It might have all been a bit good to be true but during an encouraging first half at Turf Moor, with the team a goal to the good thanks to Cenk Tosun’s first for the club, Gylfi Sigurdsson playing centrally, two strikers on the pitch and the attacking unit creating chances, it felt as though Everton might finally win another away game.
After all, despite their hugely impressive first half of the season, Burnley hadn’t won in 12 games, had never come back from a goal down to win under Sean Dyche and, lacking confidence, could have been killed off before half time.
With better finishing, from Theo Walcott in particular, they might well have been but that would, of course, have been papering over the multitude of cracks that exist in this team under Sam Allardyce. And, frankly, while safety from relegation looks likely, exposing them — leading, you would hope, to them being addressed by the Blues’ hierarchy — is a needed by-product and agent for change coming out of these defeats.
Ultimately, Everton’s attacking posture and ascendency in this game were an illusion. Dominic Calvert-Lewin may be a striker but he wasn’t really deployed as such, spending most of his time on the left flank and leaving Tosun isolated for long stretches.
And Allardyce’s side were never really in control of proceedings. Not that they necessarily needed to be, of course; as the manager said after the game, had his players taken their chances we might have been looking at a very different outcome. Everton might at least have gained the point Allardyce no doubt came to claim given how little answer the Blues had to Dyche’s shift in personnel and tactics after half time.
And therein lies the rub. Despite Allardyce’s reputation for back-to-basics coaching, emphasis on defending and love of clean sheets, this Everton team too often fails with the basics when it comes to opposition teams scoring. They conceded two poor goals, one from open play and another from a set-piece, and were it not for Jordan Pickford — how often has that been said this season — it might have been more.
The return of Seamus Coleman, a start for Tosun and that nod to a two-striker line-up at least gave cause for optimism before kick-off for the travelling Blues who had braved the frigid conditions to pack the away end. Coleman didn’t have the best of games, it should be said, but Tosun’s outing was hugely encouraging, at least in the first half.
The Turkish international was lively, fleet of foot and good value for the goal he scored with 20 minutes gone at the end of a nice Everton move. Sigurdsson, whose terrific footwork had earlier fashioned a great chance that Walcott snatched off the arriving boot of Tom Davies, held off his marker well to exchange passes with the former Gunner whose cross was flicked on by Coleman. Tosun met it expertly with a powerful, guided header past Nick Pope in the Burnley goal.
Further chances presented themselves as Everton showed rare appetite on the counter attack, particularly through Walcott but Tosun had a weak effort saved and Walcott himself was closed down by Pope after a mis-kick by James Tarkowski. The best of them before half-time again came as the result of the Tosun-Walcott combination, this time with the striker turning provider with a lovely ball bent behind the Burnley defence but while Walcott’s first touch was a masterful one to evade the nearest defender, his shot didn’t have enough on it to beat the ‘keeper.
Dyche’s men, for their part, had been showing enough threat at the other end for Allardyce and his players to take heed. Jack Cork had skied a decent opening over the bar after Aaron Lennon had skinned Cuco Martina and Johann Gudmundsson had seen a couple of shots blocked in front of goal before Pickford pulled off an excellent reaction save to push Ashley Barnes’s close-range header away to safety.
And Burnley made good on those threats in the second half after Dyche withdrew Jeff Hendrick and replaced him with tall striker Chris Wood to further test the shaky central defensive pairing of Ashley Williams and Michael Keane.
Lennon forced a flying save from Pickford early in the half and the Everton ‘keeper had to get a strong hand to Ben Mee’s header from the resulting corner, although his failure to push it over the bar gave Wood a chance but he headed over.
But the equaliser came when neither of the visitors’ centre halves picked up the run of Barnes through the middle and James Lowton picked the striker’s run with a well-weighted ball that left Keane trailing in his wake. Unfortunately, Pickford hesitated on his line, leaving too much for Barnes to aim at and he rapped it home to make it 1-1.
