Football Blog: Tangerine Flavoured

Saturday, August 22, 2020

A proper test passed: the Mighty vs Everton

This lad tho. 

As the teams come out, Everton are all hair bands and topknots. Neil Critchley and Blackpool look positively smart in comparison, like an RAF training sergeant and his troops. I can imagine Critch as a 1940s PT instructor and Ollie Turton as the captain of a Lancaster Bomber. Ancelotti as a fashion designer and his lot strutting about in absurdly cut grey waistcoats and half mast tweed trousers with bamboo sandals on.

I digress. 

I think this is going to be much harder than Barrow. 

And yet... It's a lightning start. From the kick off we seem determined to give everyone a touch of the ball, then a lovely move down the pitch, where the confidence in the passing and movement is evident, wins a corner. Ward swings it across box to Kaikai, who last year would have run his man and tried to do it alone but he slips it back to Anderson who weighs an inch perfect through ball to Hamilton who finishes clinically, running on to it with his explosive pace and tucking beyond the hand of Jordan Pickford. 

Everton get a foothold after a few more minutes of Pool dominance. A clattering challenge from Holgate a sign of the respect that Blackpool have earned. 

Their foothold doesn't last as Hamilton dummies a ball forward, Yates peels off his man and squares it to an unmarked KaiKai who curls it beautifully inside the post. Sullay has had a quiet pre season in some ways but I feel he's been quietly effective. He just seems to be deferring to others and doing simple things more than trying to win the game alone and thus he's popped up in space in several games and reaped the reward of not being the man the opposition notice. 

But wait. It's not 2-0, it's 3-0! Seconds later Holgate is charged down by Hamilton and the ball rebounds to Anderson, he wiggles and wriggles and shoots against a defender, the ball drops to Grant Ward who hammers it home as if Pickford isn't there. This is a bit mad. I know it's just practice and Everton look like they've drunk a couple of bottles of Night Nurse each but we've been electric and it looks like we could get ten. 

There's a moment where a drowsy Everton show their class. Sigurdsson slips Digne a lovely blind pass but Nottingham heads convincingly away. At 3-0 Everton's ego seems bruised and they harry and chase a bit more but then the ball is at the other end and the shaven headed Yates shows exactly how you do it properly, ratting and snarling at two consecutive defenders and nearly creating another error. 

Tom Davies (much maligned by some Blues fans) is looking their most interested players and he releases Digne after some neat footwork, but the cross is cut out by a sliding Ekpiteta. Digne swings across a ballooning corner which is met powerfully by Dominic Calvert Lewin, the ball taking a flailing Michael Nottingham into the goal with it. 

Do Pool heads go down? Is the bubble burst? 

No. On the right hand side Hamilton hares away from Branthwaite like he's not there, only foiled by a desperate (and well timed) tackle from the ex Carlisle kid. From the corner the ball eventually breaks to Grant Ward who drills it straight at Pickford. It could and perhaps should have been a goal. 

Whilst it's clear that Everton are really not at anything like top gear, I'm just thinking how well we've played their attack, and sprung the offside trap... when the questions about our defense are brought into sharp focus. 

Nottingham tries to be clever by flicking the ball square to his centre half partner but it awkwardly bounces off his body presenting Calvert Lewin with a chance to run at Ekpiteta. The big lad shadows him and then as he heads into nowhere Ekpiteta stumbles into him, a kind of part challenge part body check, seemingly not realising that Calvert Lewin was looking for him to make contact... DCL is no fool and goes to ground and the whole thing just looks clumsy. Sigurdsson executes the penalty with the air of a butcher slamming a cleaver into a block, low hard and sending Maxwell the wrong way. 

Everton are now dominating and Nottingham redeems himself a little with good header and a brave block in front of a drilled Iwobi shot. 

Ethan Robson breaks that spell with a crunching challenge to set Yates away and he and Kaikai combine well to force a corner. Hamilton has starred this half and from the loose ball he shimmers and twists his man and swings a lovely deep cross on his wrong foot. Moments later he's nodding the ball down from a booming long clearance as well as Madine ever could, setting Yates free, then finishing the move by firing wide after reviewing a return ball.

Moises Kean slides a dangerous low cross that evades everyone then the half comes to an end with a lovely, lovely bit of control and bustling sprint from Anderson that sees him just run out of space before he can cause any damage. 

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I wondered out loud before the game if we'd really worry Everton up front who will be well used to mobile, energetic and skillful strike forces. The answer is clearly yes. We could have had more than we've had and going forward we've put more good moves together than I can write down. We couldn't score from anyone but Armand last year, but now it doesn't seem to have mattered that Yates hasn't had an effort because his linking with the pace and power around him and his role in harrasing the backline has worked well. 

I also wondered where the weak links would prove to be. Digne has been Everton's most effective outlet on their left though I haven't really seen Turton make a mistake. Husband has been defensively solid but has hit a few aimless balls forward. That's a harsh critique, but such are our new standards, they stand out. It's the centre half pairing that worries me. Nottingham has done some good work, but got caught out playing football and as with every other game, Ekpiteta looks just a little raw. To be fair to them, they are playing against an England and an Italy international. Defending in a side that bombs forward and exposes the defence is never easy but the pair just don't sit right for me. Nottingham is on his wrong foot and I'm not sure either is coaching each other through the game. 

