If ever a match was crying out for a big lad to just have a dig it was this one.
On a couple of occasions it looked as if might be the Irons’ temperamental totem, Andy Carroll, who would settle matters with speculative blammers, but ultimately it was returning Everton icon Romelu Lukaku and not ‘Samurai Cack’ who notched the game’s only goal.
After the game Le Grande Samuel bemoaned an early incident when Gareth Barry was all over Kevin Nolan like upholstery and he had a point to an extent. It was certainly a foul and worthy of a yellow card – a red would have been mightily harsh in the circumstances but you’ve seen them given – but that injustice hardly excused the paucity of the Hammers’ play for the rest of the 90 minutes. When the incandescent Nolan eventually stopped doing his Jack Palance strut in the aftermath of the tussle with Barry he curled a shot just wide in the second half but that and Carroll’s half-chances were more or less the sum total of what Allardyce’s grim side offered in attack.
That said, Everton struggled to open up a team so physically strong but lacking in ambition. Gerard Deulofeu was included in the starting line-up at the expense of Kevin Mirallas and there still remains a certain aura about the Barcelona youngster – Evertonians want to see him play. Unfortunately he blows hot and cold even at his peak and here he was clearly lacking in fitness given that on the few occasions that he had a defender one-on-one he didn’t have the final burst of pace or the strength to get past.
‘He won’t come across defenders like George McCartney every week in La Liga.’
He did manage one good jinky run and a shot that curled just wide though and for long periods it looked as if it would take some piece of individual magic like that to break the deadlock. We work the ball wide with ease and also force the opposition to concede a lot of set-pieces but, as we saw against Chelsea, we are one of the more lightweight Premier League sides and we seem to struggle to make them count. It’s pointless just lobbing the ball into the middle, hence the smorgasbord of set plays and short corners we serve up each week.
The latest one where everyone tries to hide in a huddle dead wide of the far post while the corner is fired into the near post looks like it needs a bit more work before it pays dividends.
Early in the second half the classic Leighton Baines and Steven Pienaar combination resulted in an ‘underlap’ from the South African and a snapshot that beat the visitors’ keeper, Adrian, but struck the foot of the post. The rebound fell to Deulofeu but he scuffed his shot straight back into the goalie’s arms.
Sylvain Distin inexplicably karate kicked a free kick over the bar when a diving header seemed the obvious option but Everton continued to pass the ball patiently as the game entered the closing stages and Allardyce began to salivate at the prospect of the point that he came for.
Substitute Aiden McGeady spread the ball out wide for Pienaar and Baines to combine again and this time the fullback’s low cross wrong-footed the hordes of visiting defenders and Lukaku, arriving late, drilled the ball low through the crowd and into the Gwladys Street net. If you look closely on Match of the Day you can see a lad in a mac who looks like the bloke off the Joy of Sex drawings ignoring the delirium around him to take the opportunity to offer the whole West Ham support out.
If Rudyard Kiping had seen him he would have added an extra line to If.
Talking of the BBC’s flagship sports show, their sombre ‘analysis’ of the frankly joyous Alan Pardew head-butt was almost as extraordinary as the incident itself. Gary Lineker looked like he was struggling to keep a straight face, glassy-eyed Alan Hansen struggled to sit upright and Uncle Bulgaria on the end looked he was struggling not to rupture his massive belt buckle, such was his sense of outrage. The tit.
Going back to Everton, they clearly deserved to win. It took a while but that’s just the nature of the way we play now; sometimes it takes time to break down teams who come to Goodison with only defending on their mind. You have to stick to your guns, wear them down and have faith that eventually they will tire and make mistakes that you can capitalise on.
The pressure is off us in the league to some extent now. Fourth place seems highly unlikely but we will just roll on doing the right things and see where we end up. It’s all about the FA Cup now – unfortunately the same’s probably true for Arsenal too. They’ve spewed the league, they are 2-0 down in their Champions League tie with the brilliant Bayern Munich and so we should probably expect them to be taking us seriously on Saturday.
That said, we’ve already given them one footballing lesson this season and they just lost against Stoke City, so they probably have just as much to fear if not more than we do. If we knock them out of the cup their season could end up looking like Dresden by the middle of next week.
Finally, just a word on Everton’s latest marketing push for the new season tickets. When they revealed the ill-fated new badge they produced a ‘making of’ video that allegedly took us through the whole design process, and it would be great to see something similar for the ‘We are Evertonians, we go the game’ campaign. For no other reason really than to see the whiteboard with all the rejected straplines on it used during the brainstorming session:
Bad blue you lad
Only wankers watch it on the Norwegian
Dixie hated a tight-arse
– Get the fella from The League of Gentlemen to star in it
Sorry, that wasn’t the final thing. The final point is a reminder that John Stones is going to end up captain of Everton and England.