To be honest, there’s not a lot to be said about the Sunderland defeat, but to not even give it a mention would give the impression that we only ‘report’ on games in which Everton don’t lose.
It was watched in some Australian bar on the Rembrandtsplein in Amsterdam through a fog of Amstel and the only abiding memory is of a big spray of what appeared to be blood up the middle of the screen and, even more horrifically, Leighton Baines’s mis-placed pass to Stephane Sessegnon. The Benin international – is there a better fact in the modern football than that? – hit a great low shot that Tim Howard got a hand on but couldn’t quite keep from the bottom corner of his goal.
And that was that. Everton never mustered a chance worthy of the name.
On to the Fulham game and, in the absence of Darron Gibson, David Moyes chose to play with both Victor Anichebe and Nikica Jelavic up front against more or less the softest opposition anyone could hope to face at this time of year. You couldn’t hand pick better bums than the Cottagers for Jelavic to try and rebuild his confidence against, but once again the Croatian who used to score in his sleep looked as frustrated as a one-armed midget trying to change a duvet cover. His whole demeanour screamed ‘What’s the fucking point – you know and I know that this is a waste of time’. And indeed it was.
It’s utterly bizarre to see a player who looked so accomplished so recently struggle to do even the basics, like standing up and running for instance. When he was replaced by Ross Barkley with 20 minutes remaining the whole ground just seemed relieved for him that the ordeal was over.
Still, Jelavic apart, Everton are better than Fulham and have moderately more to play for, and it showed from the outset. The winning goal, on 16 minutes, certainly came as no surprise to anyone. A lovely move that encapsulated the best of this present side saw Kevin Mirallas, Leon Osman and Seamus Coleman exchange quick-fire passes down the right before the Irish fullback cut the ball back for Steven Pienaar to neatly side-foot home.
They really have played some great stuff this season and you can only wonder how much closer to the Champions League places they might have finished with an in-form goalscorer. Someone to convert a decent portion of the chances that Baines alone creates would make the Europa League a formality for next season at the very least.
In the second half the England fullback fashioned an absolute sitter for Marouane Fellaini with a cross that cut out the whole Fulham defence and left Mark Scwharzer stranded in no-man’s land, but the wiggy-headed Walloon somehow kicked the ball into the ground and watched as it bounced over the bar.
Mirallas had a great juggle and shot palmed over by Schwarzer who then made a simpler stop when Barkley’s finish at the end of a strong run had too much of the Hollywood about it – a snidey toe-poke might have been more effective than the medium-paced top-corner curler.
There remained then the nagging risk of a seat-clattering afternoon-spoiler from Fulham. Urby ‘Ancock’ Emmanuelson sliced an effort just wide and the whole of Goodison looked on with a mix of dread and morbid fascination when Philipe Senderos, who despite working outdoors always has the pallor of an earthworm exposed under a paving slab, embarked on a run down the right and into the box that could only really be described as ‘slaloming’.
Luckily the Everton goal remained unsullied and the Blues go into the derby five points clear of Liverpool.
So then, in a rare request for audience participation, what’s your prediction for the run in?
Our team of top soccer statisticians predict a draw at Anfield that appears to put the ball firmly in our court but that will then be followed by an outrageously ‘Everton’ cock up and only one point at home to West Ham. Chelsea away will yield the stubbornly defended but inevitable defeat, especially if they still need points to qualify for the Champions League.
If it does pan out that way, given that Liverpool’s last match is at home to QPR their chance of pipping us on goal difference to the ‘best of the next of the rest who don’t even get into the Europa League’ trophy – otherwise billed as ‘local bragging rights’ – will hinge on them the winning at Craven Cottage. And judging on Fulham’s performance on Saturday, yadda, etc. and so forth.
Please note that This Is Not Football accepts no responsibility whatsoever for any or all of the arithmetic above being completely and utterly flawed.