Norwich City 2-1 Everton
Failure to put a game to bed again came back to haunt Everton, as Norwich struck twice late on to send the travelling Blues back to Merseyside with nothing but disappointment.
A first half Leon Osman goal, appeared to have sent Everton on the way to three points, but poor defending and a certain amount of negativity let Norwich back into the game and realistically ended any hope of a 4th place finish. I am sure David Moyes had his reasons, but over 24 hours later I am still struggling to comprehend how Steven Naismith was preferred to Kevin Mirallas on the Everton right. The Belgium may have struggled for consistent form since his return from injury, but he offers more in 5 minutes that Naismith has offered all season.
If we are looking for positives to come out of the game, then Seamus Coleman’s return is certainly one. He offers Everton balance on the right with his determination to get forward and join in with the Blues’ attacking play. He also produced a defensively solid performance and was Everton’s man of the match by some distance.
Far to often, Everton lack that killer instinct, the will to kill off a team when they are on the rack. This frustrating habit has come back to haunt the Blues regularly throughout the season, and again on Saturday Everton should have been celebrating a comfortable victory but were left cursing the extra 20 seconds added time played by the officials.
When Jack Rodwell made the transfer from Everton to Manchester City in the summer, Roberto Mancini told the assembled press that Rodwell “would be for the first time playing to win”. At the time this angered a number of Evertonians, but the Italian had a point. Although David Moyes has assembled a talented and at times exciting squad, what the team does lack is a winning mentality.
From the start of the season to Christmas, Everton were in fantastic form, at times playing teams off the park, but in the majority of cases failing to finish the team off. Games at home against Newcastle, Norwich and Swansea, were dominated by the Blues, but Everton failed to turn possession into goals. Away trips to Fulham, Reading, Southampton and now Norwich have ended in draw or defeat. despite Everton having the chances to take the three points back to Goodison.
I am a massive David Moyes fan, and fear for the day when he decides enough is enough and continues his managerial career elsewhere. That day could be sooner rather than later, but comments in the press over the last week, that 6th, 7th or 8th is the best Everton can hope for, does nothing to break the acceptance by the playing squad that this represents success for Everton. The fans will not accept 8th position. In fact, anything less than 4th spot will be a disappointment after the way the season started. Champions League football seems a distant dream at the moment.
Focus now switches to the FA Cup. Everton have two home ties standing in the way of a return to Wembley and can not afford to be as wasteful in front of goal. Starting on Tuesday against Oldham, Everton need to refocus on success or face the possibility that the season will disintegrate into a total disappointment.