Tag Archives: Ademola Lookman

Battling Snakes on a Monday Night

Holebas launches a throw-in

A Monday night game at Everton was a good excuse for a weekend in Liverpool.  Things didn’t go quite to plan, but I had a fun weekend of comedy, music, art, film and hoped to finish it with a decent game of football.  After a lovely morning at the Tate and visiting the studio of an artist friend of a friend on the waterfront, I returned to the hotel to meet up with our much depleted party.  We were in the pub bright and early and found a table in our usual area where we were soon joined by a number of North-West and Happy Valley Horns, travelling fans who so rarely see us win in their neck of the woods.

Team news was that Gracia had made two changes with Sema and Quina (both making their Premier League debuts) replacing Hughes (who had picked up an injury against Man City) and Chalobah.  I must say that the inclusion of Sema was a surprise to everyone.  So, the starting line-up was Foster; Holebas, Kabasele, Cathcart, Femenía; Pereyra, Doucouré, Quina, Sema; Deeney, Success.  Needless to say, the Everton line-up included former Watford starlet, Richarlison, and our former manager, Marco Silva, was in the home dugout.  It was clear that neither of them was going to get a good reception from the travelling Hornets, which was more understandable for Silva than for Richarlison who made the club a tidy sum when he was sold.

The meal voucher from the club

As we entered through the turnstiles, we were greeted by Dave Messenger who was handing out vouchers for £10 for food and drink.  A really lovely gesture from the club to reward those who had made the journey to Liverpool on a Monday night.  The smallish crowd meant that it was like the old days in the away stand, with us able to take any seat we wanted.  So we headed to an empty section further back where we could stretch out and move about in comfort.  Bliss!

On arrival at the ground, I had discovered that I did not have my purse with me.  The inconvenience of having to cancel and replace cards was overwhelmed by the fact that I now had no cash and no train ticket home.  My first thought was that I had left it on the bus to the ground, but a few minutes into the game I remembered exactly where I had left it.  A quick call to the pub to tell them that a wallet bearing a Watford crest had been left on an armchair by the fire and they confirmed that they had it and it would be behind the bar on my return.

Panic over, I was able to concentrate on the match, the start of which had been dominated by chants against Silva and Richarlison.  A number in the crowd had brought snakes with them to wave at Silva, which led to my first experience of seeing an inflatable snake being confiscated in a football ground.

Doucoure, Cathcart and Deeney in the box

There was an early chance for each side as, first, Pereyra had a shot from the edge of the box that was held by the Everton keeper, Pickford.  Then Walcott met a cross from Digne with a header that was easily saved by Foster.  The home side took the lead in the 15th minute when Gomes cut the ball back to Richarlison who blasted the ball past Foster.  The young Brazilian celebrated by patting the badge over his heart.  Oh Ricky, what a short memory you have.  Watford should have equalized within a couple of minutes as Quina crossed for Deeney who, with an open goal in front of him, somehow managed to clear the bar with his shot.  Richarlison could have had a second soon after, but a tremendous block by Holebas averted the danger.  The first caution of the game went to Everton’s Mina who had handled a cross from Sigurdsson.  Watford had a decent chance to draw level as a cross from Sema was met by Pereyra but his header was just wide of the target.  Watford threatened again as a cross from Femenía fell to Deeney whose shot was blocked by Mina for a corner.  Deeney was then in action at the other end of the pitch, snuffing out an Everton attack with a great tackle.  Richarlison then tangled with Kabasele and, as is his wont, executed an outrageous dive (not his first of the evening).  Kabasele’s expression as they made their way back upfield in conversation indicated that he was letting his former team mate know exactly what he thought of his actions.  Watford had a great chance to grab an equaliser just before half time as Deeney received a long ball from Quina but he volleyed just wide.  In the minute added on at the end of the half, Deeney found Success on the edge of the box where he was fouled by Mina.  If the referee had given the free kick, he would have had to show Mina a second yellow and Everton would have been down to ten men, but he waved play on and the half-time whistle went with the Hornets a goal down and feeling rather aggrieved.

