In the words of Elvis Presley: ‘Lord almighty, I feel my temperature rising’.
And who wouldn’t after seeing Roberto Martinez’s hunks of burning love produce 45 minutes of joyous football. A Yohan Cabaye-inspired fightback resulted in a nervy finish that seemed unimaginable at the break, but it was that opening half that will live long in the memory.
Romelu Lukaku had already netted the first of two disallowed goals when he notched the legitimate opener after only five minutes. The pace of Kevin Mirallas was exhilarating as he stole the ball and tore down the right wing; he the then looked up to see Lukaku pointing exactly where he wanted the cross delivered at the near post. The resulting shot struck Tim Krul but the Dutchman couldn’t keep it out of the Park End net.
The visitors simply could not live with Everton’s intensity. James McCarthy had a low shot parried by Krul and Leon Osman’s attempt to chip home the follow-up from a tight angle was desperately headed off the line.
Alan Pardew’s men couldn’t deny the Toffees for long though. Lukaku turned provider on 25 minutes, picking out Ross Barkley on the edge of the box where he side-stepped a defender and beat Krul with a low shot.
The slightly unlikely but nevertheless effective midfield pairing of Gareth Barry and Leon Osman were completely dominant, although the two England men were bypassed completely for Everton’s third goal. A straightforward kick out by Tim Howard was misjudged by the tormented Fabio Coloccini and left Lukaku to challenge with Krul. The Belgian never took his eye off the ball, and as Goodison held its collective breath, expecting him to get cleaned out and miss the next six games with a head injury, the goalkeeper bottled it completely. Lukaku touched the ball past the keeper and then had the calmness to dummy Coloccini, who slid past like a hairy Generation Game Teasmade, and gleefully smash the ball into the empty net.
In a Preston conservatory a Roberts radio clicked off and an Autotrader got read in seething silence.
At Goodison though the half-time talk was inevitably all about Lukaku – how many centre-forwards in the world would you swap him for on that form? – and just how high the scoreline could finish.
To be fair to Alan Pardew he made a couple of changes, including sending Cabaye on, and his side were transformed. Yoan Gouffran clipped a shot onto the post from close range immediately after the restart although Everton went straight up the other end where Osman somehow failed to force home the rampant Seamus Coleman’s low cross.
Six minutes in though, Cabaye was presented with too much space just outside the Everton box – he steadied himself and beat Howard with reverse-swing googly that came screaming out of the flood lights and into the net. It was some goal.
Everton lost a bit of their composure for 20 minutes or so – it was almost as if they had found it too easy in the first half and, as we’ve seen before, almost mesmerised themselves. Still, they had chances to kill the Geordie revival off with another goal but Lukaku seemed to tire a bit while ’70 minute’ Mirallas appeared to struggle with a knock he picked up in the first half. He was replaced by Gerard Dalegordon for the final stages and he made two breathtaking runs that were only halted by the frantic, sprawling Krul.
On 89 minutes though, Loic Remy, who for most of the game displayed a first touch like a, erm, a, er, whose first touch never looked up to much, capitalised on indecision in the Everton defence to prod the ball past Howard and set up the prospect of an utterly horrific comeback. When substitute John Stones let a ball run on the edge of the box it looked like it might happen too, but Remy’s shot whistled over the bar and Everton swaggered into fourth place in the league.
Just like that.