Lunch in Walton and a meet up in the Room of Nonsense where we anticipated a steady three points as we warm up for Wednesday night. The team came through and found favour with most, although a rumour had gone around that Robles may be in in place of Howard. He wasn’t. The walk up was a procession of fans in good mood anticipating nothing less than a victory against a team in some bother at the wrong end of the table. Snatches of conversations were of where in the league we would be after these three points. I wasn’t so cock sure as Swansea were in their first game under a new chief coach and that always gives teams a lift.
In for Z-Cars and the handshake and we start the game attacking the Park End. For a good minute and a half we chased shadows as Swansea played keep-ball and in the main we stood off and let them. Not a good omen I thought. The next half hour was to prove my thinking right as it was the worst spell I can remember for many a year. In the first ten minutes we had one dangerous looking attack which saw a counter attack four on three with Besic leading the charge and Mirallas sprinting to his right and screaming for the ball. Besic ignored him motored on and struck a shot that hit the outside of the post.
The next time I noted Besic he was sitting on the turf. The medics came on and took him off to be replaced by Cleverely. That is a blow to us as he has been out injured a lot and was just starting to look like a player and now another set- back. You have to feel for the lad. Swansea were attacking when they could with Ayew showing well. They also were quick to close us down with fair means or foul as Barkley found out when he was decked. We did get a free kick for that though.
It was painful to watch now and Goodison was like a morgue, eerie in fact. The players needed something. We needed something just to get the match going. What we did get was not altogether to our liking as Stones found himself with the ball at his feet and not much on for a pass to feet, a perfect opportunity for one over the top to give Lukaku and Mirallas a run but no, he dallied and dillied and then hit a slow back pass to Howard which Ayew spotted and was after it like a robber's dog,. Howard started to come, stopped (that was fatal) then came again a touch too late and he met Ayew and sort of kicked him up in the air and our ref. Mr Taylor did not hesitate to point to the spot. Our lads sort of protested but to no avail. Sigurdsson took and almost took the net off. Who was to blame? Well from my seat it was both Stones and Howard plus the dilly-dallying at the back. The faithful were not pleased.
Everton tried to rally but we were lacklustre. I have seen much more life in a dog's fur. Lukaku did turn well to get a shot in but it bothered the corner flag more than the goal. As the half hour approached Baines at last got a good cross in and Deulofeu hit it hard and low on target but a Swans defender got a block and we got a corner. Cleverley put in a low one and our only decent player Barry made the near-post run and got a flick on it and the ball went in off a post. The roar that usually greets goals for the Blues at Goodison was at best tepid.
The goal was timed at 25 minutes and I thought that might be just what we need to wake up and play but within five minutes things got worse as Mirallas pulled up and had to be replaced by Pienaar. So that is him and Besic out for the City game and much longer probably plus, we had used two subs to injury in the first half hour making it difficult to change much as the manager might have liked.
Could it get any worse? Well, yes it could and did when just four minutes later we failed to halt a Swansea raid and the ball was fed to Ayew who shot with venom, the ball deflected off Stones and whipped past Howard at his near post and, Hey-Ho, we are behind again.
Swansea were now protecting their lead by parking the bus and our efforts to break it down almost always ended in blocks or a misplaced pass. Swansea were taking advantage of this by breaking quickly and stretching us. Where Swansea were quick, incisive and putting a real shift in we looked, I am sorry to report, bereft of ideas and no one except Barry tried to rectify the situation. In fact, it would have been easy to accuse certain players of not really trying such was the lethargy. Half-time was a welcome relief from what we had witnessed.
During the interval we had a young lad George Shaw who has cerebral palsy getting the chance to score a goal at the street end and receive the crowd’s roar, all this set up by Deulofeu. Everton do some things really, really, well. I bet that little lad and his dad who was with him were made up.
Second half and we did start brighter but not with that intensity that suggests cups have been thrown. We attacked more but were unable to really get at them where it mattered and, indeed, the first chance of the half went to the visitors when, from our move breaking down, Swansea swiftly got down our right and Routledge got into our box and let fly but luckily Howard’s leg was the saviour.
We then started to get wide and get the ball into the box and with some success at times. Baines and Lukaku exchanged passes, Baines's cross was on the money and Barkley should have scored but didn’t and as it turned out it didn’t matter as Baines was given offside. However ,our strategy of getting wide and getting crosses in was unsettling Swansea and their keeper was booked for time-wasting at an early hour. Also Barkley was trying to get his surge going but was thwarted on the edge by crowding out or he twisted and turned this way and that but could never find his right moment and eventually ended up being robbed.
Deulofeu was having a little purple patch and speeding passed his men usually from a well-placed pass from Barry and delivering some excellent hard and fast crosses the fact that we did not capitalise on this period has me baffled. As anyone who follows the Blues on a regular basis can tell you the type of cross that he puts in with some 95% accuracy yet the players he trains and plays with seem not to have the fans' knowledge as no one closes on the goal line as he delivers. Today I am convinced we could have scored three if they had half the knowledge of the fans. Makes you wonder what they do in training.
The clock was ticking down at what seemed a fast rate of knots and the manager used the last available sub by swapping Oviedo with Coleman. Oviedo got a good send-off but in truth he had not had his greatest game. The best efforts we had were from Baines corners and also a loud shout of ‘Penalty’ from the street end but the ref waved that awa,y plus no player made the claim. Barry was tirelessly prompting but the edge of the box was our downfall as we seemed to run out of ideas there and Lukaku looking disinterested as we failed to get a ball to his feet going forward and, to make matters worse, when he at last got one he tamely put it wide.
Ten to go and Barkley got a cross in that Lukaku got to but could only loop it to the keeper. Then Stones, who had a day to forget, did come forward and deliver a superb through pass to Coleman who sped in on goal then scuffed a shot that went past the far post. I have seen him do much better with those sorts of chances.
Three minutes extra added and one more chance occurred when from a corner Stones headed across goal to the far post where Coleman was lurking unmarked. A tap in, ‘GOAL’ was in the throat but that is where it died as he somehow hoisted it over the bar with the last kick of the game.
MotM – Barry
Coming out of the ground was a bit like leaving a funeral. Sombre faces heading into the dusk and many wondering if we will get near City on Wednesday. The manager was getting some stick, mainly due to the lessons we are supposed to be learning are not being learned and too many games are throwing up the same mistakes.
I wondered if it was the semi-final on too many minds that caused that football calamity today. So many good players under-performing and, worse still, showing little fight or intensity. I think fans can take a defeat if the players have given their all but today’s offering is only likely to cause rancour.
We have our manager and other managers lauding our players with some being in high demand for high money. I hope the players realise that even if it is Barcelona next stop they should represent their club with respect and put in the shifts of skill and endeavour and not believe their own hype. Fans pay lots of money to follow and support them and deserve of their best.
Let’s hope they get it together for Wednesday. Today they were all expensive Fur Coat but no knickers!