Sema lines up a free kick

It had been a decent half of football.  The home side had dominated the early exchanges, but the Hornets had grown into the game and were the better side at the end of the half.  The half time discussion was around two crucial decisions and benefited from reports from those watching at home.  By all accounts, Everton’s goal should have been disallowed as Walcott, who had been involved in the build-up, had been in an off-side position.  So, that and the fact that Mina had got away with an obvious foul on Success that should have earned us a free kick and him a second yellow card, meant we were feeling very hard done by.

At half time, the shoot-out involved a lad in a wheelchair, which was rather lovely.

The first chance of the second half fell to the Hornets as Pereyra hit a free-kick that went into the side-netting, although a good number in the away end were celebrating as they thought it had gone in.  Watford continued to threaten as a long throw reached Doucouré in the box, but his shot was blocked.  Then Deeney played a one-two with Doucouré before taking a shot, but Pickford was down to make the save.  Gracia made his first change just before the hour mark with Sema making way for Deulofeu.

Celebrating the first Watford goal

I won’t say that the substitution was inspired, but the Hornets equalised on 63 minutes as Femenía crossed for Pereyra, whose shot hit the post but rebounded out to Coleman and bounced off the Everton man into the net.  For once it felt like luck was on our side and it has to be said that the equaliser was well deserved.  But that wasn’t the end of it, as the Hornets took the lead a couple of minutes later as Pereyra crossed for Doucouré who rose above the defence and headed past Pickford.  Needless to say, the celebrations in the away end were brilliant.  When the travelling Hornets started chants of “Silva, what’s the score?”  I couldn’t help feeling uneasy.  It is never a good idea to crow over the opposition that early in the game.  Sure enough, while I was distracted noting that Calvert-Lewin had come on for Bernard, I heard a cheer from the home fans.  At first I thought that they had scored, but it then became clear that the referee had awarded a penalty for a foul by Kabasele on Mina.  I had everything crossed as Sigurdsson stepped up to take the spot kick and was joy was unconfined when the shot was saved by Foster’s trailing leg.  In the confusion, I had missed that Silva had made a double substitution, as Walcott had made way for Lookman.  Quina, who had impressed on the ball, also showed what he can contribute to the defence as he tackled Richarlison in the box.

Holebas congratulates Doucoure on his goal

Each side made another substitution as Everton brought Tosun on for Gueye and Success made way for Chalobah for the Hornets.  The Watford man’s first action of note was to get booked for time wasting.  Richarlison looked to bring the home side level as he ran on to a ball into the box, but Foster was out to save at his feet.  As the clock ran down, Everton won a series of corners, but only one (a Sigurdsson header from a Coleman cross) required a save from Foster.  As the clock reached 90 minutes, the board for extra time was held up indicating 6 minutes.  Oh, for goodness sake, my nerves were already in tatters.  Gracia made a final substitution replacing Quina with Mariappa.  Just when we thought we would finally see a win at Goodison Park, Kabasele needlessly handled a long forward ball and the referee awarded a free kick on the edge of the area.  Again, I had everything crossed, but when Digne stepped up I knew that there was only one outcome and, sure enough, his free kick cleared the wall and found the top corner to level the game.  There was just time for one last attack from the visitors as Deulofeu surged forward and found Pereyra, but he could only direct his shot across the front of the goal and the game ended in a draw.

Several of the players dropped to the turf in despair at the end of the game.  Most notably Holebas, who didn’t move for ages until Zigor Aranalde went over to commiserate when he reacted angrily.  The players were right to be angry and upset.  They had done more than enough to win the game and had been easily the better team in the second half.  But they were beaten by a mistake from the officials and a moment of madness from Kabasele.

Deeney and Success wait for a ball into the box

We headed back to the pub, where my purse was returned to me, so the least I could do was to buy a round.  We then settled down to analyse the game.  The overwhelming feeling was one of frustration.  It had been a terrific evening’s entertainment and if someone had offered me a point before the game, I would have bitten their hand off.  But, after that performance we deserved to come away with all three points.  Concentrating on the positives, Pereyra and Doucouré both put in their best performances in some time.  Quina continues to impress, for such a young man he plays with great assurance and is a tremendous addition to our squad.  Watford were clearly the better team, but we have to start translating that into victories.  This is a likeable and talented team, probably the best that Watford have ever had.  But the players are also working hard, so surely it must only be a matter of time before the talent translates into positive results.  Please let that start against Cardiff on Saturday.