Allardyce replaced the struggling Davies with Wayne Rooney and then took Tosun off in favour of Oumar Niasse but the initiative and the momentum had been ceded to Burnley. Everton spent much of the second period on the back foot and Pickford had to use all the experience gleaned from the circumstances around Burnley’s first goal to come off his line and block Barnes’s effort from an almost carbon-copy chance.
Yet the one clear-cut chance Everton did carve out through Sigurdsson could have been enough to see them over the line had it gone in. Sigurdsson danced around Lowton as he collected Mee’s attempted clearance in the box but his clipped shot back across Pope missed the far post.
Two minutes later, after another Lennon effort had deflected behind off Rooney, Burnley scored the winner in galling fashion. Adopting what appeared to be a flawed zonal marking approach to the set-piece, Keane and Williams left Wood completely unmarked at the back post which allowed the New Zealand international the freedom to leap above the former and head home.
Not for the first time since he arrived in November, Allardyce’s response, the substitution of Sigurdsson, Everton’s most creative player and set-piece king, was mystifying. Yannick Bolasie came on to fling a series of aimless crosses into Pope’s arms as the Blues’ challenge petered out.
There was still time for Williams to put one more stain on an awful performance from him when he was shown a straight red card for throwing an elbow towards Barnes’s face with five minutes to go. He was booed from the field by the away fans and Allardyce would suffer the same fate at the full-time whistle following a sixth defeat away from home on the trot.
With this ugly loss and many of the almost 3,000 Evertonians in the David Fishwick Stand serenading him with the chant of “fuck off, Sam Allardyce” following one of his substitutions, there is surely no way back for the manager with the supporters. Out-thought and out-maneouvred by Dyche, he had no effective answer as the match slipped from his team's grasp.
Next weekend offers the prospect of a home win that he will point to as evidence of improvement but his categorical failure to find any way of winning away games, many of them against teams struggling for form, has, hopefully, killed off his chances of remaining at the Blue helm beyond May.
While that remains short of a certainty, the anxiety and the mounting toxicity towards him among the fans will continue. Mauricio Pochettino was recently quoted as saying that once the fans don’t want you, you only cause damage to the club if you stay. Allardyce may not want to heed that advice but it behooves the Everton Board to do so. Again, you trust they are already making plans…
Cenk Tosun and Calvert-Lewin started in Everton's televised Saturday lunchtime trip to Burnley but another chance to improve on their horrendous away record lay in runs after Sean Dyche inspired his players to a winning second-half performance that Everton and the increasingly beleaguered Allardyce could do nothing to reverse.
Seamus Coleman returned to the starting line-up with Leighton Baines on the bench after a long injury layoff, where he joined Rooney, Holgate, Niasse and Schneiderlin, while Cuco Martina continued at left-back. Jonjoe Kenny was not in the squad.
Michael Keane returned to Turf Moor for the first time since joining Everton last summer, and is paired with Ashley Williams in defence, with Phil Jagielka rested. Aaron Lennon plays for Burnley.
Burnley kicked off but got little change from Everton who showed some early intent from both Walcott and Davies getting forward but the first attempt was deflected and half-blocked off Coleman. Then a threatening cross from the Burnley right was defended away by the Blues.
Some stuttering interplay from Tosun, Sigurdsson and Calvert-Lewin saw a great cross in from Sigurdsson but no takers in the Burnley area. Burnley responded but Gudmundsson screwed his shot well wide as the home side made more of the early running.
Tosun and Calvert-Lewin paired up nicely down the right and Tosun danced through to the byeline, pulling back brilliantly where Walcott and Davies both went for the opening goal, Davies skying it in the end as neither would yield. An incredible chance squandered.
Burnley did likewise at the other end, their fast running setting up Cork who blazed over. They came even closer, Pickford's finger-tip intervention touching the ball away from Barnes right in front of the open Everton goal.
