MONDAY’S encounter with Southampton will be quickly erased from the memory of most Toffees fans, particularly those who made the epic journey to Hampshire amidst treacherous weather conditions.
The pre-match hyperbole of demonstrations and white hanky protests were arguably only an early Everton goal away from fruition but due to our lethargy and Southampton’s incessant pressing we were incredibly lucky to go in at half time level.
Leon Osman has been a star turn this campaign but he was particularly below par and was frequently dispossessed as the Blues failed to get to grips with the energy of the Southampton midfield in particular. Sides will usually get a jolt from a new manager but the fact that liabilities Boruc and Yoshida remained untested at the interval will have riled Moyes, who will always look to eek out and exploit such weak links in the opposition ranks.
The feeling at half-time was that we couldn’t play any worse and that Southampton’s intensive pressure would subside at some stage and so it proved as we improved in the second period albeit nowhere near enough to be worthy of all three points.
Our share of the ball, pass completion, territory share and crucially chances created figures were all significantly down on the normal figures as we limped to our eleventh deadlock of the season and in doing so confirmed our status as the league’s draw specialists.
A quick scan of the positives will note that we have kept back to back clean sheets for the first time this season, hopefully indicating we have turned the corner defensively.
The return of flying winger Kevin Mirallas is a huge boost given how limp we have been in front of goal lately with Jelavic’s embarrassing miscue in the second period on Monday indicative of his current woes in front of goal.
Prior to the Saints game, our win percentage when Mirallas has started is 44%, with the team scoring on average 2.11 goals and accruing 1.88 points per game. Contrast this to when he hasn’t featured and the win percentage drops to 29%, average goals scored drops alarmingly to 1.23 per game as does the points accrued to 1.53.
Next up is an FA Cup visit to Dougie Freedman’s Bolton Wanderers on Saturday. The Trotters have found the going tougher than expected in the Championship and are still in an adjustment phase following the departure of Owen Coyle earlier this season.
They will likely line up in a defensive 4-2-3-1 and realistically shouldn’t have too much to trouble us with perhaps the exception of Mark Davies in midfield and the more enigmatic Craig Davies further forward.
A victory and some much needed goals would be a boost with the out of form Midlands duo West Brom and Aston Villa Goodison bound later on in the week.