Everton 2 - 3 Leicester City
We assembled in the Room of Nonsense full of Christmas cheer and good will. A festive occasion plus a sell-out crowd and it was soon heaving. There was a match on the screens but no one seemed bothered as the chat was of impending festivities, with only the team selection and the need for three points being paramount as far as football was concerned. The walk up was wet but atmospheric as each ale house we passed seemed to have its own choir and, as the junction of Spellow Lane and Goodison road was reached, there were young ladies handing out mince pies for free and NSNO were handing out their excellent printed fanzine. Their editor, Simon Paul, deserves congrats for its presentation. A little corker it is.
All the outlets were doing well with long queues and who was lucky enough to get a Blue Nose and a Blue and White Everton Santa hat?
Into the ground for Z-Cars with the ‘Alder Hay Heroes, as mascots. Our Ref was Jon Moss which always brings a sinking feeling as he is not the best I have seen but is usually bad for both teams. The game commenced with us attacking the Park End. The game started in regulation fashion with some sparring and generally eying each other up with Everton playing the keep ball stuff and the visitors all workrate and closing down. The first action that resulted in loud crowd noise was when Barkley lost the ball and then made a fair but ferocious tackle to win the ball back but he then lost it again with a poor pass. Then a decent move saw Deulofeu on the ball down the right and put in a first time cross that was meant for Kone but deflected for a corner. Baines took one of his better ones which was defended at the expense of another corner, this time played short which brought groans from the faithful as whatever was supposed to happen didn’t and once again we gained no reward from a dead ball kick.
We were in keep ball mode now until it was punted forward but each time the Foxes' defence was comfortable. We tried getting Deulofeu going down the right but the opponents were ready for him and marked tight and threw in a few dark arts which had the Spaniard throwing tantrums and squealing which brought a response from the home crowd for him to get on with it and don’t be a tart. He did it a few more times which did not endear him to the faithful at all and comments were ripe and to the point. He didn’t seem to like tight marking and when he did get a cross in it wasn’t of his usual quality. He will have to learn that he has started to make a name for himself and easy rides will become rare. That undoubted skill will need channelling and using in the right way.
The game continued with us looking to attack and the Foxes looking to nick it and counter at pace. We had some goalmouth action but without much conviction, with Kone being the biggest culprit for not getting a shot off quickly as he tried to manoeuvre into a perfect position which Leicester were not interesting in affording him. The crowd gave him a few hurry up instructions but he took little notice and repeated the act a couple of more times. Leicester were playing the sort of game that had me thinking that we needed a goal to see if they had a plan B.
Well, on the half hour mark I got my wish for a goal unfortunately it went against us after Mori gave away a daft penalty when instead of booting the bloody thing he tried to wrestle his man to let the ball run out for a goal-kick. He got it wrong and pushed his man down. The ref said foul and pointed to the spot and Mahrez converted with aplomb, even though Howard dived the right way and looked to get close to it. What a downer.
Five minutes later and Deulofeu did better and put in a decent cross which found Cleverly beyond the far post who shot but the ball came out to Barkley. He had a shot cannon back to him so he shot again and beat the keeper but it was headed out from the goal line, only to Lukaku who does not miss those chances. Some fine celebrations which left the faithful with the thought that perhaps now we could press on and pick up three valuable points. We pressed forward but despite getting in some good positions that final ball was always almost but not quite. We got crosses in that the keeper fisted out, Lukaku was having trouble with a lively bouncing ball and Kone was narking the crowd by not shooting first time. Leicester were always looking to counter with Vardy being a strong runner and but for a timely tackle by Mori that robbed him at the expense of a corner. Stones showed a good turn of pace to thwart a fast move into our box that had danger written all over it. He got a clap for that.
1-1 at the break and I thought that we had been too concerned about Leicester which had stopped us from really opening up in the final third. Their reputation on the break seemed to have gone before them so making us that bit more hesitant despite the tireless promptings of our captain Barry.
Second half and more of the same we were intent on playing out from the back through midfield and create a chance in the box. It was working to a point... that point being the final third. Barkley was suffering with this as he would strongly stride to the edge of the box but his final ball always seemed to be within reach of a defender. He did feed Coleman wide who let rip a cross-cum-shot that the keeper had to stretch to tip over. Deulofeu showed us a rare piece of instant trickery and won a corner that Baines took well and right into the mix a melee took place and those nearest put up a mighty roar of ‘Hand Ball’ but a corner was the best the ref could allow.. Annoyingly, this corner was taken short and we made a mess of it and allowed Leicester to break on us but we smothered that wide left and played some delightful passing triangles to get us out of trouble and set up another attack. The faithful liked that one and clapped.
The hour mark came and many were calling for Kone to be replaced by Mirallas but no sign of activity. Barry hit a beaut of a pass to Lukaku who looked through on goal but the linesman flagged, that must have been close. Just five minutes later and we shoot ourselves in the foot again when Leicester broke very quickly and Vardy was put in chasing the ball toward the box. Howard came out and for some reason, although Vardy had kicked the ball well beyond him, the keeper went to ground and Vardy did not need a second invitation to find contact with Howards leg to sprawl in the box. Penalty said Mr Moss and once again Mahrez obliged sending Howard the wrong way. Now giving away one pen when no need is sloppy, to give a second was just plain careless. No one was happy of a Goodison persuasion.
Still no sign of Mirallas and with Deulofeu now almost invisible getting back into the game seemed well away from us and, after a couple attacks that came to nought again in the final third, we managed to shoot ourselves in the foot again in a most unprofessional way. We seemed in control of a situation near the junction of Bullens Road and Park End when, from an attempted clearance, a mighty shout of ‘Hand Ball’ went up from players but the ref showed no interest. We stopped playing, they didn’t and the ball reached Okazaki who unceremoniously lashed past Howard into the bottom corner. Well that looked very like all over and just a few minutes later our present manager changed Kone and Deulofeu for Mirallas and Lennon. This caused some ribald comments toward the manager to be heard around the ground.
We gave it a go and attacked well trying all routes but without much luck. Then just before the board went up Barkley at last got a first time pass in the box to Lukaku who had his shot blocked, the ball came loose just to the left of goal and the man we had been calling for some time, Mirallas, smashed home.
Four minutes up on the board and despite a Goodison Roar an equaliser could not be found.
MotM – Barry
Not the best way to start the festivities and made worse by the fact that we managed to gift the opposition their win with sheer sloppiness. I know Christmas is the time for giving gifts but not like that.
Today I thought our only consistent player was Barry and when you think he is 35 then it’s not saying much for these Fab players we are supposed to have. We had an attendance of all but 40.000 and we serve up a show like that – no wonder there was little but grumbles on the walk back and it’s a long time since I have heard a match-going crowd to be questioning the manager's worth and suggesting change may be needed. That is up to the board of course but there sure is some disgruntlement building.
The airplane with the banner reading ‘Thanks Bill Kenwright’ was spotted and I have no doubt some would be thanking him if he did make a change. The big fear seems to be that if we carry on like this then our top players will want away and someone will have to start over. The next two games come very quickly, neither is a gimme so it will be very interesting to see how our manager and players handle them. Then hot on their heels comes Spurs, Chelsea and City twice. Oh dear. Let us hope we win them all.
May I wish you all a happy and healthy Christmas and New Year.
All the very best
UP THE BLUES