There was a quick defeat but no swift departure for Aston Villa at Goodison Park, their team coach left waiting outside the main reception for two hours after Doug Ellis had summoned David O'Leary for a private conversation following a third demoralising loss within a week.
Before those travelling supporters who called for the head of the Irishman on Saturday find solace in their chairman's action, it should be noted that, on the evidence of their public utterances, little of substance was said between the pair.
Ellis reportedly told a fellow senior official at Villa Park last week that recent performances had been "unacceptable" and having been televised shaking his head at another defensive lapse against resurgent Everton, he will not have altered that opinion. Not that he was prepared to share his concerns with a wider audience, of course.
Confronted on the way towards the directors' lounge and asked whether O'Leary's position was under threat after a listless and passionless display, the chairman bristled: "I'm a little old-fashioned. I've had 37 years of these questions and I don't answer them," and was also in no mood to offer a view on the game itself. "I won't give you an answer one way or the other."
O'Leary was more forthcoming on the subject of his own future but was not prepared to accept responsibility for the club's precarious predicament as it waits for a much-touted takeover.
True, his forward line had been decimated by illness and injury, forcing the manager to hand a first team debut to Gabriel Agbonlahor who marked the occasion with a consolation goal, yet the lack of leadership from senior players such as Thomas Sorensen and Olof Mellberg and the decision to keep the influential Lee Hendrie on the bench until the game was lost were within his influence.
"I don't feel under any more pressure than this job usually entails," he insisted. "There is great expectation at this club and there has been from the first day I arrived. I think they were 16th before I came and there was a point when we were fifth on goal difference and all I was told was Villa should be in the top four. You're constantly reminded about the European Cup but this is 2006. I can't give them any more than what I am."
Despite having three attempts on goal cleared on the line within 60 seconds, Villa were playing for pride by the 22nd minute when Tim Cahill doubled Everton's advantage. With the Jameses, Beattie and McFadden, forming an impressive attack David Moyes' team maintained their belated push for a Uefa Cup place with ease, the Scottish international opening the scoring with an emphatic finish on the quarter-hour and creating Cahill's second in the final minute with Leon Osman also on the scoresheet.
Goals: McFadden (16) 1-0 ; Cahill (22) 2-0; Osman (45) 3-0 ; Agbonlahor (64) 3-1; Cahill (90) 4-1.
Everton (4-4-2) : Wright; Hibbert, Weir, Stubbs, Naysmith; Osman, Cahill, Neville, Arteta (Kilbane, 56); Beattie, McFadden. Substitutes not used: Yobo, Davies, Westerveld (gk), Van der Meyde.
Aston Villa (4-4-2) : Sorensen; Hughes (Samuel, 31), Mellberg, Ridgewell, Bouma; Gardner (Hendrie, 56), Davis, McCann, Barry; Moore, Agbonlahor. Substitutes not used: Taylor (gk), Djemba-Djemba, Whittingham.
Referee: R Styles (Hampshire).
Booked: Everton Cahill; Aston Villa Gardner, Bouma, Mellberg.
Man of the match: Arteta.
Attendance: 36,507.Reuse content