Wednesday 17 January 2018

Martinez rues fear factor after Everton escape fresh humbling

Everton 2 Leicester City 2

Everton striker Romelu Lukaku competes for a header with Leicester City's Esteban Cambiasso during their Premier League clash at Goodison Park. Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images
Everton striker Romelu Lukaku competes for a header with Leicester City's Esteban Cambiasso during their Premier League clash at Goodison Park. Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images
Steven Naismith shoots past Leicester City defenders Wes Morgan and Robert Huth to score Everton's opening goal in their Premier League clash at Goodison Park. Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
David Nugent scores the equalising goal for Leicester City in their Premier League clash with Everton at Goodison Park. Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images
Esteban Cambiasso celebrates after putting Leicester City ahead in their Premier League clash with Everton at Goodison Park. Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images
Romelu Lukaku celebrates as Leicester City defender Matthew Upson scores an own goal for Everton's second in their Premier League clash at Goodison Park. Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Simon Hart

They were giving out blue noses before kick-off here yesterday to mark the birthday of Everton In The Community. On the pitch, red noses might have been more appropriate for the sloppy home team as Everton's Jekyll-and-Hyde season lurched back to the dark side.

Three days after winning at Young Boys in the Europa League, the Merseysiders came close to suffering an embarrassing home defeat by the Premier League's bottom club Leicester City after two Tim Howard gaffes.

Although an 88th-minute own goal by Matthew Upson rescued a point, it did not stop the boos at the final whistle and Everton manager Roberto Martinez admitted that there was a fear factor in his team's play.

"We need to find the enjoyment we show in the Europa League, (when) we look forward to facing the opposition and don't carry any sort of expectations," said Martinez.

Everton, 12th in the table, have now dropped 13 points after Europa League games, though their form has barely been any better when they have not had midweek distractions.

This latest deflating draw might have been a different story had Romelu Lukaku not missed several clear opportunities, but defeat would have been harsh on Leicester.

It was two weeks ago Nigel Pearson nearly lost his job, but his team are evidently still playing for him and he was left ruing two points dropped.

"The dressing-room is disappointed," said Pearson. "They played well but we've got to reproduce performances like today and the Arsenal one (a 2-1 defeat) and they have got to be translated into three-point gains."

Leicester remain four points adrift at the bottom.

Pearson fielded three centre-backs but his side did not just sit back. Winger Jeffrey Schlupp was a threat from the off and had a hat-trick of opportunities.

Everton's first-half performance was sluggish but they did create a couple of openings, Lukaku blazing over from Seamus Coleman's pull-back and Ross Barkley firing high and wide after Wes Morgan had got in the way of a Lukaku shot.

They improved after Martinez sent on Darron Gibson and Christian Atsu in place of Barkley and Muhamed Besic, with Gibson involved in the lead-up to the opening goal. He fed Lukaku, who held off Upson and worked the ball on to Naismith, whose scuffed shot went under Morgan's attempted block and crept in.

That was Pearson's cue for his own double substitution. Within two minutes of taking the field, Jamie Vardy accelerated away from James McCarthy and his low cross was spilt by Howard at the near post, the ball deflecting into the path of his fellow substitute Nugent for the boyhood Evertonian to tap in.

Howard was at fault again seven minutes later when he flapped at a Danny Simpson cross and Vardy laid the ball across for Cambiasso to score. Martinez refused to blame the American.

"I don't see Tim as directly responsible for the draw," said the Spaniard. "If you look at the two goals we have lots of bodies in the box; we should be more composed."

There was a lack of composure too from Lukaku. He fired over at 1-1 when clear and later miscontrolled another through ball. To his credit he played a part in the eventual equaliser, though, diving to get a touch to Atsu's cross before Upson nodded the ball on past Mark Schwarzer. (© Independent News Service)

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