Bad day at the office for Moyes' men

Posted by Luke O'Farrell

Steven PienaarGettyImagesSteven Pienaar is sent off

With the team in form and full of confidence, the away team travelled to Loftus Road in expectant mood. Sadly, a disjointed setup and performance lay in wait for Everton fans. Quite why the absence of Marouane Fellaini resulted in three positional changes remains a mystery with the decision to move Steven Pienaar centrally the most baffling of all.

After slow starts against Southampton and Wigan, Everton suffered a repeat here with QPR ahead after two minutes. In previous weeks, as a defender playing out of position, Phil Neville has shown why he struggles in midfield. Catching Neville in possession, the home side broke with Junior Hoillet's shot deflecting off Leighton Baines to hand QPR the lead. Although fortuitous, the goal originated from Neville's initial error.

To his credit, Pienaar remained Everton's best player in the opening period despite his move infield. However, the same cannot be said of Everton's other attacking players. Starved of service throughout, Nikica Jelavic and Kevin Mirallas struggled whilst Victor Anichebe's urge to push forward left Seamus Coleman exposed.

A Tim Howard spill almost gifted QPR a second as Everton failed to find any rhythm or cohesion in their play. Missing his telepathic linkup with Pienaar, Baines had little impact with the left-back unable to find or exploit any space down the QPR right. On the other side, Anichebe looked lost in his right wing position and evetually departed injured.

Against the run of play, Everton found themselves level thanks to Sylvain Distin. Following nonexistent QPR defending, Distin rose unmarked to bring Everton on terms via the post and Julio Cesar. Given QPR's fortune for their opener, few could begrudge Everton's slice of luck for the equaliser. Shortly afterwards, Phil Jagielka headed against the bar as Everton stirred into action.

The Everton equaliser highlighted QPR's aerial deficiency with Mark Hughes' side conceding the most headed goals (5) and Everton scoring the league's highest number of headed goals (7). Reaching half-time all square, Everton began the second period with renewed purpose with Steven Naismith impressing after replacing Anichebe. In spite of the promising start, only a tremendous Jagielka prevented Park putting QPR back in front.

At the other end, Jagielka forced a save from Cesar as Everton almost converted a goalmouth scramble. Although missing two presentable chances warrants criticism, the defensive heroics from Jagielka more than earn him a reprieve. Everton owe thanks to another defensive player with Tim Howard's saves keeping them in the contest.

A bad day at the office became disastrous during the second half with Steven Pienaar sent off for a second yellow card. As Jose Bosingwa burst forward, he fell with Pienaar in close attendance and the South African received his marching orders. However, replays showed that Bosingwa kicked Pienaar with Everton on the wrong end of another poor refereeing decision.

Overall, a draw is welcome after the sending off and Everton's lacklustre performance but the team's recent form is a worry. Conceding first in the last three matches, the Toffees are paying the price for slow starts with draws from two very winnable games.

Remaining lightweight in midfield, the expected return of Marouane Fellaini and Darron Gibson is necessary for next week's Merseyside derby. Exposed on numerous occasions, Leon Osman and Phil Neville are valuable members of the squad but they are not good enough for central midfield. David Moyes will also need to cope with the absence of Steven Pienaar as his ban cannot be appealed.

After an indifferent run of games, the derby is coming at the right time as Everton tend to raise their game when up against it. Displaying a rather blase attitude of late, David Moyes' men cannot afford to do the same when Liverpool visit in seven days. Sitting fourth after eight games, there is no disputing Everton's good start. However, the overriding sense of disappointment is that the good start could and should be a great one.

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