What is it about Everton? Really, I'd absolutely love to know how they manage to not only beat us every time we go to Goodison Park in the league, but beat us so comprehensively. If we include the recent FA Cup defeat at the Stadium Of Light, that's two games in a row where we've been absolutely awful against the Toffees, and it's just not good enough.
Anyway, there's more like this, and match ratings, recap and other thoughts in the following match report. You won't enjoy it (unless you're an Everton fan maybe), but read it anyway...
Martin O'Neill didn't make quite as many changes as expected as only Nicklas Bendtner missed out with a back injury, replaced by David Vaughan as we went with five in midfield, withCraig Gardner the most advanced of the three in the middle. Phil Bardsley and Lee Cattermole both overcame knocks sustained in the 0-0 draw with Spurs on Saturday.
Everton, understandably with an eye on Saturday's FA Cup Semi-Final rested quite a few key names, including Leighton Baines, Sylvain Distin, Tim Cahill and Nikica Jelavic.
A very quiet opening to the game, both from the crowd and the teams as there was absolutely nothing to write home about in the opening fifteen minutes, the closest either side came to a moment of intrigue was when Stephane Sessegnon, on the counter attack couldn't escape the attentions of Marouane Fellaini, whilst for the home side James McFadden was nowhere near connecting with Tony Hibbert's high cross.
Lee Cattermole lasted 17 minutes before going in the book for a ridiculous challenge, having combined with Phil Bardsley to give the ball away in our own half. Cattermole flying in wildly on Steven Pienaar, and thankfully McFadden is no Leighton Baines, and the danger to Simon Mignolet's goal from the 25-yard free-kick was minimal.
It would be foolish to say Everton had done all the pressing during the first quarter of the game, but they'd certainly had more strikes at goal, and none more wasteful than Pienaar blazing over after 25 minutes after Magaye Gueye had danced through the defence to set up the South African midfielder.
With everyone being lulled into a sense of sleep by the display, there was a moment of magic on 35 minutes when Phil Bardsley's cross was met on the overhead kick by Stephane Sessegnon. It went wide, but in a first half devoid of creation and quality, it was nice to see some spark.
That was the standout moment of the half, and the last meaningful contribution from either side. Everton had the slight advantage you could say, but it was all very reminiscent of the Spurs game just gone, in which we surrendered the possession battle, but didn't look in danger of losing the game at the halfway stage.
Everton came out the better and on 50 minutes got the breakthrough from Magaye Gueye. A corner was never cleared properly and fell to Leon Osman. Osman struck the ball with venom, Mignolet couldn't hold it, and the French winger lashed home from a tight angle on the rebound with an unstoppable drive.
Phil Bardsley picked up a knock early in the second half, and following the goal he was replaced by Kieran Richardson. Richardson slotting into midfield while Craig Gardner dropped into right-back.
It did seem to spark us into life too, and while there wasn't the shots on target to particularly prove it, we at least began to spend prolonged spells in the Everton half of the field, typified in the 73rd minute when a goalmouth scramble afforded us one of the better opportunities. James McClean's cross caused all kinds of bother, substitute Ji Dong-Won had a nibble, as did Stephane Sessegnon, but Phil Jagielka managed to scramble clear with Tim Howard floundering.
Just as there was a glimmer of hope, two goals in just over a minute finished us off. First Steven Pienaar curled a lovely effort beyond Mignolet into the far corner, followed a minute later by Leon Osman with an identikit finish to really ram things down our throat.
At least that was it, Everton should be in cruise control and hopefully we wouldn't embarrass ourselves any further. Nope, Everton snatched a fourth goal when Pienaar, our main tormentor of the afternoon, wriggled past McClean and Richardson down the left hand side, he picked out substitute Victor Anichebe who, via a big deflection off Jack Colback, had the ball in the net.
Colback's wayward effort in the final moment of the game pretty much summed up our dismal performance. Nowhere near good enough or close enough to making it a game.
Team (Ratings in brackets)
Starting XI: Mignolet (5), Bardsley (5), Turner (6), Kilgallon (6), Colback (6), Larsson (5), Cattermole (5), Vaughan (5), Gardner (5), McClean (6), Sessegnon (6)
Subs Used: Richardson (6), Dong-Won (5), Wickham (5)
Man Of The Match: Matt Kilgallon - One of the annoying things about the match reports is that on days like this when nobody really deserves it, gotta give it to someone. Matt Kilgallon wins today's raffle.
Ont he plus side, at least we don't have to see Everton again now until August at the earliest, when hopefully we'll have got our act together and sorted things out a little, because surely this barren run against Everton can't continue. Even the law of averages says that we have to win eventually, right?
Well as for today's performance, we've praised O'Neill where need be, and often but today it was badly wrong from the team selection right down to those who were across the white line. We're by no means off the bandwagon, but today was a pathetic performance when a much changed Everton were there for the taking. We made it easy for them all afternoon.
It was as dismal as the 4-0 defeat at West Brom only a few months ago, and now we really have to bounce back with a huge bang against Wolves this coming Saturday. We can trot out the cliches about having two games in three days, its been a long season etc... it has been for Everton too, this was just pure rubbish.
All said and done though, as we said earlier, at least it's all done for the season now with Everton, and a big win against Wolves this weekend will right the ship once more.