Norwich City 1-1 Everton
The day started in miserable fashion weather-wise and finished in miserable fashion football–wise but in between was a rare spectacle of a football match that saw one team dominate the first half with football of the highest quality and then the same team produce a fearful, nerve-ridden performance that almost saw them end in defeat rather than a draw. The only difference between the two halves was that Norwich played faster closing down stuff that hadn’t been there before and we seemed unable to adequately cope with it. The one thing we were consistent with the whole match was the inability to take well-worked scoring opportunities of the ‘How the hell did he miss that?’ kind.
We had to wait ten minutes for the match to get going as only a half-hearted effort by Deulofeu was witnessed and then Norwich broke and hit a shot high and wide. We went up the other end and, after good work by Kone in playing Lukaku in, the big Belgian fired wide. With almost 15 minutes on the clock we gained a corner on our right and ,as Baines trotted over to take it, he was roundly applauded and he reciprocated. He took the corner which Norwich could not get clear and the ball looked to take deflections and be heading out of play for a goal kick but Stones did not give it up and rescued the ball.
He passed to Baines but the pass was not quite good enough. Still, the ball ran to another Everton player who fed Deulofeu to put in one of his hard and low crosses which reached the far post and the lurking Lukaku made no mistake and we are one up. Players and those travelling had a tidy celebration (no pitch invasion) and we looked set to ease away from the hosts as we took control of the half.
Such was our dominance more goals were a given... or they should have been. Within minutes Deulofeu was off like a robber’s dog and into the area. Lukaku was clear to his left but the Spaniard ignored him and took another touch that was too hard and the ball ran ahead of him and out for a goal kick suggesting he still has a bit to learn. It was all Everton and next Lukaku brought one down neatly, turned and fed Kone in one on one but the keeper was out fast and blocked his effort. Good keeping but really we expected more of Kone as he had time to see the keeper coming. Still, never mind as our dominance was marked, we were so much on top that we should have gone home with a cricket score. Oh, how that thought was to come back and bite us.
We were attacking at will now and on the half hour a great move of joined-up stuff culminated in Cleverley being found wide right and he put in a superb cross to find Lukaku at the far post for a routine tap in. To the disbelief of all those assembled he missed! Hell, if he let the ball hit him it would have counted such was the accuracy of the cross. Just minutes later Lukaku failed to control a pass into him, he was in the box in a good position but that miss-control was disappointing. I said to my mate ‘He is having a mini form lapse’
We continued attacking and a powerful right-foot shot from Baines hit the bar and we still only one up when it could and should have been at least six. Kone had another one on one that the keeper once again won and then the same player shot wide just moments later when better could have been expected. We gained a corner that Stones was first to but got nothing on it and his momentum took on to the track behind the goal. He didn’t get up as the game went on but eventually after treatment he resumed looking none the worse for wear. We could do with him not getting injured. At the death of the half we had a quick break on the counter and Barkley finds Kone who neatly feeds in Lukaku who beat two men but alas his shot was off target.
H/T and 1-0 up but most could not comprehend such a paltry return from a half we had dominated. It could have been 10!
We started the second half and the weather was still bad but not half as bad as our second half would be. From the off Norwich had upped the effort and, much like Bournemouth, played with a nothing-to-lose attitude which immediately had us on the back foot and looking nowhere near as assured as we had been. We seemed to be caught by surprise. Surely the manager and players did not expect Norwich to have had a roasting and sent out to do or die after their abysmal first half. We never seem to learn and this was rammed home just two minutes after the kick off. Would you believe another corner, another free header, another scramble on the line ending with the ball being forced home from six inches or so it seemed. What a downer.
From that moment on it was demoralising to watch an end to end open game contest that was there for either side to snatch. When you dwelt on those first half chances a clammy cold feeling of foreboding was never far from us. It was really hard to realize we were watching the same two teams from the first half and in the same match. Only Everton, eh.
It was scrappy now and the famed travelling Goodison choral society were now quiet... or maybe they were singing ‘Silent Night’, but just as something remotely exciting broke out it was either a misplaced pass or poor control that stifled that. The faithful were suggesting subs to our present manager and on 70 minutes he obliged by swapping Deulofeu for Mirallas and that didn’t get universal approval. Mirallas’s subsequent display favoured the disagree vote.
The action was still end to end and we were given an almighty let off when Jerome missed a sitter just 6 yards from the centre of goal when he contrived to hit it high over the bar. Fine margins as they say. Both teams were now showing nerves as neither wanted to lose a game that was now on a knife-edge as safety first was the order with many passes hurried and going astray. There we were showing nerve ends when we should have been home and dry and seeing out time. It is frustrating being a fan at times.
15 minutes to go and Gibson replaced the misfiring Barkle.yNnow that was a sub I agreed with as Ross had not been himself today. Gibson’s start with composure and spraying the ball about with some confidence reinforced my view of the substitution. We did gain two corners that came to nought but Gibson did pick up the ball and orchestrated a move that got us into their box but was cleared but only to Mori who from some thirty yards hit a powerful dipper that didn’t dip enough.
With the clock ticking down quicker than ever I thought I am watching an Everton masterclass here in how to cock up a game as the board went up 3 to go. As soon as Gibson got the ball he hit one on goal in hope more than anything but that flew over and that was it until the whistle was heard.
MotM: It should have been Lukaku or Kone but over ninety minutes I give mine to Cleverley.
From that first half dominance coming off I felt as though we were lucky to get a point. It was a crazy game but one the manager and players need to work on and eliminate the crazy. At least we proved that goals win games because just taking half of the gilt edged chances created we would have won at a canter. Snatches of conversations seemed that many fans blamed the manager and just as many blamed Howard but for me if blame is to be apportioned it should be directed at those who miss gilt-edged chances.
On a positive note I thought that our first half standard of play bodes well for the future if we can only become a ninety minute team and not a first half team as we seem to be becoming. Perhaps if the manager’s half time talk convinces the players that the score is still nil-nil we might achieve ninety minute status.
Leicester next who are riding high and playing power football. Luckily no two games are the same so I will take my seat and see what we have learned from today that can help us from being a team on three straight draws to a team embarking on a long run of straight wins. Anything is possible
UP THE BLUES