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Everton fight back after being left furious and stunned by Liverpool and points deduction decisions

The 2023/24 season was one of the most tumultuous in Everton’s history and that’s saying something given all the club has been through both on and off the pitch in recent years.

But despite being hit by two separate points deductions, Sean Dyche steered the Blues to safety with three Premier League matches still to play.

Over five parts, here is a potted summary of Everton’s 45 matches in all competitions and how the ECHO – the only major independent news outlet to cover all the club’s games home and away – reported on them. Today is the second instalment.

October 7: Everton 3 Bournemouth 0

Verdict (Joe Thomas): Goodison Park was bathed in sunshine. The thousands of Blues leaving the Grand Old Lady were smiling under the blue skies of late summer.

A gameplan put together by a manager who had saved this famous side from relegation by the barest of margins had paid off handsomely and a 3-0 home win was a spark that ignited hopes that, after a difficult start to the season, progress was within sight.

That depiction of a heady afternoon of hope and relief is an accurate reflection of this demolition of Bournemouth. It also works, word for word, to describe the scenes in L4 almost exactly 12 months ago, when Everton’s win over Crystal Palace felt like the moment Frank Lampard had taken a huge stride forward as Blues boss. Everyone knows how that ended.

That victory was the last time, before this win, Everton scored more than once at Goodison. There are so many similarities between that day in October 2022 and this win in October 2023. Sean Dyche now needs to ensure that what happens next under him does not mirror what then unfolded for Lampard. Everton could do without another false dawn.

Everton player ratings star men (Connor O’Neill): Jarrad Branthwaite, James Garner, Jack Harrison, Dwight McNeil, Dominic Calvert-Lewin (all 8).

October 21: Liverpool 2 Everton 0

Verdict (Joe Thomas): Even Jurgen Klopp knew. As the boos rang out from the away end at Anfield while fourth official Thomas Bramall displayed the number five on his electronic board, Ibrahima Konate walked off the pitch. He was to join the substitutes bench when, in reality, he should have been heading down the tunnel for an early bath.

Moments earlier and with the game still goalless the centre back, already on a yellow card, was adjudged to have tripped Beto as Everton sprung a counter attack. Four stands gasped in anticipation of the second yellow, and then the red card, being produced. Referee Craig Pawson instead opted for leniency.

It was a baffling, critical decision that left Sean Dyche furious and prevented a brave Everton performance from getting a positive result that would have been deserved. It was even more astonishing given the inconsistency it represented - Everton played this game for an hour with 10 men after Ashley Young was not afforded the same clemency. When VAR later intervened to lead to the Mohamed Salah penalty that decided the 243rd Merseyside derby, the cruelty of the decision-making only intensified.

While Everton could compete with their opposition players, they could not also survive the inconsistency of the officiating.

Everton player ratings star men (Chris Beesley): Jordan Pickford, Vitalii Mykolenko, Jarrad Branthwaite, James Garner, Amadou Onana, Beto (all 7).

October 29: West Ham United 0 Everton 1

Verdict (Chris Beesley): The last time Everton came to the London Stadium their manager was on the brink - but this time the Blues nailed the Hammers in front of both Farhad Moshiri and prospective new owner Josh Wander of 777 Partners.

This was a resolute display from the visitors who produced a performance filled with the type of determination Sean Dyche declared they had been showing all week in training after the sense of injustice from the referee that prevailed following their Merseyside Derby defeat at Anfield. However, this was far from a smash-and-grab victory as the difference between the sides was a strike of supreme quality as Dominic Calvert-Lewin grabbed his 50th Premier League goal for the club.

Back when these sides met in the corresponding fixture last season on January 21, Everton’s majority shareholder Moshiri, who has still not been back to Goodison Park since the 5-2 capitulation against Watford under Rafael Benitez, now over two years ago on October 23, 2021, was joined en masse by the club’s board of directors who had stayed away from the Southampton home game the previous weekend on security advice. Chief executive Denise Barrett-Baxendale, Graeme Sharp and the late chairman Bill Kenwright were all here for what proved to be the final act of Frank Lampard’s tenure.

Unbeaten under Dyche when going ahead, the Blues have shown they can protect a lead and this was an ideal away day display to impress the watching Moshiri, Wander et al while also honour the memory of Kenwright after a hugely emotional few days.

Everton player ratings star men (Connor O’Neill): Jarrad Branthwaite, Dominic Calvert-Lewin (both 8).

November 1: Everton 3 Burnley 0 (Carabao Cup fourth round)

Verdict (Joe Thomas): If last week felt like a cruel test destined to forge a siege mentality, this week Everton have shown this is a club that is up for the battle ahead.

After a hard-fought and superb, morale-boosting win at West Ham United on Sunday, Burnley wilted under the lights of the Grand Old Lady on Wednesday night. Save for the final 20 minutes of the first half, when Everton’s carelessness threatened to offer the visitors a route back into the tie, Sean Dyche could not have dreamt of an easier passage into the quarter-finals of a major cup competition.

The comfort with which the Blues overpowered their opponents gave this the feeling of a summer friendly. The polite celebrations that greeted the first two goals echoed that sentiment.

All of a sudden, even with some 35 minutes remaining and Young’s first competitive goal for the club still to come, Everton had won five games in seven and a club with the world seemingly against it is three matches from Wembley. Que Sera, Sera…

Everton player ratings star man (Connor O’Neill): Jarrad Branthwaite (8).

November 4: Everton 1 Brighton & Hove Albion 1

Verdict (Joe Thomas): If you were looking for signs of progress then you would have found them at Goodison Park against Brighton & Hove Albion. Everton may have been denied a win by a cruel deflection but the disappointment that greeted Ashley Young’s late own goal told a story of its own.

