(GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)

Queens Park Rangers 1 - 2 Everton

Last season Everton completed the League double over seven teams. Today, they registered their first with a 2-1 win at Queens Park Rangers as neat an encapsulation as any of the precipitous decline in the team's fortunes from Roberto Martinez's first season in charge at Goodison Park. It wasn't particularly pretty and it might have been a touch fortunate given that Tim Howard's crossbar was rattled twice in the second half but given the importance of the result, few of a Blue persuasion will be complaining too much.

This was a game best viewed and reviewed within context. Everton were coming off a Europa League away trip to the Ukraine, no less a 2.30am arrival back on Merseyside, and a dispiriting defeat to Dynamo Kyiv that emphatically ended the Warsaw dream. Layered on top of that was the Blues' need of a result to both ease lingering fears of getting sucked into a relegation scrap and reward the travelling fans with some cheer in a season that has brought little of it.

The three points were paramount; the quality of the performance was of more consequence for Martinez's standing among a growing number of Evertonians disenchanted by his methods and decisions than it was for the club's plight in the wrong half of the table.

In many respects, having given away a sloppy 65th-minute equaliser and simultaneously lost Romelu Lukaku to injury, the three points were rather plundered by Aaron Lennon when he tucked away his first goal in the Royal Blue with 13 minutes of the regulation 90 left to play. And yet, for the majority of the contest, you felt that Everton could win at a canter if they could just get things together enough times in the final third of the field.

After shaking off a sluggish start in which Howard put his goal in early danger by side-footing a clearance straight to Joey Barton and Leon Osman was dispossessed on the touchline leading to a chance for Bobby Zamora, Martinez's side settled and carved out the first real opportunity when Osman swept an under-hit Leighton Baines corner narrowly over Rob Green's bar.

In the deceptive confines of Loftus Road the pitch is two yards narrower than Goodison but as many yards longer there didn't feel like there was room for the expansive style the Blues have tried to rediscover this season and it was noticeable in the early going how infrequently the fullbacks were pushing on down the flanks. When Coleman did, though, he scored the opening goal with a peach of a strike on the overlap.

Arouna Kone had led a counter down the opposite side of the field, worked it back to Osman outside the QPR box and his lay-off to the right set up perfectly for Coleman to send a crisp side-foot shot in off the far post to make it 1-0.

Everton initially kept up their momentum and went in search of a second but Lukaku showed too much of the ball to Steven Caulker and allowed the defender to deny him with a slide tackle as he tried to drive in on goal. And Barton controversially escaped conceding a 27th-minute penalty when referee Jonathan Moss exhibited extreme leniency in waving away Blue appeals for clear handball as his arms stopped Darron Gibson's goalbound shot from troubling Green.

At the other end, Stones was proving a more than equal bulwark against Zamora's robust forward play, refusing to be bullied by the striker and at one point neatly picking his pocket as he tried to dribble into the Everton area. Nevertheless, despite both centre-halves emerging from the match with enormous credit, Everton looked vulnerable to deep balls into the area all afternoon as they failed to stop the cross from wide areas.

Charlie Austin came within a whisker of finding Zamora with a whipped cross from the right just past the half-hour mark and the former almost prompted another bungling error from Howard when the American flapped at his deflected shot but was able to claim the ball at the second attempt before a Rangers player could latch onto it.

QPR came closest to equalising immediately after half-time, though, as they came out of the break flying. Junior Hoilett capitalised on more uncertainty in the Blues' defence from a high ball and hammered a shot off the crossbar that dropped to Matt Phillips to turn home but his goal was, thankfully, disallowed for offiside.

The offensive threat that Chris Ramsey's side possesses was not lost on Martinez, who deployed James McCarthy in the Gareth Barry role that involved him frequently dropping back between the centre halves, but the formation was also designed to allow the Blues to counter-attack. In general, though Kone's presence was creating space for Lukaku in QPR's half, the ball just wasn't sticking with either Everton striker and it led to a succession of promising moves breaking down with poor control or a poor lay-off.

Lukaku's over-cooked pass to Osman that almost put the midfielder in for an excellent chance of double=ing the scores eight minutes after half time was a case in point, as was Kone bumbling into a cul-de-sac having seemingly taken too long to make up his mind what to do in what was an excellent situation to try and find his striker partner in the middle with a square ball.

