LIVERPOOL ENGLAND - JANUARY 16: Sylvain Distin of Everton celebrates scoring his team's first goal with team mate Jermaine Beckford (R) as a pie from the crowd flies towards them during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Everton at Anfield on January 16 2011 in Liverpool England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
An action packed month of January saw the side give glimpses of what they were capable of but then promptly let themselves down when it mattered.
The New Year began with a soggy and limp display away at Stoke, with a Kenwyne Jones header and a Phil Jagielka own goal ensuring 2011 got off to a disappointing start.
Fast forward four days though at the players responded in fine style. Spurs were flying high in the table, pushing for the Champions League positions, but they encountered an Everton side playing with a fire in their belly, seemingly determined to bounce back from that capitulation at the Britannia.
Louis Saha got the Toffees off to a flyer, grabbing his first goal in almost a year with a low drive into the Park End net. Rafael Van Der Vaart nodded Spurs back on terms but Everton weren’t be denied, Seamus Coleman heading home into an open Gwladys Street net after Saha’s shot had been parried by Gomes.
The following Saturday Everton travelled to Glanford Park to play Scunthorpe United in the FA Cup. Fears of a potential upset were quickly put to rest thanks to first half strikes from Saha and Jermaine Beckford. Second half goals from Seamus Coleman, Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines comfortably saw the Blues through to the next round.
The momentum continued as Moyes’ men travelled to Anfield for the 215th Merseyside derby. Much of the build-up on Sky TV was devoted to Kenny Dalglish and his return to Liverpool, scratch that, ALL of the coverage was devoted to Kenny Dalglish - You would think we weren’t even playing. But in typical bullish fashion Everton sought to spoil the party. Sylvan Distin and Jermaine Beckford eclipsed Raul Meireles’ first half opener before Dirk Kuyt’s penalty meant both sides would have to settle in the end for a hard-earned point.
Three positive results in a row and a home game against bottom club West Ham was the perfect opportunity to improve the club’s stuttering home record. But once again the players’ infuriating inability to perform from one week to the next struck again, with a woeful display against Avram Grant’s men. Jonathan Spector slid the Hammers in front after 25 minutes and it took 41 more painful, tortuous minutes before Diniyar Bilyaletdinov volleyed Everton level. Frederic Piquionne looked to have secured the points for West Ham with seven minutes remaining but Marouane Fellaini’s last gasp swivel and shot gave the Blues a point they frankly didn’t deserve.
The final game of the month – against Chelsea in the FA Cup fourth round - was labelled a ‘save our season game’ given our dire position in the table and true to form the players raised their game when it mattered. Louis Saha looked to have carried the Blues through to round five with a second half header from a corner before Solomon Kalou came off the bench to score an agonising equaliser with sixteen minutes left.
It was another one of those ‘why-can’t-we-play-like-that-every-week’ performances that they put in when playing against decent teams but vaporised into thin air whenever ‘winnable’ matches came along.
That pattern of the sublime to the ridiculous was to continue with gusto in February.