A frustrating afternoon at a blustery Stadium Of Light as two alright teams played out what was in the end an 'alright' match. Certainly not the Christmas cracker we'd all hoped for, and a game that certainly could have been much different had it not been for Howard Webb seeing things which didn't exist.
Anyway, let's recap the action and dish out some ratings and so forth in out match report.
It was as you were for Sunderland we started with, and indeed had on the bench the exact same match squad which traveled to QPR during the week, we all hoped for a similar outcome.
The opening ten minutes provided half chances for both sides as at first David Vaughan slipped in Kieran Richardson, only for Tim Howard to smother.
Meanwhile at the other end Everton enjoyed the better of things slightly with a few chances. Tim Cahill squandered two chances, one a free header which he should have done better with and another which really should have been the opening goal when he caught Wes Brown flat-footed only to fire straight at Westwood.
Westwood was nearly made to look the fool minutes later. As said earlier, the wind was incredible around the Stadium Of Light and it caught hold of the ball and nearly, just nearly, looped over Westwood for the opener. A few let-offs, and not much created from our side of things.
Louis Saha was next to waste a chance, and was about the time when we started to come back into things. Certainly enough was enough as Titus Bramble headed down into the ground and into the welcoming arms of Howard.
Nicklas Bendtner, who had a turgid afternoon, went on to squander two decent chances after basically faffing about with the ball far too much, a touch or seven two much and the chance was gone. If only the lad was a tad more clinical he'd be one of the best around, sadly he isn't, and it's reflected in that he plays for us.
That previously mentioned header was to be the big man's last involvement, as he was replaced by Jack Colback. It seems to be some sort of injury as he went straight down the tunnel. Colback coming mean't some major reshuffling. Richardson to left-back, Colback to left-wing, Bardsley to right-back and John O'Shea into the middle with Wes Brown. Got that? Good.
It all paid off almost immediately anyway, as Bendtner won the ball in midfield for Sessegnon, and whilst he charged at the Everton defence, you awaited the shot. Good job he's cleverer than that and found Colback with the freedom of the eighteen-yard-box and via a deflection, the local lad scored his first goal for the club.
Perhaps a lucky break given the chances Everton wasted, but not one to grumble about at all. Everton tried in vain to reply. Royston Drenthe firing wide from distance, and Leon Osman doing similar, as the first half petered out with little fanfare.
Up at the break however, and although there was little to complain about there wasn't much great going on either. Generally everyone needed to step things up.
Phil Bardsley didn't come out for the second half forcing more of a re-shuffle. Craig Gardner's utility coming into play as he stepped in at right-back.
Little really happened as the second half started until Everton were awarded the most dubious of penalties. At the time, couldn't see why it was given. Even Howard Webb seemed unsure as he took an eternity to decide it was (apparently) a penalty. Following the failed protests of our players, and with Webb refusing to take the linesman's opinion into account (he didn't flag) Leighton Baines stepped up to smash into the top right corner as he usually does.
1-1 and it really shouldn't be. It should have galvinised us a little, but in honesty it never really came. Not entirely all our own fault as Everton were solid in defence and we just couldn't break them down. A succession of corners caused some panic for Tim Howard; one he flapped at under no real pressue, on another John O'Shea sent a header narrowly over.
Bendtner couldn't get much on a Jack Colback cross whilst Sessegnon's shot on the turn was blocked well. At the other end, Royston Drenthe showed Gardner a clean pair of heels and when he went down in the area under the mildest of contact you thought "Well, I've seen them given... unlike the one which was"...
On came James McClean with ten minutes to go to try and freshen things up a little, but no inspiration really came. McClean himself possibly had the best moment with his first few touches, beating two men before shooting wide.
The team continued to press... and press... and press but with Everton putting up a stubborn resistance, the breakthrough wouldn't come. A draw was very much settled for.
Team (Ratings in brackets)
Starting XI: Westwood (6); Bardsley (6), Brown (6), Bramble (7), O'Shea (7); Larsson (6), Cattermole (7), Vaughan (6), Richardson (6); Sessegnon (8), Bendtner (5)
Subs Used: Colback (7), Gardner (6), McClean (6)
Man Of The Match: Stephane Sessegnon - There really wasn't much to write home about in this game, but most of our rare "moments" came via Sessegnon. A few good runs, a few good shots. In fact he made a fair few tackles too. A game devoid of bright lights, Sess was the brightest. Special mention to Cattermole too. I thought he was much improved on his earlier form this season.
Feels slightly strange post-match. Such was the annoyance and level of sheer rubbish in Howard Webb's penalty award it almost feels like we got beat. However, we didn't, and whilst a draw doesn't do much for us position-wise in the league, it's still a good barometer of where we are as a club.
Sure, we'd have liked to win, and maybe slightly deserved to, but it wasn't to be. Not sure what else to say about Webb either. The penalty decision was awful, but then again we've had our share of dubious call's go for us, so unfortunately you've just got to accept them against you too.
Tough to take, but it's a point and another game out the way. Things will have to be kicked up a notch against Manchester City though, that's for sure.
Keep the faith.