Jan 062015

Ref Justice for the Blues…again

For Anthony Taylor read Lee Mason or Andre Marriner. Everton’s current predicament is largely of their own making, but they certainly haven’t been helped by blundering officials. Whether it was Mason failing to send off Jonathan Walters on Boxing Day, or Marriner’s soft-penalty decision and Kung-Fu attack leniency at the Etihad in December, big decisions continue to prove costly.

This time it was Taylor disallowing Romelu Lukaku’s second-half header for a nonexistent foul on Aaron Creswell, and curbing Steven Naismith’s earlier burst into the area for another invisible foul on Winston Reid.

He even booked Samuel Eto’o within seconds of him coming on for an innocuous clash with drama-queen Mark Noble (standing in for fellow luvvy James Tomkins this time). Frustrating.

Encouraging evening for Joel Robles

It’s safe to say he has not inspired confidence in the fans yet. At times he has looked like someone begrudgingly forced to go in goal at five-a-side; witness that shambles of a reaction for Krasnodar’s strike at Goodison in December. But this, finally, was more reassuring.

The former Wigan shot-stopper came for crosses with conviction, commanded his six yard box with more authority and made a string of crucial saves.

He made a superb save to deny Enner Valencia at full-stretch as West Ham threatened to smash Everton’s fragile confidence in the wake of their lead, and could hardly be faulted for the James Collins header that did the damage moments before.

Roberto Martinez may be targeting a new goalkeeper this month, but he still needs the man he brought with him from Lancashire in 2013 to do a job. On this evidence Joel may yet do it.

Goodison Park in the 3rd round of the FA Cup”> Goodison Park in the 3rd round of the FA Cup”>VIEW GALLERY  

Is that swagger on the horizon?

“Enjoy our football” – it’s the most well-worn of all Martinez’s stock phrases, and the thing he believes most of all will help his Blues stage a revival.

Last term Everton played with smiles on their faces. Lately there have been frowns all around. It’s all to do with confidence, or swagger – another of Martinez’s oft-repeated tropes.

It was hardly champagne football throughout against the Hammers, and the Toffees weren’t quite all beaming as they flamboyantly took Sam Allardyce’s men apart.

But there were flashes of revived self-belief; whether it was Muhamed Besic’s slinky foot-work or Ross Barkley’s surge and pass to Lukaku in the first half. Statistically it was the Blues most creative display of the season with 15 chances created. The pressure will remain on, but this late rally will have bought some leverage which in turn could prompt a little more swagger in time for Manchester City at the weekend.

Clean sheets – remember them?

It’s now 10 games without a clean sheet for the Blues. Whatever rearguard Martinez selects, there just always seems to be a mistake in them. In Antolin Alcaraz’s suspension absence, Sylvain Distin returned to the side and was found wanting at a crucial moment.

The debate on whether zonal marking works rumbles on, but it certainly didn’t when the Frenchman fatally lost James Collins before his near-post headed goal. Distin later limped off with a suspected groin problem and it would be harsh to suggest he’d done more wrong than that leaden-footed moment, although it could well have been so costly. Martinez insists he has enough defensive cover in his squad, but the argument for further reinforcements in that department this month persists.

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Tuesday night – you’re having a laugh?

With just 22,236 at Goodison this was Everton’s lowest FA Cup home crowd since 1999.

But with competitive ticket prices and an more season ticket holders this term, the paltry turn-out can’t be pinned solely on the Toffees current slump.

Instead the blame goes to the FA, who pay lip service to the magic of the famous competition and then designate Everton against West Ham for a Tuesday night with the fixture screened live on BT sports.

Will they listen at Soho Square? Probably not.

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 Posted by at 11:02 pm

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