John Heitinga has had to wait for a long time since his World Cup final red card to show there are some positives to his game but, not that it will have been appreciated by struggling Birmingham City who moved out of the relegation zone on goal difference, he started the healing process last night.
Along with Nigel de Jong, Heitinga was held up as one of the Netherlands' worst offenders in South Africa but began the road back by scoring his first goal in his 59 appearances for Everton in some style.
Jean Beausejour had given Birmingham the lead but Alex McLeish will face some difficult decisions ahead of Saturday's FA Cup quarter-final with Bolton after David Bentley limped off with a groin problem and Keith Fahey cried off yesterday morning with a thigh injury.
"We had to battle and the players showed that tremendous resilience that they have," McLeish said. "Sometimes you need to get points in an ugly fashion."
The opener came from a weak Sylvain Distin clearance, with Lee Bowyer laying the ball off to youngster Jordon Mutch, whose reasonably straight ball into the area was headed in by Beausejour. The Chilean winger, who joined from Club America in the summer, had not scored before last month but has now managed three in four matches.
Jermaine Beckford continued to concern the visitors but when the equaliser came it was from a more unlikely source. Leon Osman's 35th-minute corner was knocked to the edge of the area by Cameron Jerome and Heitinga hit a powerful curling shot over Bowyer, who was marking the post.
After the break, a Louis Saha effort was blocked by Mutch as Everton struggled to make the most of their dominance. It was not all glowing for Heitinga, who was involved in an unseemly row with Bowyer, before Beckford was denied by goalkeeper Ben Foster from close range as Everton, who lost Mikel Arteta early on to a hamstring injury, extended their miserable home run to just five wins in 14 Premier League matches.
"We've got what we've got and we probably needed a goal like John's," the Everton manager David Moyes said. "We're not sure how long Mikel will be out but it was a big blow to lose that creativity."
Everton (4-4-2): Howard; Hibbert, Jagielka, Distin, Baines; Arteta (Coleman, 8) Osman, Heitinga (Bilyaletdinov, 86), Rodwell; Saha, Beckford (Anichebe, 78). Substitutes not used Mucha (gk), Mustafi, Duffy, Baxter.
Birmingham City (4-5-1): Foster; Carr, Johnson, Jiranek, Ridgewell; Larsson, Mutch, Bowyer Bentley (Murphy, 8), Beausejour; Jerome (Zigic, 73). Substitutes not used Doyle (gk), Phillips, Martins, Parnaby, Davies.
Man of the match Heitinga.
Match rating 6/10.
Referee P Walton (Northamptonshire).
Attendance 33,974.Reuse content