While ten points from the last four league games has erased the very real threat of relegation, the frustration of what has become of our season simply will not cease.
Swansea 1 Everton 1: Lennon Strike Edges Blues To Safety
Sitting here writing this, I’m struggling to muster up massive enthusiasm on what turned out to be a valuable point gained at the Liberty Stadium.
I’d call this season a slow death of sorts, it ended in the nightmare in Kiev. Beating relegation seems no reward at all even though the panic that set in after Stoke meant this upturn in form should have meant for a happier feeling.
A lot of fans like myself are simply waiting for the season to officially end, such as become the futility of our prospects in the Premier League.
Now unbeaten in four games, you’d think the smile would be wider but the overwhelming sense of indifference I’ve been feeling towards the remainder of the season perhaps shows just how deep the result in Kiev cut.
The looming 20 year anniversary of infamy is now adding to a sense of urgency in demanding more from the people who “run” our football club. We can’t go on like this, can we?
The blues started unchanged from the hard-fought victory over Southampton last week with the continued frustration of seeing Lukaku, once more unable to recover in time, allowing Arouna Kone to continue upfront. This simply can’t be the way of it next season.
Kone had a poor game and was looking a liability after receiving a booking. It seemed he was trying his best to get himself sent off as the game wore on.
But I’m jumping the gun, mathematically the game was important for us to try to get more distance from the relegation zone but I honestly think even if we’d have lost here, we wouldn’t be in any danger. The game reflected that in the first half.
Two teams with nothing to play for. What a difference 12 months makes. This time last year the blues beat Sunderland 1-0 to make it seven straight wins on the spin as we hunted Arsenal down for a Champions League spot.
What has happened to this team in such a short space of time has left me eager for the season to end and the long overdue inquests to begin.
The game itself started off pre-season-esq. Nothing much of note happened before Gomis, in the form of his life, showed his confidence with a sharp turn and shot that was matched impressively by Tim Howard who tipped the Gomis goal bound effort round the post at full stretch.
Full credit to Howard, and not just for this save. I felt relaxed for once with him in-goal, looking composed, it was much more Nigel Martyn and much less Paul Gerrard.
The blues caught a break with Gomis, following his explosive strike on goal, pulled a hamstring as a consequence. Marvin Emnes coming on for the in-form striker and to be fair Swansea’s threat was hampered severely from there on in.
Everton made a sub of their own just before the half hour mark. I actually thought naively, given Martinez’ penchant for stubbornness, it was a tactical change as the blues just hadn’t got going.
Osman going off for Pienaar which brought about an instant improvement from the blues. Osman it seems suffered a groin injury but the way he walked off the pitch suggested to me that Martinez had shown some authority for once. Naivety to the fore once again.
Whatever it was, it certainly helped the blues and the link up play between Baines and Pienaar was instant. Pienaar overall was excellent, rolling back the clock with probing, skillful play. Taking responsibility in tight areas of the pitch and always looking to push the blues on and take the game to Swansea.
Before Everton’s – at the time deserved opener – Jonjo Shelvey had a screamer ruled out for a foul on Baines by Routledge. The finish deserved better and reminded me of Peter Beardsley’s at Oldham, who watched the linesman’s flag go up after chipping the keeper from 30 odd yards.
Everton, now with a foothold in the game, pressed and just a few minutes later, Coleman’s fizzed drive was tipped wide by the impressive Fabianski. Everton in general were looking much better as the first half progressed.
The improvement was rewarded on 41 minutes with the blues taking a deserved lead. A great move reminiscent of the Everton of last season saw Kone link up with McCarthy down the left, the Irishman curled a ball in that evaded Williams and found Lennon. The on-loan winger showed great composure and picked his spot, guiding the ball home to send Everton into the lead on the cusp of half-time.
The blues now looking rampant could have added more to their tally before the break. Kone shooting straight at Fabianksi and then he really ought to have shot when well placed a few moments later.
Kone maybe showing a lack of confidence not hard to fathom after an impressive drought, choosing to lay the ball off to Pienaar who, under pressure from the Swans defence, shot straight at Fabianski.
