'Sean Dyche's team wrecked that narrative' - Everton have last laugh as media make Sky Sports point

Dominic Calvert-Lewin celebrates his goal with his Everton team-mates in their game against Luton Town at Kenilworth Road

Everton were able to go into their Friday night trip to Luton Town safe in the knowledge that their Premier League status was already secure but while their hosts are still desperately battling for points, Sean Dyche’s side held firm in the face of extensive pressure to earn a 1-1 draw and extend their unbeaten run to four matches.

Here’s a round-up of what the national media made of the game at Kenilworth Road.

In the Daily Mail, Kieran Gill emphasised the different moods in the respective camps given that this televised fixture – moved in the expectation that both teams would still be fighting for survival – actually ended up being rather different. He said: “Luton’s dissatisfaction with this draw was emphasised in the eighth minute of stoppage time when goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski was sent up front in the hope of heading home a corner.

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“Rarely will you see such a risk being taken in the Premier League when the scoreline is locked at 1-1, but this was one Rob Edwards and his players felt was necessary at Kenilworth Road. Unfortunately for Edwards, that magic moment never arrived. The cross came in, Everton cleared as they so often did in this contest, the draw was confirmed, and that dreaded dotted line will continue to hang over Luton after this.

“Every point counts, but picking up the odd one here and there is unlikely to be enough once this relegation race is at its end. Luton can now only hope that neither Nottingham Forest nor Burnley will make them pay for their failure to win here.

“Luton hardly helped themselves when Teden Mengi confused football for wrestling, gifting Everton a penalty which Dominic Calvert-Lewin dispatched with ease. Elijah Adebayo equalised, bullying Ashley Young to score on his first start since February, but overall, this was an evening enjoyed far more by those of an Everton persuasion.

“While Jurgen Klopp seized the chance to hurl yet another stick of dynamite at TNT Sports yesterday, carping about the timing of Liverpool’s fixtures this season, Everton saved their explosiveness for the three Premier League games they had contested in the last seven days

"Three victories, zero goals conceded, safety secured, and with this Friday night trip to Luton arranged by Sky Sports when it was thought it might resemble a relegation six-pointer.

“Sean Dyche’s team wrecked that narrative by confirming survival with a 1-0 win over Brentford on Saturday. That left the travelling supporters with a strange sensation on this away day – one of relief, rapture and intrigue at how they might perform minus the pressure of potential doom.

“While they sang about the Premier Leaving shoving their points deductions where the sun doth not shine, this match was soon eclipsed by penalty shouts, only one of which was given.”

In the Guardian, Jacob Steinburg also eluded to Everton’s feel-good factor, even if he was less than flattering about the Blues’ approach.

He remarked: “When the final story of the 2023/24 Premier League season comes to be told, it is likely that Luton Town will feel nothing but regret about the night when they ran out of inspiration and time against opponents as negative and rudimentary as Sean Dyche’s Everton.

“Their safety already secured, Everton’s nous drowned out the noise. Ashley Young, making the 450th appearance of his club career, shrugged off the taunts about his Watford past. Dwight McNeil laughed when he was abused for appealing for a penalty after tangling with Mengi on the left.

“Mengi was nervous during the first half, almost scoring an own goal when he stretched to clear a cross from McNeil, and he was punished in the 24th minute. A corner came in from the left and David Coote, the VAR, spotted the defender wrapping his arms around Branthwaite.

“Did it matter that both players were nowhere near the ball? Not to the officials.

“Everton knuckled down. No opportunity to drain Luton’s momentum with a bit of time-wasting was knowingly turned down.
The game felt too broken, too rushed, too bitty. Tarkowski and Branthwaite won a lot in the air. Jack Harrison stopped Doughty going through on the left.

“Everton were resilient. The clock was always against Luton.”

Tom Alluntt of The Times was at least a little more appreciative of Everton’s efforts having already done the hard yards.

He said: “Luton Town ran out of time here and their time in the Premier League may be running out. A battling draw at home to Everton, whose safety was already secured, was no less than Luton deserved but at this stage of the season, it felt like a golden opportunity missed.

“Luton’s goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski was up in the penalty area for the last corner, in the sixth minute of added time, and that said it all. Luton needed a victory here and while there is still time in their final two games, they have it all to do.

“Luton and Everton would have circled this game as a potential relegation decider a few weeks ago but Everton came here with safety confirmed after an inspired run of four wins from five.

“Luton threw everything, including Kaminski, forward in added time as Luke Berry forced a save from Pickford with a header then went close with a bicycle kick. Branthwaite blocked Andros Townsend’s shot in front of goal at the end as Everton held firm.”

With Everton resolute, Jon West of the Daily Telegraph also believed this was a game that Luton Town needed to win.

He wrote: “Elijah Adebayo marked his return from injury with a goal for Luton but it was not enough. The Hatters needed to win to apply any significant pressure upon relegation rivals Nottingham Forest and Burnley.

“Adebayo, missed so badly up front for almost all of a two-month spell that brought just one victory in his absence, cancelled out Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s penalty opener for the Toffees, who no longer have any on-field worries to add to their myriad off-field problems.

“Sub Luke Berry almost won it at the death but Pickford was able to save - and an over-head kick from the same player was blocked.
Andros Townsend, another ex-Toffee, saw a drive blocked in a frantic finish but Everton held on.”

Meanwhile, in the ECHO, Joe Thomas focused on Everton’s potential summer transfer plans and pointed out that while Ross Barkley caught the eye against his former club, the Blues would be better targeting another of his Luton Town team-mates rather than bringing back the Wavertree-born midfielder.

He remarked: “How Barkley would fit into a Sean Dyche side is unclear – there are plenty of good reasons the perennial claims of a reunion have not materialised over recent summers when the England international has been available for free.

“The likelihood is no such return follows this summer either. But until his future is decided, expect a chorus of debate online and across living rooms and pub floors over the possibility.

“There was a sense that this game could end up about Barkley. With the Blues safe after that hat-trick of superb wins last week it was one of few obvious talking points, something recognised in Bedfordshire too – it was no coincidence he was the player who adorned the front page of the matchday programme.

“But as Everton’s director of football Kevin Thelwell watched from the stands, the biggest lesson he may have picked up ahead of what will be another summer of careful, savvy, opportunistic rebuilding, came not from Barkley, but one of his team-mates.

“Tahith Chong was a menace throughout this highly entertaining match, drawing the Blues into conceding precisely the same free-kicks and corners that they have turned into precious goals over the past nine months. If Dyche could add one attribute to this team over the close season, it surely must be pace.”