Sigurdsson swung in a decent ball and, off a subsequent phase, Walcott crossed well, the ball skipping off Coleman's head, sitting up perfectly for Tosun to power a brilliant header inside the post and well away from Pope in the Burnley goal.
The goal gave the Blues something to play for but mistakes in passing gave up any initiative and DCL chased a ball, lunging in, getting a silly booking. Walcott broke from another threatening attack by Burnley, driving forward but passing behind Tosun, who did well to return the ball to Walcott, who got close to Pope but would not use his left foot.
A fantastic save by Pickford off Barnes at the other end saved a certain goal after a great cross from Lennon, as the quality of football threatened to upset all the predictions of a dour affair among these satanic Lancastrian mills. Walcott won a corner that came out to Gueye for his usual useless attempt at a shot, well wide.
A fumble by Pickford almost allowed Barnes in to chip over him. The ball went back down the other end, where Walcott could not connect properly, and straight back the other way, Barnes lashed a shot well within Pickford's saving range. Losing count of the number of shots from each side...
Gudmundsson swung in a good free-kick that Lennon and Mee somehow failed to put in the Everton net, Pickford falling on the loose ball gratefully. At the other end, Davies tried to go for glory from 30 yards out but did not curl it enough.
Things got a little scrappy toward the end of a very open and relatively entertaining first half, Barnes getting more physical with Keane, who had won every defensive header so far.
Sean Dyche put a second striker in Wood, replacing Hendrick after the break. Wood won an early corner pressurising Keane. Something of a scramble as the ball pinged around but was finally cleared from the Everton area, but then recycled and a great chance for Lennon, a superb shot that Pickford saved brilliantly. From the corner, Mee headed onto the Everton crossbar via another fingertip save and Woods powered the rebound over.
Everton struggled to put a boot on the ball as it zipped around the midfield with innumerable turnovers. Tosun was fouled, giving Sigurdsson a chance to swing the ball in but Williams fails to connect with what should have been a goalscoring chance.
A ball behind the Everton defence fell perfectly for Barnes who skinned Keane and fired past Pickford. Far too easy for the home side, who had come out storming since the break and brushed Everton aside.
In an attempt to stem the relentless tide, Allardyce put Rooney on in place of Davies. But Burnley swarmed forward again and almost got a second. Everton won a corner but put no pressure on Pope's goal.
Burnley attacked again and an identical move almost gave Burnley their second via Wood but this time Pickford came off his line to narrow the angle. Tosun was withdrawn for Niasse as Everton struggled to make any real impression in the second half.
Everton finally mounted an attack, thanks to determination from Walcott, but ended with a difficult shot skied by Niasse. But Niasse would force a corner. not a good enough delivery from Sigurdsson and Burnley surged upfield again.
Walcott crossed again but just too far in front of Sigurdsson as Rooney's influence, then a glorious chance for Sigurdsson that he jinked around the defender and side-footed wide instead of lashing it into the goal.
Back up the other end for a couple of Burnley corners, and from the second, so easy for Wood on the far post, Pickford completely blocked. Burnley had turned the game around, and Everton had a mountain to climb in the last 10 minutes.
The final change fro Everton was Bolasie for Sigurdsson, but Burnley were still calling the shots. Bolasie was blocked by Lowton, Rooney swingning in a ball that went over everyone, the ref blowing up and Williams shown a straight red card fro swinging his arm at Barnes! Absolutely stupid way to get sent off.
Everton still won a late corner but played straight into Pope's hands. Bolasie crossed in well enough but Pope again grabbed it out of the air. The ten men in Blue threw everything forward but it really didn't look like it would happen going into 3 mins of added time.
So, from a winning position, Everton could not contain the resurgent Claret-and-Blues after Dyche throwing a few teacups at half-time, and Allardyce's attempt at orchestrating attacking football lay in ruins.
