West Ham United 1 - 1 Everton
When the post-mortem of this season is done and Everton have, perhaps, just missed out on the top four or a European place by a few points, it's games like this one, like the goalless draws at Swansea and Tottenham, and the ultimately unfulfilling Goodison derby that could be looked back upon as missed opportunities.
There is a maddening sense that this Everton side is playing within themselves at times, one fostered by an apparent lack of intensity and either the desire or ability to move up a gear and force the issue in order to win games they can and often should.
Maybe that's expecting too much – this was an away game after all against a team sitting four points above the Blues at the start of play – but, having gone into the half-time interval on a high note when Romelu Lukaku cancelled out Manuel Lanzini's sublime opener and then seen West Ham's main schemer, Dimitri Payet forced off through injury, it just felt as though all the conditions were there for an Everton victory.
If they were, Roberto Martinez's side failed to capitalise on them in what was, ultimately, a disappointing second half of precious few chances for either side. Indeed, both teams seemed at their most fluid when countering off the other's own attacks and stymied when the opposition had time to get men behind the ball and close off space and passing lanes.
For the Hammers, much of their joy coming forward ebbed away once Brendan Galloway had belatedly got to grips with Victor Moses down the home side's right flank. The Nigerian international had revelled in playing on the young defender's inexperience in the early going, drawing him into marking too tightly and then losing him in the space created behind. He fired the first chance of the game into the side-netting, drew a couple of fouls in dangerous areas midway through the first half and drove in the shot that ultimately led to Lanzini's goal.
Everton, meanwhile, occasionally looked dangerous on the break but struggled in their usual pedestrian manner to break down the opposition when they were back in their shape. Martinez had kept faith with the team that had done so well against Sunderland last Sunday, making the one change to that team by starting Galloway in place of the injured Bryan Oviedo, but he has been frustrated in his search for a line-up capable of delivering consistent results.
Like Steven Naismith before him, Arouna Kone was unable to build on the platform of a superb hat-trick and he was the one to make way for Kevin Mirallas with 25 minutes to go in the second half. Had the Mirallas that came on to such stunning effect in the FA Cup third round replay here in January made a reappearance, the Blues might indeed have claimed all three points today but the Belgian was unable to influence this contest to the same degree.
As it was, Mirallas's tame shot straight at Adrian in stoppage time and Lukaku's near miss from an excellent Galloway centre a few minutes earlier were as close as Everton came to winning it, while Winston Reid bulleted the Hammers' only real chance after the interval a foot over the bar with a header off a corner.
The best of the action came in the first period, one which West Ham started confidently but which Everton had largely wrested control of before the home side scored. The Blues had had an early claim for a penalty on Ramiro Funes Mori waved away by referee Peter Tierney, Galloway had finished off some neat interchanges between Lukaku and Kone by ballooning a shot well over, and Barkley's wonderful turn and shot had ended with him firing straight at the 'keeper from the edge of the box.
Arguably their best chance up to that point had come off a quick free kick, however, where Kone had the chance to play Lukaku in on goal but the Ivorian elected to shoot himself and he sliced wastefully wide.
They were beginning to tighten the screw a little when Gerard Deulofeu's mesmeric run to the byline forced a corner off the legs of Adrian. But once again the opportunity to put a ball into the box for one of Funes Mori, Lukaku or the imperious John Stones to attack was eschewed in favour of a shorter corner routine by Barkley to James McCarthy that was quickly closed down.
From the subsequent West Ham move, Lanzini scored the opening goal as, not for the first time, Payet exploited the ocean of space that regularly opened up in front of Galloway on Everton's left flank by clipping a ball out to Moses. The former Wigan and Chelsea man jinked his way inside and hammered a shot off Gareth Barry's arm that was prodded instinctively away by Stones, but only as far as Lanzini on the edge of the penalty area, from where the Argentine bent a "postage stamp" shot into the top corner.
Everton recovered, though, and levelled two minutes before the break with a goal wonderfully reminiscent of the fourth against Sunderland last weekend. Finding himself in a more central spot on this occasion, Deulofeu spotted Lukaku's run and threaded an inch-perfect ball between the two centre halves who were probably positioned as narrowly as they dared but powerless to prevent the Belgian from racing through, rounding Adrian and rolling the ball home in one fluid motion. In doing so, he equalled Bill Dean's record of seven consecutive goals against the same opposition.
It was a moment of quick-fire, rapier-like incision that was largely absent from the rest of Everton's performance and it meant that the large bank of vocal travelling fans had to be content with a point on a ground where three have become the norm in recent seasons. Once more Evertonian thoughts wandered back to the summer and the failure to land a genuine creative string-puller to either supplement or push Ross Barkley for his place, because this is an Everton side that can be lethal when it's in the mood or when it's driven by genuine inspiration. Unfortunately, while consistency and a reliable match-winner elude them, they're likely to keep falling just short.