For what seemed like an eternity at Goodison Park, a malfunction in the Park End’s public-address system resulted in a relentless white noise transmitting from the speakers. On and on it went, causing anxiety for those closest being forced to co-exist with the fuzzy sound. Finally, it stopped and when it did, the roar was enormous, as well as the relief.
Not quite as enormous, however, as the roar that followed Jonjoe Kenny’s shot towards the end of the first half. It was Everton’s first on target this year, across 251 minutes of football. That the moment seemed destined to be marked as a high point until the arrival of Oumar Niasse as a substitute reflects just how miserable this performance was from Everton.
Eleven Premier League clubs have relegation anxieties and these are two of them. Everton were ninth in the table at the start of the day and West Bromwich Albion were nineteenth. An away victory here – and it would have been West Brom's first since August 19 at Burnley – would have meant only five points separating the teams heading into February.
Instead, the gap stays at eight because of Niasse’s intervention. The decision to introduce him by Sam Allardyce at the expense of Cenk Tosun was an unpopular one and greeted by jeers. Yet within a minute, Allardyce had been vindicated, with Niasse meeting a cross from debutant Theo Walcott to sweep in a volley.
West Brom might see a draw away from the Hawthorns as a step in the right direction but this was an opportunity missed for them. Everton were as uninspiring as they were at any stage earlier on this season under Ronald Koeman, with Tosun struggling to hold the ball up on his home debut and Walcott uninvolved aside from his assist. For Walcott, indeed, only a first half booking for lunging in on Grzegorz Krychowiak would remind you of his presence.Everton’s start was particularly appalling. Ashley Williams sent a pass directly to an opponent in Jay Rodriguez. Morgan Schneiderlin’s powdery challenge on Salomón Rondón resulted in a chance for Krychowiak, which he missed. Inside seven minutes, West Brom were ahead: a simple ball over the top from Krychowiak releasing Rodriguez and his shot bobbled past Jordan Pickford.
Rodriguez and Rondón sounds like a tapas bar in Soho where you need a code to get in. Maybe not a centre forward partnership for West Bromwich Albion. But they were proving a handful for Everton’s defence and their understanding was a reminder of what Everton currently lack: partnerships.
At the start of the season, you could not have imagined that by January, Cuco Martina and Nikola Vlašić would be starting games together down Everton’s left side. It might be harsh, but Martina would probably struggle in the Championship. That he finished the first half having had more touches than any other Everton player perhaps tells you everything you need to know level of attainment achieved by his teammates.
The Martina/Vlašić axis did not last, with Yannick Bolasie introduced at the break for the Croatian winger. The pattern did not change, though, and when goalscoring opportunities came, they were for West Brom.
On one such occasion, just as Rondón was about to score, James McCarthy rescued the situation but injured himself in the process, seemingly seriously, with the sight of Rondón in distress at what he’d seen and stretchers being requested immediately indicating how grave a condition McCarthy was in.
This was Allardyce’s thousandth game as a professional football manager. Though he might eventually remember the landmark occasion because of his decisions and Niasse’s efficiency, he would also need some luck. Right at the end Rondón crashed a 30-yard shot onto the crossbar. Ultimately, Allardyce and Everton got away with it.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies