Ian Doyle's verdict on the victory at Villa Park
The chant ended almost as swiftly as it had started. With Everton playing out the final moments of an ultimately comfortable triumph at Villa Park, the strains of “Are you watching David Moyes?” could be heard emanating from the jubilant away end.
But while a brief nod to the past, that the song was given only a brief airing emphatically underlined one truth.
Mere months into his reign, the performances of Roberto Martinez’s side are consigning the 11-year tenure of Moyes to history. Everton, it would appear, are now a club with eyes firmly fixed on the future.
Fans aren’t always so ready to escape the past, given their willingness to seek out portents for an indication of the future.
It’s why the travelling Goodison army headed home on Saturday daring to dream after their side were indebted to Tim Howard’s world-class penalty save before taking another sizeable step forward.
Such incidents don’t just change games, they can transform entire campaigns. Witness the case back in 2009 when a late spot-kick stop from Howard at home to Tottenham Hotspur proved the catalyst for Everton to go on and lose only two of their final 24 Premier League games that season.
In pictures: Villa 0 Everton 2
Of course, Howard has saved penalties since – not least in the Merseyside derby – but none have enjoyed similar resonance.
Perhaps, though, until now. It would explain the United States goalkeeper being the most animated player during a defiant celebration at the final whistle.
The victory, and the manner of it, were worth celebrating.
Everton were not great against a spirited Aston Villa. Far from it. But, as against Hull City the previous week, they discovered a way to win, the hallmark of all aspirant teams.
Asked post-match whether he had viewed the Premier League table that at that time had Everton in third place, Leon Osman said: “No, not yet. Shower, change and interviews... so I’ve not had the chance. But it’s too early for us to be getting concerned about that.”
Osman, though, will have known. After all, Everton’s impressive start to life under Martinez has become impossible to ignore.
With the season only one shy of the 10-game mark widely regarded as the first real indicator of how the campaign could pan out, Everton stand only four points behind leaders Arsenal having lost only once.
Five of the last six Premier League games have been won, albeit this was only a second triumph in 13 top-flight away outings.
But should Everton’s lofty aspirations be taken seriously by their rivals? The answer will come soon enough, with Martinez’s side take on Tottenham, Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal in their next six matches.
If Howard ensured Everton emerged unscathed from an underwhelming first-half showing on Saturday, it was the emergence of Osman from the bench on the hour for Ross Barkley that decisively swayed the match in favour of Martinez’s side.
Osman, having started all previous eight Premier League games under the Spaniard, had been dropped in favour of the returning Steven Pienaar, whose matchwinner against Hull came just moments after replacing his team-mate.
The versatility of the Billinge-born midfielder has been both blessing and curse during his Everton career. However, at 32, it’s evident he is now best employed as an attacking midfielder, a position currently occupied by the fledgling Barkley.
As a consequence, Osman may enjoy less playing time this season. But his impact at Villa Park, creating one goal for Romelu Lukaku before sweeping home the clinching second, illustrates he remains an integral part of a squad that now boasts real competition for places.
Among the first names on the teamsheet, however, will be Gareth Barry. Returning to his old stomping ground, the former Villa midfielder continued his record of winning every game he has started since arriving at Everton with a trademark efficient performance, ably assisted by the improving James McCarthy.
His defensive qualities were required during an opening 45 minutes in which the visitors struggled to move out of second gear against a game if limited Villa side.
Howard’s eighth-minute penalty save, diving to his right to brilliantly keep out Christian Benteke’s spot kick with his left hand after the striker was felled by Seamus Coleman, was the highlight of a first-half performance that saw the goalkeeper later deny Benteke and Andreas Weimann.
The game had been billed as a clash between Benteke and fellow Belgian striker Lukaku. But while the Villa man grew frustrated, so his Everton rival prospered.
Denied twice by home goalkeeper Brad Guzan in the first half, Lukaku found a way through on 68 minutes for his fifth goal in as many Premier League games. An exchange of passes between Pienaar and Leighton Baines down the left allowed substitute Osman to play in Lukaku, who side-footed home.
Swift, incisive and almost exclusively one-touch, it showcased the blossoming attacking belief Martinez is encouraging.
And the game was made safe nine minutes from time, this time a short corner routine between Kevin Mirallas and Baines find Barry in space inside the area for a cut back that Osman struck low into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.
Villa will point to a rash challenge by McCarthy on Ben Westwood that could have met greater with greater censure, but overall Everton’s greater quality told.
Wherever you look, the signs are pointing to a bright future under Martinez.