Funny old game football. Two thirds of the game is done, we’re 0-2 at home, and on past form, most likely to succumb to another two goals before the ground empties in the 82nd minute, but barely two minutes later, we’re back in it, the ground is buzzing not moaning, and Everton are on the comeback trail. We win from a 2-0 deficit for the first time in 23 years, which is before most of the Twitterati were even a remote twinkle in anyone’s eye, let alone a pain in anyone’s arse.
Despite the deficit, the game to that point could have been said to have exhibited a bit more fight and passion from the men in blue, and the man that typified that more than anyone else was Oumar Niasse. Yes, Previously Lockerless Oumar. I hope Unsworth presented him with a locker key made from Gold. Who would begrudge our slightly clumsy Senegalese centre forward his moment or two of glory this season. He’s our joint top scorer, and whilst his notch on Sunday is unlikely to win any Goal of the Month competition, being variously described as ‘scrappy’, ‘scruffy’, ‘bumbled’, ‘in off his Ass’ (see what they did there), but make no mistake, he did incredibly well to get ahead of his marker, to nick the ball past the ‘keeper (who was doing ‘a Pickford’), and to shield the ball well enough and with pace to ensure it dribbled over the line. If Lukaku had scored that last season, we’d all be admiring his strength, pace and deft touch.
Oumar Niasse may sometimes resemble a third tier striker, with the ball sticking to him like Teflon (*other non-stick materials are available), but yesterday he ran, and he ran, and he chased lost causes, and his judgement about when to challenge for a ball and when to wait for the bounce or a poor touch from a defender, seemed charmed. He doesn’t always look the part, but he has movement, has width, and he has pace, and he linked up exceptionally well with Lookman and Calvert-Lewin when they belatedly joined the fray.
One funny interlude, the woman behind me pronounces him Oumar Knees, without any sense of humour; it’s what I say every time I try to stand up after sitting on the floor for half and hour.
Ok, I’m not saying he’s our striking answer, but rather than bleat about what we haven’t got, and quite clearly need, you make the best job with what we’ve got, and our Manager’s challenge, whoever it is, and whenever it is, is to try and work out how best to use Niasse, DCL and arguably Sandro (remember him? Young lad, receding hair, looks about 40. Spanish apparently). It shouldn’t include Rooney.
When the debate raged about whether Rooney should return to Goodison, I was one of the yeh but, no but, possibly, oh go on thens; in the end I thought he’d do a great job for us both on and off the pitch. Now? I’m inclined to think less of the former, and only possibly the latter. I think when Rooney is on the pitch, the other players, especially the younger ones, are somewhat in awe of him, and feel the need to pick him out at every opportunity, but mainly if he’s behind or alongside them. Hence the lack of penetration. And even when he has the ball, as demonstrated yesterday, he gives the ball away too much. If he wasn’t called Wayne Rooney, I doubt if he’d get in the side on merit. I’d bench him, and use him as an impact sub. And I’d get Duncan Ferguson to tell him. After he left the pitch yesterday, we seemed to have more penetration and hey, width! Two wingers? Who’d have thought it? And the ball went up top quicker, to either the willing Niasse, or the leggy and ultimately more talented Calvert-Lewin. We may just have chanced upon a decent formula. If we have, stick to it, because with our defensive frailties, we may need to score three every match, off Niasse’s Ass or otherwise.
Our defence is actually in danger of breaching the Trade Descriptions Act. Three horrible examples of our two England Centre Backs being easily turned on the half way line, one resulting in a goal, one a near miss (Thanks Pickford lad, stay in nets, you’re not Stekelenburg you know), will give me shivers every day until we sort it. It’s almost worth playing a Sweeper – remember those?
We won a game. Whoopy-do. But we need to win the next game, and then go on a run, and no one is going to convince me that the quality on show yesterday was enough for us to do that. The passion was better, the atmosphere in the ground much better (but leave Davies alone will you, blimey, he’s only 12 or something), the fight was clearly better, even if the capability wasn’t always at it’s Everton NSNO Best.
That was the team, but it could have been written for the Man of the Match, one Oumar Niasse. Who’s have thought we’d have been saying that?