playing days, I think the best officials were those who spoke to players continuously throughout the game rather than dictate to them and, as you say, have egos.

In my Army matches, we used to have Andy Halliday as one of the leading officials. I served with him in Germany and we're friends. He once broke my ankle in a 6-a-side competition mind. That's what happens when a goalkeeper tries to play outfield!! He was actually a very good keeper.

Lovely guy and made it to the Premier League.

Sorry, random story.

Tony Abrahams
125 Posted 14/03/2023 at 17:16:54
Keep posting, Jonathan, because I'm learning, mate.

Preconceived ideas about certain referees could definitely be judged differently after reading your latest post but it's when I see certain players and their teams getting away with things that others don't, this is what makes me look into the past.

The ref was waiting for the VAR to disallow the goal and, on the first glance that came onto the screen at Goodison, I thought this decision was correct. I've since changed my mind… but thankfully it didn't matter!

You do only hear the VARs in rugby when they are explaining their decisions to the onfield ref, so this would be more than enough for me, especially as you say yourself, a lot of your colleagues have huge egos. Most of us are only interested in consistency and how they've come about their decisions that might have been contentious to begin with.

Tony Abrahams
126 Posted 14/03/2023 at 17:36:48
My biggest pet hate is adults who are prepared to cheat in kids football, and my second biggest, is aggression coming out an idiots mouth, towards the referee. They go hand in hand, imo, because I often used to see kids stop running, and start shouting at the ref, just because one of the parents, is doing the same on the sidelines.

I fume, first at the kid, who I'm quick to tell that he his kidding nobody but himself, because it's easy shouting at the ref, but it's not easy running back sixty yards, and then at the parents who are allowing their kids to cheat, by doing this instead of working hard.

It's getting better imo, but I agree with Jonathan, that if you haven't got something positive to say, then either stay away or shut up.

Will Mabon
127 Posted 14/03/2023 at 17:54:11

just read about the Reyna saga. That from someone whose life has been in the game, and up to the top level, who should have a mature and developed understanding.

I guess some people call that kind of crap, "Drive". Terrible.

Danny O’Neill
128 Posted 14/03/2023 at 18:17:31

I'm not sure if I mentioned it earlier and haven't read back.

Looking at your name, I'm seeing German connections or heritage.

As well as you seeing the blues, whilst over, I can invite you to watch Schalke, the German Konigsblauen (Royal Blues), whilst you are this side of the Atlantic.

It's a cracking day out. God knows whether they will be in Bundesliga or Bundesliga 2 as they had a torrid start to the season.

But like us, they are showing encouraging signs that they can pull themselves out of the mire.

Jonathan Oppenheimer
129 Posted 14/03/2023 at 19:26:21
Tony, I'll start posting a bit more when there are big referee decisions, and I'll have Mike to be annoying with me. First off, kudos to Mike Gaynes doing state playoff games at age 63. It ain't easy at 41, nevermind 63.

And to that point about age, let's all be glad that Moss, Mason, Dean, and Atkinson have all made way for the younger guys, and that more than just Taylor and Oliver are getting the big matches. You don't get better without experience, so we have to hope some of the newer faces will improve with time.

The other thing I'd add for now, Tony, is that referees are human, so of course they inevitably make decisions on a bunch of factors that lead people to thinking there's some conspiracy — things like coaches and players getting in their heads, a call they think they've missed 10 minutes prior, a match from a year ago where they felt like one team was on the wrong end of a call they made, thinking players are cheats for diving (we know Richarlison suffered for this reputation), etc.

Lastly, it's a really really difficult job at the advanced youth level, nevermind the Premier League. And with the amount of money and pressure involved and instant replay and all that, it's a wonder any of these guys can handle it week in and week out.

Yes, referees have bad games and make bad calls, but the work they've put in to get where they're at is incredible, and it pains me to hear armchair critics moaning non stop about how awful they are at their jobs.

At least in Everton's case, we are where we're at because we're not that good, not because of the referees, and that's true of every team in the league.

Jonathan Oppenheimer
130 Posted 14/03/2023 at 20:03:51
Danny, thanks so much for the kind offer. Indeed my roots are German and my father has explored those roots in and around Oppenheim in Germany. I had some wonderful times in Germany back in 2003 and 2007, but have not been back since.

Next year the tentative plan is a few days in Liverpool area, followed by 5-7 days in the Scottish lowlands and highlands, followed by 3-4 days in Dordogne in France, where I have good friends from the year I lived theee in 2006-7. So no time for Germany next year, but I’d love to catch some Bundesliga someday. I’ve seen Marseille, Boardeaux, Fulham, and Celtic so far at those stadiums. Everton is the big one next!

Danny O’Neill
131 Posted 14/03/2023 at 21:43:42
Sounds like a great itinerary, Jonathan.

Oppenheim is in the middle south, not far from Frankfurt. Very much in what was the post-war American sector.

I spent several years in what was the British sector in places close to Dortmund and Monchengladbach.

Stay in touch and keep posting. When you come over, we'll look after you and Liverpool will feel like home.

Neil Copeland
132 Posted 14/03/2023 at 22:58:33
Jonathan, how are you and the family?

Great to hear that you are planning a trip over here next year. It will hopefully give me a chance to at least partly repay the wonderful hospitality you afforded me during my trip to Minneapolis.

Stay in touch, mate, so we can meet up when you come over

Jonathan Oppenheimer
133 Posted 14/03/2023 at 23:09:09
Thanks, Neil and Danny! I can't wait to start planning the details once the schedule is out for next season. I have no doubt that we'll be welcomed with open arms, but Neil, there are no expectations beyond that.

Neil, we are doing well. We just went to the Minnesota United home opener and it was a complete shitshow as the pitch was covered in snow. But a good time was had. The wife and kids are great, and Isaac wears his Everton kit to practice nearly every week. How are you and the family?

Neil Copeland
134 Posted 14/03/2023 at 23:52:04
Ha ha, sounds like you all enjoyed it. All good here thanks. Just keeping everything crossed for the blues but looking better.
Tony Abrahams
135 Posted 15/03/2023 at 19:52:20
I forgot about this thread because I went out last night and I've been caught up all day in one of my now-familiar Kenwright rants that I possibly take too far.

I enjoy reading your explanations, Jonathan, because it makes me see that a little bit of the paranoia that I have sometimes had towards certain referees has been pre-conceived.

I forgot about Atkinson. I genuinely believe he hates Everton and my worry is that he will one day get the big job and silently destroy us! (I've definitely got the proof!)

Definitely keep posting, Jonathan, because it's good to read what you say, and learn. I will say that most of the refs I've come across have never had the inclination to try and explain their decisions.

I think this definitely leads to them losing respect and this must also contribute to the barriers that definitely exist between players and officials in the sport.

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