AFTER the brightest of summers, metaphorically speaking of course, a brief rain shower. In the words of those ubiquitous posters though – keep calm and carry on. Everton’s scorching start to the season was always going to be given a stern test at the Hawthorns, and Steve Clarke’s men did a good job of dousing the wilder fires of optimism which had spread around L4.
Maybe the Gwladys Street won’t sing about winning the league, tongue in cheek though it was, against Newcastle in a fortnight, but neither should anyone be in a rush to write the Toffees off yet. West Brom 2 Everton FC 0 match gallery Sep 2 2012 View David Moyes’ men will not be the only side to endure a frustrating afternoon at West Brom this season, against an obdurately well-drilled side that knows how to stifle and clamp-down the assets of its opponents. And perhaps Everton’s players had stayed up too late watching the transfer deadline day coverage, because they were decidedly off-colour when it came to repeating their heroics against Aston Villa in the Midlands.
While Marouane Fellaini has previously been breath-taking this term, on Saturday he was distinctly average. The hosts pre-match commentary on the big-screen included asking Baggies fans who they most feared from the opposition and one Brummie glibly replied that if his side could keep Fellaini quiet they had nothing else to fear. On this occasion he was right. Knocked out of his stride early on by a deliberate targeting job from West Brom, the Belgian was given an equally torrid time by blinkered referee Jon Moss who might as well have pulled on a blue and white striped shirt instead of the alarming red one he sported.
Certainly Everton’s talisman was afforded special attention by West Brom, but the best players thrive in such circumstances and find a way to flourish. That’s the challenge for Fellaini, and something Moyes will be keen to impress on him – Everton do not have the luxury of players picking when to shine. But Fellaini wasn’t the only one to disappoint in the Midlands. Once the hugely influential Darron Gibson had limped off with a thigh strain in the first half, Everton couldn’t cope.
The initial phases had been scrappy from both sides, with neither finding any convincing tempo to their passing, although the Blues had the slight edge thanks to Steven Pienaar’s menacing bursts down the left. But while at Villa Park Pienaar sizzled, here he was contained and generally marshalled out of the game.