Having failed to do enough to kill the game, Everton remained susceptible to conceding the initiative at the other end so when QPR's equaliser arrived, there was more than an air of inevitability about it. More indecisiveness defending a set-piece created chaos in the visitors' area and had black-shirted defenders chasing shadows as the ball pinged between QPR players before landing at the feet of substitute Eduardo Vargas. With Howard already scrambling along the ground, the Chilean had a large target at which to aim and he rammed it in from close range.

With Lukaku limping out of the action as the game restarted, having pulled up feeling his hamstring a couple of minutes earlier, and being pegged back to 1-1, it would have been easy for Everton to have folded at that point and succumbed to a second goal. Zamora almost provided it as he briefly broke Stones's shackles to power forward and fizz a shot over the bar from 20-odd yards but it was the Blues who struck next.

Coleman, again raiding down the right, was picked out nicely by Gibson and he crossed low looking for Kone. Though Nedum Onuoha beat the Ivorian to the ball, it fell straight to Lennon lurking 10 yards out and he had time to pick his spot beyond the 'keeper to restore Everton's lead. It was the on-loan winger's reward for a tirelessly industrious performance on the right in front of Coleman and for being in the right place at the right time in this particular instance.

Kone was also forced off with an injury picked up in that collision with Onuoha and was replaced by Naismith and Everton dug in to try and see out the victory. Adel Taraabt came very close to denying them the victory, though. First, he drove a shot inches wide of the post after Stones had been caught dallying; then, in the fourth minute of injury time, he smashed a shot off the top of the crossbar with Howard beaten.

In the final reckoning, hardly a vintage Everton-under-Martinez performance but so few have been this season and, despite QPR's perilous plight, Loftus Road is never an easy place to come. Indeed, the Rs' have taken more points off the Toffees than against any other side in their Premier League history. The win puts nine points worth of daylight between us and the bottom three and, with eight games still to play, it should be enough to banish fears of the relegation.

It also opens up the road back into the top half of the table if Martinez can motivate his charges to put together a string of victories to end the season on a positive note. It would certainly go a long way to strengthening the manager's position as the man to take Everton forward to a crucial summer and into next season.

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Reader Comments (30)

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Christopher Timmins
1 Posted 23/03/2015 at 07:23:42
Lyndon, a win is a win and and in my opinion we played a stronger team yesterday than on Thursday. Nine points ahead of the bottom 3 with 8 games to go. Two more wins brings up the magic 40 points but here’s hoping for a really strong finish, with 6 wins out of the final 8 games!

Allowed to dream and relax for the first time in a long time!

Peter Murray
2 Posted 23/03/2015 at 08:18:17
Another thorough, balanced analysis, Lyndon.

3 points were needed no matter how. Target achieved. No one should estimate the physical and mental fatigue that the Blues must have felt approaching this game.

It was good to see the return of the spirit shown against Newcastle. Back to back Premiership wins, 5 goals for, 1 against.

Less talk now of relegation please,more of which position in the top half is now a realistic aim.

Oscar Huglin
3 Posted 23/03/2015 at 11:59:54
Very important win. Did some research (because I was bored) and if we win all of our remaining 8 fixtures (ha...) we will come 8th based on last seasons final points tallies.

So, after this remarkable resurgence in form (excluding the game in Kiev...), IÂ’m going to predict a 10th or 11th place finish. IÂ’m tentative predicting 10th because there is currently a 6 point gap between 10th and 11th, which is quite a mountain to climb. Anything top half and IÂ’ll be pleasantly surprised and a lot more confident going into next season.

I still think Martinez is the right man to take us forward. Cue backlash.

COYB.

Jeff Hughes
4 Posted 23/03/2015 at 13:00:22
I donÂ’t mind people having the view that Martinez Â’is the right man to take us forwardÂ’ but I would like some attempt to justify how that conclusion can be reached when he has allowed a strong Premier League squad to go hurtling backwards this year.

He has some serious questions to answer in terms of team selection, balance of team, possession philosophy, fitness, and why he continues to insult the fans with banal press conferences.

Reg Gates
5 Posted 23/03/2015 at 13:02:18
Where ever we end up above the bottom three will be down to luck .Luck being we have three teams that are worst than Everton. Eight wins all season and heÂ’s maybe there next season.

Get rid,start again, it has to be better.

P.S. QPR were a better than on the day. Bill, grow some.

Jay Harris
6 Posted 23/03/2015 at 13:50:09
Ditto, Jeff.

RM has systematically undone all the foundations and organization that Moyes put in place.

The players are confused, demotivated, unfit and disorganised.

Martinez should have been sacked for losing every game over Xmas let alone the amateur hour preseason.

The "Wiganisation" of EFC continues for now.

