If Everton’s free-flowing attacking that yielded a burst of three goals against Crystal Palace last weekend both delighted and engendered fresh optimism for the Frank Lampard project, it was also rare.

Among the lowest-scoring teams in the division, Everton’s season has been defined in large parts by their inability to score on a regular basis, so while this clash with a fairly porous but free-scoring Fulham promised goals, it didn’t end up producing any even if this was anything but a bore draw.

There were 33 shots at goal between the two sides, 10 on target and good saves from both goalkeepers, although it was Jordan Pickford who was the busier and called upon for the more spectacular stops as both defences held during a hectic spell in the first quarter of the contest.

Despite some decent openings, which, in particular, saw Demarai Gray sternly test Bernd Leno with a strong drive in the sixth minute and Dominic Calvert-Lewin go agonisingly close in the 20th, Everton were frequently found wanting in the final third. There was ever-present threat from the Blues on the counter but in the first half the execution wasn’t always there and increasingly as the match wore on, merely getting it to the attackers full stop was a problem.

Nathan Patterson made a welcome return to the matchday squad but Lampard kept faith with his starting XI, retaining captain Seamus Coleman in an unchanged line-up. It was a decision made easier, perhaps, by the Scot’s four-week lay-off and the need to ease him back into action but Coleman, so impressive against Wilfried Zaha last week, struggled at times to contain ex-Blue, Antonee Robinson down the Cottagers’ left flank.

Patterson’s own display when he came with a little over an hour gone betrayed a touch of rust but will have found the minutes valuable in the context of a possible return to the starting line-up next weekend against Leicester City.

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In the meantime, both Fulham and Everton made an enterprising and entertaining start to the contest, with the visitors, in particular, looking to be very much in the mood to try and grab an early goal.

Calvert-Lewin just failed to connect with Gray with a cut-back in the box and Anthony Gordon had a half-volley charged down before Gray collected a cross from Vitalii Mykolenko following a corner and smashed a rasping, rising shot that Leno had to push over the bar in the sixth minute.

Pickford had to be alert to pull off an even better stop at the other end to fingertip Willian’s effort over and, from the resulting corner, Pickford had to tip the ball behind again as Aleksander Mitrovic rose to header towards the top corner.

That set-piece ended with Pickford palming a shot from Harrison Reed over and Calvert-Lewin was on hand to clear the ball away from his own goal line as the visitors refused to buckle under the pressure.

Everton’s best chance came in the 20th minute as Gray whipped a dangerous ball in behind the Fulham defence, Calvert-Lewin could only get a glancing touch on it with his shin and the ball flashed past Gordon at the far post.

Reed’s deflected shot fell to Pickford on the half-hour mark while Conor Coady could only steer a volley at the keeper off another Mykolenko cross, Tarkowski steered a free header straight at Leno and Gordon wasted a decent chance towards the end of the half when he lashed over.

The second half began with a check by the Video Assistant Referee after Willian went down in the box under the attentions of Idrissa Gueye but, sensibly, no penalty was given and Pickford was called into duty five minutes later to push away a shot from the Brazilian winger after Mitrovic had headed over.

Amadou Onana had a shot following a corner that dribbled agonisingly wide just before the hour before the game began to tilt in Marco Silva’s side’s favour. However, Fulham were restricted to mere half chances as Mitrovic, who had 10 shots in all on the day, miscued again with a volley and a half-volley and Tarkowski did brilliantly to get across to block an effort from substitute Tom Cairney.

Pickford was called upon to save once more from Willian and James Garner, on for Gueye, made a vital interception in his own box as Everton held out for the point.

Being the only side to hold Fulham goalless at Craven Cottage so far this season demonstrates the extent to which Lampard and Kevin Thelwell have addressed the defensive issues that plagued the Toffees last season. In putting dependable, throw-yourself-at-everything characters like Coady and Tarkowski in front of the excellent Pickford alongside another superb last-ditch defender in Mykolenko (who was outstanding on the day), Everton aren’t conceding many goals.

It’s going forward, particularly away from home, that presents the next challenge. Whether the manager has enough reliable outlets in that area of the pitch is doubtful; whether it’s something with which he can coach his way to success or will need to address via the transfer market remains to be seen.

For now, though, Lampard’s men are continuing to pick up points on the road where they would have lost last season and that continues to bode well for mid-table safety this term rather than another scrap to avoid the drop.

Reader Comments (11)

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Martin Mason
1 Posted 30/10/2022 at 17:23:46
For once I'm really looking forward to next week. Leicester is a good side still and Rogers is no idiot. We've now had a good win against Palace who are above us and a great draw against a free scoring Fulham side.

Believe me these are good results and next week will give us a good idea of where we are. I'd say we're improving well and that the side is gelling and will get better.

The other important thing is that the coaching team is learning, we have a functioning DoF and the owner and Chairman are doing what they need and that is being in the background.

Tony Everan
2 Posted 30/10/2022 at 17:50:13
Better to build off solid foundations and that’s what Frank and Thelwell are doing. Frank sorting the team out is a process and it’s in the early stages. They’ve had one real transfer window and have bought well considering the restrictions.

I think it’s often better reflect the next day to give a more balanced view. I thought it was pretty even first half, second half we wilted apart from our defence. A point was well earned by those defenders.

It’s good news now that all focus and funds can be targeted at a quality forward player. Thelwell seems very capable and having just one player to find will be a tonic for him after the summer’s workload. This gives me cause for optimism that we may even get that player in January. If not, for sure in June.

For now though hard fought draws away from home and home wins like last week’s against Crystal Palace represent welcome progress.

