GARY LINEKER was right. Everton FC are in danger of becoming the best first-half team in the country.
David Moyes’s side are having problems scoring a second goal and, once that happens, the pressure to hold on to what you have is great and, with key players missing, I thought on Saturday against Norwich City they showed a bit of fear they were going to concede.
When you don’t have a cushion going into the closing stages of a match, you only need one or two players to knock off, particularly at Premier League level, for other teams to capitalise.
At 1-0 down, a team is going to take more chances going forward and you will either have the winning team furthering their advantage or the opposition scrapping their way back into the game.
When it’s 1-0 at half-time, it’s very rare for the scoreline to stay the same come full-time. It is very difficult to keep that scoreline.
As much as anything, it’s about concentration and doing your job. That sounds boring, but that’s how you get things done.
Let’s put it this way. How often do you see a magnificent goal scored during injury time? It happens, but it is extremely rare. Most of the goals conceded that late are due to mistakes or people having lost their focus for a split second.
The other concern, as Everton found out on Saturday, is that in Premier League football almost anything can be given as a foul. In the old days, you’d usually have to almost assault someone to concede a free-kick.
And with the delivery of set-pieces much improved in modern football, giving away cheap fouls is always going to be a problem.
I know there were moans about the award of Norwich’s free-kick, but that doesn’t disguise the fact Everton defended so poorly.
Tim Howard could also have done better. I mentioned a few weeks ago that Howard is suffering from a lack of competition, and it’s clear he isn’t quite at the same level as he has been in recent years.
He doesn’t seem to fill the goal as much, and I’m sure Grant Holt noticed this and thought he could get in and around Howard last weekend.
Howard looks like he is getting his angles wrong lately. He’s never been someone to come for crosses but the goal he conceded on Saturday came a long way. Yes, nobody was marking Sebastian Bassong, but the keeper only needed to move five yards and tip it away.
Perception is starting to hamper Everton now. Their great start has raised expectations and, while they played well and had a lot of what I might term ‘winning’ draws, they have stopped winning games.
Moyes will find out more about his players in the next fortnight, with this run of games a true gauge of where Everton are.
Marouane Fellaini will be back and it might just be that Moyes’s men need tougher opposition to bring the best out of them once again.