Everton 0 Aston Villa 1

Despite the long history of football clubs’ problems being fixed by angry aeroplane banners, Everton still managed to lose a ‘tightly-contested encounter’.

This Villa team are decent, as demonstrated by a couple of recent performances against Manchester United, so this was never going to be easy.

It ended up being a bit of a throwback to the early noughties Premier League, when it was all hard running and swamped midfields, and chances were few and far between for either side. Unfortunately, in first half injury time, Emi Buendia’s cleverly flicked header from a Lucas Digne corner looped over Jordan Pickford and Andros Townsend, into the top corner of the Gwladys Street goal, and that was enough for the visitors to take all three points.

Bottles got lashed at the celebrating Villa players from the Bullens Road and a couple of players claimed to have been struck. And whether they were or not is largely irrelevant.

The weird thing about the incident is that it’s being reported as a part of a ‘growing trend’ of lashing stuff on the pitch, in England and across Europe. That would suggest that the lashees are making a conscious decision that this is ‘what you do at the match’. Obviously we’ve all longed to lodge a tungsten dart in an opposing player’s forehead at one time or another – it’s only natural – but a modicum of decorum and the threat of a lifetime ban usually sees sense prevail.

The other off-the-pitch thing that hit the headlines was the protests at the final whistle and then Bill Kenwright going ‘full Ridsdale’ on Goodison Road. 

The cameras concentrated on the flags of the Gwladys Street sit-in but completely ignored the tifo covering the whole Park End that declared, quite pointedly:

RESULTS

ARENT

GREAT

When people are clearly frustrated and disappointed it’s hard to see how Kenwright expected that encounter to play out. Since as long as there’s been Everton stuff on the internet he’s had proper QAnon levels of utter shit written about him and his fucking ‘train set’, to the point that he’s almost not a real person to many. He’s more shorthand for Everton not winning trophies; some sort of bungling bogeyman – both endlessly cunning and deceitful, yet breathtakingly naive and incompetent at the same time. 

Fu Manchu meets Frank Spencer.

And be honest, no one really cares what he has to say unless it’s something that provides further ‘proof’ that he’s the root of all Evertonian evil.

Demanding ‘Kenwright Out’ or ‘Sack the board’ is like voting Brexit or Trump. No one really thinks it’s the answer but it at least represents a simple solution to complex problems. And who has time to think about them?

Speaking about complex problems, Duncan Ferguson inherited some of his own, as reflected by a team selection that wasn’t quite as left-field as some of the late-period prog rock Rafael Benitez ones, but still took everyone by surprise to some degree.

Mason Holgate has few fans but by the same token there really wasn’t much arguing a case for Michael Keane to start alongside Yerry Mina. And in fairness to Holgate it was probably one of his better games.

It was the fullbacks who raised the most* eyebrows though. The ones who played and, more pointedly, those who never. Nathan Patterson and Vitaliy Mykolenko never even made the bench – a bench that featured Jean-Phillipe Gbamin – and so you can only hope that the rumours of injury and illness are correct, because the alternative is that Ferguson and Leighton ‘Elrond’ Baines have seen enough in training to deduce that the ‘Digne money’ will feature in the next annual accounts in the column headed ‘wasted on shite (former manager)’. 

Hopefully not. Like that needs saying.

Jonjoe Kenny got the nod ahead of Seamus Coleman at right-back while Ben Godfrey deputised on the left. The latter is not a fullback at all, while the former, well, no one wants to be ‘that guy’, but while he definitely is a fullback by trade he just doesn’t convince as a Premier League one. 

That’s a big handicap at the top level, having those influential fullback positions filled by a square peg in a round hole and a round peg who got hounded out of Scottish football.

Still, the Blues were the better team in the second half, but not by much, and certainly not to the extent that you ever thought an equaliser was ever imminent. The best probably fell to Dominic ‘they were culottes actually’ Calvert-Lewin, when the Blues’ most incisive piece of play saw second-half sub Antony Gordon set free down the right. Calvert-Lewin, taking a break from jumping about 15 minutes too early for every goal kick, got his outstretched boot to the ball but couldn’t get enough purchase to divert it on target.

The players tried. In fairness they never looked like like they weren’t trying under Benitez, but a lack of quality, in certain positions, and also in terms of composure in front of goal, meant they never did enough to earn that bit of luck you sometimes need in tight games like these.

Incidentally, all players time waste, but did Martinez’s seem particularly egregious? More annoying than that kid at the back of the Park End? 

If you know, you know.

* Two each.