Everton’s tally of 22 points from 26 games was the same as they had last season. The Toffees won five of their final 12 league matches to finish 16th, four points above the relegation zone. Everton have picked up seven points in their six league fixtures under Sean Dyche, having amassed only five in their final 12 games under Frank Lampard.
Although there has been lots of talk about Fortress Goodison, the Toffees have lost a league-high 24 home matches since the beginning of 2020-21.
Everton could have lost consecutive home league games against Brentford for the first time following the 3-2 defeat at Goodison Park last season. Brentford were unbeaten in their three Premier League matches against Everton, winning two and drawing one.
Brentford were one of only three undefeated teams in the top five European leagues in 2023, along with Stade de Reims and Borussia Dortmund. The Bees were on a club Premier League record run of 12 successive games unbeaten since a 4-0 defeat at Aston Villa on 23 October (W6, D6).
Sean Dyche in his programme notes:
“The shape, work ethic and energy of the team has been positive. It’s imperative for us to maintain that and build on it this afternoon and then add in the big moments which can make a difference and lead us to victory.”
Everton forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin had returned to full training, although his ongoing recovery from a hamstring injury meant he missed his 18th game in all competitions this season. Vitalii Mykolenko was assessed after missing the draw at Nottingham Forest because of illness and he is given a place on the bench.
Sean Dyche named an unchanged side from last week’s defeat in Nottingham. The Burnley boys, Keane and Tarkowski, kept their places with Mina and Coady watching from the bench.
Brentford’s Keane Lewis-Potter will be sidelined for up to two months after sustaining a knee injury in training. Reserve goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha is Brentford’s only other absentee.
Thomas Frank made one change to the side that beat Fulham last Monday: Vitaly Janelt comes in for Yoane Wissa. Damsgaard started in a front three alongside Mbeumo and Toney.
Simon Hooper blew the whistle and got the match underway with Everton attacking the Park End and the rain lashing down. The Goodison roar was loud. A long ball to Demarai Gray and then a great pass from Dourcoure put Dwight McNeil through and the finish was incredible. A dream start.
The pressure continued and Everton were right in for it with tackles flying in and the crowd roaring with each challenge. It was then McNeil putting the ball in from a free kick which was headed back by Tarkowski but Toney popped up and headed the ball back to Raya.
Brentford had their first corner on the 10 minute mark and it was a planned move that ended poorly. Gareth Southgate, who was in attendance, was not impressed. The teams had shared
Everton’s next chance fell to Michael Kean who headed wide from a free kick. Raya was nowhere near the ball and all the big defender needed was a glancing header to get it into the gaping net. It was then Brentford’s chance with a free kick but good defending by Coleman snuffed out the chance.
It could have been two inside twenty minutes when Iwobi whipped a ball and the tip from Raya fell to Onana who couldn’t get the ball on target. Seconds later it was a quick break by Brentford that saw Toney breaking past Everton’s defenders but this time it was an alert Pickford who cleared away the ball. Mbuemo had his first chance on goal but Pickford was solidly behind it.
Ivan Toney should have evened up the score after heading the ball wide after Mbuemo delivered a great cross into the on form striker. He had 16 goals already but couldn’t add to this tally. Brentford were starting to get more of the ball and Everton were starting to rely on the counter attack. Brentford had controlled 71% of the ball in the previous 10 minutes.
A foul should have been given to Idrissa Gueye but the ref said play on and Mbuemo blasted the ball at Pickford who punched the ball away. Another wide ball to Gray from Idrissa Gueye gave him the chance to cut inside and force a good save from Raya. The ensuing corner dropped to Iwobi and Raya somehow got a foot to the pointblank shot.
The final five minutes arrived and McNeil was shooting again but a block by Mee prevented it from heading goalward. A foul on Tarkowski led to a free kick which was dropped into the box and a clearance from Mbuemo hit Demarai Gray and went into the net. It was deemed to be a handball and the crowd was not happy. It looked like it hit him as he was turning away but the VAR snuffed it out.
