With tonight’s Premier League trip to Goodison Park where we will face off with David Unsworth’s Everton almost upon us, we take a trip down memory lane in the first edition of our Classic Match series to a very special clash with The Toffees from a very special season.
Rewind the clock back to the wonderful early spring of 2016, Lukas Graham’s “7 Years” was No1 in The UK Charts and Astronauts Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko had just returned to Earth after breaking the record for the longest time spent in The International Space Centre, 340 days.
Meanwhile, in East London, the Slaven Bilic era was at its peak, we headed into the trip to Merseyside, the second PL fixture of March 2016, full of confidence having just made it back-to-back home wins over Sunderland and London rivals Tottenham Hotspur.
The Hammers were sixth and Bilic had led us to the real possibility of playing Champions League Football in our first year at Stratford’s Olympic Stadium.
Whilst things were not going so smoothly in the blue half of Liverpool as Everton, under Roberto Martinez, sat 10th but were about to embark on a run of seven games without a win, despite triumphing at Villa Park in their last outing.
When the two teams were announced on a dreary Saturday afternoon in The North East, the biggest surprise from the away side was that young centre-back Reece Oxford, who had impressed wildly on his debut as a 16-year-old at The Emirates Stadium earlier in the campaign, was starting in defence.
While the hosts’ biggest danger came from forward Romelu Lukaku, coming into the game off the back of scoring in seven consecutive games in all Competitions against West Ham United.
Inevitably, he would make it eight to get the affair off to an entertaining start that would set the tone for the rest of the match, turning away from Oxford and finding Adrian’s far corner on 11 minutes.
But, we would be offered something of a lifeline on 34 minutes when Kevin Mirallas, already on a yellow card, lunged in dangerously on Aaron Cresswell and was shown his second of the afternoon by Referee Anthony Taylor.
However, we failed initially to make the most of this and Everton were able to take the golden chance that came their way just after half-time with Aaron Lennon cleverly exchanging passes with Lukaku to run on through and finish low, doubling his team’s advantage.
For all our pressure at the other end, The Toffees should have sealed an unlikely win once and for all on the 70-minute mark after Alex Song fouled Mo Besic in the area and a penalty was given.
Despite Lukaku’s mighty form against The East Londoners, he stepped up to the mark and was denied by Adrian superbly in what would prove to be the affair’s definitive moment.
Eight minutes later, Michail Antonio was able to make it three goals in the space of seven days by rising well to nod a Mark Noble delivery into the bottom corner of the net via Joel Robles’ palm.
The adrenaline was soon racing through our veins and the home side were defending for their lives, something they were unable to do well enough and the returning substitute Diafra Sakho headed home emphatically from a Dimitri Payet cross on 81 minutes, the tie had been turned on its head.
Nevertheless, the task of winning the game was still at hand and the home side looked even shakier, the winner finally came in the 90th when Cresswell’s long punt forward was knocked down by Andy Carroll and directed into the path of the onrushing Payet by Sakho.
The Frenchman was left to slide the ball gently underneath Robles and celebrating the three points-clinching finish wildly in front of the travelling Claret & Blue Army.
The fabulous Goodison victory saw us leapfrog Manchester United and into fifth position, while Martinez’s side fell a place down to 11th, finishing there in the end after his sacking.
Although Bilic would go on to record our highest ever Premier League points tally, we would eventually miss out on the top four and have to settle for Europa League Football in seventh position.
So, now that we have recounted a Classic encounter with tonight’s opposition, will David Moyes be able to deliver us three points in a similar manner to that of two seasons ago? All will be revealed in a matter of hours.