If you’d offered most Evertonians last Sunday morning four points from Premier League games against West Ham and Brighton plus progress to the last eight of the Carabao Cup, they would probably have readily taken it.

And yet, having led for 77 minutes against the Seagulls and seen two points slip away thanks to an own goal, it’s hard not to feel more than a little disappointed despite the wins over the Hammers last weekend and Burnley in the cup in midweek.

Looking at possession statistics alone, you’d have thought that Brighton more than deserved to take a point away from Goodison Park today but despite having 80% of the ball, Roberto de Zerbi’s side managed just two shots on target all afternoon.

Such was the stout defensive display from Sean Dyche’s side, one that rarely looked like buckling before being undone on the only occasion where Ashley Young afforded the dangerous Kaoru Mitoma too much space down Brighton’s left and then unwittingly helped the Japanese forward’s cross into his own goal with just six minutes of the 90 to go.

By ceding so much possession and territory to the visitors, Everton always ran the risk of asking too much of their defence. There’s also an argument that once again, Dyche asked too much of his starting XI, particularly those, like the 38-year-old Young, who had put in a 90-minute shift on Wednesday night.

The manager didn’t make any changes until the 90th minute by which time the lead had been lost but it’s calculated risk he has taken before and it ended up working so, perhaps, it was just one of those where you take the point and move on.

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The loss of two points that would have had the Toffees sitting in 12th place heading into Sunday’s games still grates, though — not least because of how poorly they looked after the ball, particularly in the second half where it was all a bit too hasty at times, particularly from Jordan Pickford whose distribution was poor all afternoon.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin was often too isolated, Jack Harrison was industrious off the ball but struggled to make an impact on it, and though Idrissa Gueye was useful as part of the general press, you couldn’t help but wonder if things might have been different had Amadou Onana not been forced to miss out with a tight calf.

Still, there was, at least, a goal to savour for Vitalii Mykolenko who was rewarded for his excellent form of recent weeks and the result extends Everton’s recent record to just three defeats in 11 in all competitions since the end of August, leaving them six points clear of the relegation zone.

Everton started strongly, with their diligent press trying to force mistakes from Brighton's back line but it was from a standard attack that the hosts almost took the lead in the third minute.

Dwight McNeil's cross came off James Milner and Adboulaye Doucouré hammered a volley from close range that Bart Verbruggen parried away but the opening goal came just four minutes later from a similar position.

Mykolenko had done superbly to win the ball inside the visitors' half and he continued his run to be in the right place when McNeil's cross came off Jan Paul van Hecke. The Ukrainian's first shot with his left foot was blocked by the keeper but when he rattled the rebound goal-ward with his right, it diverted up off Dunk's out-stretched leg and into the roof of the net.

Simon Adingra dragged a shot wide as Brighton threatened for the first time and when Jarrad Branthwaite was adjudged to have fouled the Ivorian a few minutes later, Everton were remiss in leaving Lewis Dunk free to smash a volley in off the underside of Pickford's crossbar.

A long delay for another forensic review by Video Assistant Referee Michael Oliver ensued before Dunk was ruled to have been fractionally offside and the hosts breathed a sigh of relief.

Calvert-Lewin was felled just outside the Brighton box and James Garner curled the resulting free-kick a yard or so over in the 24th minute and, on the half-hour mark, the Blues No.9 surged away on the counter-attack with Doucouré but he went on his own and screwed a poor shot well off target.

Then, as half-time approached, McNeil went down in the opposition penalty area under a challenge from Van Hecke but the officials determined that the Dutchman had been knocked into the Toffees' winger before flattening him as he tried to drive towards goal.

Brighton had controlled the ball in the first half, enjoying over 80% possession but they found Everton almost impossible to get through and had just one shot on target to show for their efforts by the halfway stage.

De Zerbi's men increased the pressure in the second half and, with their hosts struggled to carry the same threat on the counter, it was largely one-way traffic until the final quarter of an hour.

Doucouré chased Billy Gilmour down to the edge of Everton's box and tripped him unnecessarily setting up a direct free-kick opportunity for Dunk but Pickford flew across goal to push the defender's effort over.

Midway through the half, Christian Gross fired over from around 15 yards out and James Tarkowski did well to charge down a shot from substitute Joao Pedro as Brighton counter-attacked with purpose but it was almost 2-0 with 15 minutes left.

