Carlisle United 0 - 3 Everton
Pre-game, the walk to the ground reminded me how horrible it must be to be flooded out of your home. Reminders seemed everywhere and the consequence of not having insurance doesn’t bear thinking about. You just hope and pray that adequate flood defences can be put in place where needed in our country.
Still, we were here for the footy and it was soon apparent that the local community saw this cup tie as part of their healing process. We were welcomed whereever we walked with people thanking Everton Football Club and its fans for their support. I thought it a disgrace when told that only Everton and Sunderland had responded to their call for help.
They were up for the match though as the ground was a sell-out housing some 17,000 fans. The Blues end was full and after Wednesday's defeat at the Etihad no hangover signs were noted as the songs and chants and support was as normal for an away cup tie. Talking to a few it seems the main thrust of the aftermath of City was for the manager and players to step up to the plate, show that the gap in divisions was well and truly put on display and to take any momentum gained today into Wednesday night. It seems the manager and players will be backed from the terraces providing they put on a display that marries attack and defence into one unit with no messing about at the back and moving forward with pace, poise and penetration. Wednesday could define the stand-off between manager, players and fans to season end.
We kicked off and looked up for it from the off. The manager had retained Jags, Funes Mori, Cleverly, Joel and Barkley from Wednesday and gave starts to Coleman, Oviedo, McCarthy, Pienaar, Lennon and Kone. A strong looking side with a bench that was strong with normal starters getting a breather.
Within 14 minutes we had the game over as the gulf between the sides was evident and our players were playing with an intensity that suggested someone is at last starting to take notice that fans only grumble and groan when the fare on show is both tepid and weak. Today was up and at ‘em, with the travelling faithful responding in kind.
Within two minutes of kick off our pace and passing saw Cleverley take a pass from Coleman and feed Lennon over the top. The little man was after it in a flash and made the by-line and looking up selflessly fed Kone across the box for a tap in.
Next Carlisle got, I think, their only worthwhile shot on target when Mori had a ball coming in from deep over his shoulder, he turned and tried some aerial acrobatics that went horribly wrong and Asamoah lashed one on goal, but the advancing Joel narrowed the angle well enough to beat it away.
We were now well in control in all areas of the pitch and the class was telling. My worry was that with us being so dominant we would lose some concentration and get sucked into a David and Goliath job. I am old enough to have seen us get into them quite a few times but today was not going to be one of those days as we remained professional and focused. On 14 minutes we put the top hat on the tie with a delightful move down our left with Barkley, Kone, Oviedo, Pienaar and Oviedo again pulling the ball back for the live-wire Lennon to take a touch that took him passed two men and slide ball past the keeper. A finely constructed move expertly finished.
The game moved on with us well in charge and a bit of light heartedness was noted when we were awarded a free kick just outside the box. The usual wall was built and the keeper lined it up to cover his right hand post. Barkley took and got it expertly up and down over the wall but horribly wide it was like he didn’t look at the set up and assumed the goal was behind the centre of the wall. He got some quizzical looks from teammates and looked rather sheepish.
The half went on and with us in command the faithful were resorting to their own fun, songs were started but no-one finished them and on the half hour we had a bit of excitement when Carlisle got two corners on the trot. Nothing came of them but the locals roared and roared. It’s hard to report on not much happening but it could have been if our approach work could have found a cutting edge in the box. The half ended with us clearly on top but clever one two’s, low and high crosses plus through balls being almost but not quite.
Cleverley, Lennon and Barkley had been the pick in that half so we all expected much of the same second half as Carlisle just did not have the wherewithal to hurt us. They made changes for the second half, one being one of our former Academy hopefuls Hallam Hope but it made little difference as it was more of the same. But fair play for the hosts – they did have a bit of a go for the first fifteen minutes. Our only worry, though, was when someone whacked McCarthy’s ankle and he had to have treatment and be helped off but he soon recovered and re-joined the fray.
We were well in command and knocking the ball about well and mostly forward with just the necessary amount of back and square, Barkley was ever prominent with some surges and some astute passing and one rapier like pass fired into the box to the feet of Kone saw the Ivorian hesitate that split second too long. That was the story of this half – we passed well but the final deadly touch alluded us. Coleman and Lennon were combining well down the right and after one delightful exchange Coleman got in on goal but his attempt was well blocked by a sliding centre back.
The hour mark came and went but we had seen Osman replace Pienaar. The reception Osman got from the home faithful reflected his loan period here many seasons ago. Footy fans don’t forget. Fittingly it was Osman on 65 minutes exchanged passes with Oviedo after a many pass move and then threaded a beaut to Barkley who went past three defenders and hit a thunderbolt into the net. The whole ground applauded. It’s not often you see that.
It was deffo game over and we relaxed a little but I am pleased to report we kept a professional approach and tried to open the chances for more goals while defending with a purpose that included a couple of row Z’s and a couple of relieving punts up field. Is some learning taking place?
Barkley was subbed on 75 and the whole ground rose to him. I am sure the last time I saw that was when we applauded George Best off at Goodison. Gibson came on. He had a tidy 18 minutes but broke little sweat as he didn’t need to. Coleman had also been replaced by Galloway who went left back and Oviedo switched to the right. However, the job was done and no time for anyone to shine. Near the end the hosts started knocking it about and there crowd applied the "oles" so our mob joined in. Some idiot let off a blue smoke bomb with no heed of those near to them. I hoped no-one had respiratory troubles in that area. Full time whistle and we are through to the next round where we will face Bournemouth. Now, there is a place to go and show improvement on our last visit.
MotM – Barkley plus Lennon
After Wednesday we have had turmoil on social media, phone-ins, web sites and newspapers. It seemed the manager was in the firing line and must be replaced. However, the fans today were very supportive of the team and the players should realise that all we really want is for them to play to their potential and get that message over to the manager. On Wednesday night we seemed to play to some plan or system that had little to do with cup tie football. We got an away goal to go two clear goals up but then there was no grunt and spit, no tenacious cup tie resolve and no in your face confrontation that says we are Everton. Instead it was tippy-tappy fear factor stuff. I saw only four players with fire in their belly and they were Mori, Baines, Barry and Barkley and I did wonder if they had gone against orders.
This Wednesday will be a real test against Premier League opposition that have added a bit of quality to their team this window. We have the players, will we have the tactics to overcome the opposition and if that requires some of the darker arts then so be it. We all want the silky joined-up stuff but we have to earn the right to play first.
Talking to a few Blues this weekend we all seem to be a bit up in the air as information is coming from quite a few outlets that we about to sign a striker but nothing coming out locally. Strange one. Also due diligence with regard to the proposed takeover was supposed to have now ended but not a peep locally. Martinez says in presser that we are making no signings as we have sufficient resources but then says he will keep looking to make us better right up to 11-00pm. With all this going on we will be going to a ‘Home for the Bewildered’ rather than Goodison Park.
Still onward and upward – See you Wednesday
UP THE BLUES