With thoughts of the FA Cup semi-final next weekend, after a game at Goodison Park against Sunderland on Easter Monday,. it was time to rest Marouane Fellaini, and John Heitinga also started on the bench, while Osman was absent, giving the improved secret weapon, Magaye Gueye, another chance to start in the continuing absence of Royston Drenthe. Coleman was on the bench, coming back from injury.
For Norwich, John Ruddy was in goal, having left Everton back in 2010. And out injured, James Vaughan
Everton looked confident and strong as they attacked Norwich with some intent form the off, a great cross from Gueye just a little too high for Jelavic at the far post. Gibson had less than a half-chance that went wide.But the Canaries settled back into the game and wasting a free-kick.
Cahill and Pienaar tried to walk it into the net as Everton pushed the hosts back after a brief excursion to Howard's area. Everton kept building attacks but it was Norwich who won a very threatening free-kick when Jagielka pulled down Holt but the wall did its job.
From a midfield free-kick, Pienaar again fed a good forward ball that Jagielka spun onto in the area, and crossed well for Jelavic to poke home skillfuly with a deft first-time clip that beat Ruddy. Everton with a fully deserved lead, with a rare assist from Jagielka, and should have scored again when a Hibbert cross came back off the post but with the goal gaping he fired it weakly at Ruddy.
Baines went in the book for fouling Bennett from behind as Everon continued their good work. with 10 mins of the half left, Norwich had a half-decent shot that went wide. But they then sliced through the Everton defence, Hoolahan beating a static Jagielka with a good cross, allowing Howson to score his first goal for Norwich from close range.
Baines then went in a little high for no real reason, and the crowd thought a second yellow was on the cards as the pendulum swung against the visitors, Jelavic getting called for a clumsy foul. At the other end, Pienaar tried to curl one in but it went wide.
But it was Coleman who appeared in place of Gueye rather than Baines after the break as Norwich won a good early free-kick that was again powered into the Everton wall.
Jelavic did well to cross for Coleman at the far post but he was denied by smart defensive work from Dury. At the other end, Howard was tested and had to hook a parried save away with his foot under pressure form Holt as Pienaar became the second Everton name on Marriner's yellow card as Fellaini replaced Neville.
With Fellaini boosting Everton's attack, Baines played Pienaar into lots of space as Norwich had stopped playing, demanding a free kick for some previous nothingness, while Jelavic calmly stroked the ball past Ruddy for his second.
Fellaini picked up his 9th yellow of the season with a typical slightly mistimed interception that caught the player's foot instead of the ball. Despite the lead, Everton showed little sign of sitting back, and kept building attacks down the left.
But Norwich did eventually push the Blues back, and a series of more generous free-kicks threatened another equalizer. Bennett came very close, smashing his shot into the side netting. But Wolverham got free to fprce a parry off Howard and he was then able to turn and set up Holt for the second equalizer with a little more than 10 mins left.
Time for Super-Sub Victor Anichebe, replacing Cahill...
A nice sweeping move saw Fellaini get in a looping header as Everton surged forward, it became an end-to-end affair, both teams going for the win. Anichebe almost got the ball on his right foot for that daisy cutter...
Darron Gibson remains unbeaten in a Royal Blue shirt of Everton. If the gameplan had been to demonstrate that Everton can play more open expansive entertaining football, but only at the cost of loser defensive structure, lack of shape, and poorer discipline that inevitably leads to opposition goals and lost points, this could not have been a better example.
Everton notched another two goals and extended their unbeaten run to four games but they will have left Carrow Road disappointed not to have made it nine points from their last three Premier League outings. The Blues led twice through goals by Nikica Jelavic but disappointing defending let Norwich claw their way back to level terms and the spoils were shared.
A calf injury for Leon Osman, the continued absence of Royston Drenthe — surely now the assumption must be that the benign party line on the Dutchman is masking a more serious development — and some squad rotation saw a tweaked starting XI for the first of two Easter weekend fixtures, but the Blues started this game impressively.
The confidence gleaned from their recent run, one that has seen a pleasing return to pass-and-move football, was in evidence in the early going and Magaye Gueye's left-wing cross was a foot away from perfection, the ball just too high for Jelavic on the edge of the six-yard box.
Everton's snappy, one-touch approach play had the Canaries under pressure and were it not for some uncharateristically heavy final balls from Steven Pienaar, they may have gone ahead before they eventually did after 22 minutes.
A short free-kick down the left flank saw Pienaar feed Leighton Baines who, in turn, picked Phil Jagielka out with a slide-rule pass in the area. His second touch was a neat square pass to Jelavic who just had to make solid contact to steer the ball past John Ruddy to make it 1-0 to Everton.
2-0 then arrived on a plate for Tim Cahill when Tony Hibbert's deep cross bounced back in front of the Australian off the angle of crossbar and post but, no doubt caught by surprise by the opportunity, he botched the shot in front of goal, despatching an off-balance shot straight to the 'keeper.