Cruel Defeat in the Z-Cars Derby

Poppy display at the box office

One of my oldest and dearest friends lives on Merseyside, so I took the opportunity of the game away at Everton to spend a weekend by the seaside.  Saturday afternoon we had a lovely walk along the beach to Southport finishing in the Arts Centre there.  As we enjoyed some refreshments, it was approaching 3pm and I had my usual panic that I was supposed to be somewhere else.  My phone took an age to connect and confirm that ours was not one of the games that had kicked off and I could happily spend the rest of my afternoon wandering around the exhibitions.

Having heard of the travel chaos on the West Coast line on Sunday, it was a relief to have a short trip on local rail to meet up with friends.  The pre-match pub appeared surprisingly empty until I made my way to the back room and found it packed with Hornets.  At the appointed time, we piled out of the pub on to the bus to the ground, where we found ourselves sitting with some young Everton fans who bemoaned their season so far and, a little surprisingly for me, the loss of Tom Cleverley.

On arrival at Goodison Park, the steward outside the turnstiles was lovely, although I suspect that her decision not to perform a thorough search of my bag was influenced by my pointing out that my huge rucksack was full of dirty clothes.  After taking our seats, I was rather perturbed to see a man in a Sparta Prague hat a couple of rows behind me.  Talk about a bad omen.  I fixed him with a very cross stare, but he remained oblivious.

Will Hughes making his first league start for the Hornets

Team news was two changes from the Stoke game with Hughes making his first league start for the Hornets in place of Capoue and Gray in for the suspended Deeney.  So the starting line-up was Gomes; Femenía, Kabasele, Britos, Holebas; Cleverley, Doucouré; Carrillo, Hughes, Richarlison; Gray.  As the Watford team was announced, Cleverley’s name was cheered by the home fans, which was rather lovely, as was seeing the team run out to Z-cars at an away ground.  I know that piece of music has more significance in Liverpool than Watford, but it still makes me feel at home.

Just before kick-off, they held a minute’s silence for Remembrance Day, but the accompanying rendition of the last post caused some confusion meaning the crowd erupted when the music finished while the players and officials were still standing with bowed heads.

Once the game kicked off, there was an early chance for the visitors as Femenía crossed for Richarlison who was unable to connect.  There was very little action then until the 21st minute when Everton broke and Gomes reacted well to stop the shot from Baines.  The home side had another chance after Carrillo lost out in midfield allowing Davies to advance on goal, but he decided to shoot from distance and his effort was high and wide.  It was Watford’s turn to attack then as Hughes played the ball out to Femenía whose low cross went begging.  The Spaniard then went for goal himself but his shot from distance flew well over the bar.

Celebrating Richarlison’s goal with an over- attentive steward

Watford’s best chance of the half came from a lovely move as Gray held off a defender, turned and advanced before feeding Richarlison who beat the goalkeeper, but his shot, from an acute angle, hit the side netting.  Doucouré was the next to threaten but, in the process, he lost his 100% record of scoring from shots on target as Pickford made the save.

As has been the case a number of times this season, it had been a rather dull first half.  The Hornets had a good spell late on, but didn’t test Pickford in the Everton goal.

Watford started the second half brilliantly as Gray fed Carrillo who passed to Richarlison, the young Brazilian rounded the keeper and found the net to send the away fans crazy, with the possible exception of those who had not returned from getting their half time refreshments.  The visitors threatened again as Holebas crossed from a deep position, but Gray was unable to connect.  Jose then tried a shot from distance that flew over the bar.  Everton really should have equalized after Niasse beat Britos and crossed for Sigurdsson, but Gomes pulled off a great save to frustrate the Icelander, Rooney hit a follow-up shot, but Gomes was equal to that as well.  Sadly the Watford keeper was injured while performing his heroics.  He was down receiving treatment for a considerable time before emerging with a bandage around his head.  Brief hopes that he would carry on were dashed when he was escorted to the dugout and replaced by Karnezis, making his Watford debut.  Everton also made their first substitution at this time, replacing Baningime with Lookman.

