Another far from classic, but ultimately efficient showing from the Blues saw them complete a league double over Huddersfield Town. As in the December meeting at Goodison, two moments of class produced two goals and proved the difference between the two sides, Tosun and Gana Gueye making the most of fine passes from Walcott and Baines respectively.
A vital game for the hosts still looking for at least three points that would all but guarantee their Premier League status for next season but, with a daunting final three games against champions City, Chelsea and Arsenal to follow this clash with Everton.
Whilst the Terriers haven’t exactly set the league alight, their German manager David Wagner has steadfastly stuck to his beliefs in urging his charges to play a high-tempo, pressing game rather than a safety-first, protect what we have approach. Without the level of quality in their squad of other teams that deploy this mindset, Huddersfield find themselves still in need of points and would understandably have fancied their chances against an Everton side with just one loss in their last six games. For their penultimate home game, Wagner selected a starting eleven of: Loessl, Hadergjonaj, Jorgensen, Schindler, Kongolo, Hogg (c), Mooy, Quaner, Pritchard, van La Parra and Mounie.
Following his ‘clear the air’ talks on Thursday with major shareholder Farhad Moshiri that offered no definitive answer to the question we all want answered, Sam Allardyce remained stoic in his belief he’ll be in charge throughout the summer and into next season. For this relatively short trip over the Pennine hills, he had injury doubts over the availability of Baines, Schneiderlin and Calvert-Lewin and left it as late as possible before handing in his team sheet that saw just one change to the eleven that began against Newcastle and read: Pickford, Baines, Keane, Jagielka (c), Coleman, Schneiderlin, Gueye, Rooney, Walcott, Vlasic and Tosun.
#Footnote, Everton needed one goal to make it 1300 since the formation of the Premier League.
On a bright afternoon at a near full-house John Smiths’ Stadium, Lee Probert was our referee.
Everton went straight on the attack with Vlasic forcing the games first corner inside thirty seconds, that Roonet swung in from the right and the home side cleared easily. Town responded with a strong run down their right by Quaner that Jagielka was equal to.
The opening quarter hour saw both sides trying to establish some measure of superiority, but neither defence was severely tested and both goalies totally untested.
A strong left wing by van La Parra on 20 minutes saw Coleman concede the home sides first corner that was wasted as Kongolo totally mistimed his effort high over the bar.
Both sides were proving wasteful in possession, too many passes going astray and being easily intercepted, preventing any real flow or shape to the game.
A decent move on 27 minutes saw the Blues work the ball out to Coleman who swung in a cross that was hurriedly cleared at the expense of a corner that again was cleared before the ball was sprayed wide for Rooney to try a speculative volley that went wide.
The Terriers best chance of the opening half hour came with Pritchard finding van La Parra on the edge of the Everton penalty area, but he lifted his sidefooted shot comfortably high over the bar.
A midfield error by Kongolo saw him lose the ball to Walcott and he made ground before firing the best pass of the half perfectly into the path of Cenk Tosunand he controlled and picked his spot firing across the face of Loessl on 38 minutes for the opening goal of the game, and the lead at the break.
Half Time: 0-1
No changes by either side during the half-time break and again Everton were quickly on the attack with Walcott deep in the Huddersfield area laying the ball back for Gueye who was challenged and the ball broke for Vlasic to test Loessl with a low drive.
Town captain Hogg was belatedly booked for a block on Walcott, much to the annoyance of the home support.
Everton should have doubled their lead on 53 minutes when Baines floated a free kick to the back post and the Huddersfield defence stood still expecting an offside flag as Coleman stole in but couldn’t get sufficient power or direction on his shot to trouble Loessl.
A nice move saw Walcott find Vlasic in the area and his lay off into the path of the onrushing Coleman saw the Irishman test Loessl with a low shot. Everton were growing in confidence and enjoying more of the ball and this prompted Huddersfield into a change on 59 minutes, billing replacing Quaner.
Billing earned a corner with a shot deflected off Jagielka but the set piece was again woeful from the home side, symptomatic of their lack of quality despite honest endeavour.
David Wagner made his second change on 62 minutes with Malone replacing captain Hogg and Sam Allardyce responded immediately withdrawing Rooney in favour of Tom Davies.
Pritchard scuffed a glorious chance on a low right flank cross from van La Parra to again emphasise the home sides woes in front of goal.
Oumar Niasse came on for Cenk Tosun on 72 minutes, the Turkish striker getting a warm round of applause from the travelling support for his efforts and first half strike.
The home side made their final change on 74 minutes, Depoitre replacing van La Parra, and again, Sam Allardyce reacted instantly sending Ramiro Funes Mori on for Nikola Vlasic in a not unexpected defensive change.
Everton sealed the points on 77 minutes as Niasse did well to hold the ball up on the right before wriggling free to find Baines on the left who unselfishly laid the ball on a plate for Idrissa Gana Gueye to pick his spot with a powerful low drive into the bottom corner from the edge of the box.
The remaining time saw Huddersfield huff and puff, but the painful truth from their perspective is that the Everton defence, where Keane and Jagielka has been quietly dominant throughout the game, was never seriously troubled and Jordan Pickford had arguably his easiest afternoon of the season.
Full Time: 0-2
Whilst he was constantly looking for the ball and to be involved in the game it’s becoming increasingly sad to see Wayne Rooney, once one of the most dangerous players in world football, playing so many misplaced passes. We all knew when he returned from Man United that we were getting a player slightly past his mercurial best, so we have to hope that the summer sees him take a long rest and sit down with whoever the Everton manager is to have a serious and long conversation at how best to use him next season.