This fixture last year represented one of the worst points of a dismal campaign as Brighton destroyed what was then Frank Lampard’s Blues. The contrast in the directions these two clubs were heading could not have been more stark.

Ten months later and Everton were a slice of bad luck from a hard-fought victory that would have sent this team soaring into mid-table off the back of six wins in eight games.

Most of the 40,000 supporters at Goodison will have travelled home wondering just how a goalmouth scramble from an Everton corner did not lead to a winner. It was not to be, however, and when Mitoma’s cross flicked off Young and over Pickford the sense of disappointment around the stadium was clear. That frustration is progress.

Everton player ratings star man (Chris Beesley): Vitalii Mykolenko (8).

November 11: Crystal Palace 2 Everton 3

Verdict (Joe Thomas): London is Royal Blue. Brentford, West Ham United and now Crystal Palace - west, east and now south of the capital have been conquered by Sean Dyche's side and Everton’s deserving away fans are finally in a position where they can head south dreaming of three points with belief rather than desperation.

This was not an easy win for Everton. Twice they gave up the lead, Palace repeatedly laid siege to the away side's box and for large portions of this match the momentum was against the visitors. But the resilience and determination injected into this squad by Dyche, his coaching team and the resurgent Dominic Calvert-Lewin suggests anything is possible - even Idrissa Gueye playing a long distance one-two with Abdoulaye Doucoure to burst through on goal and slot in an unlikely winner with all of the composure of a 30-goal-a-season striker.

The scenes that followed were stunning - in the dugout, in the stands and on the Premier League table. Gueye, Doucoure, Amadou Onana, Youssef Chermiti and Arnaut Danjuma were dancing in the dugout. Spirit of the Blues resounded around Selhurst Park from the away end.

Everton have three more points. Everton have won in the capital again. Everton are in mid-table. London is Royal Blue.

Everton player ratings star men (Chris Beesley): Vitalii Mykolenko & Idrissa Gueye (both 8).

November 26: Everton 0 Manchester United 3

Verdict (Joe Thomas): There was always a danger this would happen. Everton is a club that rarely seems to enjoy the privilege of events going its way. Fairytale scripts have not been written in Royal Blue ink for quite some time.

But perhaps that is the point. The club has fought back from adversity time and again over recent years. That is why the unprecedented 10 point penalty that formed the backdrop to this match hurt so badly. Just as the club looked like it was on the path to sustained, genuine, tangible progress the protection it had earned going into a difficult Christmas period was wiped out by a process that, as season ticket holder and Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said before kick-off, appeared to have been made up during proceedings.

A summer sale of the club’s most prized asset, followed by a January of no incomings and the departure of its academy starlet, and then a summer of a token loan payment and deadline day losses - Everton was a club well into its course of medicine before this month.

But this was always going to be the start of the response to the points deduction, not the end. The players were cheered off by the Gwladys Street and that is important. Recent weeks have shown there is a strong foundation to build this fightback on, both on the pitch and in the stands. That has to be the key message taken from Sunday. That has to be a source of hope.

Everton player ratings star men (Chris Beesley): Jarrad Branthwaite, Dwight McNeil, Dominic Calvert-Lewin (all 6).

December 2: Nottingham Forest 0 Everton 1

Verdict (Joe Thomas): Everton’s fight back against the 10 point deduction that redefined the club’s season is officially underway.

On Friday, the club submitted its appeal in the hope of clawing back some of those hard-earned points in the corridors of power. On Saturday night, under the lights at a frozen City Ground, the players wrestled back three more with a battling but deserved win against Nottingham Forest.

That victory was fuelled by a force once again coming to the fore at a time of need for the club. Almost 3,000 Blues travelled to the east Midlands. Undeterred by plummeting temperatures, a cost of living crisis and sickening poverty abuse from sections of the home end they rallied once again - against the Premier League and behind their players.

The win cancels out Burnley’s victory earlier in the day, it moves the Blues within a win of safety once again and it proved the greatest points deduction in top-flight history does not have to be an anchor for a group of players that deserve to be competing higher in the table.

That opportunity has been ripped from them - a fact recognised once again as the away end held protests against the handling of the Premier League’s profit and sustainability breach before and during this match.

The home fans played on this throughout the game. The away supporters had the last laugh, however. They made sure the whole of Nottingham heard it. The fight back has started.

Everton player ratings star men (Chris Beesley): Jordan Pickford, James Tarkowski, Jarrad Branthwaite, Idrissa Gueye, James Garner, Dwight McNeil (all 8).

December 7: Everton 3 Newcastle United 0

Verdict (Joe Thomas): Everton are out of the relegation zone less than one month after being hit with the most severe points deduction in top flight history.

They are above the dotted line after a story of missed chances and frustration became one of utter ruthlessness and immense joy on a memorable night under the lights at the Grand Old Lady. It started when Dwight McNeil, who can claim several of the biggest goals in his club’s modern past, scored another of huge importance as he snatched the ball from Kieran Trippier and then thumped it past Martin Dubravka. Abdoulaye Doucoure, who has written his own name in the club’s prestigious history books, added a second before Beto then finished a hugely satisfying job for a club angered by its treatment off the pitch in recent weeks.

Positive play, good chances and missed opportunities had been the story of Goodison this season. Frustration was not the dominant feeling for almost 40,000 Blues leaving on Thursday night though. In April, this home crowd left this fixture staring at the bleakness of the Championship. This time it was a fanbase looking up as it left this famous old stadium.

Everton player ratings star men (Chris Beesley): Jack Harrison, Dwight McNeil, Beto (all 8).