In added time Gray was taken down by Norgard and was given a yellow card for his ‘professional foul’. Gray and McNeil lined it up but it was Gray who took the shot and the wall did it’s job but a corner was given. The McNeil corner was met by Keane but Raya took it in with ease. In the melee Onana was down with a head injury but walked off with quite the egg over his eye.
Everton came out early and looked ready to continue what they started in the first half. Doucoure kicked off after David Raya finally came out of the tunnel. Brentford started on the front foot. An overload on the back post led to Nico Henry’s header which was brilliantly blocked by Pickford.
Keane had another chance to head the ball on net but it was again not enough power to challenge Raya. It was Coleman who made a great interception on a cross that was heading to Vitaliy Janelt. Brentford were asserting themselves and had the majority of the ball as the 55th minute arrived.
There was an increasing number of groans from the Goodison faithful as Everton started to give the ball away cheaply. The game was getting very scrappy. A good through ball to Gray led to a low shot and Everton’s first real chance of the half. The ensuing corner from Demarai Gray was well met by Brentford. A yellow card was given to Seamus Coleman for a reckless tackle.
Brentford made the first changes with Kevin Schada and Josh da Silva and Yoane Wissa coming on for Jensen and Damsgaard. Doucoure and da Silva were immediately at odds with each other after Doucoure was dragged down. Toney was then taken down by Tarkowski on the edge of the box. Not sure if there was enough contact but the free kick by Toney was blocked by the wall. A yellow card was given to Doucoure for arguing the call. Ethan Pinnock then had the ball inside the 6 yard box but Dwight McNeil cleared off the line.
Brentford made more changes as Hickey was taken off for Wissa and Norgaard was withdrawn for Onyeka. Everton were defending deeper and it was Gray who was left up top alone and was unable to keep hold of the ball with no one around him. It was all hands to the pump with 15 minutes to go. A good cross from Rico Henry was met by Schada but his header went wide. The onslaught continued with Everton making some great defensive blocks. Even Ben Mee was creeping forward to get in on the press.
Everton made their first change with Tom Davies coming on for Amadou Onana. The egg over his eye
The final ten minutes arrived and the Brentford pressure was continuing. A free kick for Demarai Gray finally gave Everton a chance to breathe. Possession for Brentford had gone from 52% at the end of the first half to 67% at this point. Demarai Gray was then withdrawn with Neal Maupay coming on to add fresh legs. Nico Henry was also withdrawn with Saman Ghoddos coming on.
Brentford continued to stream forward and a ball into the box was met by Tarkowski. It was then Tarkowski using his head to clear the corner. The Goodison crowd were cheering the Blues on as the five minutes of added time was announced. A free kick in the Brentford end was nicely controlled but Brentford regained control and pushed forward. Did I mention all hands to the pump?
Everton used up more time by bringing on Mykolenko for Iwobi. A real back five for the final five minutes. Frantic play led to another corner and David Raya came forward and headed the ball wide. Everton, Everton, Everton rang out. Nails were taking a beating all around the ground.
The final minute arrived and Everton were fighting.......nothing more needed as the whistle blew. Three points for the Boys from the Goodison Road.
MOTM: Dwight McNeil
Probably the biggest change that has happened under Dyche has been the consistency of the lineup choice. In the past three matches the only change was when injury forced Mykolenko out and Godfrey in. The dropping of Coady and the inclusion of Keane during that time has given us a calmer back line. Today, they were up against a very potent attack and did a fine job keeping the chances to a minimum. It was also interesting that Tom Davies has been Dyche’s go to midfielder off the bench.
Everton going forward were far more aggressive today. They were clinical on the first goal and happy to counter attack when needed. The speed of Gray has been more effective than Maupay and the growing confidence of Dwight McNeil is helping to give Everton more balance in attack. The missed chances in the first half were disappointing and made the second half more challenging.
Today it was Dyche’s Dogs of War again. Ivan Toney has been a one man wrecking crew but the fighting display by the entire team neutralized the threat and dug in to get the needed points. Home wins are crucial and this one keeps Everton in the mix and currently sitting in 15th place with Leicester losing and Leeds getting a draw against Brighton. Two tough matches against Chelsea and Tottenham will require the Dogs to make another appearance. By the way....we are 3 points from 11th. The Grand Optimist strikes again.