Everton cruise past Blackburn as America awaits

Posted by Luke O'Farrell

Paul Thomas/Getty ImagesNikica Jelavic's brace strengthened the resolve of Everton supporters who do not want to see him leave.

Everton coasted to a 3-1 victory over Blackburn at hot and humid Ewood Park on Saturday, with the only blemish arriving at the death as the hosts grabbed a consolation from a corner. Before the Scott Dann consolation, a deflected Kevin Mirallas effort opened the scoring and Nikica Jelavic grabbed a morale-boosting double.

With the players looking at home under Roberto Martinez's patient style, the first signs of genuine experimentation surfaced in the second half. A raft of halftime changes saw the team switch from the customary 4-2-3-1 to a fluid 4-3-3, with John Heitinga also dropping in and out of the defence when the full-backs overlapped to provide width.

-Jolly: Martinez ponders Everton system

Continuing to impress at left back, Bryan Oviedo offers plenty of promise should the unthinkable Leighton Baines departure materialise. Relentless going forward, the Costa Rican is improving defensively thanks to increased game time.

On the other flank, though only featuring for the second half, Seamus Coleman keeps on progressing. Cementing his first-team place, the Irish full-back offers an attacking threat on the right-hand side, one which has been absent a number of years.

Elsewhere, another pleasing sight was the return of Jelavic to the score sheet. The Croatian endured a horrid campaign last season and the goals will do wonders for his confidence. The first was a bullet header from a Steven Pienaar corner and the second came after his initial effort was kept out; the goal was a result of another marauding Coleman run down the right.

Recently linked with a move -- Hamburg seemingly keen -- the Everton support left the player in no doubt of their thoughts on the matter. The loudest cheers of the day followed the Jelavic goals and the supporters are right behind the Croatian as he aims to recapture his best form.

Rivaling Jelavic upfront is Arouna Kone and the Ivorian started in his debut. There were several neat touches, but it was a relatively quiet start to Everton life for the centre forward. Possibly anxious, there was a distinct lack of composure when a chance finally arrived, the forward lashing his only chance off the crossbar from close in.

As well as the individual performances, the most promising aspect is the team's willingness to embrace the new style implemented by Martinez. Players are beginning to flourish under this approach, even those not known for their distribution such as Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin.

The players want the ball; the movement is sharper and the licence to roam in the final third is allowing the creative types to exert their influence. At the heart of the slicker football, the likes of Pienaar and Mirallas are revelling in this new-found freedom.

In addition, when the defence are in possession, there is a concerted effort from the central midfielders to retrieve the ball, especially Darron Gibson. This eliminates the redundant long balls, which is something Jagielka and Distin had a tendency to overuse.

Useful preparation for the U.S. tour that starts Wednesday against Juventus in San Francisco, this productive workout showed a side with a stronger look to it; the players used are those established within the first team. Players such as Tim Howard, Jelavic and Heitinga also received their first preseason action and the squad looks in good shape.

After the Austria workout, Everton have posted two comfortable victories and there is sharpness to the football. That said, bigger tests await and the U.S. tour will provide a sterner test of this early promise and the methods being used by the new manager.


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