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Venue: Selhurst Park, London
Premier League
 Saturday 9 November 2013; 3:00pm
0 0
Half Time: 0-0
Attendance: 25,231
Fixture 11
Referee: Craig Pawson

Match Report

Frustrating. There are other words for it, but frustrating is the one that keeps coming back to mind in the post mortem of Everton's second successive goalless draw.

If last Sunday's game against Tottenham represented a missed opportunity to jump into second place after the Blues had weathered the first-half storm from Andre Villas-Boas' men but failed to capitalise once they had seized this initiative, this trip to the Premier League's bottom club offered a chance to re-establish momentum.

Granted, there aren't supposed to be any easy points in the Premier League these days, not even against a side who had lost seven consecutive matches and failed to keep a clean sheet since returning to the top flight. But, having established an iron grip on this match, racking up an impressive 72% of the possession, the obvious conclusion would have been that the three points were there for the taking if Everton could just put enough together in the final third to score.

As it was, they managed just two shots on target in 90-plus minutes and, were it not for an astonishing miss by Kagisho Dikgacoi and the squandering of another gilt-edged opportunity by Jerome Thomas when he was clean through in a one-on-one confrontation with Tim Howard, Roberto Martinez might have spent his post-match interviews expaining away a defeat rather than merely trying to draw positives from a bemusing blank scoreline.

Again, with all due acknowledgement to the no-easy-games refrain, this was a game in which Martinez could have afforded a little attacking adventure, some looser abandon than waa the case last weekend against a strong Spurs team with their sights on the Champions League. His starting XI was a little conservative, though, with Leon Osman preferred again to Ross Barkley and Kevin Mirallas, again pinned against the right touchline, whether by choice or instruction, was again a peripheral influence on proceedings orchestrated almost entirely by Everton.

The Belgian continues to be an enigma under a manager renowned for his attacking instincts and his detachment and the general lack of white jerseys flooding forward in support of attacks left Romelu Lukaku looking very isolated at the head of a rigid 4-5-1 formation. The big striker had arguably his poorest display since joining on loan from Chelsea, partly because his touch seemed to desert him on a number of occasions, but mostly because of a worrying (given Everton's dominance) paucity of service.

The moment in the 12th-minute when Osman's sliced shot flew a foot in front of him before he could properly react was as close as Lukaku would come to adding to his five Premier League goals for Everton this season, while Mirallas would provide the only other moment of excitment in an increasingly turgid first half when he forced a low save from Speroni after cutting in from the left flank and despatching a shot towards the bottom corner.

Those moments aside, the half was characterised by plenty of ponderous Everton passing across the middle of the park and between the central defensive pairing of Syvain Distin and Phil Jagielka interpersed occasionally the kinds of quick-footed interchanges that have been at the heart of the Blues' best moments this season. The whole tempo of Everton's play was painfully slow and neither Gareth Barry nor James McCarthy seemed all that keen to break out of their defensive midfield posture to offer support in the final third.

As if all of that wasn't frustrating enough, the Blues were hampered by awful delivery from the flanks, with Mirallas and Leighton Baines the chief culprits. Baines, in particular, looked as though he'd traded his laser-sighted boots for club feet, the England international putting on arguably his worst display in memory.

It made for painful viewing, especially as Palace looked wracked by the fear engendered by such a prolonged run of defeats and the loss of the manager who had steered them back into the top flight last season. The hosts were gradually emboldened by Everton's lack of guile and offensive threat and, thanks largely to the vision of Barry Bannan and the energy of Thomas, they managed to fashion the two best chances before half time.

First Dikgacoi found himself unmarked in the Everton box as the ball was flighted in but he somehow managed to steer it away from goal when a header on target would surely have beaten Howard. Then, Thomas took advantage of space in front of him to line up a curled effort from 20-plus yards but was denied by a flying one-handed save by the American goalkeeper.

With hopes that Martinez had delivered the kick up the backside needed at half-time, the travelling fans applauded the Blues back onto the field for the second half and, briefly, there was in increased urgency about them that suggested they would set about in earnest the task of claiming three vital points. Any head of steam they tried to build up dissipated, though, as the pace of their game slowed and, again, it was Palace who should have broken the deadlock when Thomas sprung the offside trap. His attempt to chip Howard drifted into the side-netting, however, and the Blues' goal remained intact.

Martinez responded by withdrawing Osman and Mirallas in favour of Barkley and Gerard Deulofeu with 55 minutes gone. The introduction of two direct, preciocious young substitutes seemed, at the time, like exactly the kind of bold move that Everton's performance needed and while it did have the effect of adding some life to the team going forward, it did not provide the all-important breakthrough.

