Both games saw Everton play with considerable style and composure, taking a majority of possession and creating some half-chances, but nothing clear cut – even Cahill’s game-clinching injury time header saw the Australian second favourite to reach Leighton Baines’ cross, while the closest Everton came to scoring at Villa Park was in the dying embers of the game. Team selection was not too different either. The Villa match saw Jack Rodwell on the right with Steven Pienaar on the left, while at St Andrew’s Leon Osman and Seamus Coleman replaced Pienaar and Rodwell, but the added impetus provided by Coleman would be counterbalanced by the loss of Pienaar. Yakubu in place of Jermaine Beckford did give Everton more of a goal threat but the Nigerian only troubled the City defence sporadically, doing most of his good work away from the penalty area. The two major changes came from forces outside the control of David Moyes – individual errors and blind luck.
Scientific it may not be but for the 90 minutes of action on Saturday Everton played much the same as they have all season, discounting the atrocious showing against Newcastle United and forgettable second half against Manchester United, except this time Tim Howard did not drop the ball at the opposition striker’s feet, and Marouane Fellaini did not miscontrol a simple throw-in to allow Ashley Young a run on goal. And at the other end, Roger Johnson did what Everton’s own players have failed to do for much of the campaign and found the back of the net, a boost that was desperately needed as another decent performance threatened to peter out to nothing. On such slices of fortune successful seasons can be built and Everton did at least build a winning performance from Johnson’s error. Lady Luck was again smiling on Everton when Birmingham shouts for a penalty went unheard – although Baines had an equally-worthy claim dismissed – and when the spectre of individual errors returned as Sylvain Distin, who miscued a header, and Phil Jagielka, who found himself in an inexplicable position, combined to send Cameron Jerome clear, but the striker could only shoot wide.
In truth, the individual errors that plagued Everton’s earlier games can only have been eradicated by greater concentration from the players themselves, while luck is simply how we choose to frame certain occurrences both in life and football. The reason Everton notched a first league win of the season against Birmingham is the same reason defeat by Aston Villa was so hard to take – these are good players, led by a good manager, playing good football, three things are not always justly rewarded. And while a fine performance gave Everton their first three points of the campaign, few Toffees fans would cry if a poor performance brought the second next time out against Liverpool.