Harrison cut inside and the ball broke to McNeil who set himself and drilled a shot that flew a few inches the wrong side of Verbruggen's left-hand post.

A minute later, Doucouré powered into the box and tried to centre it for Calvert-Lewin but it was cut out and then, as the game moved into the final 10 minute, Calvert-Lewin appeared to be hauled down in the area but despite yet more howls for a penalty, nothing was given.

The contest had become more combative in the closing stages, but when Young got caught tucking in near his own box and with Harrison caught too far forward, Mitoma profited.

Driving past Harrison, the Japanese attempted to swing the ball in and it took a wicked deflection off Young and Pickford couldn't keep it out as it spun over his out-stretched glove.

Tarkowski had a late chance from a corner from the left but headed straight at the keeper and, after four minutes of added time, the referee called time with the spoils shared.

Dyche spoke afterwards of it being a point gained due to how good a side Brighton are but it's hard to view this as anything other than two points dropped from a winning position.

Nevertheless, when you compare it to the performance in this same fixture last season on that harrowing night in early January, you can't help but appreciate how much Everton have improved. For now, even though having just 20% possession at Goodison Park against anyone other than Manchester City is hard to swallow, that's what matters.

Reader Comments (28)

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Tony Everan
1 Posted 05/11/2023 at 08:43:43
Letting Brighton have the possession suited us – sit back, soak it up without too many problems, then grab the important goal on the break.

The only central midfielder who is in any way comfortable on the ball was Garner yesterday, so ball retention was always going to be an issue. On top of this, Brighton were fresher and looked to have more energy throughout. Wednesday had taken a few percent out of us.

Overall, the lads did well; we had marginally the better chances and were unlucky with the freak deflection that spun like a Shane Warne googly over Pickford's head.

It's been a good seven days; there is progress in work ethic and belief in the squad. We will continue to be hard to beat and pick up points. I am nowhere near as stressed as our previous two seasons as we have stability and we are playing to our strengths. Steady progress, in the mid-table zone, and a good crack at a cup beckons.

I think yesterday showed we are light in the midfield department; hopefully Gomes can be moved on in January and that frees up some financial headroom to get a decent midfielder in.

Mal van Schaick
2 Posted 05/11/2023 at 09:08:19
We were really unlucky with the deflected own goal, and Pickford wasn't far off another great save.

The two extra points would have taken a bit more pressure off the team, and Dyche could have experimented with a new system, given our more relaxed league position, but it is what it is, and another valuable point that may keep us out of the dog fight for survival.

On the road at Palace next weekend, let's hope that we can continue on our decent run of form, especially away from home.

Dan Kemp
3 Posted 05/11/2023 at 11:31:01
Hmm the way I saw this was that up until we scored, we did well, pressed high and looked in control.

After we scored we stopped pressing high, let them have the ball and they totally dominated the rest of the game.

From Brighton’s perspective, I suspect they feel they should have won. Remember they scored a brilliant goal soon after us which was harshly ruled out by VAR. Yes their goal took a lucky deflection but so did ours.

I think if we’d stuck to the same plan and pressed higher for more of the game, we could have got another and seen the game out. Because it’s obvious that our only plan in possession is kick and rush. Can anyone remember any passage of good passing or moments of skill from any of our players?

Our attack lacks any cohesion, they don’t have any chemistry and seem like they don’t want to pass to each other. McNeil and Harrison (especially) continually run down blind alleys. Unless we steam-roller the ball into the net, it ain’t happening!

Sorry this is a bit negative. I’m well aware we’ve improved and are much harder to beat than we were. It’s all progress. But I know which of the two teams on show I’d rather be watching every week!

John Raftery
4 Posted 05/11/2023 at 11:39:19
Thanks for the report Lyndon. Your opening paragraph sums up why I am very happy with the last week.

Some of our players, most notably those who played in all three games were running on empty before the end. But they never gave up. When Brighton equalised there were still nine minutes of play remaining in which a flakier group of players might well have caved in. To their credit they didn’t and might even have grabbed a winner as Brighton dropped deeper to make sure they kept hold of their point.

