New Years Day - A day for reflecting on the previous year, assessing what you achieved and what you could do better and setting out goals for the year ahead.
For Everton fans it was a day we had hoped would kick start our season after a shocking run of form in the busy festive period. Unfortunately it was not to be and we suffered our 4th lose on the trot versus a tidy Hull team to a chorus of boo's from the always phenomenal (Bobby needs to find a dictionary) travelling Everton fans. Que the social media fume and hysteria and for the most part it was fully deserved.
We have started the majority of games this season as the better team full of confidence, instilled by Martinez who is come in for some criticism for being overly positive when at times he should call a shit performance out, but it can be admired also as each game we start with heads high and passing somewhat effectively and wanting the ball showing for it but again without really troubling the oppositions goal. But once one or two passes go astray or even worst going back to the defence or keeper when it appeared we could have attacked, that's when the mood in the stands changes and it is evident it has been getting to the players and has strongly affected their confidence.
5 days later we came up against West Ham in the cup and I think we all seen this as another chance to put things right and again kick start the season, it was better the home crowd gave us a lift at the beginning and much the same as previous games we started very well passing and finding our men with ease without really doing anything with it, we went in 0-0 at the break. Second half started similar but the worst case scenario arose and we ended up going one down from a poorly defended James Collins header at the near post. But something was different about the response and I think we honored that response and got behind our lads. We fully deserved a goal and fought tooth and nail for it and got our just reward to stay in the competition when Rom tapped in after excellent work by Oviedo on the wing. The celebration from fans, players and coaching staff said it all for me. We care and they care and we need each other to get out of this rut. We deserved it too.
We took that spirit, fight and determination back to Goodison on Saturday just past when we welcomed the champions to the old lady in a game me and the wife went too courtesy of ESCNI. It was absolutely freezing and blew a gale for most of the day, the flight over was probably the scariest experience of my life (after the Mike Walker and Walter Smith era's). It took longer to get out of Goodison than it did to fly over from Belfast, we literally blew across the Irish Sea and our flight time, usually 35mins, was 24 frightening minutes!
We went to the Winslow Hotel for pints and a few tunes as we usually always do and headed for the main stand entrance at around 2.40 to sampe a bit of the build up. The fans were in great voice and in good mood and I thought we played really well, Martinez had us fired up and we looked well up for the fight buoyed on by events in midweek versus West Ham. The first half was fairly even with the best chance of the half falling to Seamus Coleman when he rattled the bar from distance Lukaku's effort was saved by Hart on 43mins. Rom had a great game and showed real power and determination in possession and linked really well with Naismith.
Second half started and continued like a boxing world title fight back and forth and both teams had chances to score. The officials decided to get in on the action and gave some bizzare decisions that upset the Goodison faithful (which as we all know gets us fired up even more). Sadly though it was Citeh who took the lead after what I could see from my seat (main stand lower) was a clear handball on the ground from Zabaleta in the build up to Fenandinho's headed goal. However I wasn't overly down hearted, I had it in my head that we would score as I could see the players heads where still held high and Martinez directing traffic from the offset on the sidelines was applauding and waving directions to all sorts of players and they seemed to be taking it all in. And alas we didn't have to wait long as Baines stepped up to take a free kick on the left wing I said to the missus this is a goal here and I was right Naisy rose like a gazelle and beat Hart to the ball heading in to the bottom right hand corner and we all went mental it was great and we fully deserved it. For my 2 cents I though Rom, Naismith and Besic were fantastic throughout the game. The game finished 1-1 a fair reflection of a good game. For anyone interested the flight home was a breeze compared to the flight in!
Matches coming thick and no rest for our boys we traveled down to Landan for the replay with the Hammers. I was quietly confident, although most weren't according to the bookies odds, of an Everton win. What we got was a thrilling cup tie with some lovely football and 4 goals. I again thought, as we have for most of the season, we started excellent passing well in the middle of the park.
Players of note Robles of course had his best game for us, unlucky to miss the crucial peno but got us there with some excellent saves. I thought Naismith never once stopped and gave it his all. Our diamond Barkley had a poor game and gave the ball away far too many times and didn't look his normal self to be fair. Barry had a poor game for me passing really let him down and put us under alot of pressure unnecessarily. We really need McCarthy fit for the final third of the season. Rom looked a little fatigued and his touch wasn't as good as it had been in previous games but still worked hard for the team and got us back in the game. Once we went down to ten men after the heavily criticized Aiden McGeady was sent off we actually looked the better team and gave a great account of ourselves even taking the lead after Super Kev (who everyone wanted and expected to start ahead of McGeady) scored a wonderfully taken free kick from a tight angle on the left. It was a typical cup tie with ups and downs, more downs than ups unfortunately for us. And Carlton Cole came off the bench for the hammers to score the crucial leveler 7 minutes from the end of extra time to bring it to the heart breaking penalty shootout.
Stats show that we have never won a penalty shoot out when we have taken the lead as random as that sounds. I really thought it was written in the stars for us when Robles saved but alas it wasn't to be when we ran out of takers (thanks again Aiden) Robles stepped up and blasted his kick at the bar and West Ham keeper Adrian scored next in a ballsy moved from him taking their final penalty when they had an outfiled player who could have taken their final kick.
For being down to the ten men for over an hour we showed glimpses of what we can and have been as a team and defended and attacked as a unit, its this fight, determination and character we need to bring to every game from here on out to get us out of this relegation battle non of us seen coming. We have had problems somewhere behind the scenes whether or not Eto'o and Distin have upset the camp or Baines has actually hit someone remains a mystery and more than likely media speculation and bull shit but regardless of what has been happening Martinez needs to be strong address publicly if anything is going on or was going on and lets move on as one. Martinez needs to pick his best team and most of us feel he isn't doing that for whatever reason but I strongly believe Martinez is the right man for the job he has faltered recently but injuries to key players have also stopped us from playing our best team Having said all that it now appears our best 11 is nearly back to being fully fit and I think it is key for him to stick with this same 11 if we are going to get further in Europe and more importantly further up the table (unless of course we sign some players!)
Coleman Jagielka Stones Baines
Mirallas Barkley Naismith
Nick Casey - One Team One Love
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