Deulofeu came closer than anyone to scoring a winner, picking up Lukaku's neat lay-off in the 76th-minute but he was quickly closed down by two Palace defenders as he bore down on Speroni's goal. It was a familiar tale for much of the afternoon; the home side's defence put in a terrific shift that certainly contributed to Everton's frustration and they deserve enormous credit for preserving the clean sheet for caretaker boss, Keith Millen.

Their hard work was nearly undone from the corner that Deulofeu won in that attack, but Jagielka's header looped back across goal and bounced off the face of the crossbar where Distin could only nod it wide.

The sense of urgency that Everton had lacked for so much of this encounter finally emerged in the final 10 minutes but proved to be too little, too late, and their impetus was frequently checked by scrappy and deliberate fouls by the opposition defence. Baines fired one direct free kick disappointingly into the defensive wall, Deulofeu despatched another set-piece delivery onto a defender's head as the clock ticked down and the young Spaniard almost produced a moment of magic in stoppage time but whipped a shot a yard or so the wrong side of the post from the far side of the area.

On a day weekend when Chelsea dropped points at home, both Tottenham and Manchester City lost and Manchester United gained ground by beating Arsenal, another two dropped points represented a hugely frustrating return. Victory, had Everton been able to achieve it on the back of a dominant but toothless display, would have seen them sitting fourth instead of sixth. And the "what-ifs" extend back to last Sunday where, had they beaten Spurs and coupled it with a win at Selhurst Park, the Blues would be in second, a point off the summit.

Football doesn't work like that, of course, and heart should be taken from the fact that two below-par performances still yielded two points and that the Blues are well in touch with the pack chasing a top-four finish 11 games into the season. The feeling gnawing away that we could have easily won this by throwing everything we had at Palace with the kind of intensity and vigour of those last ten minutes or so will rankle for a fortnight over the international break but can easily be banished by victory over Liverpool in the Goodison derby. Martinez should be doing everything he can in the meantime to oil that attacking machine and get his troops geed up for what could be a very important match in Everton's season.

Lyndon Lloyd

Match Summary

A really disappointing game that belied Everton's dominance in terms of possession coupled with a maddening inability to carve out a single worthwhile goalscoring chance against a managerless but resolute Palace side stuck at the bottom of the League.

Roberto Martinez conservatively stuck with the same side that had played so poorly in that first half against Spurs last Sunday, and paid the price with another lacklustre display that Barkley and Deulofeu were unable to turn around after they came on just before the hour mark. E for Effort.

The game at Selhurst Park started after a 15-minute delay... Roberto Martinez has named an unchanged side to start the game against Palace this afternoon, with Lukaku declared fit and McCarthy not rested in anticipation of being booked. Osman starts despite a poor display last week, the the more excitong prospects of Barkley and Deulofeu consigned to the bench.

Barry whipped in a nice ball for Osman but he scuffed his shot horribly wide. Then some brilliant play set up another opportunity for Osman that Lukau tried to get his head to but didn't appear to make contact.

Palace won a corner fired in that Howard batted away. Everton kept pressing and probing but with nothing to show after 25 mins.

Palace came very close to the opening goal when a good cross was planted on Chemak's head but he bizarrely headed it away from goal when it seemed easierr to score!

Everton got their first corner on 37 minutes, that also should have resulted in a goal. Mirallas's second cporner was simply dreadful.

Howard made a fantastic one-handed save of a sp[eculative shot lashed in by Thomas as Everton struggled to impose themselves with susbtantial effect. Chamakh then had another easy chance that he headed wide.

Barkley finally replaced Osman after 56 minutes, Mirallas going off for Deulfeu, and immediately Everton looked brighter, a nice one-two with Lukaku and Barkley lashing his volley wide.

For Palace, Bolasie dazzled the Everton players with some magic that played in Thomas but he had strayed offside. Deulofeu tried to do it all himself on the right wing, but seemed to have been told to cuut out the step-overs and as a result he lost the ball each time.

Another Baines set-piece was drifted to the far post and Lukaku without the desired result, Everton tried to play neat attacking football but it wasn't running for them, until Deulofeu linked up well on the right with Pienaar to win the third Everton corner but it came to nothing, all crosses in being dealt with by the Palace defenders.

More pissing about at the back summed up a game that was going nowhere, Howard seemingly making more passes Lukaku played in Deulofeu who should have shot first time but decided to dribble the ball into the net through two defenders and the goalkeeper, losing the ball yet again.

Form the corner, Jagielka stooped and got a fraction beneath his header, curling it onto the face of the bar, but the packed Palace defense resisted as time and chances ticked away.

Deulofeu won another corner that Baines had two bites at but both deliveries were not up to the required standard. Jedinak had top foul Deulofeu to stop his runa nd picked up the first card of the game, setting up a classic opportunity for Baines from the set piece but his execution was shockingly poor, straight into the wall.