Barry Pearce
7 Posted 23/03/2015 at 14:03:09
Martinez is not good enough to manage Everton FC.
Simple as that.
Ross Edwards
8 Posted 23/03/2015 at 14:10:19
Completely agree with Jay and Jeff. I have seen nothing this season to suggest that Martinez is the right man. ThereÂ’s no plan in place, no playing structure, no organisation like there was under Moyes.

Like Jay says, he has completely dismantled the structure of the Moyes era and instead introduced a system based on the chaos theory. Players crammed out of position, all put in any old place in his system which doesnÂ’t fit the players available.

Unless he changes and adapts like Van Gaal and Rodgers have done, and not be stubborn and one dimensional, next season is going to be more of the same. Favourites prioritised, sideways passing, delusional press conferences.

Mike Childs
9 Posted 23/03/2015 at 14:33:51
Great report Lyndon. I can feel the what-ifs I missed yesterday.
Roger Helm
10 Posted 23/03/2015 at 15:55:56
Martinez reminds me of the story when West Ham were getting, well, hammered, at Anfield and Ron Greenwood was shouting at his players to apply the principles and Bob Paisley turns to Bill Shankly and says "I think we’re in trouble, Boss – they’re going to start applying the principles."
Clive Mitchell
11 Posted 23/03/2015 at 17:13:46
David Moyes brought some absolute gems to the club for precious little money. I remember being really disappointed that Per Krøldrup turned out to be a disaster as I trusted Moyes by then.

This summer is MartinezÂ’s big test. Our squad needs so much work, and there are so many players out of contract by summer 2016, that heÂ’ll have to prioritise and make some big judgements.

The test of his judgements and management will be next seasonÂ’s results. IÂ’m not confident, and I canÂ’t see why anyone would be.

David Holroyd
12 Posted 23/03/2015 at 17:42:30
Even if we were to win the rest of the games Martinez should go. We have been off the pace all season long. We were lucky yesterday.

The players were relieved we won, as we all were. We had the strongest squad we've had for years or so we thought. But we look under prepared and not very well coached and unfit. Some players haven't hardly played all season. Competition is what keeps players on their toes and we don't have enough of that.

If as I suspect he stays there is quite a lot of work to do as there are a lot of players past their sell by dates: Howard, Alcaraz, Hibbert, Distin, to name but a few.

Ben Dyke
13 Posted 23/03/2015 at 17:46:12
Is it possible that the players are being "over-coached" by Martinez with his "philosophy" when they would rather play more naturally, as we have seen a bit more recently. Martinez reminds me of the class swot that no-one really respects because he basically talks a load of complicated nonsense that no-one understands and thinks he is really cool because of it.
Steve Davies
14 Posted 23/03/2015 at 20:22:36
All the fans who want Martinez to be in post next season please nail your colours to the mast? Please sell him to me, and give some evidence for your views.

We are all passionate Bluenoses and the reason we are on this site is that we genuinely love this club. We all have different opinions and they should be respected because we travel home and away and want the same thing.

Let us just write this season off.

All the anti Martinez people and I am one of them (but wanted him appointed by the way) continue to give a list of reasons why we think he is not up to the job.

Those of us who want him to be there next season please tell us why? And give us the evidence and reasons why? The ball is in your court fellas....

COYB

Joe Clitherow
16 Posted 23/03/2015 at 22:51:18
Good posts, Jeff and Jay, and good post Steve.

Steve, I would add to your challenge the omissions of the words/phrases "If he can", "hopefully", "I hope" and/or "I believe".

Jay Woods
17 Posted 23/03/2015 at 23:13:18
Clive Mitchell, "this summer is Martinez's big test"? No it isn't; this season, the one we've just flushed down the toilet, was his big test and he failed it miserably.

The debacle over his World Cup credentials being loaned to some nobody, the basking in ESPN punditry when he should have been back home ensuring we had a pre-season, the Orwellian re-framing of every appalling performance as a positive, paying too much for Lukaku and saying he would pay many times more if he had to... It's like we're being managed by someone high on crack.

I know my dystopian wish will never come true: that Martinez and Kenwright be stripped to the waist and carted round Liverpool in stocks so that they can be pelted with rotten produce by the baying masses before finally being horsewhipped out of town, flayed and jibbering with terror.

Short of that, I would settle for Martinez's resignation or sacking.

