Dec 032014

Nevermind defensive cover or a more able deputy to keep Tim Howard on his toes, Everton FC need something else far more urgently under the Christmas tree.

Perhaps you can’t gift-wrap killer-instinct – but the Blues require a huge dose of it over the festive period nonetheless.

Once again they took the lead against a team they should comfortably swat aside at Goodison Park. Once again they conspired to drop points thereafter.

It’s becoming an alarmingly predictable pattern for Roberto Martinez’s men in this first half of the campaign, when every chance to climb the table is squandered.


The statistics do not make favourable reading.

Everton have dropped 12 points from winning positions already, the same as they did during the whole of last season.

Based on the frothy premise that their games thus far ended after the first half, they would be second in the table. Instead they’re treading water in 11th.

Something unsavoury happens when the Toffees take the lead. Just like against Leicester, Arsenal, Crystal Palace and Tottenham, they did the hard work and then failed to go for the jugular.

At White Hart Lane on Sunday, Martinez was frustrated by how his players didn’t get the crucial second goal when their hosts were reeling on the ropes.

It was the same script almost 72 hours later, when they punctured Hull’s defensive game-plan, but then struggled to go the distance when it counted.

It was a cagey opening, with neither side able to work a chance in the final third. Indeed 15 minutes had elapsed before either goalkeeper had a shot to save, and Hull’s Alan McGregor only had to bend leisurely to collect a right-footed drive from Romelu Lukaku which was straight at him.

The huddle of hardy souls who had made the journey from Humberside had little to excite them, as their team managed to send several crosses into the Blues area with zero end product.

There was little to excite the home supporters either, but at least they were starting to test McGregor, as Leon Osman’s instinctive back heel from Kevin Mirallas’ low driven cross forced him to save.

The Belgian was switching flanks with Osman to keep Hull’s full-backs guessing, but whoever was tasked with stopping him was going to have their work cut out.

He has been rampant since his return from the hamstring injury which forced him to miss two months, and the forward played a key role in the opener.

It was something of a direct goal for a side which prefers pass upon pass to cut open defences.

Phil Jagielka chipped it upfield and Lukaku played in his compatriot, who skinned Michael Dawson and found the striker with a clever cut back which he dispatched emphatically.

It was Lukaku’s sixth Premier League goal of the season, and the fifth from his last eight appearances on home soil.

He may have flattered to deceive in the opening months of the season, but the man with the record price tag is making a stronger claim for his value with each passing week.

The pair almost created another just after the break. This time Lukaku raced onto a clever pass from Gareth Barry and pulled it back but Mirallas’ measured chip soared narrowly over the bar.

Everton’s Leighton Baines

It was beginning to look like a straight-forward evening, but then things are rarely thus at the Old Lady. Out of nowhere, the Tigers were level.

Substitute Sune Aluko had only been for six minutes when he collected the ball on the edge of the area. He skipped too easily past Sylvain Distin and then squeezed his shot through Tim Howard’s legs at the near post.

Few teams can make life difficult for themselves like the Blues.

They might have been out of sight but instead had to contain a resurgent Hull who had something to cling onto and were determined to do just that.

Even with both Everton full-backs pushed right up, and Aiden McGeady being asked to come on and produce a spark, the clock continued to tick down ominously with no change forthcoming.

Steve Bruce’s side deployed every trick in the book to waste time and kill the game, as discontent built among the Goodison faithful.

And in response Everton’s passing began to feel predictable and uninspired.

That was certainly the mood at the whistle, when a last gasp Ross Barkley corner failed to beat the first man and the stalemate was promptly ensured.

Just three wins from their last 10 at Goodison, it’s not good enough.

Everton seem world-beaters in Europe, but in the league where they have a prime opportunity to compete for fourth spot they keep stumbling.

They need to sharpen their claws and learn to make their dominance count. When adversity beckons at the moment they’re too easy to figure out and nullify.

It can only go on for so long before their lofty goals for this campaign might have to be readjusted.

EVERTON: (4-2-3-1) Howard, Baines, Distin, Jagielka (Capt), Coleman, Besic (McGeady, 80) Barry, Barkley, Osman, Mirallas, Lukaku.

Subs not used: Robles, Hibbert, Eto’o, Atsu, Garbutt.

Bookings: Baines

Goals: Lukaku (34)

HULL CITY: (4-5-1) McGregor, Rosenior, Dawson (Capt), Chester, Meyler (Brady, 87) Huddlestone, Livermore, Diame (Aluko, 53) Elmohamady, Quinn (Robertson, 89) Jelavic.

Subs not used: Jakupovic, Bruce, Davies, Sagbo.

Bookings: Dawson

Goals: Aluko (59)

Referee: Robert Madley

Attendance: 34,645.

Star Man: Muhamed Besic impressed in midfield where he added greater discipline to his trademark silk and steel.

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 Posted by at 11:23 pm

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