Forum contributor scratchnsurf gives his version of the home game against Aston Villa.
Up to Goodison for only the second time this season, and the first time for a league match and bringing the two eldest scratchlings. The eldest has been a few times before. Indeed, only a few months old he attended his first game and we promptly gave someone a four nil drubbing, Southampton possibly, but that was a good fourteen years ago (where the hell did that go?). He also accompanied me for our Carling Cup whipping of Orient earlier this season, proof irrefutable that we are well better than League One clubs on a Wednesday in August. Mirallas and Naismith both looked fairly handy on that showing, but then so did Gueye so I decided it was a bit early to draw any conclusions. Scratchling number 2 has somehow avoided watching Everton in the flesh, never really showing much interest so I was somewhat surprised when he accepted the offer of a ticket. More about him later.
Pre match routine followed traditional gender based stereotyping. Mother and sister went shopping, Dad, me and the offspring went to the pub, other wise (now) known as The Alehouse, but letâ€™s face it, we all call it the St Hildaâ€™s. Back in August, number one son was somewhat taken aback by the lack of nuts in the salted snack selection, but clearly word has reached the brewery of his discontent. New owners have taken over, but instead of dealing with the nut issue, they have decided to charge a fiver to park outside so by the time we reached the St Hildaâ€™s from Dadâ€™s newly found parking space, I was already reflecting on the fact that leaving my coat behind may have been an error.
And so, into the St Hildaâ€™s for a couple. Now, I was fully expecting this to be something of a culture shock, for number two son but as it turns out it was myself who was soon finding things slightly surreal. The lads were seated and provided with pop and crisps (still no nuts; I donâ€™t hold out much hope for the new owners) and I proceeded to soak up the atmosphere. For those of you unfamiliar with the place, the St Hildaâ€™s might, by some, be described as a bit rough. Now, I donâ€™t mean that youâ€™re likely to get any trouble in there, but Walton Road is not one of Liverpoolâ€™s more affluent suburbs to say the least (though I didnâ€™t see anyone wandering round in their PJâ€™s on this visit). So, bearing this in mind I was a little perplexed to hear the two blokes next to me discussing their opinions on the relative merits and downfalls of Les Mis â€“ stage V screen. What this says about Walton Road or Evertonians I donâ€™t really know, but Iâ€™ve perhaps learned something about having preconceptions.
Now severely questioning my judgement regarding my coat, we arrived at the Old Lady with no idea of the team, having left my phone with my coat and not listened to the radio on the way. It reminded me of being a kid and always having no idea who would be playing until getting to the game. Of course, back then a squad consisted of about 15 players so you always pretty much knew. Come to think of it, not much has changed in that regard. Seats were found with little difficulty, in the Park End, nice and close to the front. It was at this point I noticed our proximity to the Villa fans. More about them later also. Z-cars â€“ whenever I hear it I get the tingles on the back of the neck and can envisage the boys in blue sprinting out in front of a packed Goodison to the roar of the crowd. Today, however, the music played, the crowd roared and the players kind of ambled out amongst the detritus of whatever had been going on before hand. Why were there so many people on the pitch I have no idea, two of them seemed to be removing a leaking childâ€™s paddling pool as I shook my head, the moment having been slightly ruined.
And so we started, like a house on fire. Or, more specifically, like a house that has been on fire, put out, lived in by tramps and eventually fallen down. Villa got right at us and Howard was picking the ball out of the net whilst my fellow Park Enders hurled abuse at him, Heitinga, Distin, the whole team, Moyes and the world in general in what seemed like no time at all. A good finish from Benteke, who looked a handful and proved to be so throughout the game, but when I felt Howard could have done more. Now, Iâ€™ve not seen any replays, but to me, if thereâ€™s someone coming at the keeper, one V one, the keeper should move out to him, quick so that the attacker has to make a decision quickly. Howard seemed to take a couple of half steps forward, allowing Benteke plenty of time to think about what he was going to do. No doubt there will be those of you saying mistakes were made in front of him, and Iâ€™m sure they were but those situations are where your keeper earns his bread and butter. Or doesnâ€™t.
The Villa fans, understandably, were elated. At least, I think. Fair play to them, they were in high spirits and well you would be, having escaped Birmingham for the day. We were treated, for a good 90 odd minutes to an interesting repertoire of chants, songs and abuse from them. No doubt, it was all highly intellectual and witty on their part but seeing as no one can understand a bloody word they say you could argue that theyâ€™re wasting their time somewhat. Anyway, theyâ€™ve all gone back to Brum so whose laughing now.
