It’s been a tough old week or so if you like your football played in yellow and green.
On the back of three increasingly poor league defeats – and yes I do rate the West Brom loss below the Newcastle one – last night was a chance for some light relief with a no pressure run out at Goodison in the latest instalment of the Capital One Cup.
A few of our boys who trooped off the hallowed turf on Saturday were badly in need of a break from the trip up to Merseyside.
Dieumerci Mbokani was suffering from an undefined illness (hopefully not home sickness), so one of the big calls Alex Neil had to make was which of his strikers he would trust to worry the Toffees defence the most.
With Gary Hooper heading to Sheffield for the rest of 2015, it was Lewis Grabban who got the nod; safe to say, most have still not managed to forgive his antics in a previous round of this competition.
Many at home seemed aghast that Kyle Lafferty was once more left to warm the bench at kick off.
Also getting a rare outing were Andre Wisdom, Gary O’Neil and Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe but most exciting was the first proper appearance of Youssouf Mulumbu, finally fit enough after that pesky foot injury sustained in the preseason.
Against a strong Roberto Martinez team, City made a promising start with six corners won in the first 15 minutes and the majority of possession – a familiar trend in recent losing games.
It didn’t take the new man, Mulumbu, long to make a mark – unfortunately picking up a booking on 26 minutes.
It was scoreless at the half-time whistle. We would have settled for that before kickoff.
City had seen 60 per cent of the ball, had three efforts on target (a couple of decent cracks from our big Belgian midfielder) and won eight corners.
Encouraging stats as I decamped from the radio for a brew and a couple of hobnobs.
Even better was news that Arsenal were two down at Hillsborough. Gary Hooper is joining a pretty decent side on an upward curve. And good luck to him.
Bang! 50 minutes and the Goodison deadlock was broken; Sebastian Bassong shooting home from inside the box after an assist by O’Neil.
Big Seb’s first goal for many a long day and very welcome indeed.
Chelsea go behind at Stoke at almost exactly the same time and Arsenal go three down a couple of minutes later.
All too good to be true surely? It was shaping up to be the perfect night. Was it tempting fate to reward myself with a third hobnob?
On the hour, City had the game in their back pocket. The draw for the next round was awaiting for us. Rarely charted territory.
And then came the Everton cavalry – Barclay and Deulofeu were thrown on. The Goodison faithful were restless.
It was too good to be true – the apparently ‘evergreen’ Leon Osman equalised on 68 minutes and suddenly all the old fears return. I shouldn’t have had the third hobnob. A painful lesson.
Matt Jarvis came on for Vadis. Lewis Grabban had a couple of goal bound efforts but surely the gangly Lafferty was the man to stretch and annoy the tired Everton defence? Alex Neil didn’t respond to my pleas.
It was getting a bit tasty in the final 15. Ryan Bennett went into the ref’s naughty book. Mulumbu was replaced by Graham Dorrans.
The 90th minute – that man Grabban almost made himself a hero with a header on target but it was well saved. Lafferty the extra-time hero maybe? Olsson picked up a late yellow.
All square at full time. We’d bossed all the main stats on the night but had to go again for 30 minutes. Arsenal were humbled in Sheffield. Wenger prepared his excuses for the TV cameras.
Was time to put the kettle on again. Nerves were building.
We huffed and puffed in extra-time but a penalty shootout it was. Lap of the footballing Gods’ time. Still no Lafferty.
And the Gods deserted us as Wes and Nathan blew their lines. Chelsea died a death by penalties too.
Conclusion – many positives to take for City from the game. Lady Luck wasn’t on our side. Opportunity missed. The Toffees were jammy.
Time for a hobnob and bed. Hopefully the pain will subside by morning.