If only games were 85 minutes long. If that were the case then Everton could well be second now. It seems we have an inability to concentrate for the full 90 and all too often the team seems to concede as full-time is drawing near.
And it happened again today against Spurs, with Sigurdsson netting the home-team an equaliser in the 87th minute. David Moyes must curse this recently developed trait in his sides.
This was always going to be an interesting game for Evertonians, a barometer of whether our recent form was a blip or something more tangible. Capitulate against Spurs and it would seem likely that our good form was fleeting and that our assault on the European places will probably amount to nothing. Put in a good performance and get something from the game and maybe we really do have what it takes to make it to the Champions League.
Neither side entered this game fielding what their respective managers would define as their first choice eleven. Spurs injury woes, including the loss of arguably the best player in the league at the moment, look like threatening to derail what was looking like another great season for the club. Everton meanwhile were without Steven Pienaar, one of the team’s most creative threats and also the talismanic Marouane Fellaini, a player who has done much to shape our successful season to date.
Despite being the away team, Everton arguably came into this game as the marginal favourites. Where Spurs have struggled to pick up points of late, Everton have hit something of a purple patch with three league wins from three. It’s the reason that David Moyes was named manager of the month, an accolade that when awarded traditionally heralds a rapid decline in form for the blues.
And yet, despite Everton’s better recent form, it was the home team that struck first, with Emmanuel Adebayor netting in the first minute. You can probably forgive the Everton defence for not picking Adebayor up, largely because few people ever really expect him to score. He reminds me a bit of Louis Saha when he was playing for Everton, a player who once seemed to promise much but has untimely turned into one who poses little danger to opposition defences.
If Everton were stunned by Adebayor’s opener they didn’t show it. Like all of Moyes’ sides, this one has a resilience that was absent from Everton sides for many years before he arrived. And it was a resilience that ultimately yielded results when Jagielka headed home a Leighton Baines corner on the quarter-of-an-hour mark. That goal made Everton the joint highest scorers of headed goals in the Premiership (tied with United). There’s a pointless little fact to impress strangers and friends alike.
Despite the goals, it was a fairly dull first half, with neither side really hitting their stride. Both looked a little cautious and seemed to be lacking the creative spark their absent players often provide. Spurs in particular were disappointing. Although they’ve had their ups and downs this season, they have consistently played attractive, attacking football, something attributable in no small measure to their new manager. And yet, in the first half everything they did seemed laboured, which considering their midweek adventures is probably understandable.
After the break Spurs were more recognisable as the side punters have come to expect and began to ask more questions of the Everton defence. But despite this, it was the visitors who edged ahead. Once again it was Everton’s Belgian gem who provided the goal. The upturn in the form of Kevin Mirallas could not have come at a better time for the team. With Jelavic continuing his goal drought and Anichebe never likely to find the back-of-the-net that much, his goals in recent weeks have been a godsend. His strike today was worthy of any top-class forward, raising the possibility that Moyes might have unearthed another cut-price diamond in Mirallas.
After the goal it was largely another back-to-wall performance for Everton, as Spurs began to throw everything they had against the opposition. To be fair to the hosts, the equaliser always seemed on the cards. Even with their absentees, this is a side packed with class and trying to hold-out against a sustained onslaught was always going to be tricky. That the equaliser came late was hard on us Evertonain's but we’d have taken a point before the game and were arguably lucky not to concede more during the second-half.
Everton can be pleased with their performance, one that illustrated that our recent form is not temporary and revealed the kind of tenacity that will be essential in the weeks to come. Although all three points were tantalisingly close, us Evertonian's have to remember that this was an away game against a side lying fourth in the table. To come away with a point cannot be seen as too shabby.
Despite each dropping two points, both clubs are still well positioned in the race for Europe. Spurs obviously have the edge but with a game-in-hand, Everton still have the opportunity to close the gap. It’s going to make for an interesting finish to the season for each set of fans.