Everton 3 - 0 Norwich City
Last home game of the season and after a week of turmoil in the club with disgruntled fans organising protests and mayhem for our final game, the club did the kindest thing possible and relieved our former manager of his duties after another calamitous game and loss away at Sunderland last Wednesday. Not only was the manager relieved of his duties along with the awards evening planned for fateful Thursday but a temporary management team was named and put in place ready for todayâ€™s fixture. Unsworth was aided by Royle, Ebrell and Ferguson.
We made our way to the Room of Nonsense and as it filled it became clear that there was a change of mood by the fans. Hope replaced doom and a debate took place re who should be our next manager with a mix of Koeman, DeBoer, Mourinho and Rafa. I was surprised at the number favouring Rafa but as our mate Alan said the club and fans need to concentrate on getting us the best possible and not be swayed by petty squabbles that took place a decade ago. He thought it would reinforce the small club jibe. We will see.
I have to say I have no idea who we might get but I hope that whoever is charged with appointing a new manager is clear in his thought train of what this club wants and by when, and if a credible applicant can meet the criteria then we will still need an element of luck that all concerned can be galvanised by the appointment. It seems easy to say we will get a new manager but more often than not things just donâ€™t work out. I wish our search team the Wisdom of Solomon and then Watch. See and Hope.
The walk up was sunny with clear blue skies but typical of our weather it was a cold wind. The atmosphere was full of wonderment and expectation as fans headed for the â€˜Old Ladyâ€™. We had demanded change and it came about and today we somehow knew it would be a better day at the office. The omens were good and bad. The fat van was doing well and the old large van was back after almost a season missing â€“ a good sign! But then for the first time this season the hat, scarf and badge stand was missing â€“ a bad sign! The Blue Dragon had a queue, the programme sellerâ€™s raucous cries merged with the cacophony of sound from the fan zone and Goodison Road was awash with fans intent on roaring our team that included three promising youngsters with two more on the bench. This bold selection had met with universal approval and a win to replace the gut wrenching feel of defeat was anticipated.
We won the toss and Norwich kicked off with the rookie Pennington at right back, eighteen year old Dowell and seventeen year old Davies in from the start there was a welcome youthfulness to the team. Right away both Dowell and Davies were conspicuous by their determination and fleet of foot as well as looking the part and far from overawed.
Around 10 minutes in and Lukaku, who hadnâ€™t netted for nine games now, was played in by a superb ball from Barry and with goal in our throats he hit it tamely and our ex-keeper Ruddy saved and as the ball was put back into the mixer both players did better as Lukaku caught good and true but Ruddy flying to his right pushed the ball away.
The game had a bit of ebb and flow to it now and it was noticeable we defending with a tenacity and a hoof when required in contrast to that worrying keep ball in our own area. No doubt about it we as speccyâ€™s felt more secure. The heart stayed out of the mouth more. McCarthy was looking more like his old self and covering acres as was Tom Davies and both seemed to benefit from each other. Then on twenty minutes Dowell, who had already showed some neat touches and positive running, went passed two Norwich men and played a ball to meet up with McCarthyâ€™s surge and from some 20-plus yards he hit a screamer into the net. Oh Joy. The fans delighted yet the players seemed lukewarm in their celebration. I have no idea why.
The first goal is usually important but in our case this season we seem to have been undone soon after scoring so it was welcoming to see us keep our foot on the gas and look capable of holding the lead at the back and the midfield trying to create. In this mode we saw Lukaku at last to take a ball in and get his touch right and play in his countryman Mirallas who came in and shot and only troubled the side netting, but with some parts of the ground thinking he had scored. Sadly on the half hour mark Pennington succumbed to the curse of the Everton â€˜Hammyâ€™ and was replaced by another youngster Jonjoe Kenny
Norwich came back into it now and Naismith caused a couple of flutters with his nonstop efforts but we held firm and defended to a standard that keeps clean sheets, much to the fans' delight. There were blocks from all parts of players' anatomy along with well-timed tackles and good anticipation of danger. Barry was a master at that and young Davies was looking to emulate him.
The clock was ticking toward the break. Just before the board went up Baines got down the flank and crossed aiming for the head of Lukaku who was dropped to the deck and referee Mason pointed to the spot. Now as one all four sides of the ground roared Baines â€“ Baines â€“ Baines. Fair play to Lukaku he walked away and no one else was going to challenge the will of the crowd. Baines stepped up, the net bulged and now the celebrations were at fever pitch. Oh, if only Bainsey could have taken at Wembley. I think that is converted pen number 17 out of 18 attempts. Makes you think it might be best to let him take them when they arise.
