What Everton fans did after Manchester United win says a lot about secret weapon

If Everton are to survive then Goodison Park is key.

That’s been the mantra, muttered on sleepless nights, through eternity since Alex Iwobi’s stoppage-time winner against Newcastle last month. But once again the home crowd gave credence to that claim as they propelled the Blues to another memorable victory against a crumbling Manchester United side on Merseyside.

It was feared that the Saturday lunchtime kick-off could be the worst time for the last so-called cup final for a club with painfully few cup final appearances in recent decades. It was believed to be a game best suited to be played under the lights – the conditions in which Everton put on such a brave performance against Manchester City before being thwarted by appalling refereeing.

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Yet as Goodison basked in the spring sunshine, nearly 40,000 Blues showed up and gave it their all. The effect was obvious.

In a game between two sides that for far too long have been under the sum of their parts by millions of pounds, the crowd pushed Everton over the finish line. Hungry for a performance that offered hope for better things to come, they put aside their anxiety and boosted those in blue, while harassing and bullying a group of rival players whose fragility this season has been as evident as that of Everton.

Much of the discussion before the match was about the importance of the first goal. For 25 minutes it was unclear which direction it would go.

After a brilliant start, Everton have resorted to recent type. Nerves and anxiety started to seep in as Man Utd controlled the ball. Yet for all the talent in red, the biggest threat came from that most familiar source – individual mistakes.

Twice Jordan Pickford made important saves as Everton conceded possession cheaply in dangerous positions. Then he came – a moment just as important as Iwobi’s 99th-minute winner the last time fans thronged to Goodison Park.

Richarlison advanced down the left and brought the ball back to Iwobi, who did enough to ensure the clearance only slipped into Anthony Gordon’s path. His shot took a bad deflection off Harry Maguire and caught David de Gea on the wrong foot. The United players’ hands collapsed into their knees as the crowd erupted and Gordon slid towards his before being mobbed by the impressive Iwobi.

The goal settled Everton. Pickford was vocal, Fabian Delph interrupted play and when in possession tried to free Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison and Gordon.

Ben Godfrey slid in to clear as Jadon Sancho fired a shot across goal, but then Everton fought back, De Gea knocking down a deflected effort from Richarlison and Allan pounding a crowd of players as the corner following him broke away.

Despite the pressure at the end of the first half, the Blues held on to go into half-time in the lead and backed by cheers from the home crowd.

Early in the second half, Everton averted calamity when a Bruno Fernandes ball passed Marcus Rashford and wrong-footed Pickford to drive away. But then Gordon spun on the ball and sent Paul Pogba into a sprawling lunge which energized the crowd and saw the Frenchman go into the book.

The introduction of Juan Mata helped Man Utd gain more possession in the home side‘s half, but it was Everton who still looked the most threatening as Richarlison and Gordon bubbled and bubbled in a game that became more and more frantic.

When Pogba forced Pickford into a diving save 10 minutes from time, it highlighted just how shaky Everton’s lead was. It also showed the difficulty the opposing side were having in their attempts to break down a defense that fought for everything, with Godfrey using those 90 minutes against one of football’s biggest aerial threats as the perfect opportunity to catch up. the belated midweek heartache caused by his tangled clearance.

As the final minutes ticked away, Everton weren’t hanging on. It was not a back-to-the-wall performance. It wasn’t a vintage display either.

But as time ticked away, it was, for once, Everton’s opponents who felt the pressure – as seen when a frustrated Ronaldo hammered the ball away and scooped a a yellow card. He then forced a huge late save from Pickford, a save that could be as big as any goal scored this season by a player in blue. Yet unlike those nerve-wracking minutes before the final whistle against Newcastle, injury time today was not stressful, anxious hell.

On Grand National day, the noise that reached conclusion exceeded anything those on the road at Aintree could muster as their favorites galloped down the home stretch. It was a roar of relief, a release of tension. Maybe even some pride.

This team is ready for battle. And Goodison Park remains a potent weapon in a relegation battle that is not yet over. The result means that whatever happens elsewhere this weekend, Everton will not fall into the bottom three.

In a season where positives have been hard to come by, it’s a significant boost ahead of a 10-day break that ends, above all, in another L4 game. And this one will be in the spotlight.

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