Gray jostling for position in the Everton box

The Hornets had a great chance to increase their lead as Gray went on a run and put in a decent cross for Hughes, but Will met it at an angle and couldn’t direct his header towards the goal.  But Watford were not to be denied for long and the second goal came on 63 minutes when Kabasele rose to meet a corner from Holebas and headed home.  At this point, the Everton fans started streaming out and it all looked very positive for the Hornets.  However, there was a note of caution from a young boy behind us who nervously commented that there were 26 minutes left.  I thought that he was rather young to be so fatalistic, but there turned out to be a wise head on those young shoulders as Everton pulled a goal back within minutes.   Niasse advanced towards the Watford box and, for some inexplicable reason, Karnezis decided to come out of his box to meet him, the Everton man skipped around him and was facing an open goal, Kabasele slid in to make a tackle but the ball drifted in to the net.  It has to be said that, had Niasse missed, the ref would have had to give a penalty and Kabasele would probably have been sent off.  It went from bad to worse on 73 minutes as a shot from Kenny was blocked by Holebas for a corner which Baines delivered and Calvert-Lewin (on for Rooney) headed home for the equaliser.

Femenia takes a throw in

Watford’s injury woes continued as Kabasele went down in the Everton box and stayed down as the game continued for some time.  After he finally received treatment, he left the field on a stretcher and Mariappa came on in his place.  Watford pushed to regain the lead and Richarlison should have done better from a Holebas corner, but he headed over the target.  Then Hughes put in a low cross that was blocked when maybe a shot would have been the better option.  Watford had another chance from a corner but this time it was Mariappa who headed wide.  Then disaster struck as Holebas chased Lennon and appeared to slip and take him down just inside the box and the referee pointed to the spot.  Had Gomes still been in goal, I would have hoped for a penalty save, but Baines made no mistake and Watford, from being two goals ahead found themselves going in to time added on a goal down.  When the fourth official indicated that there would be 12 minutes added time, there was no predicting the final score.  Three minutes into injury time, Okaka emerged from the wilderness to replace Hughes, even though Holebas was still limping after the challenge on Lennon (thankfully, he soon ran it off).  The Italian substitute had an opportunity to show Silva what he had been missing as he went for a cross into the box, but Pickford made the save before he could connect.  Watford were given a lifeline as Pickford took Richarlison down in the box.  I was a little surprised when Cleverley stepped up to take the spot kick and totally devastated when he hit it well wide of the target.

Carrillo and Kabasele challenging

The final whistle was met with jubilation from the Everton fans and disbelief from the travelling Hornets.  I am assured that it was a great game for the neutral, for those of us who bleed yellow, it was incredibly painful.  Watford looked to be cruising and would probably have won had Gomes not been injured.  The two penalties pretty much summed up our day.  Conceding an unnecessary penalty due to a player slipping, then being awarded one that was nailed on and failing to covert.

The day didn’t get any better when we arrived back at Lime Street to find that both the train that I was booked on and the previous train (the 18:47, which should have left already) were delayed and there was a massive queue already in place.  By the time that we left Liverpool, the train was transporting those booked on three different services, so was a little cosy.  I found myself surrounded by a Liverpool fan and two Everton fans who, to be fair, couldn’t have been more pleasant.  We were soon joined by Jim White of Sky Sports/Talksport, who was fresh from the Everton boardroom and was pressed by a number of people for his opinions on the managerial rumours that were going around.  He was happy to chat and pose for selfies and it ended up being a very pleasant journey.  I even found myself sharing photos with the lad next to me as he showed one of him (as a small boy) with the last trophy that Everton had won and I dug out an even older one of me before the cup final.

It is very hard to take any conclusions from that game.  The defence didn’t cover themselves in glory, but it was the departure of Gomes that precipitated the collapse.  Had Cleverley not hit such a terrible penalty, we would have left Liverpool with another point (one that I would have been happy with before the game).  So we go into the international break on the back of three defeats and knowing that we will face a West Ham team trying to impress their new manager.  After the wonderful start to the season, the last few games have been a cruel reality check.  It will be very interesting to see if the players have the character to turn it around.  Now what shall I do at 3pm next Saturday?