Tony Abrahams
5 Posted 05/11/2023 at 11:40:31
I think a wide player with a bit more skill and speed is an absolute necessity Dan, and this will hopefully be the first thing on the list if we are to be given any money to spend in January?
John Kirk
6 Posted 05/11/2023 at 11:46:33
While it is great to see the huge improvement in the commitment of players, particularly in light of having three matches in a week, I am surprised at Dyche continuing to leave substitutions until the very end. It was obvious that Young was out of his depth against Mitoma, and not having used Patterson earlier was just bad strategy. And, while Harrison needs time to get match fit, perhaps bringing on Danjuma or even trying the two-striker option would have been better choices. Harrison had another poor game—he failed to dribble, get in good crosses or help Young sufficiently. Next week at Palace, with Onana back to replace Gana, could be another good result. But hopefully with better use of subs.
John Raftery
7 Posted 05/11/2023 at 11:47:18
Dan (3) One moment of skill yesterday by an Everton player was Tarkowski’s mazy dribble in the first half. That he attempted it was as much of a surprise as the fact he executed it.
Pete Neilson
8 Posted 05/11/2023 at 12:12:18
Dan (3) I think that’s a reasonable summary. It’ll be interesting to see the type of players Dyche brings in when/if we’re able to. However he’s always been a very defensive coach so it might make little difference to what we watch. Purely focussed on survival this season, how we transition to something more aspirational requires the ownership, debt and recruitment effectively dealt with. Plus some good luck.
Andrew Merrick
9 Posted 05/11/2023 at 14:14:35
After the first five games it seemed to be going wrong, we look a different team in the second five matches.
The yellow cards are adding up, but we have a good core to the squad now, light in midfield and missing Onana.
So we could use another D M, even a budget price championship sweeper to fill the squad, and before players go missing on international duty, so in January please...
A mid table finish seems probable now, so there is positive there.
John Keating
10 Posted 05/11/2023 at 14:26:53

I doubt, in our financial situation, we'll see much happening in January unless we sell someone.

Jerome Shields
11 Posted 05/11/2023 at 17:46:23
Jim Beglin just after the game said that Dyche had Everton playing like Burnley when he managed them.

To a certain extent, this is right and good news that Dyche has got them to play according to what he wants. But I still think his selection and forward play could be tactically better.

Lee Howard
12 Posted 05/11/2023 at 19:31:53
Pretty good result, it's funny how it looked like we could score another one after they scored, then reverted to type and sat back.

I was thinking the same, John (6), is it me or is Harrison not that good? Doesn't release or cross the ball early enough, can't dribble past players.

I like Doucoure. but someone should tell him to release the ball earlier...

Alan Hines
13 Posted 05/11/2023 at 20:52:06
We gave them way too much respect. At a goal up, we felt comfortable, but with a team featuring Lalana and Milner, we sat back when we had the quality on the pitch to keep pushing for more.

Then we have another Dyche problem: lack of decisive in substitutions. Ashley Young was getting a runaround and Gana was tiring. Every other manager in the Premier League revives their team through replacements with 25 minutes to go – for some reason, Dyche does not.

This has two downsides; lack of fresh legs and lack of belief that the manager rates you. As Brighton were dominating, it seems obvious to replace Young (on a yellow) with Patterson. Replace Gana by moving Doucouré deeper and bring on some pace upfront to create some new problems for Brighton.

Our lack of faith in a much-improved bench seems detrimental to our chances of developing a confident squad and building success. I'm pleased we seem to be developing an identity and more resilience, but Brighton really were there for the taking if we had a more positive game plan.

Robert Tressell
14 Posted 05/11/2023 at 21:38:11
Alan, I've read so many posts over the years saying the opposition were there for the taking. Unfortunately it's not usually true.

Brighton are a decent side and might very well have picked us off if we'd have really gone for it. It's clear that, although we're improving, we do still lack quality.

Mick O'Malley
15 Posted 06/11/2023 at 08:07:15
We'll never know if Brighton were there for the taking cos we resorted to safety first, hold on to what you've got, pug ugly football.

Brighton have conceded a lot of goals this season so surely it was obvious that we continued on the front foot to try and grab another. But no, we surrendered the ball to them and, after letting them have 83% possession, the inevitable happened and they equalised.

I will never accept this from an Everton team, especially at home. If this is what Dyche is going to play like, then as far as I'm concerned, I can t wait to see the back of him.

That was disgraceful on Saturday, 95 minutes of sheer boredom, with the added pleasure of getting drenched as well.

Sorry, I will never get behind Dyche if this the shit he serves up.