Phil Sammon
19 Posted 23/03/2015 at 23:54:30
I think many people would be more willing to give Martinez next season if he just talked some sense. If he explained some of his actions rather than filibustering. His exaggerations, his 'glass always full' nature and his use of superlatives are all irksome... but his repeated contradictions and outright lies of what is going on on the pitch are frankly insulting to our intelligence.

I used to think Martinez was a very likeable man. The longer this goes on, the more I find myself loathing him as a person. I didn't think I'd be saying that 12 months ago.

Steve Davies
20 Posted 23/03/2015 at 23:58:06
OK now, lads, we know that Martinez is rubbish – let's make it a bit light-hearted. I have kids, two Blues and a Red (proper scouse family). To be honest my Red can't be arsed, why are the Blues so fanatical!?!

The best thing I bought this weekend is a dart board with the full rubber mat. My kids, Chris (Blue), Tommy (Red), and our Becky, love it. Our inspiration was Lee Mack and Tim VIne, and I feel very positive and I got a 120 and have a lot of momentum.

Seriously, it takes the kids off the mobiles and X-boxes etc... starting to act as a family, we talk. Add to the equation I got a download of Sid Waddell quotes, brilliant, "He's like a wasp on speed." Better quotes than RM.

Big point to make, and I have found out tonight that we are related to Mavers lot in Kirkby "There She Goes" – the La's. Why do we play Oasis at half-time?

I like Oasis, but don't we do music in this city? Play scouse bands...

Phil Sammon
21 Posted 24/03/2015 at 00:23:36
Stick to snooker, Steve.
Steve Davies
22 Posted 24/03/2015 at 00:29:43
I agree with you Phil. I should stick to snooker. I do remember that my Uncle Brian in Litherland 30 years ago, who knew the lad's dad said there is a lad in Bootle, plays the Coral, who would be world champion one day!! What ever happened to John Parrot!!! Even related to Duncan.

Just trying to be light hearted. Just hurting being a blue at the moment!!!

Michael Winstanley
23 Posted 24/03/2015 at 04:07:43
We’ve missed a creative edge to our play, Gibson, Osman and Pienaar have been a huge miss. Mirallas had a decent 45 against West Ham in the cup but has been largely missing. Barkley???

We’ve not had a fine selection of wingers to choose from, who can remember back to seeing the dream line up, Barkley, Eto’o, Lukaku and Naismith all starting. Shame that bugger never worked.

I didn’t think we started that badly, just lacked the mental sharpness to play for 90 mins coupled with Howard and few others having more than the odd shocker, Howard especially. Crystal Palace where he dropped the ball on the lads head to score will stay with me forever.

Remember the run of games where we played okay but got robbed blind by the refs.

Europe showed us at our best but we couldn’t replicate it in the league. United away, Baines misses that pen and we go and lose the game, a game we could have easily won were it not for De Gea. And we lost Stones.

We’ve seen the development of some young players, Besic, Garbutt, Robles and Browning have all figured whilst Lukaku and Stones continue to improve.

Martinez’s choice to rotate the squad for much of the season has backfired somewhat, whilst I like his idea that we learn to use the squad to cope with demands of Europe and Sunday football, we’ve been unable to click into a groove. Talk of player unrest and the quick ’cheerio’ to Eto’o would suggest he may not have been the gift we all hoped for, nice to have seen him play in blue all the same.

There is no doubt this season has been an epic failure but there is huge potential within this squad. Howard, Distin, Mirallas, Pienaar, Hibbert, Alcaraz, Kone and Atsu (why?) should go in the summer. I’d even be tempted to sell Baines.

That’s a lot of players to replace but we’ve seen Garbutt and Browning step up this season, hopefully there will be another couple to make the grade this summer. We need a decent winger or two, a creative la in the middle, another striker and a new keeper.

Martinez is a very positive man, even last season I’d had enough of his guff but then I realised that’s just how he is. He’s definitely felt the pressure of the home crowd and whilst we’re not playing any where near the standard of last season we’ve started to win games again.

Given the circumstances of our season, the individual errors, the bizarre team selections, the injuries and the lack of confidence is Martinez the man to hold it together and turn it around?

I think (hope) so, I believe the players want to play for him. I think the club as a whole buys into his ideology of progression through youth and the academy graduates.

Without European football I expect us (with the right signings) to challenge the top six next year. But if we start gash then job him off after 10 games.

Dave Richman
24 Posted 24/03/2015 at 05:57:32
Steve asked for pro-Martinez fans to give reasons why they want him around net season (I am not one by the way!).

