Everton legends Joe Royle and David Unsworth smile on as they mastermind a fantastic 3-0 win for Everton over Norwich.Joe Royle and David Unsworth are unlikely to ever find themselves in dual charge of Everton again, but they will at least have the shared memory of gifting fans a perfect afternoon at Goodison. Clearly freer for Roberto Martinez’s exit and inspired by a handful of academy players, the Toffees cruised to a 3-0 win over relegated Norwich. To cap it all, Tim Howard bowed out after a decade with his 133rd clean sheet before taking in a rousing send-off from supporters. As a one-off occasion, it could not have been better.

Brought in to liven up the midfield, 17-year-old Tom Davies adapted seamlessly to all requirements of his central role. Selected for his creativity, 18-year-old Kieran Dowell drove forward instrumentally in the build-up to two goals. 19-year-old Jonjoe Kenny replaced 21-year-old relative veteran Matthew Pennington at right-back and crossed for the third. Academy debutant match-winners – you can’t really beat that. James McCarthy’s 19th-minute rocket allowed home fans to sit back and enjoy the youngsters’ promising contributions and much-improved displays for all others. Leighton Baines and Kevin Mirallas, two of the more prominent public sufferers of Martinez’s stubbornness, sealed the win either side of half-time with a penalty and close-range tap-in respectively. Both punched the air in relief/ defiance.

Unsworth talked up his youngsters pre-match: “We probably have seven or eight players who are either ready now or will be ready in 12 months’ time”. He backed that up with selection: starts for three, two more on the bench. And the temporary management duo made a brilliant substitution. Davies and Dowell performed superbly and were prime candidates for the extended applause withdrawal. Instead, Lennon replaced McCarthy 53 minutes in. Davies and Dowell were implored to crack on; only one substitution remaining. Dowell got his ovation eventually when Ross Barkley replaced him late on. Unsworth may never manage Everton again but the sole game in which he gave a 90-minute debut to a 17-year-old who was named man of the match will live long in the memory.

Invigorating catharsis

On a day of nostalgic revelry, everything clicked to such an extent that on reflection it was surprising to see Lukaku pass up the chance to emulate his temporary boss. Unsworth lashed in with his left after 27 seconds of David Moyes’ first game, here Lukaku could only fire tamely at John Ruddy. But otherwise, Everton were bright, quick on the front foot and productive. There was an invigorating catharsis to proceedings, not least for the players who quite literally saw the light at the end of the tunnel on a gloriously sunlit day at Goodison. The contrast from the last few months, years was stark.

Leighton Baines celebrates firing in the penalty which made it 2-0 for Everton with Romelu Lukaku and Kieran Dowell.

Everton were out-passed by Norwich (406 to 481) but out-shot them (8 on target to 2). With Davies and Player of the Year Gareth Barry driving forward, McCarthy and Dowell roamed through the centre. Once Kenny was introduced, the Toffees played with great balance as Baines shone on the left. Mirallas, unburdened and seemingly happy for once, demonstrated what a fantastic player he can be, working in close proximity with Lukaku, covering Baines at left-back on numerous occasions and scoring a deserved goal. Positively substitutions added impetus and variety. Academy players, direct football and a quick tempo: common sense football prevailing at last.

It was the least fitting way for Everton to round off the worst home campaign in club history but one that nonetheless afforded long-suffering supporters a blissful afternoon. With Martinez departed, Evertonians were given a timely reminder that beyond the Spaniard, there stands a tremendously promising football club with history. There are big decisions ahead this summer, but sometimes in football, whenever you can and particularly after a season like this, you have to sit back and enjoy the occasion. This was one to behold from Rhino and Big Joe.
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By Chris Smith
Follow me on Twitter @cdsmith789 

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