West Brom 0-0 Everton

A very disappointing awayday for the Blues as they failed to impress themselves upon a team languishing in the bottom three, the best chance falling to Oumar Niasse with barely two minutes left on normal time, in a game that will not live very long in the memory.

Without a win in seventeen games, West Brom and new manager Alan Pardew were desperate to halt the slide that has taken them into the relegation bottom three places. With record signing Nacer Chadli unavailable through injury, Pardew picked a startling line-up of: Foster, Dawson, Hegazi, Evans, Gibbs, Phillips, Livermore, Barry, Brunt, Rodriguez and Rondon.

In contrast to the Baggies, Everton under Sam Allardyce went into the game unbeaten in six and without having lost an awayday Boxing Day game since a 2005 reversal at Aston Villa. Big Sam, having overseen a quite incredible transformation in the Blues defensive performances was looking to see more fluidity and cohesion from his midfield and forward players as he looked to continue the revival. And he rang the changes again dropping Jagielka and Lennon to the bench as Everton lined up: Pickford, Martina, Keane, Williams (c), Holgate, Kenny, Davies, Schneiderlin, Sigurdsson, Bolasie and Calvert-Lewin.

Roger East was the referee entrusted with maintaining order at the Hawthorns.

The easiest way to sum up a scoreless first half at the Hawthorns would be to describe it as being largely uneventful, certainly not the festive football fayre the travelling Evertonians had been hoping for.

Everton were pleased to welcome Yannick Bolasie back to first team action hoping he could act as a foil for DCL up front with Sigurdsson pulling the strings. But it was Albion who had the better of a quiet opening with Rondon failing to capitalise on a teasing left wing dross from Rodriquez and Gareth Barry getting back to clear a cross from DCL after Schneiderlin found him with a lofted pass down the right flank.

A foul by Barry on Bolasie gave Sigurdsson the chance to put a free kick into the danger area, but the ball evaded Keane arriving at the back post.

Craig Dawson headed a decent chance over the bar off a driven cross from Phillips before Everton’s best move of the half. Keane found Kenny with a good crossfield ball, he fed Sigurdsson to find Bolasie for the cross that was cleared for a corner. Sigurdsson sent the set piece to the back post where West Brom cleared before Williams could get there.

The only shot on target by either side in a disappointing first half came when Barry got forward and the clearing header from his cross by Williams fell nicely for Brunt but his shot aimed for the top corner was comfortably dealt with by Pickford.

Half Time: 0-0

Neither manager made any changes for the start of the second half, but both would have been hoping for a marked improvement in the quality of the play.

West Brom again started the more aggressively in the second session without overly threatening and their problems in front of goal were well and truly summed up when a through ball for Rondon saw him snatch at the chance blazing well well of the target, and in so doing pulling his hamstring.

Trickery and quick feet from Bolasie released Kenny for a cross that was blocked for a corner, Williams header from the set piece had direction, but no power to trouble Foster.

Robson-Kanu replaced the hobbling Rondon on 52 minutes and Kenny got in a superb block on a Brunt shot before the Blues made a double change on the hour mark, Lennon replacing Bolasie and Niasse coming on for DCL.

The game was desperately lacking any genuine quality, West Brom having slightly the better of things but never really troubling the Everton defence.

Dawson was booked on 67 minutes for an arm into the face of Martina and from the Sigurdsson free kick, Tom Davies shot over the bar.

Krychowiaz replaced Livermore for the home side and a low cross off the left from Gibbs was too strong for Phillips arriving late into the six yard area.

A terrific through from Pickford was relayed onto Niasse by Lennon, but the home defence got back in time to deny Sigurdsson any meaningful attempt on goal.

West Brom forced four quick corners in succession with Everton defending resolutely before Barry was almost inevitably yellow carded for a midfield foul on Niasse.

West Brom wasted a glorious free kick opportunity when Williams brought down Gareth Barry, Phillips high and wide with the shot.

Into the dying minutes and Beni Baningime made a cameo appearance replacing Davies and Everton finally tested Foster as Lennon found Niasse on the left and his fierce shot was kicked away and the keeper recovered to deny Niasse on his own rebound.

Full Time: 0-0

Personal thoughts…

Whilst this was another solid defensive display from the Blues, the shortage of genuine creativity and invention in midfield couple with a lack of real cutting edge up front continues to be a cause for concern. The biggest plus point was the successful return to first team action for Yannick Bolasie and another assured showing at right back from Jonjoe Kenny..

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