Henrik Lyngsie
16 Posted 06/11/2023 at 09:14:12
Lee @12.

I had been watching Harrison several times for Leeds. I was always very impressed by his aggression, speed, workrate and efficiency.

So far, I have not seen the same Harrison for Everton. I am very confident that he just needs time. If he reaches his Leeds level, he will be a real asset.

Sam Hoare
17 Posted 06/11/2023 at 09:56:25
I still feel some people (Ian Edwards on the other thread all of yesterday!) are missing the nuance here. I'm being dull repeating myself but will endeavour one last time.

There is a (big) difference between surrendering possession and allowing the opponents to be the only one with a chance of scoring; and sitting deep and compact whilst keeping the opponents at bay and looking to take advantage of any counters.

Possession just by itself is useless! It's only useful if you are good enough to use it to create goal-scoring opportunities (which the best teams can do obviously – but that's not us currently!).

Despite scoring early yesterday we had more shots, more shots on target, and as many corners. And could have had more had we not botched a few good counter opportunities.

Some may say it's not entertaining and that's fair enough but I prefer it infinitely to having more of the ball but getting hammered 4-1 which is what happened last time we tried to go toe to toe with Brighton.

There's more than one way to skin a cat and Leicester won the league with 42% possession over the season.

Mark Murphy
18 Posted 06/11/2023 at 10:07:11
I totally agree with you, Sam.

Another aspect is that Brighton are deadly on the counter and we never gave them that opportunity as we didn't over-commit. I think that was a lesson we learned in the derby.

We ourselves are becoming a counter-attacking team so when two counter-attacking teams meet such as here, it's pretty much a "Who blinks first" scenario. In this case, we scored first so then it was up to them to change their approach, not us.

And until that fluke, we were dealing with them. As I said on another thread, we would also have had at least one of two good penalty shouts if we had been a Sky club.


Stephen Vincent
19 Posted 06/11/2023 at 10:21:52
Sam, Surrendering possession is all very well and may work if we had players capable of passing a football to a blue shirt.

From my seat on Saturday we didn't intentionally invite Brighton on to us as a tactic, we just inexcusably gave them the ball back seemingly at every opportunity. Our pass completion was 62%, which basically means that every three times we had the ball we gave it away once. Surely it is one of the fundamentals of football that you pass to someone in the same colour shirt.

To compare Saturday to last season's debacle is invalid since Brighton have sold Caicedo, Colwill, McAllister, Trossard and March is out injured. Everton on the other hand have theoretically improved by losing Coady, Davies, Iwobi and Gray

One thing is certain Dyche's anti football, if continued will make it easier to get tickets for Everton home games.

Rob Hooton
20 Posted 06/11/2023 at 10:26:31
Possession is a meaningless stat and it was Brighton that bored me for much of the match – half of their possession was in their own half, going nowhere, it's tedious and not entertaining to me.

I do agree that Dyche should have made earlier changes, Young was visibly tiring (after having a very good match imo) and we may have won with fresher legs.

Pickford had a poor match as far as distribution goes, he should have occasionally played out from the back and relieved some of the pressure we were under. There were many occasions when Branthwaite or someone else was in space but he punted it long and Brighton came straight back at us.

Still pleased with the week and the point, we could have had at least one penalty and scored from other attacks too so I'm really not bothered by the possession stat.

Dunk was offside for his goal, nothing cruel with that being ruled out. His head and shoulders were in front of the last defender and you can score with those, the camera angle made it look closer than it was.

Tony Everan
21 Posted 06/11/2023 at 10:27:20
In defence of Harrison, he has been tasked with more defensive responsibilities as too has McNeil. The formation looked like 4-4-1-1 for much of the game with the two (supposed) wide men tucking in to keep the midfield compact and double up helping the full-back. This was particularly so with Harrison.

It's fair to say we need more from him though, and I think we will see some better performances. As to whether he is worth the £30M Leeds are rumoured to be asking us for another thing altogether. I doubt we will be offering anywhere near that.

Barry Hesketh
22 Posted 06/11/2023 at 10:53:42
Having calmed down a little bit since Saturday's match, I'm completely on board with those who think that taking a point from a potentially difficult home fixture is a positive and, at this point in our history, it's imperative that we remain in the Premier League.

