Everton scoring and Everton winning, away from home, twice in five days.
These are heady days indeed.
Yes, the Toffees can make it it three wins on the spin if they overcome newly promoted Luton Town at Goodison on Saturday and lift themselves up into the relatively dizzy heights of mid-table.
Sean Dyche’s side were excellent at Brentford last week, controlling much of the game and arguably could have won by a greater margin that 3-1. They then followed that up with a similarly dominant performance against Aston Villa, despite making five changes.
How refreshing is it to watch the team play well after months of either dirge of nerve-shredding tension?
Yes, there may be some mitigating factors - Brentford had a few key absentees, while Villa have Europe to contend with this season. But the Bees were unbeaten in seven games at home until last weekend, while Villa had won eight on the spin at Villa Park – including a 4-0 thrashing of Everton in August – before Wednesday night’s game. So the Blues deserve credit for finally turning their dominance into goals and victories, something that has not happened on a consistent basis so far this season.
The presence of a target man seems key to unlocking those performances. The arrival of Beto and the gradual easing back to fitness of Dominic Calvert-Lewin has given Everton a focal point they have lacked for most of the last two seasons.
Now arrive two huge home games against Luton and Bournemouth. If the Toffees are to stay up then wining their ‘mini-league’ against fellow predicted strugglers is crucial. They fell behind the going rate in losing to Fulham and Wolves last month, but two wins here would put them back on track and allow everyone to breathe a little easily.
Luton shocked the football world when they earned promotion to the top flight for the first time since 1992 after beating Coventry in the first play-offs, in doing so becoming the first team to go from the top division of English football to non-league (tier five) and all the way back again.
Prior to their relegation the season before the formation of the Premier League in 1992 the Hatters had actually spent a decade in the top flight, even winning the League Cup in 1988 and were famously Everton’s opponents in the 1985 FA Cup semi-final. Though they have spent the majority of their history in the lower divisions.
Their ramshackle Kenilworth Road home has garnered much attention since their promotion, particularly their away entrance which passes through tightly packed terraced housing. Like our beloved Goodison the stadium is past its best but can produce a fearsome atmosphere on its day and its likely to be one of Luton’s best hopes of survival.
There is no disguising it is going to be tough, though. The difference in wealth is vast and I think Luton have been sensible in not paying huge fees and wages in a desperate attempt to stay up, instead playing the long game safe in the knowledge they will be in a strong financial position even if they go down.
They head to Goodison having collected just one point from their first five games of the season, against 10-man Wolves last time out, and are the only side yet to take the lead at any stage so far. They were also humbled by League One Exeter City in the EFL Cup in midweek.
I know what you are all thinking...
Luton 0-1 Everton, 31 October 2007
You have to go back 16 years for the last meeting between the sides when an extra-time goal from Tim Cahill earned the Toffees victory at Kenilworth Road in the EFL Cup fourth round.
Full-back Vitaliy Mykolenko is the only new injury doubt after he was forced off at half-time against Villa in midweek.
Jack Harrison is unscathed after playing 65 minutes on his debut after recovering from a hip problem. Dominic Calvert-Lewin is pushing for a start after scoring off the bench for the second successive game.
Andre Gomes (calf), Seamus Coleman (knee) and Dele Alli (groin) are still sidelined.
What they said
Everton boss Sean Dyche: “The players have put a lot of effort into getting the rewards we have been due this season, but haven’t got.
“I am pleased with the relentless attitude of the players to keep performing, that’s a key factor when results aren’t going your way. You can’t just wait for them to happen, you have to make them happen. I think in the last two performances, we have done that.
“There’s an expectation at Everton Football Club [to win] every game,” he said. “That’s been made very clear to me since I have been here. Every game is winnable and every game we go in to win it.
“Luton are working hard in games, so we have got to deliver a performance. We certainly take nobody lightly, that’s for sure, and the players know that.”
Luton boss Rob Edwards: “I want us to keep building and going the right way, Saturday is another opportunity to do that. We are coming up against a difficult Everton team, a team on the front-foot, athletic, organised as Sean Dyche’s teams always are, they’ve got some really good individuals.
“They are coming off the back of two good wins as well, so they will be confident. This is a tough game as every Premier League game is, especially away from home, but it’s a game we are looking forward to.
“The reaction has been good since Tuesday, the lads have been buoyant and that’s how we’ve got to be. We had a knockdown and an off night, we’ve got to deal with it, lick our wounds and we look to improve. We’ve got to stand up and perform.”
This one has been down down as a must win since the fixtures were released – and that’s no slight on Luton. If Everton are to avoid another stressful run in they have to start picking up points against fellow strugglers. They failed against Wolves and Fulham, albeit with some bad luck, but they can’t really afford to do so here.