Norwich gradually found their feet and Surman skidded a left-foot drive past Tim Howard's left-hand post before the visitors were carved open down their right side for Norwich's first goal six minutes before half time. Exploiting oceans of space left by Gueye's absence, Wes Hoolahan was picked out in the area behind Hibbert and after drawing Jagielka towards him, he slid the ball across the Everton box in front of Sylvain Distin where Johnny Howson had the simple task of side-footing it past the 'keeper.
Having seen his side's early momentum stall, Moyes made a change at the interval, replacing Gueye with Seamus Coleman but the Blues's prospects weren't helped by the fact they they'd stopped keeping the ball which, obviously, led to fewer chances in their final third and more possession for Norwich who were growing in confidence as the game wore on.
Nevertheless, Everton almost hit their hosts with the same move from which they'd equalised. Jelavic eased past his marker with a step-over and squared the ball invitingly across the six yard line but Adam Drury had positioned himself ahead of Coleman and was able to usher it behind from a corner.
Back at the other end, Howson engineered space for shot and unloaded a stinging effort from the edge of the box that Howard couldn't hold and the American had to hack the ball away with his foot to deny the onrushing Grant Holt.
But after Moyes had switched Phil Neville with Marouane Fellaini to give the Blues' midfield a bit more punch, Jelavic restored the lead with his fifth goal since arriving from Rangers at the end of January. Again it was Pienaar and Baines combining, the latter collecting the ball on the overlap before cutting it back to where Jelavic has made a habit of positioning himself and the Croatian marksman slotted a left-footer inside the far post.
Given their renowned defensive resilience, Everton should have been confident of seeing the game out from there. Norwich had been plucky and moved the ball about quickly at times but they had largely failed to trouble the Blues's goal with any regularity. But Fellaini contrived to get himself booked less than 10 minutes after being introduced and some sloppy fouls conceded on the edge of the box put the defence under needless pressure.
And a couple of minutes after Bennett had rippled the side-netting with a shot from the angle, Paul Lambert's side cracked Everton's rearguard for the second time in the game. Jagielka inexplicably peeled off Holt allowing the striker to knock the ball on the Hoolahan in the centre circle. His pass to Wilbraham split the defence putting the substitute in one-on-one with Howard, a duel the American won by saving the shot. Unfortunately, Wilbraham picked up the rebound and slipped it sideways to Holt who couldn't miss from close range.
2-2 and both sides were going for it in the final stages, with Moyes throwing Anichebe on for Cahill, but save for a Fellaini header that Ruddy caught at full stretch, there were no real clear-cut chances created and the two sides had to settle for a point apiece.
For Everton, that meant retaining seventh place with Liverpool's home draw against Aston Villa and the extension of their unbeaten run as they approach next weekend's all-important cup derby. A win would, of course, have been the perfect tonic, but it's probably fair to say that the instability caused by changes in central defence probably lay at the heart of the Blues' inability to keep hold of all three points.
The Jagielka-Distin partnership just didn't have the watertight feel of that of the Frenchman's relationship with John Heitinga and though it's probable that Jagielka will get the nod again on Monday, Moyes has to field his strongest partnership in the centre against Liverpool at Wembley.
The final word should go to man of the match, Jelavic, though, a player whose impact on the team since he settled into life at Goodison is hard to describe. Everton have missed a player of his quality leading the line for so long that we long-suffering supporters had probably forgotten what it's like. He certainly has everything in his quiver — he puts in an unbelievable shift chasing down defenders, he's good in the air, his off-the-ball movement is excellent as is his link up play, he finds space between defenders to receive the final ball, and, most importantly of all, the boy can finish.
Had we had him from the start of the season, there's no telling where we'd be now. Too late to dwell on that, of course; all focus must be on next weekend at Wembley and finishing the league season as well as we can.
With three consecutive 2-0 victories behind them and having crept above neighbours Liverpool in the Premier League table, Everton face another tricky away game with a trip to Carrow Road... all the while with the FA Cup semi-final against the Reds looming next weekend.
Like fellow newcomers Swansea, whom the Blues beat handily at the Liberty Stadium, Norwich have surprised many this season and were, until recently, hovering on the fringes of European contention. They have been difficult to beat on home turf as well, although tellingly as far as Everton and their own ambitions go, most of the top sides have come away from the Canaries' ground with three points.
Though Jack Rodwell and Seamus Coleman remain sidelined as they continue to recover from their respective muscle strains and the status of Royston Drenthe remains confusing, there are various options open to Moyes if he does decide to rotate some of his squad.
With his team in a solid winning groove, scoring goals and playing some lovely football at times, the conundrum, of course, for David Moyes is how much he dares disrupt things by resting players with another game on Easter Monday and that big cup derby looming.
It's possible that he will make the bulk of his changes for the Sunderland game, leaving his starting XI largely intact from the team that beat West Brom last weekend.
Victory for the Blues would complete the double over Norwich after December's narrow win in the reverse fixture at Goodison Park and would keep them in seventh place. Newcastle's Good Friday win at Swansea moved them into fifth place, temporarily at least, probably puts them out of reach and leaves seventh as the most likely target for Moyes's men.
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|Drury (75' Naughton)|
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|13||West Bromwich Albion||39|
|17||Queens Park Rangers||28|