Speedo Mick was named â€˜Fan of the Yearâ€™ and Tony Bellew was introduced in Evertonâ€™s new shirt to promote his fight.
Second half and we had a two goal lead but with the season we have had then the thought of being pegged back is real but we seemed determined with the back four looking as though they were paying attention. Anything that looked dangerous was cleared forthwith up field and if time permitted playing out from the back and through midfield was accomplished to good applause.
From such a move just about 5 minutes in, Dowell won the ball and fed the impressive Davies who moved the ball neatly on to McCarthy who held the ball as Kenny roared past him which gave McCarthy the time to get a low cross in that somehow found its way to the far post where the revitalised Mirallas was in the right place to poach a goal with a simple side foot effort. He got a good reception for that but at three nil up and the way we were playing we sensed a stroll in the park rather than a backs to the wall deep defending amid rising blood pressure.
We may not be used to this sort of stuff but hell we will take it. It crossed my mind that if David and Joe and the boys can get us playing like this after just two days why were we in such a mess over two and a bit seasons under our previous manager. Strange game at times this footy.
Coming up to the hour mark we had Baines down with a head injury but it was McCarthy who came off to be replaced by Lennon. There was no sign of injury so maybe just rotation. Lennon was his usual busy self but it was Davies who was really catching the eye with his boundless energy and at times superb positioning and ball winning to set up moves. At just 17... Wow! Dowell and Kenny were certainly holding their own too so whoever gets the managerâ€™s job will have some fine young talent already here and raring to go and by the looks of it players who can be trusted.
Davies was ever ready to take free kicks and shared duties with Baines when a right footer was the better option and Baines had no qualms about that arrangement. We did get a free kick in a central position that Baines may have wished he had let Davies take as his effort bent the wrong way and was wide by some distance. The tempo of our youngsters was now rubbing off on Lukaku, who wasnâ€™t that old himself, was running more and looking lively and hungry for the ball but when it was fired up to him his control let him down as did his habit of being called for coming back from an offside position. Whether he stays or goes one manager will have some work to do on him regarding that side of his game.
Norwich had a good spell which we defended quite well compared with some games this season. Howard was alert and made a couple of good stops at his near post and commanded his area well executing catches and punches. Jags and Stones were playing as a pair better than of late plus Stones seemed to make a hoof clearance when necessary rather than try to play out every time. He has learned a trick or two from Jags, as demonstrated when the merest of nudges ensured that Jerome headed over from a cross when danger beckoned.
Barkley replaced Dowell with 20 to go and the youngster was given a tremendous reception as he left the pitch. That will do his confidence no harm at all. Barkley was straight into the play and a move between him and Lennon got him into the box but he held on too long and that chance went. Then he had one of his surging runs that got him into the area but he was bumped and went to ground but somehow sprang back up and went to shoot as he was bumped again denying him any power in the shot which Ruddy gathered. The crowd liked that attempt.
We had a Baines dash forward but he was unceremoniously felled to the green sward. He and Mirallas stood over the ball and plotted. The whistle went â€“ Baines started his run â€“ Mirallas set off at great speed to get behind their defence and connect with the ball played through by Bainesâ€”unfortunately Baines fell over as he ran up much to the delight if those assembled. Back to the drawing board and a regulation kick took place which came to nought but Baines trotted back to his position with a big grin on his face.
The game was then played out by both teams in keep ball fashion with the Norwich fans providing the oleâ€™s for both teams. Final whistle and a home win at last.
M.o.t.M. - Tom Davies
We then had an emotional Tim Howard on the pitch and on the mike saying his good byes. He has created an Everton record by playing 352 premier league appearances. He had walked through a guard of honour provided by his team mates accompanied by the stars and stripes. From the microphone he said he has loved the place since he came here in 2006. He said it was a privilege to play for this amazing club and although he is leaving tomorrow this will always be my home. He got another standing ovation.
Well thatâ€™s it another season over and as disappointing as the previous one. Yet today there was a difference in the mood of fans. It was as though a weight had been lifted and replaced by hope and expectation. The chat was upbeat as we considered when things may start moving. I can only hope our club makes the right moves. I hope that my most depressing moment of the season was when coming off the ground after the West Ham game was to overhear a youngster say â€˜Dad, why do we always have to come to watch Everton loseâ€™ wonâ€™t be repeated. That was sad.
Still we have the Euros to look forward to plus all the rumours of what is happening down Goodison way. Donâ€™t believe anything until someone waves a shirt or scarf to save disappointment.
It'll soon be August when can meet again and off the roller coaster goes. I must put a tenner on us to win the league. Have a great summer break
UP THE BLUES