Si Pulford
3 Posted 30/10/2022 at 18:57:39
Rome wasn't built in a day. Given they're above the likes of Liverpool, West Ham and Brighton (wouldn't we take a point at these three?) then it's a good point.

We're looking so much more solid and the mentality has totally changed. Kudos to Thelwell and Lampard for being the first since Moyes to spot it and sort it. No sentiment. They've bought in leaders and are happy to build from that point.

That probably means some attritional wins, draws away from home and the odd disappointment along the way. But the plan is obvious.

The next stage in the plan is undoubtedly the hardest. Adding an attacking player or players that are better than what we have, we can afford and want to come to us.

In January if we can crack that conundrum then amazing. However, if we have to wait to get the right player and endure a season where we stay up in lower mid table then we need to remember one thing. And that is that at the beginning of the season we all expected a tough season and another relegation scrap. We would have taken survival at any costs in a heartbeat.

So if we stay up relatively comfortably without risking a January signing and wait till the summer for a better player then that's what we do.

Either way as long as we're not in a relegation scrap it's part one of the plan accomplished.

Brian Murray
4 Posted 30/10/2022 at 19:06:48
The players we are linked with have since made a name for themselves so probably out of reach so January as good a time as any if we have someone even a bit raw lined up in the £15 to 20 million range. Si, as you say, this is the trickiest part. I'm sure he has something ready.
Chris Leyland
5 Posted 30/10/2022 at 20:39:05
If you follow ‘the other 14' on Twitter you will see that we are currently 3rd in the table for ‘the other 14' which is Premier League minus the so-called big 6 in terms of a baseline tracker.

The baseline is that all the other 14 teams win all their home games and lose their away games to everyone else in the 14 teams and that you lose home and away to the ‘big 6'. A team's baseline is therefore 39 points.

Brighton and Newcastle are currently top with +6 points against this baseline as to their points total to date and we follow with plus 5 so far. This has us on track to finish 9th.

Yes, we all know that football doesn't work like that but it is a good barometer of how teams are performing. We are doing alright.

Jim Bennings
6 Posted 30/10/2022 at 21:07:20
A good solid point away at a really tough venue against a very in form team.

Our defense is fine this season and as soon as we signed Coady and Tarkowski we knew what kind of stubborn unit we'd be.

When you contrast that to the last 18 months and the amount of times we conceded 3 or 4 in one half of football.

The biggest challenge now though is to somehow find some better attacking players.

I don't think we really have the answers to more goals and productivity currently within our squad roster.

We juggle McNeil, Gordon, Gray ect ect but it falls down to an all too familiar lack of quality end product and poor decision making.

The central midfield also lacks creativity, as good as Iwobi has been, he needs someone there that can take off that burden.

Onana and Gana will not create or score this season in likelihood.

We are crying out for a Tim Cahill type midfielder, or a Gylfi Sigurdsson even and James Rodriguez.

If we can take six points from these next two games before the farcical winter World Cup break then we can sit comfortable.

Callum Jones
7 Posted 31/10/2022 at 01:50:45
Good point. We were awful 2nd half but got away with it. Too many holes in our midfield at times I thought, and they enjoyed it down our right hand side too often.

Gordon was atrocious – does he believe his own hype? It doesn't look good with reports he's demanding £100k and given his output, he's not even worth half that.

I thought Frank tried to push Iwobi on in the Number 10 but we lacked creativity and our front 3 couldn't keep the ball.

Sean Roe
8 Posted 31/10/2022 at 05:21:50
A point away from home is always a good result. The table is so close this season so far and these single points are precious.

Like virtually everybody has already said, defensively we are looking much, much better. Going forwards, particularly away from home, not so much. Hopefully that will come as we add attacking pieces to the jigsaw.

I would start giving McNeil some game time instead of Gordon. Presumably he was brought in to supply the ammo for Calvert-Lewin, let's see what he can do.

Si Pulford
9 Posted 31/10/2022 at 13:54:29
Good point about McNeil. I don't think he's started a game with Calvert-Lewin yet.

On another point. Gordon is a younger player and will have dips. We need to stick with him. He's not playing as well as last season but had more output and is our top scorer.

Funny old game, etc.

Rob Halligan
10 Posted 31/10/2022 at 20:54:46
That Dermot Gallagher on Ref Watch is one prize dickhead. What exactly does he mean by this…

"I didn't think it was a red card on Saturday and I still don't," Gallagher told Sky Sports.

"He goes in and it doesn't look nice but I think both players are reaching for the ball. The thing that helps Mitrovic is that he comes in from a short distance so he hasn't got the momentum or the intensity and therefore it lacks the impact. I think it's what I would call a strong yellow card. Not a nice challenge but not enough to go into a red card."

So distance now comes into it. Surely the shorter the distance the greater the intensity and the impact. If someone stands about two feet away from you and launches themselves at your ankle, it is going have a greater impact than someone who stands about five yards away and takes a running jump at you.

For one, you can probably see someone coming at you like Hong Kong Phooey, and can get out the way, whilst someone coming at you from two feet… well you've got no chance.

That was a red card all day long.

Tony Everan
12 Posted 01/11/2022 at 19:12:47
Agree, Rob, the really bad ones make you want to look away, it was in that category for me. It was a dangerous challenge, Gana was very lucky that didn't cause big damage to his leg or ankle ligaments. More than 50% of the time, that tackle would cause a player to be substituted and be out for weeks at least.

At least our midfielders now know what they can get away with for a yellow card. Problem is, one of ours would probably be sent off on Saturday if they did that to Maddison.

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