The second half started with not much to report, the blues now looking assured on the ball with Pienaar pulling the strings and Fabianksi pressed into action to deny Kone following a John Stones clearance.
Ki should have squared the ball after some neat work in the box but shot from a ridiculous angle to let the blues off the hook. We seemed to hit the panic button for no reason whatsoever, and with Kone more interested in trying to get himself sent off than hold the ball up, we found it difficult as the second half wore on to get out of own half.
Swansea, now trying to get back into the game, saw Emnes break forward at pace before shooting wide with Howard untroubled. Then another gift from Everton ensured the 40 point mark would not be reached here.
Let’s have it right, it might have looked a bit soft but 9 times out if ten, Emnes push on Coleman, who was trying to see the ball out for a goal kick, would have been given as a free-kick. But the referee played on, Coleman scandalously not playing to the whistle handled the ball, looking for all the world to do the refs job for him and award himself a free-kick.
Unsurprisingly the Irishman was rewarded with seeing the ref point to the spot instead, and that sense of deflation was back.
Just how many goals have we gifted to our opponents this season? It seems Everton’s biggest problem on the pitch this campaign has been Everton. Shelvey rolled home, sending Howard the wrong way to restore parity for the hosts.
Despite this, and Swansea’s emergence in that twenty-minute spell in the second half, I didn’t feel as though we were going to lose the game. Naismith coming on for Kone with a quarter of an hour left – far too late – as Martinez played roulette with out 11 man status in the game. Kone, as stated, was a liability for me.
Everton, now infuriatingly, given the needless concession, began to grow into the game once more. Barkley shooting over when teed up by McCarthy. Barkley is seems, who was by no means the worst player on the pitch, is still struggling for confidence. Lots of nice touches on the ball but not much quality when it mattered in the final third. He mirrored Everton this season; simply leaving you wanting more.
That said, Barkley played a key role in a move that really should have seen the blues regain the lead. An incisive move saw Barkley’s dummy release McCarthy, with the ball begging to be shot goalwards, McCarthy tried to find Naismith instead but misplaced his pass, letting the hosts off the hook and a great chance to secure all three points was passed up.
Kevin Mirallas came on for the last five minutes, clearly too late and does nothing to suggest he’s doing anything but going through the motions in an Everton shirt before what seems to be an inevitable departure this summer.
Mirallas first touch was a trick that I’ve replicated in me back garden trying to show off to me son. Mirallas had a low shot well saved by Fabianksi as the game reached its conclusion.
Star player for me was Steven Pienaar. It was great to see him in this form and there are few better players at receiving possession in tight areas and directing the play. Let’s hope he and Baines can re-live the old times between now and May.
My overriding feeling was that this was a decent result for us. It was a means to an end in our damage limitation exercise and relegation is no longer a threat despite being a mathematical distant possibility. We all know the burning issues now as Evertonians and they begin off the field.
The twenty year trophyless day of infamy is fast approaching. I’ve banged on about it constantly on twitter I know, but truly it is all about the summer now. As Evertonians we need to be demanding better from the board for our club.
The board and Bill Kenwright have failed us for long enough. It’s ingrained into my mind that now more than ever we need to make a stand. I hope it doesn’t sound like a Phil Neville rallying cry, but the time for acceptance is over.
We are seemingly without hope and some fans remind me of extras from iRobot. Just going to the game and not looking at the wider picture. This isn’t a generalization, but talking to some fans it seems they aren’t aware there’s even a problem.
Everton Football Club is badly in need of a face swill – from top to bottom. We deserve an innovative forward thinking board with the best interests of Everton at its heart.
I don’t believe we have that currently. This summer more than ever we need to make our voices heard, accepting being constantly shortchanged from the board should, after 15 long draining years of failure, no longer be on the menu.
The panic of relegation now over, we must ensure this kind of season never materializes again. Starting against Burnley, and a return to the fearless Everton of last season. I’d love the blues to end strongly, to offer hope for next season.
Hope that simply has to be enhanced in the summer. It’s time we demanded more blues.