Updated Everton get another chance to improve on their horrendous away record when they travel to Burnley this weekend.
The Blues are away from Goodison Park for the second successive game following last week's pitiful performance and defeat at Watford but will make the short trip to Turf Moor with their sights set on moving level with the Clarets on points in seventh place.
The prospect of finishing in the same place as last season, albeit with many points less, still seems improbable given how terrible Everton have been in 2017-18 but it remains achievable if Sam Allardyce can coax some form out of his charges.
Just two wins in 10 Premier League games since the 3-1 home win over Swansea City — not to mention one just win away from home all season — has heightened the frustration with the manager, his methods and his players and despite Burnley's own struggles since starting the campaign so positively, this weekend will not be an easy ride for Allardyce.
Sean Dyche's men haven't registered a home win since back-to-back victories over Watford and Stoke in December and they succumbed to Tottenham, Manchester United and Liverpool at Turf Moor in the interim but they remain tough to beat, particularly for clubs outside the top six. They also managed to frustrate Manchester City a month ago, holding the Champions-elect to a 1-1 draw.
Everton, meanwhile, haven't beaten Burnley on their patch since Samuel Eto'o was intermittently plying his trade in a No.5 jersey for the Toffees. The Cameroon legend came close to notching a hat-trick in this fixture three-and-a-half years ago but, somehow, you can't see the Blues' latest striking representative from the African continent being as deadly.
Fresh from the latest declaration by his manager that he was the most likely source of goals for Everton, Oumar Niasse had a particularly off day at Vicarage Road last Saturday and was replaced before an hour had elapsed by Cenk Tosun.
Though he wasn't able to make much of an impact himself, the new signing from Turkey was deemed by Allardyce to have played “reasonably” but whether that will be enough to earn him a start this weekend remains to be seen. More likely, if he is to make any changes, the manager will opt for the more physical and robust Dominic Calvert-Lewin in what he might expect to be a more “agricultural” contest than most.
Elsewhere in the side, if he stays true to his word regarding playing a settled line-up, the only changes could be determined by the injury situation at the back — specifically the availability of Seamus Coleman, Leighton Baines and Ramiro Funes Mori. All three would have been in with a shout of starting if they were passed fit, although they would pose risks being thrown straight in versus coming on as substitutes to build their fitness.
It appears as though Coleman and Baines are fit to play but Funes Mori still needs another U23s outing (one he didn't get earlier this week). Coleman would, obviously, replace Jonjoe Kenny, Baines would come in for Cuco Martina. Michael Keane, meanwhile, looks set to get the opportunity to play on his old stomping ground for the first time since he signed for Everton last summer.
Dyche, meanwhile, looks likely to have James Tarkowski and Chris Wood available while this weekend could come too soon for goalkeeper Tom Heaton.
Burnley, too, will have an opposition old boy in their ranks, with Aaron Lennon a possibility to either start or come off the bench. The winger hasn't scored in his four appearances so far… so expect him to bang one in at some stage!
Allardyce was very open last week in his keep-it-tight-and-nick-one approach, one that was undone by Troy Deeney's winner for Watford 11 minutes from time. It would be surprising if the criticism levelled at him since forces a change in his team's posture; more likely, he will send his troops out there with similar instructions, hoping to secure the points that would effectively guarantee survival in the next home game against Brighton.
Another defeat, however, would only ratchet up the discord among Blues supporters ahead of the return to Goodison next Saturday.
Kick-off: 12:30pm, Saturday 3 March, 2018
Referee: Chris Kavanagh
Last Time: Burnley 2 -1 Everton
Originally predicted line-up: Pickford, Kenny, Keane, Funes Mori, Martina, Gueye, Rooney, Davies, Schneiderlin, Walcott, Niasse
Revised predicted line-up: Pickford, Coleman, Keane, Williams Mori, Baines, Gueye, Rooney, Davies, Schneiderlin, Walcott, Niasse