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Everton’s second string do business
OUTCLASSED? Yes. Outmuscled? Without doubt. But that didn’t stop John Still hailing his ‘warriors’ after a stellar defensive display at Goodison Park.
Separated by 78 league places at kick-off, few gave Dagenham & Redbridge a hope of upsetting the Toffees, even against an a side missing star striker Romelu Lukaku.
But while goals from Arouna Kone and Kevin Mirallas ensured the tie went to script, the Daggers more than held their own to leave Still – who returned to the club for a third stint as manager only in December – singing their praises.
“I’m very proud,” said Still, whose side lie 22nd in League Two.“I know it’s easy for me to say because I’m a Dagenham fan, a Dagenham player and now the Dagenham manager. But I was really proud of the team and of the supporters.
“They’ve had a difficult year, a difficult season. For almost 2,000 of them to turn out and get behind the lads was terrific.
“And I think our players responded. They were warriors – and between now and the end of the season we will need warriors.”
Dagenham’s ostensibly adventurous 3-5-2 was, in practice, more a flat back five, designed to stifle space and plug gaps.
It worked, too, restricting an understrength Everton to a handful of chances in the shape of Steven Pienaar’s wayward header and a 20yard blast from Ramiro Fuentes Mori that Mark Cousins pushed over.
Joe Worrall, making his debut on loan from Nottingham Forest, was particularly impressive. The 19year-old, who met up with the squad at their West Brom training base only yesterday, looked instantly at home at centre-back, clearing from under his own crossbar before executing a perfectly-timed block on the charging Brendan Galloway.
“It was really weird,” said Still. “We’d actually loaned a boy from Reading, Piers Sweeney, who injured himself in the first minute of his first training session.
“So I got hold of Dougie Freedman at Forest and said ‘Can you help me?’ He said yes and Joe met up with us this morning. He hadn’t even trained with us and it was the same with Ollie Muldoon, who we got from Charlton. He’s a Romford boy, a Dagenham supporter.
“And I have to say, for how long those two boys have been with us, they really did remarkably well.”
Yet the Daggers’ gameplan could afford no weak links and, in Ashley Hemmings, Everton found one.The 24-year-old looked about as comfortable at wing-back as a salmon in the Sahara, a problem brutally exploited by Aaron Lennon and Bryan Oviedo.
Twice caught in possession, Hemmings then dragged Lennon to the deck. Oviedo whipped the freekick to the back post and Kone atoned for an otherwise insipid display with a firm header into the corner. Floodgates opened? Hardly.
Though aided by Everton’s capacity to overplay, the Daggers continued to defend impressively, refusing to be dragged out of shape by the marauding Kevin Mirallas.
With the exception of a shot from Kone, the Toffees failed to muster a serious effort on goal after the break. That said, Everton deserve credit too. Set pieces are the great leveller in games like this, turning a mismatch into a lottery.
Yet the Toffees played with maturity and discipline, resisting any urge to give away soft corners or
FULL STRETCH: Mark Cousins in action as Everton’s Arouna Kone (out of picture) heads wide. Inset: Kevin Mirallas scores from the spot
STAR MAN JOE WORRALL Dag &