A fourth successive draw was scant reward for what Phil Neville felt was Everton’s best performance of the Premier League season so far, as Marouane Fellaini inspired David Moyes’ team to domination but not victory over Fulham on Saturday.
The scale of Everton’s supremacy is reflected in all of the statistics but the most important one, the final score. Everton had 61% of possession – the joint most of any away side, with Manchester City at West Ham. Everton had 26 shots on goal, almost twice as many as Fulham, eight more than City recorded against the Hammers and three more than Queens Park Rangers hit at home to Reading. Everton’s 15 efforts on target was likewise the most of any Premier League team this weekend.
And yet, they left Craven Cottage with only a point. For that, Everton have not only themselves to blame but also the form of goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer. But the failings from the Evertonian side are well worn, a slow start leaving Moyes’ side with an uphill mountain to climb. It was the same against Liverpool a week ago, and indeed has been the same in the last half-dozen games now. For all Everton’s stylish football, life would be a great deal easier if they avoided conceding in the first 15 minutes.
While there was an element of misfortune about the way in which the ball was pushed by Tim Howard onto the post only to strike the goalkeeper again, there was no bad luck in the clumsy foul by Neville that conceded the free-kick in the first place. The captain’s lazy kick at the heels of Dimitar Berbatov summed up the malaise that infects Everton at times, and did so again when Seamus Coleman switched off at the far post to let Steven Sidwell equalise. It may only be a momentary lapse in concentration but it is enough to turn three points into one.
Eradicating these slips could prove the difference between a sustained top-four challenge or the consolation prize of a place in the top six. The margins between the competing teams really are that tight. Two more points would have sent Everton to within one set of results of supplanting the reigning league champions in third place. As it is they are level on points with Tottenham Hotspur, ahead on goal difference but five behind City. The difference between those two positions helps explain just why Moyes had a face of thunder at the final whistle.
The neat football on show was no consolation. Nor is the knowledge that Everton have had the most
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