According to a great many of the pro-RM faction on Facebook (with whom I have given up attempting to debate), we had a 'great' season in 2013-14, and a 'bad' season now, so that makes it all square... 1-1 if you like. So that makes next season 'the decider'.

Astonishing logic..... I will give that a bash with the powers that be at work if I should make a monumental cock-up one day, "Well that was a total catastrophe which almost took the company down but you have to remember that I was excellent last year and we made a profit! So we have a 50/50 chance that I will be good again next year. Increase my budget dramatically and we'll hope for the best."

Phil Sammon
25 Posted 24/03/2015 at 06:49:03
'I think the club as a whole buys into his ideology of progression through youth and the academy graduates.'

Where are all these academy players that are being blooded this season? Garbutt has played when there was no alternative. Rightly or wrongly he's straight out of the team when Baines is fit. Browning has sat on the sidelines watching Alcaraz make a mockery of defending. Not an 'academy player' obviously but Robles too was thrust into the spotlight as an emergency measure only to be dislodged by the 'experienced' Howard.

This season not a single young player has emerged and established themselves. That might have been acceptable if the first team were performing... but just about every player has warranted being dropped at one point or another.

ANOTHER black mark against the boss's name.

Joe Clitherow
26 Posted 24/03/2015 at 07:40:06
The type of mass clear out and corresponding replacement people are advocating here invariably results in the collapse of a team. It takes at least a season or two to gel, look how long it took Man City's millions to work together even when you buy world class players. That's if I trusted Martinez's judgement in the first place (I don't) and why the upcoming transfer window is possibly our most important ever. I don't want RM anywhere near us in the summer, he could cripple us for years.

All this does is highlight even more the complete dereliction of duty in Martinez's watch in not planning ahead and secure replacements who are gradually brought on.

Jay Woods
27 Posted 24/03/2015 at 08:59:38
I now have to conclude that Evertonians are neither born nor manufactured; rather, we are simply certified, and Goodison Park is an open air lunatic asylum where we are herded to be regularly humoured by the sane majority of British society.
Michael Polley
28 Posted 24/03/2015 at 11:44:53
This summer will be an indication of RM's ability to rebuild & remotivate our wee team. Does he have the ability? I have my doubts. I've lost all trust in him.

There is a lot of deadwood and over-the-hill players to offload, and these need to be replaced by some quality players. Difficult to replace 6/7 players.

Martinez also needs to rethink his management philosophy & decision-making. He needs to be willing to change, and have a Plan B up his sleeve. Something that was lacking this season.

Patrick Murphy
29 Posted 24/03/2015 at 12:05:00
Roberto's second season 2010-11 at Wigan started poorly; part of the match report from their League Cup tie against Hartlepool in August 2010 follows:.

Wigan's under-fire boss Roberto Martinez had made six changes to the side hammered 6-0 by Chelsea on Saturday and his players gave him the result he was looking for, even though the performance still left room for improvement.

They rallied and managed to retain their place in the top division but the following season 2011-12:

Wigan Athletic had a struggling season. They spent much of the season in the relegation zone and often at the bottom too. They had eight consecutive losses, between 10 September and 6 November, until earning a draw against fellow struggles Blackburn Rovers on 19 November.

Given that Roberto's teams tend to start slowly in the Premier League and gradually improve towards the end of the campaign, this is a worrying yet familiar pattern.

Still we'll all know by the end of October 2015 if the man has learned anything and we'll have to hope that he does or another campaign will turn to dust and we'll all be another year older and even more frustrated...

Given that Mr Kenwright must have known deep down that David Moyes would not sign a new contract, it looks like he didn't do anything to find a replacement until Mr Moyes decided to leave; I wonder if he wishes he had done a little more homework?

Tim Michael
30 Posted 24/03/2015 at 17:30:20
Patrick #29
As always, your comments are pretty exact. There is a worrying trend to everything that Martinez does with a team. Those of you who watched Sunday Supplement last Sunday will have seen a mini assessment of Martinez, post Kiev. One of the journos said that very same thing as Patrick. EFC beginning to morph into Wigan, losing a run of games and leaking goals. Winning EFC sides this season (and they have been few) have come in spite of Martinez rather than because of him. The enforced removal of Barry has brought almost half of the wins. Martinez refused to consider supporting Lukaku upfront but in the end had to concede to changing to a two man attack to get a much needed win somewhere. Also the mixed messages coming from Martinez about the latest injuries is also worrying. Describing the Lakaku injury he said that it could be cramp when it was evidently clear his sprint had stretched his hamstring.

If things don't change, the writing will be back on the wall again in the autumn

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