However, as a fan sitting in the stands, I'm not at all impressed by the way in which we went about getting that point. We have both Manchester clubs, Newcastle and Chelsea to visit Goodison in the next few fixtures; doubtless Dyche will employ similar tactics and we might, if we get the breaks and maintain the work ethic, manage to take at least 4 points from those four fixtures.

The players carried out Dyche's game plan to the letter on Saturday, which is why Sean was so happy to say, in response to his original assessment of his early days at Everton, that as a team, they weren't very resilient:

“It's tough for me to question then with that work ethic, and the tactical understanding, but just on the counter we didn't find the key moments and were a bit loose with the ball at times, but the pleasing thing for me was we've had three games in six days, so to go and deliver that performance tactically and physically is very very pleasing.

"It's another marker of where the side is getting to, because there was a time where people would argue from the outside looking in, particularly when I first got to the club, that there was a softness within the team. I think that is improving now, there is a hardiness now actually, and I think we showed that again through the hard yards and nitty gritty aspect of the game. I thought that was massively on show and the sheer work ethic of the team to make sure we got a result.”

I understand we have to walk before we can run; I can also see that gaining a point from each and every game we play from here on in will be enough to secure our position in the top-flight, but please don't ask me to enjoy watching it – I just can't.

My real concern is that this necessity to avoid relegation will become a permanent mindset that will be almost impossible to remove. I remain unconvinced that defending deep and hoping to snatch something on the break is the best way of developing our future; it's just about tolerable for the here and now, but if it becomes our only way of playing, then there may be more empty seats at the new place than we might have anticipated.

Let's be honest: most if not all home fixtures are a challenge… but must we really be so fixed on a single way of playing? It might work better if the manager could get his players to realise that the ball is part of the game, and actually it's the most important part of the game: if you have enough of it and use it properly, it will help to put points on the board; if you have little of it and use it badly, you'll drop points and remain on the 'point a game' merry-go-round for quite some time.

Kevin Prytherch
23 Posted 06/11/2023 at 11:04:42
Brighton play a certain way. They invite pressure then quickly and directly pass round it once the space has been created baby the pressing team.

If you allow them the ball - you take away their greatest strength.

It’s not pretty, but if we had of pressed and got undone then we’d all be on here saying that Dyche got done tactically.

We might have won 3-0, we might have lost 3-0. At this stage, and especially compared to the last couple of years, I’ll take an unlucky draw.

Sam Hoare
24 Posted 06/11/2023 at 11:11:49
Stephen@19, I think inviting Brighton onto us was almost definitely a tactic. One we have seen from Dyche before and will do again!

Certainly we were poor at times with the ball and he said so much in his post match interviews. We had some more opportunities to counter that we blew (whereas last year at Brighton we were clinical).

We can and should definitely do better with the ball in such counters but those expecting us to match possession against good footballing teams are in for disappointment.

Kevin Edward
25 Posted 06/11/2023 at 12:18:29
I agree with Lyndon that 3 games unbeaten with 4 precious points is a good / very good return, remember the last two seasons?

The way Dyche is setting up is not going to turn us into Top 6 material any time soon, but we need to stabilise mid-table and keep out of trouble. It might not be good enough for some, but for now, it's a massive improvement and you have to give credit for that.

In the last two seasons, we looked at the fixtures and knew we would be in the Bottom 3 after Christmas. Looks a lot better now to me.

Rob Hooton
26 Posted 06/11/2023 at 14:49:26
Barry H,

I agree with much of what you write, but I think we're at the beginning phase of building a team/squad and building from the back has been the hallmark of many a successful manager.

As a litmus test, I'd hope we can get close to 40 points as quickly as possible and then see if the manager can play a more expansive game – perhaps this will come as confidence grows? I'll reserve judgement for now, due to the predicament the club has been in for some time.

Mark Andrews
27 Posted 06/11/2023 at 20:34:23
Dyche and his subs. I despair. Paper thin squad, run ragged, 89 min subs. It'll come back to haunt us.
Anthony Dwyer
28 Posted 15/11/2023 at 02:14:40
Dyche has got the team organised and playing as well as this team can, but his in game management really is poor.

I honestly don't know a single person who couldn't see any Brighton goal was coming from Mitoma.

Many (including myself) calling for Young off and Patterson on, but a guy infront of me mention what Dyche had done in the cup, leaving young and taking off Harrison, this would have worked a treat to double up on Mitoma late on.

Shame as it cost us in the end.

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