by Richard Buxton, Goodison Park. Published Sat 18 Apr 2015 18:00, last updated: 18/04/15
Even in victory, Everton remains a team at odds with itself. Penalty taking remains the mutinous narrative in an imperfect season for Roberto Martinez’s side.
On an afternoon where, depending on your standpoint, nothing and everything was to play for at Goodison Park, Burnley found no solace from their friends in the north.
Sean Dyche’s side have run out of steam following months of fruitless huffing and puffing. Leicester City’s win over Swansea has not condemned their Premier League status just yet, despite being rock-bottom, but hopes of a revival appear increasingly slim.
Losing Ashley Barnes on the stroke of half time, for a second bookable offence, did little to help their chances of garnering any semblance of success from this encounter but, in truth, they rarely showed signs of threatening a shaky Everton defence.
He should have been joined by Kevin Mirallas, whose studs-up challenge on George Boyd was instead given a fortuitous caution by referee Mike Jones rather than a straight red card.
“I don’t think it’s a red card at all,” insisted Martinez.
“He stands on his feet, it’s well controlled and when the referee gives the decision, I think it’s right in giving a free kick.
“it’s just a normal action. It’s not a malicious challenge from Kevin. It’s more of a typical striker’s challenge.”
It was Mirallas who had earlier given Everton a decisive first-half strike but also whose missed penalty three months ago set the tone for what followed against the Clarets.
After his failed attempt to usurp Leighton Baines as designated spot kick taker proved costly in a stalemate with West Bromwich Albion, Ross Barkley should have known better than to assume responsibility from Everton’s all-time scorer from 12 yards.
Martinez’s pledge that Baines would be the club’s undisputed penalty taker following the January debacle appeared, like many things at Goodison this season, to be a misrepresentation of the reality.
When Aaron Lennon was tripped by David Jones on the edge of the penalty area, referee Mike Jones controversially pointed to the spot.
Burnley stopper Tom Heaton provided equilibrium.when faced with the prodigious yet inconsistent Barkley instead of the Premier League’s fifth-highest penalty taker of all time – with 20 successful conversions from a possible 22 for Everton.
“There are three or four players who can take our penalties,” said Martinez.
“Sometimes you’re in a difficult moment during the game and I don’t think it’s right to be forced to take a penalty. I always like to have three or four penalty takers that, in the moment, can take it.
“There’s not such a thing as a best penalty taker. We are so lucky that we have more than one.”
Mirallas, meanwhile, had the last laugh in this encounter. An initial fluffing of his lines when teed up by James McCarthy allowed him to redeem himself with a stronger connection at the second time of asking to give Everton a much-needed lead.
They were guilty of not taking chances in the second half, notably when an underwhelming Arouna Kone flicked a Mirallas cross against Heaton’s right-hand post.
And after George Boyd’s sloppy back pass gifted possession to Baines, the Ivorian, rather predictably, spurned his ensuing attempt into the Gwladys Street end.
He was not alone in being profligate. McCarthy, Baines, Seamus Coleman and Gareth Barry were equally culpable. It was symptomatic of Everton’s topsy-turvy season, even with their top flight safety assured.
EVERTON (4-2-3-1); Howard; Coleman, Stones, Jagielka, Baines; McCarthy (Besic 88), Barry; Mirallas (Lukaku 61), Lennon, Barkley; Kone (Naismith 80)
Subs (not used): Robles, McGeady, Garbutt, Alcaraz.
Goals: Mirallas (28)
BURNLEY (4-4-2): Heaton; Trippier, Duff, Shackell, Mee; Boyd (Wallace 84), Arfield, Jones (Taylor 84), Barnes; Ings, Vokes (Jutkiewicz 59)
Subs (not used): Gilks, Kightly, Ward, Keane
Booked: Barnes, Arfield, Shackell
Sent off: Barnes
Referee: M Jones (Cheshire)