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The second half starts with Ward and Notts leaving the play and Matty Virtue and a trialist (apparently an ex United kid called Demetri Mitchell) joining it. Husband comes into the middle and the new lad goes to left back. 

Everything comes for Blackpool down the right hand side. The best move being when Hamilton again shows his centre forward credentials in laying it off on his chest to Virtue. Virtue calmly brings it forward and feeds the on running Hamilton who looks as if he's about to run the full back ragged but offloads with equal composure to Turton who has overlapped and whose flat cross is dangerous enough to win a corner. 

The second half is calmer but 'Pool are playing well despite Walcott sliding just past the post on Iwobi's nice through ball. Virtue's presence seems to have given a measure of class to the midfield. He's doing the simple stuff well and quickly. 

It's Virtue himself crossing well and quickly from the right, then it's KaiKai with a lovely precision freekick from deep, both causing danger in the air, showing a different angle of attack from the first half.

Ekpiteta looks calmer alongside Husband and it's all going very well until... 

The flawless Virtue displays a flaw, as he is caught in possession after a heavy touch. A deep through ball releases Walcot. Trialist lad with interesting hair hares back and makes a good tackle, but despite it seeming a) offside and b) a fair challenge, the referee gives a free kick on the D. Sigurdsson puts a beauty in the top corner. If the penalty was ruthless, this was artful. 

That's the cue for widespread changes and naturally the flow goes to pieces till Madine makes his mark with a brilliant piece of aggressive hustling and Pool click again. Trialist lad with interesting hair and Shaw both put lovely balls across in the space of thirty seconds, the latter which hangs and floats in the way great crosses do and nearly finds Madine at the far post. The more I see Shaw, the more I like him. He's now playing on the right of attack, yet that doesn't seem to phase him at all. 

Antwi looks a bit untidy, for the first time this season anything other than assured. The half a yard faster reactions of Everton players seem to catch him out slightly. Howe looks a bit rushed as well and Sarkic isn't quite at the pace either, until he turns neatly in the box receiving Feeney's pass and squaring for Virtue who ghosts in and hits the chest of the Everton sub keeper.  

There's a smart save from Maxwell somewhere in there as well but the game peters out, getting messier as it goes, Nkoku for Everton causing a bit of trouble and Big Marvin dealing well with a couple of tricky moments. 

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It's a really good display from 'Pool - We've had more clear cut efforts than them and they're worth about 100 times more than us but you wouldn't know it. Anderson and Hamilton have been really good, direct, dangerous and skillful. Yates has moved the defense around and caused a lot of indirect problems for the Everton backline. Ethan Robson is really composed and used the ball very well and as I said previously, Sullay looks like a team player, not a wildcard free role gamble. 

At the back, it could have been better and it could have been worse. Maxwell really impressed me with his feet and couldn't really be faulted for anything. The full backs did ok, though I thought the trialist looked a bit raw, he certainly had skill and wanted to go for it. The centre halves looked better with Husband in the middle - It seemed like he and Marvin had a bit of communication and the big man improved and looked pretty good second half, though, to be fair to the first half pairing, Everton took off Calvert Lewin who was a proper unit and a handful early in the second half and Nottingham was playing on the wrong side. 

We've beaten teams weaker than us and held teams stronger than us and played really well. What more can you ask for? Again, there was desire and real verve in the way we played. I honestly thought Everton might hold us at arms' length and just let us run out of steam but we were irresistible early on. There's so many goals in this side if it clicks. 

Today I was blown away by Hamilton, not just his pace, but his tenacity, his work off the ball and even in the air with his back to goal. Most of his decision making was decent too. He's not simply the 'very fast but frustrating' player I thought he might be. He was brilliant in my humble opinion but he wasn't so far ahead some of the rest of the side, Anderson in particular.

That's what makes me optimistic we can do well, that simple fact - if one player doesn't do it, there's 3,4,5 others who can and more on the bench who might. Yes, we're short in a few places but for once let's appreciate what we've got, let's look at the abundance of talent and the level of application in the squad. We could have won that, we didn't just outplay Everton at times, we blew them off the pitch. Whilst we made mistakes, the sort of football we are seeing comes from encouraging a team to play and take risks and we showed real bottle to do it against a side of the class and value of Everton. It would be easy to go into our shell, easy to fight out a 'creditable 2-1 defeat' and no one make any ricks but that's not how we're going to do it. It seems churlish to hang players out to dry for making mistakes when the good stuff is dependent on the bravery of our style of play. 

Not that it matters anyway. It was a practise match after all and they were half asleep. But by god, do we look fit. 

Bring on the season. I don't think we need to play Blackburn. Ring up Mowbray, call it off, get Plymouth on the phone and we'll take them on on Tuesday. Cannot wait. Start the season now. 

Brilliant. 

UTMP.  



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