Introducing the Everton Mishmash!
So, the Blues rallied, if you could call it that, which largely consisted of hoofing it in the direction of Vic of Fellaini and then scrapping for second balls. For 19 minutes we endured the unintelligible and unwashed masses to our right presumably gloating about their lead until Vic shut them up with what I would call a good centre forwards goal. Somebody (I was at the other end of the ground) put a decent ball in to the big ladâ€™s feet and he showed great strength to hold off his marker, turning in three installments before shooting past Guzan. We then treated the Villa fans to a rousing chorus of who the effinâ€™ hell are you. Scratchling number 2 was, at this point considering the limitless possibilities of being allowed to swear extremely loudly with little or no chance of recriminations. Regrettably for him, his chance to exercise this option was cruelly take away from him as more sloppy play led to Villa getting in behind down our left flank and Abonglahor headed home from close range as Fellaini stood admiring his leap.
The rest of the half largely consisted of sh*te as we just couldnâ€™t get it going. Pienaar was lively enough but his markers stayed close to him and basically pulled him over or off the ball whenever they could. Gibson tried to make positive forward passes, but not many seemed to come off, Mirallas was lively enough but not enough to produce a telling ball or shot and Bainesâ€™ delivery was not up to its usual standard. The pace of the play wasnâ€™t quick enough, passes werenâ€™t crisp and our forwards were quite static and largely dealing with long balls launched at them. Half time came and went and I found myself thinking, to my own disbelief that we would have been better off with Neville on the pitch. Something was certainly amiss and during the scrum in the bogs, Heitinga seemed to be the focus for the majority of the discontent. He had, essentially been pretty crap, but he certainly wasnâ€™t the only one and Benteke was playing a smart game, basically steering clear of Distin knowing that Johnny isnâ€™t tall enough or physically big enough to muscle him off the ball. Still, I consoled myself with the knowledge that being behind is familiar territory this season and we havenâ€™t lost many.
That consolation was proving to be somewhat thin, especially when we carried on the second half in the same vien as the first. Benteke duly scored his second, a header in of the post and, at this point a reaction was needed imminently. Moyes reacted, hoiking off Heitinga, who had a poor game and Mirallas, much to the discontent of the crowd. I personally thought the booing was mystifying. Mirallas had been ok, showed some good skills at times, got in behind on a couple of occasions but hadnâ€™t produced anything telling and is coming back from an injury. Something needed to change and fairplay to Moyes, his changes worked. Jelavic came on and went up front, and Oviedo, who seems to be massively left footed, came on to play on the right. We seemed to play the last half an hour with no right back, but hey â€“ it did the trick!
For the first time in the game, we built up a head of steam, got the balance right between being direct and playing it on the floor and Villa were on the back foot. Good work on the edge of their box saw Anichebe play in Fellaini who put his shot beyond Guzan. Game on. The Crowd woke up and so did the team. There followed a long period of pressure from the Blues, several corners and near misses but Villaâ€™s youngsters defended stoutly, riding their luck at times. Jelavic nearly made his mark but Guzman saved his shot on the half volley but in the end it was Fellaini who netted the equalizer, heading home Duncan-esque from a Baines corner. Unable to find a winner in the last three minutes, we settled for the draw that most of us would have snatched from the offering hand at 62 minutes into the game, but in the wider picture has to go down as a disappointing result.
In the Premier league, the margins between success and failure are painfully small, as painfully small as our squad. We only played to anything like our capability for about half and hour, and when so many players are having a slightly off day for whatever reason, even a team struggling at the bottom of the league will give you difficulties. You canâ€™t help but think that the failure to find any fresh faces is going to come back and bite us come the end of the season and what the wider implications of that may be we will have to wait and see.
Anichebe did well today, Fellaini has been better but was still pretty good. Other than that it was a largely a series of performances to forget about. Without wanting to mention any names, we did seem to lack a bit of organisation and leadership on the park today. I felt I should point that out. As for Villa, who knows, or cares really. I like the look of Benteke though. I think we can safely say we canâ€™t afford him.
As for me, well Stoke at home is likely to be the next time I make it up. This gives number 2 son a couple of months to practice his profanities. Hopefully I wonâ€™t be getting a call from his school next week about the latest additions to his vocabulary. If this one goes down well, I may do another report/diary entry. One thing I definitely wonâ€™t be doing next time is leaving my coat in the house.