We all know the details by now. A distinctly patched up Everton side took an early lead in the first half, looked ropy as all fuck in the second but appeared to have limped over the line with the win until Sebastian Bassong scored a horror goal in injury time.
The truth of the matter is that injuries and suspensions saw the Blues without any Belgians or a proper right-back of any description. Phil Jagielka had to play fullback while ahead of him on the right wing was a Costa Rican left-back with hardly any experience of English football. Similarly the central midfield anchor-man was Thomas Hitzlsperger, a player who looked as if his career was over a few months ago.
Nikica Jelavic was joined up front by Steven Naismith and as a partnership they managed to look distinctly SPL for most of the match.
In Naismith’s defence, he did score the opener on 11 minutes following a great pass from Hitzlsperger and even better control on his chest from Bryan Oviedo. The lively ex-Copenhagen man coolly picked out Naismith with a cut-back and he fired the ball into the roof of the net.
Everton remained the better side for most of the first half but not by much – this was not one of those ‘if we could just start converting some of these scores of chances’ games.
Norwich didn’t have to up their performance much after the break to give themselves some belief, and as the match wore on they began to look increasingly ominous. Hitzlsperger was clearly shattered and his confidence seemed to crumble following an over-ambitious throw-in that allowed the visitors to break on goal. Johnny Heitinga and the normally laid-back Leighton Baines tore an absolute strip off the chubby-cheeked German. Indeed, Baines looked frustrated with his teammates throughout and even David Moyes was forced to comment on his left-back’s clear annoyance with Jelavic’s lack of effort in terms of making himself a decent target.
On a more positive note, Baines almost scored goal of the season when, probably because he had no one to pass to, he shimmied through the Canaries’ midfield and defence only for John Ruddy to beat away his ferocious drive.
At the other end Tim Howard was increasingly called into action, making a superb save from Anthony Pilkington’s free kick before Heitinga cleared Robert Snodgrass’s shot off the line.
Unfortunately though, the Everton keeper always seems as likely to make a balls-up as a blinding save and Bassong’s equaliser was just another in a long succession of his baffling contributions to shitty results.
Naismith looked like he had got away with a ludicrous cross into the Gwladys Street when all he had to do was square the ball to Jelavic, but no one reckoned on Norwich being granted a nothing free kick inside the Everton half. It’s the second week in succession that it’s happened, and while the referees’ errors are annoying, the players still have plenty of opportunity to make sure that they don’t have a bearing on the result.
The free kick was swung in deep, beyond the far post where Bassong, unchallenged, managed a header that Howard got his body behind but for some reason could only slap into the roof of the net. It looked ridiculous.
Ultimately, the less quality there is in the side, the worse we play. Moyes said he wants more competition for places in the first team but no one realistically thinks we are going to go out and buy top quality in January. If we had the cash we would have done it in the summer.
We just have to hope that key players start to get fit and return to action sooner rather than later. In the meantime the rest have to at least keep grafting and do their best to work their way through what has turned into a distinctly shitty patch of form.