Another free-kick with just minutes left, Barry foulded near the bye-line and this time Deulofeu whipped it in dangerously but again headed away but a fantastic spell of passing on the left side of the Palace area that finally saw a corner and a speculative shot from Deulofeu that was well off target.

Into added time and the Blues kept pressing but nothing would run for them and them, Coleman and Moxie going for a high ball, Moxie coming off worse and staying down, possibly with concussion.

So, another 0-0 draw and this time possession dominated by Everton but the end product in front of goal was again sadly lacking, with Lukaku really not getting the service needed.

McCarthy came close to that feared booking in the last minute when he caught a Palace defender with a high foot but that was the finally action of another hugely disapointing game from a toothless Everton side that Martinez seems worryingly unable to get fully energized as we go into another unwanted International break ahead of a real test against a frighteningly in-form Liverpool side on 23 November.

Michael Kenrick

Match Preview

Everton prepare for their 11th match of the Premier League campaign sitting among a clutch of six clubs all within a point of each other behind leaders Arsenal.

The Blues were held to a tightly-contested 0-0 draw against Tottenham Hotspur last Sunday which meant they weren't able to jump into second place but a visit to bottom club Crystal Palace offers an opportunity to take more strides forward in the quest for a top-four finish come May.

Already searching for their next full-time manager after Ian Holloway resigned two weeks ago, Palace have collected just three points all season so far and have managed just two goals from seven matches since that solitary a win over fellow strugglers Sunderland at the end of August.

That makes caretaker boss Keith Millen's men an inviting prospect for Everton – who have now gone four hours without conceding – although Roberto Martinez will be mindful of the need for his team to score the goals they will need to win while also guarding against a spirited response from the Eagles in their first home game since Holloway's departure.

Martinez will take heart from his team's elevated display after half time last weekend following a lacklustre first period in which they had afforded Spurs too much of the possession and attacking initiative. The onus will very much be on the Blues to take the game to Palace and re-establish the dominance of the ball on which the Spaniard has placed so much emphasis and the team will be buouyed in that respect by the fact that Romelu Lukaku has been given the all clear to play.

The Belgian striker suffered a dead leg in that infamous collision with Hugo Lloris on Sunday but has recovered and will lead the line, hopefully supported by his compatriot and somewhat mercurial presence in Blue this season, Kevin Mirallas. This looks, on paper, to be the sort of game that Mirallas can make his own but he has struggled to find any consistency under the new manager. When he has been on his game, though, he has been provided some crucial assists and Lukaku could well rely on his service again this weekend.

While the starting XI is likely to be unchanged – if there is to be one alteration, it might be to bring back Ross Barkley in place of Leon Osman – the predicted character of this game might give Martinez an opporutnty to give more playing time to Gerard Deulofeu. The young Spaniard showed in his start against Fulham that the defensive side of his game needs work if he is to succeed in the Premier League this season but he could well be unleashed on Palace's leaky defence in the second half, particularly if Everton are already winning.

Ultimately, this is another of those games that a team with Everton's aspirations should be comfortably winning regardless of the venue and, just as they did at Aston Villa a fortnight ago, they should make good on their superiority with a victory that, depending on results elsewhere, could push them higher in a crowded part of the league table.

Lyndon Lloyd

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Match Preview
Match Summary
Match Report
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2013-14 Reports Index
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 Everton fans' reports
 Lyndon Lloyd Report
 Paul Traill Report
  Jedinak booked
  Dikgacoi (45' O'Keefe)
  Thomas (84' Puncheon)
  Chamakh (67' Jerome)
  Subs not used

EVERTON (4-5-1)
  Osman (56' Barkley)
  Mirallas (56' Deulofeu)
  Subs not used
  Alcaraz (injured)
  Gibson (injured)
  Kone (injured)
  McAleny (injured)
  Garbutt (loan)
  Duffy (loan)

Premier League Scores
Aston Villa 2 - 0 Cardiff
Chelsea 2 - 2 West Brom
C Palace 0 - 0 Everton
Liverpool 4 - 0 Fulham
Norwich 3 - 1 West Ham
So'hampton 4 - 1 Hull City
Man United 1 - 0 Arsenal
Sunderland 1 - 0 Man City
Swansea 3 - 3 Stoke City
Tottenham 0 - 1 Newcastle

Team Pts
1 Arsenal 25
2 Liverpool 23
3 Southampton 22
4 Chelsea 21
5 Manchester United 20
6 Everton 20
7 Tottenham Hotspur 20
8 Manchester City 19
9 Newcastle United 17
10 West Bromwich Albion 14
11 Aston Villa 14
12 Hull City 14
13 Swansea City 12
14 Cardiff City 12
15 Norwich City 11
16 West Ham United 10
17 Stoke City 10
18 Fulham 10
19 Sunderland 7
20 Crystal Palace 4

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