Everton 1 Stoke City 0


First thing’s first – that fella and the two girls down the front of the Park End who hang round at the end, dancing mad so they can get their faces on the camera. It was mildly charming when the announcer blew the dust off his ‘Best of KC and the Sunshine Band’ at the end of the Manchester City game, but after this dreary affair against Stoke they just seemed to be milking it.

Remember, this is Everton.

Predictably enough it was a bollocks game against the most joyless side in the division. Thankfully a pearler of a goal from Kevin ‘living next door to‘ Mirallas provided more or less the only highlight. But really, what a highlight it was.

On 27 minutes, after Jonathan Walters had struck the returning Tim Howard’s crossbar, the Belgian winger picked the ball up in his own half, broke through a lazy tackle by Steven N’Zonzi and burst across the halfway line. With his head swivelling frantically, looking for support that just wasn’t coming, Mirallas realised that the only option was to go alone. He dummied the last defender, Geoff Cameron, cut onto his left foot and beat flavour-of-the-month Asmir Begovic with one of those low shots that are officially labelled ‘clinical’.

There was more than a touch of Luis Suarez about the goal, apart from the fact that Mirallas never hurled himself to the turf screaming nor tried to bite anyone. He didn’t apologise for stamping on anyone’s Achilles before stamping on their Achilles either. And his teeth weren’t trying to flee his head in protest. And he never mentioned the colour of an opponent’s skin either.


Seven times.

Other than that though.

Ooh, you wouldn’t let it lie.

There was genuinely little else to report from the game. Everton were without Marouane Fellaini and Steven Pienaar but with Phil Jagielka returning David Moyes chose to experiment with a system that looked like a fancy three-man defence at times while at others it just seemed as if John Heitinga was playing full-back. Given that Stoke lack pace and posed virtually no threat, apart from high balls that Sylvain Distin dealt with superbly, the defensive formation never really mattered. Against Spurs though, when the defenders will have to really on their instincts, it would be some gamble to go with a system that they have to think about for even a fraction of a second.

After the game Phil Jagielka got it spot on when he said of the Wigan Athletic game: “Maybe it was a general reminder that possibly before we play the good stuff we make sure we stick to our guns and get the dirty side out of the way: the running, the rough and tumble, tackles.

“Maybe for the Wigan game we turned up and didn’t do those first and foremost and got punished.”

To their credit they did all that unglamorous day-job stuff against Stoke, on our minty pitch, and gave themselves the ‘platform’ to win the game thanks to one moment of brilliance.

Predictably enough the Blues’ manager was asked again about his contract situation in his post-match interview and, as ever, he gave his best glare and played a straight bat – he’s not going to make a decision until the summer. Except he already has.

There is nothing that can happen between now and the end of the season that can persuade him to commit at least the next three years of his career to Everton. He knows he has pushed the envelope as far as he can with the resources available. One season in the Champions League won’t make a bit of difference and in terms of gaining a competitive advantage domestically the new telly money is irrelevant because everyone else is getting it too, so it will just drive prices and wages up. Only an owner who wants no return whatsoever and is in fact prepared to mindlessly burn money like those at Manchester City or Chelsea can significantly improve Everton to the point where they are realistically challenging for the top honours – just ask Arsenal fans – and Moyes is almost certainly privy to the fact that, well, there isn’t one of those on the horizon.

The next manager coming in really does have some challenge on his hands – not only matching what Moyes has done, but actually improving on it. Let’s just thank our lucky stars that whoever he is he has so far managed to fly under the radar of the likes of Sunderland and Queens Park Rangers.

While Moyes is still around for the rest of this season though there remains talk of finishing fourth in the table. On the plus side, all our remaining home matches look winnable, but trips to White Hart Lane, the Emirates, Stamford Bridge and Anfield don’t particularly bode well. However, another way of looking at those games is that they at least put our fate in our own hands, and even a draw at Spurs could make things pretty interesting.

Realistically though, we’ll be doing well to finish above Liverpool and make it into the Europa League. That actually reads like a bit of a low key ending, and it’s not meant to. If you like footy and watching the match then overall this season’s been dead enjoyable, regardless of where we finish.

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