Dec 292014

Everton ‘s fate was only confirmed when referee Craig Pawson blew the whistle after four minutes of additional time at St James’ Park.

But the crushing truth is that the Blues had the appearance of a side that was beaten long before then.

When Ayoze Perez put Newcastle United ahead early in the second-half, Everton already wore the look of a team resigned to an eighth league defeat of the season.

They looked deflated, lost even – and the home side’s third goal simply rubber-stamped what many had assumed would be an increasingly familiar outcome.

Everton's Leighton Baines (left) and Newcastle United's Ayoze Perez in action VIEW GALLERY

And not even the Leighton Baines-inspired rally of the final 10 minutes, which saw Kevin Mirallas reduce the deficit, could prevent what had worryingly felt like the inevitable for some time.

A lack of belief does not fit well on a Roberto Martinez side.

It is its lifeblood – but we now find ourselves at a stage that seemed unimaginable last season: their confidence looks to be hanging by a thread.

Despite the manager’s belief that Everton’s performance was “full of guts, character and personality” the concern among those who travelled to the North East was that, simply, it had none of that.

Everton’s display – so positive early on, yet one that quickly unravelled – craved all of what Martinez describes but discovered it all too late in the day.

So why did it take the Blues until six minutes from time to summon a fightback?

Martinez’s side are on a torrid run of form and devoid of confidence, luck and any semblance of their former selves.

Surely it will turn for them sooner rather than later? It has to.

But in times of struggle and hardship, a situation Everton currently find themselves engulfed in, when your back is against the wall as the rub of the green continues to desert you, then character becomes your prized commodity.

Baines showed it, but why didn’t the others? Where are Everton’s leaders? Where are the characters and big game personalities?

In the freezing early evening air of Newcastle, there was a sense of acceptance far too early in the game for comfort.

The concept of such larger-than-life players may be seen as an outdated ingredient in the modern game by some managers – and the idea of valuing character over quality is unlikely to be something Martinez subscribes to that often.

But is now the time to alter that thinking?

Should the Blues head into the market looking for a talisman? An experienced head, a street wise performer who can be the infectious catalyst to jump start their league season?

Or is it simply time to draw a line in the sand and demand that Everton’s most experienced players drag the club out of this malaise? These are questions Martinez is no doubt asking himself.

The absence of skipper Phil Jagielka at St James Park didn’t help Everton’s cause, but there is only so much of the game he can influence from centre-half.

To use the well worn lexicon of football – and the question many were left asking on Sunday – ‘Who was having a go?’

Which Everton players took the second goal on the chin and roared defiantly back?

Worryingly too few.

Baines, asked to play in central midfield against Newcastle, will be as worn down by Everton’s form as anyone and typically he showed the spirit and skill to try and drag them back into the game. Arouna Kone’s performance and goal – on his full Premier League debut for the club – deserves bags of credit, Luke Garbutt looked comfortable on his first Premier League start and Antolin Alcaraz had a decent game.

But what about the others?

Everton had Steven Naismith as their go-to-guy in so many sticky situations last season and, like Jagielka, his return from the sidelines can’t come soon enough. But at the minute, Everton’s problems look as though they run deeper than just the return of the Scotland international.

There is likely to be much soul searching in the coming days.

Let’s hope it lights the fire in their bellies.

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