Thanks to our elastic transfer window we’ve now got a back-up goalie in Mika and some support upfront in Anichebe so things are looking a bit better. What also pleased me about the window was that we didn’t lose Kone and Khazri as it looked like we might. Kirchhoff may well get involved this evening and he’s been a major loss so far. It’s not been long since the last time we played Everton back in May and what a joyful night that was but with a new manager Everton won’t be the pushovers they were then. They’ve also signed Bolasie from Palace and if he’s playing, together with Lukaku, our defence will have their hands full. I’ll be watching the game in the same place I watched the last one, the Old Red Lion in Angel, where I’ll hopefully be joined by a stack of fellow fans. We’ve had a long time to anticipate this game and there should be a full house both at the pub and the SoL so the atmosphere should be great. I think we’re going to win it and my prediction is 2-1.
I got to the pub around, 7.30, got a lager in and found a seat in a very good spot. Kirchhoff was starting, which was great, otherwise the side looked much the same as against Southampton. The pub was quite full as kick-off approached but then it largely emptied out when a bell rang and most patrons left though a door at the back. I’d forgotten that it was a theatre pub. Pickford was forced into a save at Lukaku’s feet in the opening minute, which didn’t bode well, but we rallied and Defoe had a shot blocked shortly afterwards while Januzaj was getting well involved down the right. It looked like we were going to take the lead in the tenth minute when Defoe pounced on a blocked Januzaj effort but he shinned it over the bar and I think the flag was up for offside anyway. At any rate the racket it created showed that there were quite a few other members of the faithful in the bar. Just afterwards Pickford made a great one-handed tip over from a close-range Lukaku header. We were putting together some decent moves but Everton were having much greater possession and were looking strong and athletic on the break. On the half-hour PVA went down for a while after tackling the very tricksy Bolasie but he recovered and immediately made a great tackle. Manquillo showed his class with a nifty chip near the corner-flag that took two defenders out of proceedings. With five minutes to the break Gooch put in what looked more like a cross but it forced Stekelenburg into his first real save so far as he turned it out for a corner. I liked the way Kone and Djilo looked in their box as they waited for the corner to come over – a real threat to defenders. Watmore was booked for feigning a foul on the edge of their box but to me and another member of the faithful nearby it looked a free-kick all the way. It remained goalless at the break.
Deulofeu had replaced Barkley as we started again and I wasn’t sorry about that as the latter had been a threat. Three minutes in Pickford had a to palm away a long-distance shot and luckily it fell to a defender and was cleared. Then Kone kept a cool head in our box as Lukaku threatened. It had been a good start by Everton but then Rodwell fed Defoe on the edge of their box and his shot was forced out for a corner. The corner was well-taken and was met by a great Kone header but it was saved. As the game swung from end to end next it was Everton’s turn and Lukaku stuck a foot out to turn the ball just wide of our left post. Next thing Gooch was replaced by Khazri and that warmed my cockles as we haven’t seen enough of him yet. We’d looked generally solid at the back so far but as the hour-mark approached this went out of the window when a Gueye cross from the right found Lukaku unmarked in our box and he headed down and into the net from close range to put them ahead. For a minute or two it looked like we were on the verge of collapsing and Lukaku hit the bar but we recovered and began to press ourselves. However in the sixty-eighth minute we were two down and again it was Lukaku heading in form close range while Djilo, three feet away, seemed unaware of his presence. Three minutes later it was 0-3 and it was a hat-trick for Lukaku as a through ball split our defence – not sure what PVA thought he was doing- and he raced on to shoot low past Pickford. Ndong came on for Watmore to add a bit of interest to what was looking like a real good-hiding and then Denayer replaced Kirchhoff. It was damage-limitation time and I could see more damage coming. With five minutes on the clock Pickford again saved well, from a stinging Lukaku shot. We made the occasional foray forward but Everton looked unruffled and it ended 0-3.
A lot can happen in football in four months and we’ve gone from winning 3-0 to losing by the same score. Everton looked strong and dangerous from the off and with a striker like Lukaku against you, you can’t take your eye off him. I wouldn’t be surprised to see O’Shea starting on Sunday. See you there.
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