Everton's need for reinforcements

Posted by Luke O'Farrell

Leighton Baines scored from the spot in stoppage time to give Everton a 1-1 draw at Stoke.GettyImagesLeighton Baines scored from the spot in stoppage time to give Everton a 1-1 draw at Stoke.

Having brushed the same opposition aside less than five weeks ago, there was a degree of justification about Roberto Martinez's post-match suggestion that this was two points dropped. Aiming to press on and remain in the Champions League picture, Everton needed three points from this 1-1 draw against Stoke.

Nevertheless, with the Blues less than two minutes away from a second defeat in three matches, the last-gasp penalty calmly dispatched by the ever-dependable Leighton Baines may prove to be a useful point when the season draws to a close.

Out of sync with much of the preceding action, with the Toffees guilty of poor decision-making in the final third, there was a reassuring inevitability about the composure shown by Baines, who sent substitute goalkeeper Jack Butland the wrong way.

As ever, this trip to the Britannia proved to be a gruelling episode for all concerned. There is something about a match against Stoke that steadily drains the life out you, so one can only imagine how the players felt after this energy sapping 90 minutes.

There is a sense of opportune timing about the arrival of the FA Cup on Saturday. Though not wishing to turn the competition into an afterthought, as the silverware drought is ongoing, it is an obvious chance for Martinez to rest some weary legs.

When James McCarthy and Steven Pienaar departed around the 70-minute mark, the pair had left every drop of effort on the pitch -- a prime example of the tiredness creeping into the squad, with both spent well before the end.

On this evidence, the start of the transfer window is another blessing. Injuries continue to take their toll, with Sylvain Distin the latest casualty, and there is an obvious shortage of game-changing options on the bench.

Despite falling behind against the run of play, Everton stuck to their possession style and continued to press for an equaliser. However, when the extra bit of quality was needed, the cupboard was mostly empty. Injuries are putting too much pressure on the starting eleven at present.

Gerard Deulofeu is sorely missed, and the striking options are lacklustre at best. Steven Naismith and Nikica Jelavic are unlikely to strike fear into opposing defences, although Leon Osman did make a difference in midfield.

Suffering a decidedly mixed festive period, Osman impressed as a substitute, as he did in the October win at Aston Villa, and looks best as an impact player in the closing stages of matches. Those quick feet can still fashion openings against tiring defences.

Elsewhere, thrust into a first league start due to the aforementioned absence of Distin, John Stones impressed alongside Antolin Alcaraz in a makeshift central defence. The only dampener on his debut was a weak header in the build-up to the Oussama Assaidi strike that put the home side ahead.

Notwithstanding the misjudged header, though, the composure shown in possession by this defensive duo, especially Alcaraz, was a pleasing sight. These are the two central defenders best suited to this passing style. Pressing forward, it was Alcaraz who supplied the pass that lead to the penalty award.

Still, defensive promise aside, this was another mixed bag from the collective. Nobody typified the erratic team performance more than Kevin Mirallas. Instrumental in the first half, crashing two efforts off the woodwork and looking the most likely source of a breakthrough, Mirallas faded into anonymity after the break.

Once again, having escaped with a result from another ropey showing, it is imperative that Everton rediscover the flowing football that preceded this festive period. Whether it is the resting of key players against QPR, or the arrival of new faces in the meantime, Martinez must find a way to lift his players back to their best.

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.