A fourth defeat in four home games was not expected prior to kick off and having fallen behind to two Luton markers, Everton simply couldn’t find enough to rescue a point and the home form slump continues.
For the first time this season, I would suggest that the vast majority of Evertonians crossing the threshold of Goodison Park did so with the full expectation of a Blues victory.
It’s amazing what a couple of good results do for confidence and on the back of two excellent performances and outcomes away at Brentford and Aston Vanilla, that saw progression to the next round of the Carabao Cup, another sold out Goodison was definitely looking to a first home win of the season at the expense of a Luton Town side with just one point gained so far.
Would Sean Dyche again spring a surprise and start Beto and Dominic Calvert-Lewis in a strike partnership… all was revealed at 2pm when the starting eleven was confirmed as: Jordan Pickford, Ashley Young, James Tarkowski (c), Jarrad Branthwaite, Vitalii Mykolenko, James Garner, Idrissa Gana Gueye, Abdoulaye Doucoure, Amadou Onana, Dwight McNeil and Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
Luton secured their first point from a hard-fought 1-1 draw against Wolves last weekend before crashing out of the Carabao Cup on Tuesday away at Exeter City. Despite being back in training, former Everton midfielder Ross Barkley wasn’t available to face the Blues, as the Hatters named their starting line-up: Kaminski, Kabare, Burke, Lockyer (c), Bell, Ogbene, Nakamba, Brown, Mpanzu, Morris and Doughty.
On a breezy, damp afternoon, our referee was Anthony Taylor.
The Blues had the first chance with a ball from Doucoure reaching McNeil and his shot from just outside the area going wide of the far post, and from a throw-in moments later, a fine cross from Mykolenko found the head of DCL but, his effort went straight at Kaminski. In response, on their first foray into the Blues half, Luton saw a wild shot by Nakamba go well wide of the target.
A cross from the left by Doughty saw the visitors win the first corner off Tarkowski, Pickford easily claiming the set piece. A move from the back started by McNeil and involving Doucoure and Gana Gueye ended with James Garner curling a shot just wide of the target.
A good turn by Onana on the edge of the Luton area saw him feed Doucoure and his layback to Gana Gueye saw him side foot a shot wide when he really should have tested the keeper. A great ball from Onana picked out Garner in space on the right but, his instant low cross was too far ahead of another Blue shirt. Everton kept the pressure on a back heel from Mykolenko gave Onana the chance to shoot but, again just too wide of the far post – a bright opening quarter hour from the Blues.
Luton won a second corner as Ogbene got behind Tarkowski, Onana putting the ball behind, and the corner came to nothing. A fine recovery by Branthwaite halted a Luton counter attack before Doughty won a third corner for the visitors off Garner, and a free header by Lockyer cleared the crossbar. A fourth corner for Luton was defended by Mykolenko at the expense of a fifth, and Lockyer capitalised to net from close range after the initial header from Morris came back off the crossbar, and Young failed to hoof the ball to safety. Twenty-five minutes played and Everton were having to chase another home game… not what Sean Dyche or many of the crowd expected at three o’clock.
Everton tried to hit back quickly with a cross fro:the left by McNeil reaching DCL only for his glancing header to sail wide of the far post, before a succession of poor passes irritated the home crowd, as a free kick was conceded that saw Doughty flight a perfect cross to the back post where it was met on the volley by Morris and the Hatters doubled their lead just past the half hour mark.
Where Everton had had the better of the first quarter hour, the second most definitely had been Luton’s making and taking their chances.
A cross by Young eluded DCL and when McNeil crossed from the left it was easily cleared by Burke much to the consternation of the home crowd. A short cross by McNeil found Garner, his header coming back off the crossbar and despite maintains some possession, Everton were finding it difficult to build any real pressure and threat on the Luton goal.
Inside the final five minutes of the half and a deep free kick from Pickford eventually saw the ball reach Onana and in a scramble, Calvert-Lewin forced the ball home. VAR reviewed for possible offside and after a ridiculously long delay, Shockley Park ruled in the Blues favour, and the deficit was halved.
Six added minutes were announced as Everton won another free kick wide left that was defended hurriedly by Luton. Huge claims for a penalty went unheeded and a cross from Young was too strong for DCL to get on the end of. Nothing else of note occurred and at the break, the Blues were back in it but, finding Luton a much tougher proposition than many in the stands had expected them to be.
Half Time: 1-2
The rain that had poured down throughout the first half showed no signs of abating as the teams took to the pitch for the second half with Jack Harrison replacing Gana Gueye for Everton while Luton sent on Andersen for Burke.
It was fully five minutes before a ball from Onana picked out DCL, his shot partially blocked and faking nicely for a Kaminski. Luton countered to win a corner on the right that was defended.
On 55 minutes, Luton made a second change as Mengi replaced Lockyer, and the rain got heavier. Onana was lucky not to see yellow for a petulant shoulder into the face of Mpanzu and the free kick was wasted by Luton. A shot by McNeil was put behind for an Everton corner and before it was taken, Beto replaced Abdoulaye Doucoure on the hour mark as the Blues went for two up front. The corner was defended before nobody made any effort to get on the end of a cross from Mykolenko.
A long ball from Tarkowski was volleyed wide by DCL and the crowd howled its disapproval of time wasting by Kaminski. Luton got down the Park End and had a third ‘goal’ rightly chalked off for offside. Goodison was getting angry at the Blues struggling to get the upper hand and some arguable decisions by referee Taylor.
A collision between Branthwaite and Morris saw both need some treatment before continuing and another bizarre decision went Luton’s way. A foul by Branthwaite gave Luton a free kick near the right wing corner that was cleared, and jeers off derision came as finally a throw-in went the Blues way.
Into the final twenty minutes and Everton still were not making a big enough impression upon proceedings. McNeil won a corner on the left that was easily headed clear by Andersen before he went down after colliding with Branthwaite. Garner picked out Harrison and his ball into the area for DCL saw him go down and howls for a penalty again went unheeded. A deep cross from McNeil found Harrison to nod on for Beto who put his effort over the bar.
Further changes on 78 minutes saw Adebaya replace Morris for Luton and Nathan Patterson replace Ashley Young.
Tarkowski picked out Harrison but his cross was too strong for DCL, Beto and McNeil. Kaminski went down needing treatment, surely more minutes of added on time to come on top of his earlier time wasting at goal kicks.
A cross from Patterson won another left wing corner for the Blues that was defended and with seven minutes left in normal time, Arnaut Danjuma replaced a tiring Dwight McNeil.
Everton were piling forward but, it was largely huff ‘n puff and a cross from Garner was met by Beto who again failed to direct his header on target. Time was ticking inexorably away and Everton were in need of some divine intervention as seven added minutes were signalled by the fourth official.
A long ball from Tarkowski saw DCL volley into the side netting and if I’m honest, Everton were running out of ideas, and they hadn’t had that many in this second half. It’s all very well having the lions share of possession but, you have to do something with it. Credit to Luton, they had taken what chances they had created and the introduction of Andersen at the centre of their defence had made them much more difficult to break down.